November
12th 2009
Maj. Nidal Hasan, MD: just an all-American guy

Posted under: American history, Gender, unhappy endings, women's history

The bloviating in the conservative media about the Muslim identity of the Fort Hood murderer is predictable, but so, so very stupid.  It’s clear to me that he’s just another mass-murderer in our all-American tradition in which socially maladjusted men, who in spite of also being religiously insane and/or suffering from acute misogyny, are permitted to arm up and mow down their fellow citizens at work, school, church, or in other public spaces.  Daniel Zwerdling at NPR has done some solid reporting on what he can find out from little birds hanging around Walter Reed who worked with Hasan when he was training there. 

But it’s only the occasional story in the print media or on the radio that will note how very much like other American mass-murderers Hasan truly is:  a native-born American man, aged 13-60, who has difficult relationships with peers and co-workers, and especially with women.  (Not coincidentally, a lot of these killers are strongly invested in traditional gender hierarchies and see themselves as at odds with modern American women, who think they can make their own decisions about whom they’ll date or spend time with.)  Just because he is a religiously insane Muslim, instead of a religiously insane Christian, seems to me a distinction without a meaningful difference.

Well regulated militia” my a$$.

48 Comments »

48 Responses to “Maj. Nidal Hasan, MD: just an all-American guy”

  1. LadyProf on 12 Nov 2009 at 10:36 am #

    The spin about psychokillers–humanizing them, relating them to benign groups and situations–is yet another facet of misogyny in the media. Letters to the editor in the NY Times on Tuesday were captioned being about ‘mourning’ or ‘grieving’ in response to a ‘tragedy’. If a female killer were to indulge in a mass murder, nobody would focus on aspects of her humanity like her religion or her biography (sexual rejection, job loss etc.) as part of what’s needed to understand the event, and nobody would call the right response “grieving.” That killer’s behavior would be pure unadulterated evil.

  2. Historiann on 12 Nov 2009 at 10:41 am #

    That’s right, LadyProf. If only more girls would have dated these freaks, maybe they never would have shot up a church/school/workplace! Cherchez la femme is always an excellent explanation for just about everything.

    When women murderers hit the news, it’s usually a story about a desperately psychotic mother who kills her own children, and there’s little effort expended on her biography, motivations, etc. They’re just monstrous women, totally unnatural, whereas male violence against family members or others is entirely naturalized.

  3. PorJ on 12 Nov 2009 at 11:09 am #

    I said before, I’ll say it again: the easy way out is to say: We didn’t report him because he was Muslim. That’s what the Walter Reed doctors say, that’s what the people in the Masters in Public Health Seminar said, that’s a socially-acceptable reason for explaining why this particular nut “slipped through the cracks.”

    Its far less socially-acceptable to say: we protected him because we educated him and he passed all our tests. He achieved everything we did; he spoke our language, was qualified by our standards to be doing what he did. He was a professional, in this sense, and we willfully ignored *obvious* warning signs because of this. Look at the incredibly incriminating stuff from Zerdling’s NPR piece for more on this.

    Let’s not forget that men use guns to commit suicide far more often than women (and though women attempt suicide more often, men are much more successful at it). Self-inflicted violence is significantly more common than murders. I think the only way to get meaningful gun control passed is to make it a “save the men” campaign, with stories of despondent hunters knocking themselves off with their shotguns rather than: 1. appealing to reason (never works in politics), or 2. using human interest/victimology stories like that Colin Ferguson one that got Carolyn Mahoney elected from Long Island. Amazingly, even *after* her election, they had troubles with gun control in her district. But when a Republican “good guy” like James Brady gets shot, then we can actually get a Brady bill – because he was “one of us” (i.e.: conservative, right-wing). We need more of “them” making the argument, basically. I actually think it can be done, but for a variety of reasons it hasn’t been tried.

  4. Historiann on 12 Nov 2009 at 11:17 am #

    PorJ–that’s not what the thrust of Zwerdling’s stories have been. He mostly notes how everyone passed the buck because Hasan made them uncomfortable, and only talks a little about how people were reluctant to kick him out because he is Muslim. His stories ratify your point of view, which is that guildmembers are reluctant to kick out a member of the guild.

    I think Zwerdling’s reporting makes it clear that Walter Reed and faculty there and at the other places where Hasan was trained are the ones who are to blame.

  5. Paul on 12 Nov 2009 at 11:29 am #

    One thing that has occurred to me – isn’t the phenomenon of someone (pretty much always a man) shooting large numbers of people indiscriminately in a public space a relatively modern phenomenon? Violence is obviously nothing new in U.S. history and has been considerably higher than today at some points of history, but it seems like this particular manifestation of it is distinctive to the last few decades, and has become more and more common in recent years. I remember my parents telling me about how shocking and frightening it was to hear about one of the first cases of this kind, when a man killed and wounded a number of people by shooting at them from a clock tower. I can’t remember the details of time or place – I think that it was sometime in the 1960s, and it was extremely shocking because that type of killing was something most people had never heard of at the time.

  6. PorJ on 12 Nov 2009 at 12:00 pm #

    Paul,

    Actually, its not a new phenomenon at all. Anecdote: Howard Unruh calmly walked down a street in Camden, New Jersey, and murdered 13 people by gunning them down 60 years ago; a series of killings as inexplicable as the Hasan murders. Statistics: These figures from the government show that between 1998 and the present, the number of gun crimes peaked in 1993.

    This should be no surprise: remember when Bill Clinton promised 100,000 new policemen? Ever heard of the Prison-Industrial complex? We’ve locked our problems away.

    The difference is the media. In today’s media environment, the entire country can be placed in Columbine High School within seconds – while the killings are still going on – or Jonesboro, AK, or Ft. Hood, Texas. This makes us feel these things are new, or more common. But mediated reality is not actual reality, and the televisual prefers sensationalism over reason…

  7. blue on 12 Nov 2009 at 12:07 pm #

    Paul,
    you’re thinking of the University of Texas killings, which happened in 1966 (courtesy of Wikipedia).
    This was happening back in the 1920s, too – that’s when Andrew Kehoe blew up a primary school, killing dozens. I remember it being brought up after the Virginia Tech shootings, because the Bath School murders claimed more lives.

  8. Historiann on 12 Nov 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    PorJ–sixty years ago is still an extremely recent phenomenon, by my lights. 1949 is hardly some kind of “Ancient history!” Good points about the media attention and the 24-hr. news cycle.

    Paul, the murders you reference were at the University of Texas clock tower by Charles Whitman, on August 1, 1966. Why only fairly recently do we see mass murders on this scale? I think it’s a combination of a loss of entitlement for some men, plus technological innovations in weaponry, plus a failure of civil society to police gun ownership responsibly, that make it possible to gun down a crowd of people in a relatively short period of time. I was just watching A Midwife’s Tale, based on Laurel Ulrich’s book about Martha Ballard, and it shows very briefly the discovery of a family homicide–a man killed his wife and 6 children on the Maine frontier in the early 19th C. I think the impulse to kill isn’t new, but the technology of weaponry permitted murders on a truly massive scale only fairly recently.

  9. Historiann on 12 Nov 2009 at 12:11 pm #

    p.s. to blue: I was trying to remember that school explosion and when it happened–thanks for the prompt. It was in 1927, and it killed 45 people (mostly children) and injured dozens more.

  10. Indyanna on 12 Nov 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    The clock-tower massacre also occurred in Texas, in Austin, on the U of T campus, in I think about 1966. It was *very* heavily covered in something close to real time, or what would have passed for real time back then, on t.v. Unruh just died a few weeks ago and his NYT obituary was the occasion for a fairly graphic narration of this slow-motion event. Rapid response/SWAT was not in the cultural vocabulary at the time.

    One of my proto or vestigial memories is from shortly after my family “got” a t.v., a tiny black and white thing, and the phone rang and a neighbor told my mother to turn it on. A group of Puerto Rican nationalists had gone into the visitors’ gallery of the House of Representatives heavily armed and opened fire from above the chamber. About 1953. There was, as I recall, at least one fatality among the Members, and numerous other casualties. The part that burned permanently into a kid’s consciousness was the use of white tape to outline bullet holes in the backs of the leather chairs, and big tape X’s on the chairs of casualties, with a single black and white camera panning slowly back and forth across the empty chamber. Even THAT event didn’t seem to churn up much “let’s fix the Second Amendment” sentiment among the worthies, so I think it’s pretty much a hopeless cause, legislatively at least.

  11. Kathie on 12 Nov 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    Jill Lepore (Harvard historian) has an interesting column about the history of murder in the US in the New Yorker (Nov. 9, 2009), “Rap Sheet: Why is American history so murderous?

    http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2009/11/09/091109crat_atlarge_lepore

  12. Indyanna on 12 Nov 2009 at 12:33 pm #

    p.s. Wow, the details you never knew. The Congress shootings happened in 1954, not 1953, one of the four attackers was a woman, they shot from the “Ladies Gallery” of the House, and the female member of the group shot at the ceiling so as not to hit anyone. The attackers were given “minimum” sentences, and the security response was to “teflonize” the chairbacks. Apparently there were no fatalities.

    None of this is confirmed, but attributed to AbsoluteAstronomy.com.
    ——————————

    “The United States Capitol shooting incident of 1954 was an attack on March 1, 1954 by four Puerto Rican nationalists who shot 30 rounds using automatic pistols
    from the Ladies’ Gallery (a balcony for visitors) of the House of Representatives chamberUnited States Capitol

    The attackers, Lolita Lebrón, Rafael Cancel Miranda, Andres Figueroa Cordero, and Irving Flores Rodríguez, unfurled a Puerto Rican flag and began shooting at the 240 Representatives of the 83rd Congress who were on the floor during debate over an immigration bill. According to Cancel Miranda’s recollection of the events (given in a radio interview with Puerto Rican media in 2006), Lebrón shot her pistol towards the ceiling (as she did not wish to hurt anyone), and Figueroa’s pistol jammed. Cancel Miranda suspects he was responsible for most of the injuries and damage.

    Five representatives were wounded in the attack, one seriously. The wounded lawmakers were Alvin M. Bentley (R-Michigan). who took a bullet to the chest, Clifford Davis who was shot in the leg, Ben F. Jensen who was shot in the back, as well as George Hyde Fallon from Maryland.

    The attackers were immediately arrested. Figueroa Cordero requested to be charged with a capital crime and given capital punishment by electrocution. Lebrón had a written note in her coat explaining the motives for the attack, which she had written given the rather high probability of her being killed in crossfire. All the attackers were given minimum sentences of 70 years in prison, after their death sentences were commuted by the President of the United States

    As a result of the incident, the backs of the chairs on the floors of both the House of Representatives and Senate chambers were lined with bulletproof material.”

  13. Historiann on 12 Nov 2009 at 12:45 pm #

    Kathie–thanks for reposting the link to Lepore’s article. I read it recently, and meant to comment on it when you first suggested it last week. It’s really a book review of Randy Roth’s recent massive book, the result of his dilligent data collection over the past few decades, on murder in American history. (Plus she mentions a few other titles.) Roth is widely recognized as the expert on murder, but what I find strange (if I recall correctly) is that he exempts family violence from his account of murder–which in my opinion, tends to obscure the degree to which women are victim’s of men’s violence, and gives us a portrait that’s oddly focused only on male-on-male violence. Because so much murder is in the family, it seems artificially limited and that its conclusions must be highly provisional.

    Indyanna–thanks for the details on the attack by the Puerto Rican nationalists. How high are those chairbacks, anyway, or how high would they have to be to make them effectively bulletproof?

  14. Kathleen Lowrey on 12 Nov 2009 at 1:22 pm #

    so right on. Guy who hates everybody, talks in particular about how he wants a “traditional” wife — ie, a magical being who would not require him to clear even the lowest possible bar for interpersonal interaction. We have seen this a lot.

    Something that freaks me out in general about American society is its angriness — I sometimes wonder if some of those researchers doing national happiness studies did national angriness studies if the U.S. would come out on top. LIke, these mass shooters seem on the continuum that includes Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Fox News, the Republican party platform of resentment, punishment, and warfare, over to plain old everyday road rage and meanspirited bumper stickers. LIke, okay, that’s not going to win any prizes as subtle sociological analysis but rage just seems to be a major motivator & what the hey? It is strange and upsetting.

  15. Historiann on 12 Nov 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    We have very different attitudes about anger & the use of violence depending on who the angries are. The politics of resentment that you mention, Kathleen, very much stoke this kind of rage.

  16. Susan on 12 Nov 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    There was a fascinating interview on NPR the other night with a chaplain at Walter Reed who talked about constantly asking Hasan “What do you mean by a religious wife? What do you mean by traditional?”

    I think it’s true that the guild just protects its own; but it’s also true that we have poor ways of dealing with the “this makes me uncomfortable” stuff if we don’t have (pardon the pun) a smoking gun.

    The other person who has some responsibility here, I think, is the lawyer (I think) who was so certain Hasan could not get out of the military that he never formally asked.

  17. Oroboros on 12 Nov 2009 at 2:25 pm #

    Whitman was a rather interesting case. As I recall, he realized that something was wrong with his brain and left a journal about his experiences leading up to the shootings. If only he could have gone to see a doctor when he had those homicidal thoughts instead. As I read it, he was still in touch with some part of his essential human empathy even as he committed those acts. Wikipedia quotes him writing this before the murders:

    If my life insurance policy is valid please pay off my debts…donate the rest anonymously to a mental health foundation. Maybe research can prevent further tragedies of this type.

    They did apparently find a brain tumor that may have pressed against his amygdala which has an important role in the formation of emotional memories. While his first victims were his wife and mother, I’m not sure that misogyny was the primary cause of his rampage even if it probably still played some smaller role. I think that tumor damaged his brain and was the primary cause of the tragedy. It sounds like he would have died of it eventually, but clearly didn’t know that.

  18. Oroboros on 12 Nov 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    Also, this pure speculation now but I imagine some percentage of these killers go after their families first from a perverse sense of empathy. They probably do still have love somewhere in their hearts and believe they are just sparing them from having to witness something so monstrous that the reciprocal love would be surely lost. They can’t bear that thought even as they know they won’t live to experience it. Or they simply want to spare them the shame of being associated with the monster they’ve become.

    The methods by which Whitman killed his mother and wife in their sleep suggests he wanted to spare them pain/terror as well as witnessing the consequences of his planned actions to the greatest degree he could.

    It’s an important distinction, and even as Wikipedia notes that he’d previously beaten his wife, I don’t think his conscious motives for killing her were hate. Sadly, I think they were love that had become perverted by a brain tumor.

  19. perpetua on 12 Nov 2009 at 2:51 pm #

    On the religion note – it’s really disturbing the way the media picks up every single story related to a Muslim person and makes it about Islam in this rabid, single-note kind of way. Any time a Muslim man (or occasionally a woman) commits an act of violence, it is because he’s Muslim – implicitly, because he participates in a violent, barbaric religion of nutcases and People Who Hate Us for No Reason. We see this pattern again and again and again every time a sensationalistic piece of news about crimes against women occur that are committed by a Muslim (“honor” killings and the like). The media tells this backwards triumphal narrative about how followers of Islam hate women because they are backwards and barbaric, implicitly as opposed to the West which has such enormous respect for women. Whenever an act of violence is committed by a white Christian man against a woman (which as we all know occurs every second), the media never condemns systemic misogyny in the west or in Christianity. Never. Christian men are treated as isolated nutjobs, whereas violent Muslims are *always* viewed as part of a community of violence. the end result: a sensation of cultural and religious superiority, neatly package for our consumption by the western media.

  20. Feminist Avatar on 12 Nov 2009 at 3:30 pm #

    If we include family homicide, then mass murder is far from a new phenomenon. In the study I have been doing recently on anonymous European country in the 19th C, you would get 1 or 2 cases a year of men taking out their whole families and sometimes servants too. In large families this might be five or six people. Occasionally, they would then go into the street and continue there, but they didn’t usually get very far- weaponry just wasn’t good enough. Most often they committed suicide. I doubt this was novel to the 19th C.

    I think the men did it because they saw their families as extensions of themselves, often literally as their possessions, which was reinforced by social messages that emphasised their role as providers, and could not see their families surviving without them or even conceive of them as people in their own right. I have women who killed their husbands (usually self defence) and mothers who kill their children (even in groups- usually religious mania to stop them becoming sinners or for the same reason as the men above) but none who take out their whole families. So, there might be an argument that mass murdering men are responding to different stresses in modern society (an explanation I am happy with as I think psychology is culturally and historically specific).

    I think not including family homicide in homicide discussions is extremely shortsighted, especially in the past in small close-knit, closely related communities. Up to 40% of murders in my study in a given year were ‘in family’ (and only ever about were 2% wife murder) and the percentage tended to really only go down in response to broader social disturbances, like rioting which usually had a reasonable death toll, rather than a decline in family murder per se.

  21. Oroboros on 12 Nov 2009 at 3:40 pm #

    perpetua, you remind me of a conversation I had on facebook yesterday regarding Hasan with a friend of a friend I’d never met.

    I responded to his objection that the Koran calls us infidels and calls for our death, and he felt their religion was inherently violent. He felt Hasan had been given a free pass because of political correctness in not examining his religious beliefs more deeply.

    My response was in part to look back to the internecine violence that in part spawned the American Revolution. It was Christians killing other Christians for centuries in Europe, and pointing to the Bible to justify what they were doing. Of course, they were also killing women on the basis of witchcraft and pointing to the Bible. Clearly there were many cases where this was done just to steal their property. You can’t criticize Sharia law without paying a nod to the Malleus Maleficarum. And of course, we were exterminating the Native Americans on the same basis. Whether Koran or Bible, it’s the same patriarchy in the end right?

  22. Kathleen Lowrey on 12 Nov 2009 at 3:50 pm #

    Oroboros — quite a few studies have shown that those kinds of “mercy” killings (of family members by a man who feels like a failure) are about the egotism of the man involved; he’s so convinced that he’s the centre of everyone’s universe that he can’t see that others might, in fact, wish to live on without him. I don’t know the Whitman case, but many families have been murdered by men without such brain tumors, and while in their minds the explanation is mercy (no one will want to live with my failure!) , for others to accept this is just to buy the narrative that a family is only the body of its male head, and similarly helpless and otiose without it.

    It’s also testimony to egotism (“prevent further tragedies of this type” was also a purported motive for the dude who murdered women in a health club not so long ago) that their supposed humanitarian motives are self-aggrandizing: no quietly mailing a simple check to a mental health organization for them! No, they have to go out in a hail of bullets & others’ bodies to draw attention to the terribleness of their lonely suffering. Anything they have to say about caring for others is an empty platitude.

  23. Kathleen Lowrey on 12 Nov 2009 at 3:51 pm #

    cross-posted with Feminist Avatar, who made a similar point.

  24. Historiann on 12 Nov 2009 at 3:56 pm #

    Yes–good points Kathleen and Feminist Avatar.

    I think Susan is right that stuff that makes people uncomfortable tends not to get acted upon. I’ve seen this in the case of workplace bullies, who holler and scream at others, and everyone (including the object of their ire) looks down at their shoes. It’s so much easier to let the storm pass than to confront an a$$hole.

    I think this is especially true in the professions, where everyone is “supposed” to have been socialized according to upper middle-class norms (the law, medicine, academia, the ordained clergy, etc.) When someone violates those norms, it’s hard for those who have been successfully socialized to confront the offender.

  25. Oroboros on 12 Nov 2009 at 5:17 pm #

    I don’t dispute the egotism at all – that’s what I meant by their love being “perverted”. It’s a horribly fucked up logic. I just question that the motive itself is one of actual hatred of women in such cases. Blinded by views of the male head of household defining family? Sure, but I don’t see it as outright misogyny of the type most people think about. I don’t think Whitman killed his wife just because he was an abuser who hated women even as I know that is the true in other such family killings.

    Whitman saw himself as a victim of “unusual and irrational thoughts” that he apparently felt compelled to follow:

    I do not quite understand what it is that compels me to type this letter. Perhaps it is to leave some vague reason for the actions I have recently performed. I do not really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I cannot recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts.

    I guess I relate a little of what he wrote to the way that genuine paranoid schizophrenics feel like they are also victims of voices in their brains and do things that sane people don’t.

    I’m not saying any of that excuses what he did, but I can’t buy any simple narratives about him hating women in this case.

    It also looks like Hasan chose his victims without particular regard to their sex. Was misogyny and/or his hatred of women (or failures to establish relationships) a factor? I guess again I don’t see it as being THE primary cause, no. Not when survivors reported him shouting Allahu Akbar while he was killing. At least, no more than we can say all of the Judaeo-Christian-Muslim religions are a primary cause of misogyny and violence.

  26. quixote on 12 Nov 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    religiously insane Muslim, instead of a religiously insane Christian, seems to me a distinction without a meaningful difference

    Indeed. The focus on Islam is in the same vein with discrimination generally. xkcd has a great cartoon about sexism: one guy is watching another do math on a blackboard and says, “That’s wrong. You’re bad at math.” In the next frame, a woman is working the problem on the board and he says, “That’s wrong. Girls are bad at math.”

    So when an avowed Christian killed Dr. Tiller for explicitly religious reasons, the murderer was “crazy.” In Fort Hood, Muslims are crazy.

    The distinction between the crazies is irrelevant except in what it says about the person making it. :(

  27. Oroboros on 12 Nov 2009 at 5:35 pm #

    Hm, it seems that Maj. Hasan also frequented strip clubs.

    I think it’s interesting what he chose to wear, and also that he was drinking a little alcohol too. In some places, buying drinks in a strip club may be required by admission or in order to get lap dances?

    I wonder if he chose more civilian dress because of the association with “immoral” women or alcohol (or probably both).

  28. perpetua on 12 Nov 2009 at 5:39 pm #

    @Oroboros: Yes, Christians who make that argument about Islam often a) don’t know very much about Islam theologically; b) have never really read the Qur’an (which has many times more references to love and forgiveness than to violence); and c) most importantly, don’t know anything about the history of Christianity, which up until the VERY recent past (and including of course some still today) is full of violence and the extermination of others. The Old Testament in particular could not be more full of directives to violence.

  29. Kathie on 12 Nov 2009 at 6:30 pm #

    Irshad Manji (author of 2005 book, The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in her Faith), on Chris Matthews’ show yesterday, commented that we sometimes tolerate intolerance in order to be seen as tolerant ourselves; she was commenting on how Hasan’s coworkers hesitated to report his comments among other things.

    If you can bear to watch CM yak yak yak, the clip is here:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036697/#33866887

    Or have a look at her blog, http://www.irshadmanji.com

    btw, I couldn’t remember if I had already posted the Lepore article, sorry! — but probably few people saw the previous posting in any case.

  30. Susan on 12 Nov 2009 at 8:30 pm #

    Actually, Historiann, I was not thinking so much of bullies, but of stuff that we can’t put our fingers on. Why does this make me anxious? If I can’t say — this is what is the problem, it’s hard to name it. And if your afraid that it’s someone’s views, and not the ways they express them, then even more so… I think there are often things which seem weird, but it takes a lot of work to figure out why. Bullying, not so much.

  31. Historiann on 12 Nov 2009 at 8:41 pm #

    Oroboros–misogyny is a symptom of social maladjustment that doesn’t get enough attention, perhaps because it’s “just” women and girls who are affected by it. Whether or not mass killers target women (like the murderer in Pittsburgh this summer) or not, it’s a symptom common to many of them. Therefore, I think it’s a symptom that should be monitored and taken more seriously in men like Hasan, who struck other people as deeply weird and possibly dangerous.

    Thanks for the intel on the strip-club stuff. That seems to confirm my suspicions, which is that it’s easier to render other human beings objects (by killing them) if you’ve already learned to objectify half of the human species.

  32. Paul S. on 12 Nov 2009 at 9:43 pm #

    I guess I was wrong about mass killings being strictly a phenomenon of the last 40 years. I had never heard of the Camden/Unruh or Bath/Keyhoe mass murders at all. Perhaps the fact that they occurred before widespread television coverage meant that they were not burned as strongly into the “collective memory” nationwide as later atrocities. They must have gotten extensive newspaper coverage, but I wonder if reading about something doesn’t produce quite the same visceral impact and long-lasting memory as images.

    Most of the rest of what people have been saying re: double standards for Muslims vs. Christians who are violent, and the fact that murder/suicides by men against their families seem to be a centuries-old pattern, makes sense. I’m not sure if the double standard between men and women doing violence toward their families is quite as strong as people here seem to think, though it certainly does exist. Cases of women killing family members do tend to get more attention, but perhaps that’s just because they are less common and therefore more shocking. Unfortunately, the media in general tends to focus on stories that are most likely to grab peoples’ attention quickly, which often means stories that are more unusual. Perhaps the sad truth is that much of the public has become sufficiently used to stories of men with severe emotional problems killing family members, often followed by suicide, that it no longer shocks people enough to become a big story unless the man goes on a shooting rampage against strangers in addition to or in place of family members. I’m not sure that this really translates into any greater degree of sympathy for male murderers as opposed to female murderers, though.

  33. Oroboros on 13 Nov 2009 at 12:38 am #

    Historiann, I generally agree with what you say regarding objectification making it easier to kill people. But this part really caught my eye too:

    “He wasn’t like our normal crowd, which is young soldiers. He seemed older, more mature, a bit shy and reserved, and a little out of place but not abnormal… He was the kind of guy you could sit and talk with,” Jennie Jenner told London’s Daily Telegraph.

    “He asked us why we were working at the strip club, if we liked the lifestyle, if we had any kids,” Jenner told Fox. “It was right before Halloween, so he asked what our kids were dressing up as. He just wanted to know a lot about us.”

    That doesn’t sound to me like someone who was there solely to enjoy women being objectified. It also doesn’t sound to me like someone planning to kill at all. That’s why it caught my eye I think. You hear that kind of chit-chat about people’s kids all the time. It seems so… banal. You expect the killer to be a nastier guy who tried to force himself on the woman who gave him the private dance, not the one who asks about her kid’s costumes.

    Perhaps he was really just the kind of predator who would chat up his victims just to find their vulnerabilities and wasn’t really interested in them as humans at all. Maybe it was about gaining trust or getting a discount. Maybe the woman quoted isn’t “normal” enough to judge what is “abnormal” anymore or is saying these things for money and didn’t even meet him.

    But for now I tend to mostly believe her until I hear evidence otherwise. With the new information out today about his “Soldier of Allah” business cards and apparent Al Qaeda contacts, I feel the most likely motive now is the real one, especially since 10 of the 13 victims were men.

  34. Historiann on 13 Nov 2009 at 6:01 am #

    Meh. Seems like it’s all a part of the differential among guys who want a “traditional wife.”

  35. perpetua on 13 Nov 2009 at 9:32 am #

    Oh, and whenever I think about the Old Testament, Christianity, and violence against women, I think of that chilling story about Lot (I’m pretty sure it’s Lot), who offers his daughters to an angry mob intent on rape and sodomy in order to protect two men captured. The men turn out to be angels, which is why this is a story about a “righteous” deed. Naturally, we never hear anything about the daughters.

  36. Kathleen Lowrey on 13 Nov 2009 at 11:53 am #

    Oroboros — double meh. asking women who work at strip clubs about their lives, children, and families is triple-creepy. (1) it’s classic “nice guy” behavior — being an exploitative ass leering at women who are paid to be naked for you, but simultaneously acting out attempts to demonstrate to the women who work there that you’re different than the other dudes in the club because You Care. (2) it’s just a way to make the strippers work twice as hard — not only do they have to perform sexiness for you, they also have to perform the “how nice of you to ask, you must be a great guy!” dance, too — for the same low price; (3) it’s just another manifestation of the I Am Specialer Than Others disease, acted out before a paid audience because you aren’t getting much confirmation of that conviction from unpaid women, family members, and co-workers.

  37. Ursula L on 13 Nov 2009 at 1:46 pm #

    Paul wrote One thing that has occurred to me – isn’t the phenomenon of someone (pretty much always a man) shooting large numbers of people indiscriminately in a public space a relatively modern phenomenon?

    Well, the technology for a single person to shoot large numbers of people indiscriminately is a relatively modern phenomenon. It’s a product of the technological development that defines what is modern.

    In order to physically carry out such an attack, you need long-range multi-shot weapons that reload quickly. Otherwise, you’re severely limited by the number of pre-loaded weapons you can easily carry with you.

    It’s interesting that the early examples of individually (or small-group) perpetrated mass killings involve pre-planning and arrangement of explosives, or guns and ammunition in a sheltered place that allowed for reloading. One could probably do an interesting study on how changing technology affected the way in which someone inclined to this sort of violence can carry out their desired activities.

  38. Ursula L on 13 Nov 2009 at 1:50 pm #

    Perpetua wrote: Naturally, we never hear anything about the daughters.

    Actually, we do. Lot and his daughters flee the city as it is destroyed. (This is the time at which his wife i turned into a pillar of salt.) Hiding in the desert, they think that all of humanity has been destroyed, and, wanting children, the daughters get Lot drunk and have sex with him. Their descendants became the Moabites and Ammmonites.

  39. Knitting Clio on 13 Nov 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    I think we need to be careful about using terms like “religiously insane” — one can be very firm and literal minded about one’s religious views and be perfectly sane.

  40. Knitting Clio on 13 Nov 2009 at 2:08 pm #

    P.S. I also agree with the comment by Anne Cannon on the NPR website, “I do not know who is responsible for the choice of words for this particular headline, but it is dismaying that, once again, the public is being fed the idea that mental illness and violence are connected. Persons with mental illness don’t need this additional stigma.”

  41. Emma on 13 Nov 2009 at 2:40 pm #

    You expect the killer to be a nastier guy who tried to force himself on the woman who gave him the private dance, not the one who asks about her kid’s costumes.

    I agree with everything Kathleen Lowery said, but I’d put it a bit more forcefully: Hasan was forcing himself on the women. They couldn’t say no to him. They had to engage with him as he forced his way into their private non-work lives.

  42. Historiann on 13 Nov 2009 at 3:58 pm #

    Knitting Clio–I take your point about the term “religiously insane,” but the links above (to a recent mass murder in Colorado in December 2007, and to the murder of a ski resort manager here last January) refer to two stories in which the murderers were clearly mentally ill and very wrapped up in religious ideation. It’s true that we don’t know exactly what Hasan’s situation was, but it sounds to me like another guy who becomes obsessed with a particular stripe of fundamentalist religion that becomes part of his manifestation of mental illness.

    I don’t know what to call someone who’s invited to give Grand Rounds and then rants on and on about Islam and the Koran *but* religiously insane. (I could use the term “mentally ill with religious ideation” to suggest the same thing, I suppose.) There are a lot of insane, religious, and/or religiously insane people who do not engage in any violence, of course. But, mental illness seems to have been a BIG part of the package with this guy.

  43. Grandoc on 14 Nov 2009 at 6:35 am #

    When I was in the Air Force we had a psychiatrist who wanted out. He was a regular -not a two year draftee like the rest of us. I don’t think the government had paid for his medical school training. Usually, grumbling was a ticket to Vietnam – so most of us kept quiet. Our unhappy shrink first wrote tongue-in-cheek letters to the Washington Post, complaining of the generous benefits to retiring generals. No reponse. Finally in a move right out of MASH, our wayward major reported for his mandatory ER duty on a Saturday morning. He was dressed in a flowery tropical shirt and Bermuda shorts -unsanctioned garb. He then spoke to the assembled masses in the waiting room ” I’m a bit rusty on medicine but if any of you have mental health issues – this is your morning.” The major was gone within a week or two. I don’t know if his discharge was honorable or not. He was a white male.

  44. Feminist Avatar on 14 Nov 2009 at 8:02 am #

    In reference to the discussion on misogyny and love of family- I think some of this may come down to how you define both misogyny and love. I don’t think that a man who sees his wife as little more than an extension of himself and sees her purpose as reinforcing his masculinity/ enabling him to be fully functioning in the world, with little regard to her emotional needs (like recognising her right not to be killed) LOVES his wife.

    I also think that hating women (misogyny) does not need to be explicitly violent or abusive. Not being able to see women as individuals with their own rights and boundaries is misogyny. Lumping women together as a group without recognition of their individual needs/desires/choices is misogyny. Refusal to recognise women as people or to see you wife as a person beyond an extension of yourself is misogyny. Seeing women as less important than men or their rights as less important that men’s rights is misogyny. All of this amounts to a refusal to recognise a woman’s humanity and if that isn’t a form of hate then what is?

  45. Bing on 16 Nov 2009 at 12:46 pm #

    Here’s my crackpot conspiracy theory.

    I just read The Men Who Stare at Goats. Great book. Very funny, and the stuff I already knew about (Courtney Brown the Heaven’s Gate suicide) was dead on. I suspect that there’s a disturbing amount of truth in that book.

    Anyway, what I gleaned from the book was an intelligence culture that tried to make use of absolutely every dang asset that the military had, and how after 9/11, the military was really scrambling. I swear, after reading that book, it does not seem far-fetched to me that intelligence perceived Hassan as an asset. I mean, from Ronson’s tale, it seems clear that the Army, when it thought it even had the barest chance of using someone who might have contact with big Islamist meanos, they fully meant to exploit that source. It just seems possible that they say Hassan that way. I have no evidence other than a hunch and self-declared infallibility, for what that is worth.

    Deep down, I find it sort of irresponsible to believe much of anything official at this point, since the Army has been so perfectly bad at telling the story so far.

    Also, there is a great word, Knitting Clio and Ann, for the state of being literally insane with religion: entheomania. Love that word. Spell check hates it.

    HJ

  46. John S. on 17 Nov 2009 at 10:59 pm #

    Jesse–I don’t know if Historiann is going to strike down your post or not (I don’t know the policy on this sort of thing). But wow. I haven’t read such a blatantly misogynist rant in some time. I find it telling that you use the pronoun “us” to describe those men who have been supposedly betrayed by women (I will not repeat the language you employed here)and America’s “feminized society.” Are you revealing something about yourself, and your history with women? Do I have to worry about being anywhere near you if you have a firearm? If that’s the case, please stay away from me and every man, woman, and child I know.

    (See, I’m not being sexist: I am suggesting that your attitude is noxious and offensive to *everyone*, not just women!)

  47. Historiann on 18 Nov 2009 at 10:05 am #

    Don’t worry, John–I’ve already alerted the authorities, and they’re going to investigate Jesse for being a terrorist sympathizer. After all, you’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists!

  48. 20th anniversary of the massacre at L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 06 Dec 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    [...] still maintain that the absence of relationships with women should be considered a major warning sign that a man is cap….  It’s such an obvious commonality of all of these North American massacres–from [...]

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