October 29, 2002
THE ANGRY WHITE MALE MYTH: A reader sends these links in opposition to the Daily Howler’s claim, which I mentioned earlier, that people didn’t widely portray the sniper as an “angry white male.”
Sniper Facts: “According to former F.B.I. profilers, he’s probably a white man in his 20s or early 30s who lives nearby — and who has a score to settle.”
Star Tribune: “The retired FBI agent from Minneapolis said Thursday that while he didn’t have the specific details of the homicides, he had speculated that the killer was a lone sniper in his late 20s who was white, had military experience and lived near the shooting sites.”
Washington Times: “Mr. Aamodt had predicted the sniper was an angry white man. He said the standard profile of the young white male is often correct, because, ‘if you lump serial killers together this is what we get.'”
I needed a sniper’s face just to keep it real, and for a while I tried to imagine a white male, a mid-thirtyish, household-handyman sort of guy. After all, that’s who does these kinds of serial killings, right?
Maybe I’d been watching too many weekend cable hunting shows where white men move steathily through the woods, lie in wait for some unsuspecting animal to come along and — with deadly accuracy — drop it.
“When you break down the demographics of the Washington region, there is a statistical probability that the sniper is a white man,” Gregg McCrary, a retired FBI profiler, told me recently.
Male I could understand. But why white? “It could be the backlash effect,” Jack Levin, director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University in Boston, told the Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C. “White males belong to a long-advantaged group that is now having to share power and control. But I think it has less to do with race than social class.”
The gunman “is somebody who is cold, who is calculating, who has the skills and doesn’t care who they hurt,” Van Zandt said.
“Statistically, this is something white males normally do,” he added. “(But) You don’t want to exclude any race, any ethnicity because there is always the aberrant behavior.”
(Points to Van Zandt for the disclaimer at the end, though in fact, as has been pointed out elsewhere, white males are underrepresented in the sniper-murder pool.)
“This person is kind of a wallpaper white male, a disenfranchised, disrespected man who’s getting back at society,” theorizes Levin. “That’s one of the reasons he’s kept his distance from inner D.C., where he might loose his cover.”
Not hardly. Well, this isn’t, by itself, proof that the newspapers and airwaves were rife with such speculation — you’d have to do some sort of all-encompassing content analysis for that, I guess — but I think it’s enough to explain why people think so. And, having seen the coverage myself, I have to say that the “angry white male” theory sure seemed to be everywhere. And surely this undercuts the Howler’s statement that “Nonetheless, there was very little speculation about the killer’s race.”
UPDATE: Of course, there’s always this theory from Tacitus, but I think we can all agree that it didn’t exactly reach saturation level in the media. . . .
ANOTHER UPDATE: Justin Katz has comments.