Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A tale of two massacres.

I was going to put down some thoughts on the Newtown school massacre but felt that the subject had been covered to death by the other bloggers and my contribution wouldn't add much to the subject. Still, it did pique my interest in the subject of school shootings and Wiki has a good entry on rampage killers.  Unfortunately, these events are not that uncommon and there appears to be a long history of them. Still, two cases caught my eye which seem to well illustrate the crisis of masculinity in our current culture.

The fist case is that of the Virginia Tech Massacre.  Roissy's comments at the time were, I felt, particularly pertinent.
The killer of 32 people at Virginia Tech used a .22 caliber and a 9mm pistol.
Why wasn’t this guy rushed by anyone?  He’s calmly picking people off.  Bloodshed all around.  Imagine you’re there, trapped in that classroom.  You know you’re as good as dead if you just sit immobile like a juicy target, so you may as well lunge for him and drive your thumbs in his eyes.  You might still die, but you’ve improved your odds dramatically, especially if you go at him during a reload.  He’ll maybe get off one or two shots at you but handguns are notoriously inaccurate, especially when a person is running into your face disturbing your zen-like aiming.  You’d stand a good chance of him missing or you incurring a non-fatal flesh wound.

So a rude thought intrudes.  Engineering campus.  Nerds.  A taxonomy of guys who’ve probably run from fights their whole lives.  Total inexperience with summoning the warrior animal spirits.
There are times of crisis when brainy deliberation or pavlovian avoidance response will do a man no good.

Maybe the bullets were flying so fast, the killer so accurate (from marathon sessions of video gaming I bet), the timeframe so compressed, that in the chaos no one had an opportunity to do anything.  Well, except for this guy.

But if that’s not the case, then I’ll be uncharitable and ask…
did nerdiness cost lives?
yeah, i’ve changed my thinking on this. i think passivity is a systemic problem with men in the West, [ED]not just relegated to nerds. i’m pissed that one guy was able to calmly kill 30 people without anyone at least trying to subdue him, so that colored my reaction.

i talked to a guy recently who went through nyc police training and he told me that a certain percentage of people will go into shock and do nothing in the event of a crisis. the nypd trains their recruits by having them walk around corners and get “shot” unexpectedly with harmless plastic caps. the first few times it happens the recruits stand motionless in shock.

after a few rounds of this training the recruits are able to think better on their feet and react quickly.
Compare this with another school shooting, this time in Bremen, in 1913. From the Wiki Entry;
At approximately 11:00 a.m. Heinz Schmidt entered St. Mary's Catholic School, armed with six to ten revolvers or Browning pistols (depending on sources) and about 1000 rounds of ammunition, which he had bought several weeks prior to the shooting. Because of the large number of rounds, the owner of the gun-shop, where Schmidt had bought his arsenal, deemed it necessary to contact police, though the incident was not found to be important and thus not investigated any further.

In the hallway on the first floor Schmidt encountered Marie Pohl, a teacher at the school, who was just stepping out of classroom 8b, and, seeing his agitated appearance, questioned him about his business at school. Without answer, Schmidt proceeded to shoot at her, barely missing her head. While Miss Pohl fled into a classroom nearby Schmidt entered room 8b, which was occupied by 65 girls, most of them being 6 or 7 years old, and immediately began firing at them. Also shooting at the children after they hid under their tables the gunman instantly killed two of them and wounded another 15. When the girls fled out of the classroom, Schmidt followed them, still shooting. While trying to escape, one of the girls fell down the stairs, broke her neck and died.
The gunman then went back and unsuccessfully tried to enter another classroom that had been locked by a teacher who had realized what had been happening. Schmidt shot at the school janitor, Butz, who attempted to apprehend him, hitting him in the face, before going upstairs where he was tackled by teacher Hubert Möllmann. When Schmidt managed to break free from Möllmann's grip he shot the teacher twice, hitting him in the stomach and shoulder, whereupon he proceeded to shoot out of a window at the children on the schoolyard, injuring five boys. The shots also wounded a roofer working nearby, who, together with his colleagues and other people alarmed by the shooting, then rushed into the school building, though as they arrived on the first floor the gunman had already been subdued by janitor Butz and a teacher named Hartlage. When Schmidt was led away by police he was met by an angry crowd outside, which beat him up and attempted to lynch him, until the police officers managed to hold the mob at bay with their sabres.
In total, Schmidt had fired 35 rounds, three girls died instantly, while two more later succumbed to their wounds – the last victim dying some time in mid-July – and 18 children, as well as three other persons were injured

At Virginia Tech in 2007, the only people who seemed to offer any resistance to the shooter were an old Guy and middle aged female teacher. Where where the young men? (Apparently a student named Henry Lee was assisting the female teacher barricade the room but no one was rushing the shooter.)

On the other hand, back in 1913, the janitor, the teachers, even the roofer working next door and his mates--who had ample time and opportunity to run away--all rushed the bastard. Butz, the janitor, even went back for seconds after being shot in the face!!  Balls of steel I tell you.

(Picture of German Reservists from 1911. Pretty much the same type of guys who would have tackled the shooter.)

Somewhere between then and now, the manhood died.

The older I get, the more convinced I am that the First World War was the dividing line between the old and modern world. 


Anonymous said...

I think you just "jumped the shark", and sent the remains of your credibility all to hell.
I'm familiar with many of the mass shootings, and had you done more research you'd have found the reactions of young men (hell, men in general) were all over the place over the past 80 years.
Instead you spit on all of them.


David Foster said...

"The older I get, the more convinced I am that the First World War was the dividing line between the old and modern world."

Much truth in this, I think. Paul Fussell's book The Great War and Modern Memory is a good source on the lasting psychological impact of the war. Also very worthwhile is Erich Maria Remarque's novel The Road Back...sort of a sequel to his All Quiet on the Western Front, and unfortunately not nearly as well read. I reviewed it here:

Anonymous said...

In 1912, men's average life expectancy was 43.5 years. Today approx. 30 years longer. The view of ones life and the investment in a 78 years of living changes how you view your disposability at a young age. This might explain why the older people were more willing to charge the shooter.

Anonymous said...

Fortunately if you are old enough to remember the world you wax philosophical about, you'll be dead soon and nobody will have to endure your existence.

If not, I daresay you are simply making a fool of yourself. Worse so then telling that suicidal guy in your comment section that he is a loser and should kill himself.

Kathy Farrelly said...

I don't think Americans had access to semi-automatic rifles back in 1913?

Certainly do much more damage more quickly than a revolver could.

Those kids murdered in the Newton school massacre were riddled with bullets.

I am guessing that most men in America would realize that they would have a snowballs chance in hell of rushing such a gunman and overpowering him.

The Social Pathologist said...


I thought I lost all credibility with you a while ago.


You've given me lots of good book recommendations before so I'll look it up. From a cultural point of view, WW1 seems far more important than WW2.

Infant mortality skewed the average life expectancy at that time. If you reached you 30's intact you had a good chance of reaching 70, even in the 1900's. So your argument does not hold.


That's why I compared broadly similar scenarios. The guy in 1911 attack was armed with pistols and revolvers, not semi-automatics, just like the Virginia tech shooter.

The Social Pathologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Social Pathologist said...

@Anon @3:44

Worse so then telling that suicidal guy in your comment section that he is a loser and should kill himself

Retarded? Or is English not your first language?

Re-read the comments section The suicidal guy has got more hope that you will ever have.

ray said...

"i talked to a guy recently who went through nyc police training and he told me that a certain percentage of people will go into shock and do nothing in the event of a crisis"

absolutely -- this reaction is v common, and quite autonomic

you may imagine ahead of time (like certain un-named folk) that you are a Big Brave Man, and YOU'D damn sure rush the shooter

but you'd be surprised . . . the bullets start shattering bones and suddenly, you discover that your mouth simply will not work, or, perhaps, your legs wont move

"Somewhere between then and now, the manhood died."

uh huh, well, i was around in the Fifties, and i can assure you that manhood didnt commit suicide

the death of masculinity has gotten a whole lot of "help"

Anonymous said...

Read Junger's Storm of Steel. I would love to find a translation of Battle as Inner Experience but I guess I'll have to learn German instead.

The Social Pathologist said...


It's a book I've been meaning to get.

I've found this excerpt online which, I feel, is pertinent.

For I cannot too often repeat, a battle was no longer an episode that spent itself in blood and fire; it was a condition of things that dug itself in remorselessly week after week and even month after month. What was a man's life in this wilderness whose vapor was laden with the stench of thousands upon thousands of decaying bodies? Death lay in ambush for each one in every shell-hole, merciless, and making one merciless in turn. Chivalry here took a final farewell. It had to yield to the heightened intensity of war, just as all fine and personal feeling has to yield when machinery gets the upper hand. The Europe of today appeared here for the first time on the field of battle.

David Foster said...

Re WWI--from Peter Drucker's first book, The End of Economic Man, specifically a chapter titled The Return of the Demons, he discusses the psychological roots of Fascism:

”Modern war appeared to be the denial of all tenets on which the mechanical and rational conception of society is based. This was not because war is amechanical and arational, but because it reduces mechanization and rationalization to absurdity…the war showed the individual suddenly as an isolated, helpless, powerless atom in a world of irrational monsters.” Another factor was the Great Depression, which “proved that irrational and incalculable forces also rule peacetime society: the threat of sudden permanant unemployment, of being thrown on the industrial scrap heap on one’s prime or even before one has started to work. Against these forces the individual finds himself as helpless, isolated, and atomized as against the forces of machine war.” As a result of these factors, “The European masses realized for the first time that existence in this society is governed not by rational and sensible, but by blind, irrational, and demonic forces.”

Ed in Kanata said...

You should also note the Ecole Polytechnique shooting in Montreal in 1989 - the shooter separated the males from the females in a university classroom and then ordered the males out and then shot the females.

Anonymous said...

What you are describing here is a common experience. It has nothing to do with manhood dying out. it is just shock. The first thing that people in that situation think is total confusion. They simply don't know what to make of something that is so foreign to their normal existence. Nor have they ever considered what they would do if they found themselves in that situation.

The Army and USMC specifically conduct training and drills so that the troops overcome that confusion and react instinctively to fire.

The biggest difference between now and earlier is that 1911 germany school employees and roofers would have had a lot of veterans and modern colleges have very few. School mass shootings are vanishingly rare, despite world media attention around them. On average, a school has one event in 4000 years of operation (Schools in Chicago, DC and Detroit more often, but those aren't newsworthy), so there is no opportunity for students to learn reaction from a previous incident.

delon said...

Perhaps a side point, but the guns used by the VT shooter were semi-automatic. Technical details aside, all that really means is that one bullet is fired per squeeze of the trigger. Revolvers are the same in that respect. Many people seem to mistakenly think that semi automatic weapons are machine guns. Basically all handguns are semi automatic, and revolvers effectively so. I think this misunderstanding is responsible for some of the hysteria surrounding the Newtown shooting.

CL said...

It might be partly due to the current generations having known nothing but peace and prosperity, so that when an event like this happens, people are totally unprepared and lack situational awareness.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with the sentiment, and I attribute it in part to the hysteria against the male tendency to use force in my post On gun control and wimpy betas.:

Men who live in areas like this are repeatedly told that if someone breaks into their house and threatens their family, they should cower in fear and call another man to solve the problem. This is not how a healthy well adjusted man thinks.

In the case of Virginia Tech, while the local area may have been different, the attitude on modern campuses fits this description perfectly.

I disagree however that we don't have men like the ones in the final picture any more though. Check out "Alpha Company Iraq Diary" on youtube, or read about CSM Robert Prosser in my post Dying to be treated like one of the guys., or Major Mark Bieger in Chivalry only comes from a position of strength.

As for the firearms used in the Bremen massacre I didn't find much information with a quick search. However, given that he brought 1,000 rounds of ammo it would seem extremely likely that he used a magazine fed semi auto and not a revolver. I don't know when John Browning's famous .45 auto was first available to German civilians, but it had passed several years of testing and was adopted by the US Army a few months prior. My own (Para) Browning 1911 is a personal favorite and the design is still extremely modern functionally. Browning was quite prolific, and also designed the gun which was used to shoot the Archduke and start WWI (it looks very much like the gun James Bond carries).

Johnycomelately said...

I can understand why a young man would seek self preservation over chivalry, multiculturalism and feminism has certainly dented any feelings of community.

I think a recent study showed less homogeneous areas were less prone to volunanteering ultrualistically for organizations like the CFA.

The Social Pathologist said...


I think there are multiple factors at play here, but I agree the current social forces (including multiculturalism) encourage social atomisation.


Agree. Too much security(emotional/financial) makes people soft. It also makes them stupid.

@Prof Hale.

Veterans from what war?

@Dalrock and David

I'll reply later.

Anonymous said...

Veterans are not created just in war, but the Franco-Prussian war would still have been in the living memory of some males, just like we all know vets from Vietnam. But also, the peacetime German army would have used draft registrations and military mobilizations training as a standard in Europe by this time.

Anonymous said...

‘This is the cry, which mingles with that of the enemy in the confrontation, a scream torn from hearts pressed against the shimmering threshold of eternity. This is a cry long forgotten in the course of the cultures, a cry of insight, horror and bloodthirst. Yes, of bloodthirst too: after the horror, it is the next thing that breaks like a sea of red waves over the fighter: the rapture, the thirst for blood when the quivering cloud of annihilation weighs down upon the fields of wrath. It might sound strange to those who have never fought for their very existence, but the sight of the enemy brings, alongside utter horror, deliverance from a heavy, unbearable pressure. That is the ecstasy of blood, which hangs over the war like a red stormfilled sail, Effect, in its immeasurable impulse akin only to Eros.’ – Battle as Inner Experience

The Social Pathologist said...


Franco Prussian war was 41 years earlier. I think military training then was different to now.


There are still men of courage around, but I think their number is much less than before. Courage, like all virtues, needs to be practiced in order to be cultivated. It's one thing to go into battle armed with someone watching your back, its another to grasp the nettle when totally unprepared.

The welfare state doesn't just destroy economies, it also erodes character--in that the virtues which feed into courage, such as self reliance, privation and independence of action are all stifled by a culture in which safety and material provision are valued above all else.

The other social pathogen is the legal system which punishes acts of righteousness. Prof Hale recently put up a post speculating on the nature of the "suicide" deaths by the mass shooter. Whilst I think many of the shooters did kill themselves, it's easy to see how this makes things so much simpler. If, let's say, a sniper takes a shooter out, then a whole litany of experts, rights advocates, etc. are there to bleat about how "more should have been done" to prevent the shooter's death. In essence, a man trying to act courageously, not only has his fear working against him but the notion in the back of his head that the state will can him as well.

The forces working against courage are multi-factoral and perhaps we need to accept less wealth and more risk in society in order to cultivate it.

The Social Pathologist said...

Ed, thanks for dropping in.


Another factor was the Great Depression, which “proved that irrational and incalculable forces also rule peacetime society: the threat of sudden permanant unemployment, of being thrown on the industrial scrap heap on one’s prime or even before one has started to work

Thanks for the quotes.

Industrialisation changed things. The old rules for society did not work and I think this is the great tragedy of conservativism that it failed to adapt leaving open the doors to other ideologies which take their place.

I once remember debating Jim Kalb about his and he got irritated by me instead of conceeding the issue. I mean, the French revolution did not arise ex nihilo, real social problems were exploited to further the revolutionaries goals. As I said to Jim, if your kids are starving under the old regime and a radical offers you a way out, what are you going to do? Join the party that offers you bread. But here comes along Kalb et all telling you, no.....whilst it's regrettable, the old order is a product of many years of cumulative wisdom, so yes your kid's death is necessary for the greater good.

Shit. I'd wanna slit his throat.

He'd deny that he explicitly say that, but that's effectively been the intellectual conservative's position since Burke.

The take home message of the all those biographies at the time is that the Old Order failed and what resulted was a cultural disorientation by both the thinking and proletarian classes.

Junger's insight shows that he was more on the ball than many mainstream thinkers of the right.

Brandon said...

This part of Junger's quote is particularly pertinent "just as all fine and personal feeling has to yield when machinery gets the upper hand".

So basically, there is no way out. People have gained the world via industrial production but lost their souls in a Faustian bargain.

The Social Pathologist said...


@So basically, there is no way out. People have gained the world via industrial production but lost their souls in a Faustian bargain.

I disagree. People have been trying to find a way out-- that's what the Marxists and Fascists were trying to do. I personally do think that there is a way but it would involve a huge shift in some of our cultural values.

Our society uncritically accepts technology and fails to see some of it's negative effects. The solution may lie in limiting some forms of technology for own our good.

I'm not a Greenie but I can see how the motor vehicle has both its positive and negative aspects. As a doctor, I can see enormous physical benefits with less motor vehicle travel. Perhaps for instance, future town planning done in such a way that it biases itself to favouring walking and streetcars etc and deters vehicle use.

Likewise with war, one way of humanising it is be limiting the use of some of its weapons. For example, the conventions against poison gas made WW2 just that little bit less horrible.

GK Chesterton said...

On being a "greenie", I agree. The problem is pulling it off without being a sanctimonious leviathan. That's, from those I have experienced, frighteningly hard to do....

....and make sure we all have the yards many of us love. Me included.

Höllenhund said...

Both womanhood and manhood has died, and only together they can possibly be raised from the dead. They always evolve in a tandem. How many current women are capable of (directly or indirectly) eliciting the kind of heroic response you describe in the end?

I wouldn't say this post destroyed all your credibility, but it definitely is...well, completely predictable.

Whiskey's take on the subject, you may find it interesting:

Anonymous said...

From what I see:

Black and Hispanic women are into feral Thugs and Bad boys.

White and Asian women are into Psychopathic Nerds (e.g. certain STEM men).

Am I right?

David Foster said...

Re the impact of the First World War, see my new post here:

which links to a post on that subject by Sarah Hoyt.

Bob said...

If I remember correctly, Victor Davis Hanson has written about battle, and the history of warfare. He points out the fact that fewer people have died in wars PER CAPITA, over the last 2 centuries. While we see horrible loss of life in WW I and WW II, in fact the deaths per world population was lower than previous wars, including the American Civil War. Some scholarly estimates suggest that loss of life due to warfare may have been far higher in the pre-literate era, than the 20th century.

Similar numbers for mass civilian killings, which have been happening in decreasing amounts, not increasing amounts.

Jack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack said...

@ Kathy: In the early twentieth century a person could readily buy a variety of fully automatic weapons. No background check, just a matter of fact. My grandfather had several on display in his restaurant. (Adjacent to an armory, so his clientele included those stationed there.) Indeed, up into the 1960's, surplus semi-automatic weapons of various origins could be purchased via the U. S. Mail. (The JFK assasination brought an end to that as the rifle supposedly used to kill the president was a mail order purchase.) Up until about the same time in history, dynamite could be purchased by the case at your local hardware in the U.S. (stump removal and whatnot). So, the question for me, or should I say the observation, is that we have experienced societal changes that precipitate these heinous events. Big pharm pumping chemicals into our boys to make them 'behave'. (ADD meds) De- institutionalization of the mentally ill. Many of the other factors mentioned in previous comments.


Aquinas Dad said...

Those comments were the first thing I thought of at several of the shootings; the train shootings some years back where the guy could pause to reload both guns while men cowered; Va Tech; etc.
Of course, I was a soldier for years, and a combat veteran. But I raise my sons to rush, to act.
I talk to kids in the neighborhood and they are trained in public school to - hide under their desks.
I home school.

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Anonymous said...

Well, having witnessed the effects of private education on my niece and nephew, I can assure you that anything that wiffs of masculinity and aggression is stamped out very quickly.

Interestingly, girls are given free reign to abuse the boys.

I can mention specifics, if you'd like.


Anonymous said...

As a relatively recent engineering grad from another big land grant school, I can assure you that at least 60% of th engineering classes were Indians and Chinese.

I think that partially explains the lack of response. Men are going to be reluctlant to risk their life for someone who is alien to them.

Anonymous said...

"Infant mortality skewed the average life expectancy at that time. If you reached you 30's intact you had a good chance of reaching 70, even in the 1900's. So your argument does not hold."

Not unless you are under the age of 30.


But really, this issue is a bit of a nobrainer. Despite how brave any of you internet bloggers are in your thoughts, you have absolutely no idea how you'll respond in extreme situations. None. Some burst out laughing, some go into shock, some run, some cry. A few act ... ineffectively.

Unless you have trained yourself under conditions that replicate this sort of trauma, spare the posturing and roll the dice.

That's where you land.


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jim smith said...

I would love to find a translation of Battle as Inner Experience but I guess I'll have to learn German instead.
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Anonymous said...

Well, My manhood hasn't died.
Little wonder so many have so little manhood left. Men are expected to work side by each with women and not be the slightest bit aggressive so as not to make the women feel "threatened": to be "sensitive" to the "needs" of the women around them: and to share nearly every nook and cranny of male space with them. Little wonder that men don't act like. men.