A half-formed thought about mass murderers

I don’t normally write for public consumption when my thoughts are this half-formed. Generally, I spend weeks and months thinking things through and working out how to express them in ways that won’t be offensive. But, after Orlando, I can’t not write. So, please, please, forgive me if I do say something racist or otherwise offensive. It’s not intentional, but I’m still processing.

Some people are evil. Whether that’s from nature or nurture or choice isn’t really relevant; some people like killing lots of other people. I’ve seen no evidence that there’s anything about specific cultures that produces more or less of them, but I have a hypothesis. Before I get to it though, I want to make a distinction between evil mass murderers and terrorists.

Evil mass murderers kill from some desire to kill people. Whether that be sadism or misanthropy, is really irrelevant, they kill because they want to kill. Terrorists kill or do harm (not all terrorist acts kill people – the Manchester bombing in 1996 intentionally didn’t, for example) from belief in some cause. The cause may be one I don’t agree with, and the tactic of harming civilians seems horrific to me, even when in the best of causes (see: the Resistance during WWII – who mostly didn’t, but “mostly” ain’t good enough), but these are motivations that can be reasoned with. We did make peace with the IRA; Israel has come close to peace with the PLO several times. Evil mass murderers might operate within a terrorist organisation if that gives them the opportunity to commit their crimes, but that’s not their motivation and they will continue to kill if peace comes.  For a good fictional example, Mad Padraic in The Lieutenant of Inishmore is an evil mass murderer in a terrorist organisation.

Now, back to my hypothesis: how vicious mass murderers express themselves is culturally-determined. Clearly, it’s also determined by access to the means to kill people, but there are several ways that are not culturally determined.  No, I’m not going to start listing techniques of mass murder that haven’t been used; someone might get ideas.

We see Americans commit their mass murders by getting an AR-15, going somewhere there are lots of people and opening fire. People in certain Islamic groups blow themselves up with bombs (as do Tamil Buddhists). Brits and Germans go on stabbing sprees with knives (as, it seems, do Chinese). These people are all in the same “evil mass murderer” group. But they’re all expressing themselves in a culturally-determined way.

So, to return to Orlando, that this particular killer did it with an AR-15, and not a bomb, shows how he’d acculturated to the USA. This mass murder was as American as apple pie, and the racist and homo/bi/trans-phobic aspects of it are also such.


One thought on “A half-formed thought about mass murderers

  1. … and there’s one thing I missed, because this blogpost wasn’t really about Orlando.

    The Orlando attack was an attack on a Latinx LGBT+ bar/nightclub. Both the racism and the homo/bi/transphobia matter. This was an attack on a community, not just a random spree killing. Part of the purpose of such – and the reason we have hate crimes laws – is that it makes Latinx and LGBT+ people, and especially Latinx LGBT+ people feel less safe. In the straightforward sense, it is an attack on their freedoms. Their freedom to walk about their city without looking over their shoulder for the next queerbasher is diminished today.


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