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Lack of Manliness Is Real Culprit Behind Mass Shootings

“Radicalized Losers”

Nichols points to the work of German writer Hans Enzensberger, who called such people “radicalized losers” -- “the unsuccessful males who channel their blunted male social impulses toward destruction.”

Dylann Roof -- the racist who targeted a bible study at a historic black church in Charleston, SC -- raged about blacks “raping our women.” One of the suspects in a planned hit on the Canadian prime minister in 2006 accused the Canadian Forces of “going to Afghanistan to rape women.” Elliot Rodger, who killed seven and wounded 13 near the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2014, said he was punishing other men for being more sexually successful.

Nichols argues that jihadis are “the object lesson in this kind of deformed male identity.” Even though most forms of Islam condemn pornography as illegal, it is allegedly rife within the Muslim world, as it is in the West. Raids on jihadi nests often reveal vast quantities of porn, even in the case of Osama bin Laden.

Sexual frustration pervades the lives of teenage boys, as puberty unleashes desires they are unprepared to deal with. In a culture which often portrays gratuitous sex as good in itself, and constant gratification as the goal of manhood, the gap between this idealized panacea and reality hits many young men hard.

This struggle is by no means an excuse for acts of violence or quixotic quests for glory, but it does help explain why most mass shooters are young males, and why many of them explicitly seek to justify their actions as a response to the perceived sexual “success” of their victims.

Easy Glory

McVeigh had a stint with military service before leaving frustrated. McVeigh was a competent soldier, but left the Army after failing to attain the Special Forces assignment he wanted -- he was judged too psychologically unstable.

Recent studies have shown an increase of narcissism among young people, and a sea change in priorities. While children aspired to be astronauts, doctors or lawyers 50 years ago, today they want to be famous.

For many of these frustrated young men, violent or eye-catching acts are a “shortcut to glory,” Nichols argues. Many see the world into a dualistic struggle between good and evil -- not on the spiritual plane or on the moral level within individuals, but as a fight between their group and a hated other. Roof chose the lens of white supremacy, many choose jihad, and Chris Harper-Mercer elected the anti-religious views of a militant atheism.

In each case -- bloody or not -- the frustrated man finds a path to eternal significance, fighting against the people he deems responsible for his struggles or whom he simply identifies with the enemy.