All 'attackers' are young male, is this relevant?

(77 Posts)
camaleon Tue 26-Jul-16 12:24:45

Not sure whether there is a point to make about this. I have been reading all kind of articles and listening to analysis trying to work out the 'reasons' behind the many mass killings that have happened recently (for instance, here. However, nobody highlights the most obvious feature all these attackers share: they are male and they are young.

Perhaps there is nothing to highlight. It is taken for granted they will be male and it would only be news worthy if they were all female/all over 60/all with green eyes, etc. Still, it seems to me that something must be totally wrong in the way we bring up boys to make them the vast majority of our prisons' population and authors of most crimes one can imagine, particularly violent crimes. I am sure there are tons of books/articles written about it. Would any of you be able to direct me to some good resources on this (rather than me googling at random)?

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Tue 26-Jul-16 12:32:11

Young men are the most likely group to commit suicide generally (by a huge margin - 78% of suicide deaths are men) which is probably linked...

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

I've heard it argued that while more of the deaths from suicide are men, women actually attempt suicide more often. It's just women use less violent methods, so are more often discovered and saved. I don't have any links to back this up, but others reading might. But I'm not sure how suicide links to the OP's point, unless it is to emphasise that not all men seem... dunno how to say what's in my mind really... more comfortable with using violence as a solution to their problems? Closer to violence? Shorter fused? It's not exactly taboo though is it - vast number of films, for example, are themed on the principle that it's OK to use violence provided that you are in the right/have a legitimate grudge.

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Tue 26-Jul-16 12:50:36

The attacker in Nice wasn't particularly young - 31.

They have all had history of mental illness/ suicide attempts I believe.

camaleon Tue 26-Jul-16 12:52:56

I guess anybody under 35 seems utterly young to me... You don't normally find out that some 50+ guy has committed a violent criminal offence (this includes domestic violence where age seems less relevant)

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Cooroo Tue 26-Jul-16 13:01:55

Thomas Mair who stabbed Jo Cox was 52. He's the exception though. There does seem to be something in young men. Like they need a war??

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Tue 26-Jul-16 13:02:44

I guess the question is why there seems to be a spate of men who feel entitled to take as many people "with" them when they commit suicide - essentially the attacks have been very violent suicides by mentally ill youngish men who feel that the world has somehow failed or rejected them.

Suicide as a form of public social or even political protest has been about for a very long time (maybe for ever) and is something mainly done by men (not always - hunger strikes etc). Killing others at the same time makes it multiple times more horrific and violent - but it is angry violent suicide by mentally ill individuals not international terrorism.

Yes, I see what you mean about someone considering suicide as obviously vulnerable.

In the context of the OP's question though, I don't know whether we should be limiting our analysis only to things that are named (by governments/the media) as terrorist. What gets called a terrorist attack and what doesn't is part of the question I think.

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Tue 26-Jul-16 13:12:34

There has also just been the Sagamihara mass murder of course - definitely not terrorism and in this case also not suicide (though moist of the other mass killings ultimately are intended to end in suicide), but a mass murder by a 26 year old man who had also been recently hospitalised for mental illness.

thedancingbear Tue 26-Jul-16 13:17:05

What gets called a terrorist attack and what doesn't is part of the question I think.

Agree absolutely with this. The narrative that some attacks are worse than others because terrorists is pernicious.

MatildaOfTuscany Tue 26-Jul-16 13:23:53

The use of the word terrorism is connected with othering and who the attacker is, and what political capital can be made out of the attack. Thus a young man who cuts himself off from real-life interactions and instead lives in a virtual social world of online Islamisist radicals, is trained up to hate infidels, goes out and kills some (even if not part of a terrorist cell in the traditional sense with someone "senior" to him in the chain of command training him up, planning the attack and getting him to execute it) gets labelled terrorist. On the other hand when a young man who cuts himself off from real-life interactions and instead lives in a virtual social world of online misogynists, who radicalise him and desensitise him to the idea of committing actual real-world violence, goes out and kills a group of women, he gets labelled as mentally ill.

thedancingbear Tue 26-Jul-16 13:27:13

How would you prefer to see each of those labelled, Matilda?

slug Tue 26-Jul-16 13:42:54

They are all examples of toxic masculinity

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Tue 26-Jul-16 13:44:14

None of the recent German attacks are terrorism - they have all been mentally ill people hitting back at the world as part of a violent suicide attempt essentially.

The German media is specifically not calling them terrorist attacks.

To be honest I don't think the word is necessarily even helpful as it "dignifies" mass murders by desperate and very ill people by making martyrs of them and setting them up as heroes instead of pathetic and sad individuals who would almost be pitiable (if they hadn't set themselves beyond pity by lashing out murderously) to those inclined to see them that way and gives a gift to the actual terrorists who can just sit at home and let the mentally ill do their work of inspiring general fear and "othering" for them.

MatildaOfTuscany Tue 26-Jul-16 13:45:22

That's an interesting question. I think it perhaps comes down to the question of whether terrorism is purely defined as violence in pursuit of a political, religious or social ideology, or whether it has to be organised violence in pursuit of... If the former, both, if the latter, it becomes more nebulous.

Let's take the IRA as an example of typical western European urban terrorism towards the end of the last century. They (if I understand the situation correctly) had a command structure a bit like a regular army, with attacks being planned by higher-ranking strategic specialists, materiel supplied by "quartermasters", attacks carried out by low-ranking foot soldiers (generally not suicide attacks).

Elliott Rogers, on the other hand, while influenced by online misogynists, wasn't actively recruited by an anti-women group with any sort of structure.

As far as I can tell from the news reports, the current spate of attacks occupy a middle ground which may be a new phenomenon. The attackers don't merely interact with other people who share their ideology on line, there seems to be a sense in which ISIL are engaging in on-line grooming - seeking out people with feelings of alienation or mental health problems which make them vulnerable, winding them up and letting them go. It's not planned meticulously like an IRA "spectacular", it's more of a "wind them up and let them go and see what happens" strategy. However, the further arrests in Nice suggest that there may be a bit more organisation to it than just internet grooming - there is some supplying of guns, explosives, etc. going on.

But I don't think it's helpful to have a sound-bite approach to explanation which says "they left a video on their phone proclaiming loyalty to ISIL" = terrorist, whereas Jo Cox's murderer, Anders Brehvik, Elliot Rogers = not terrorist because no underlying organisation (or, the cynic in me thinks, "not far enough up our list of threats that matter to the establishment politically speaking").

I think it is interesting to note that most of the perpetrators are young men.

Babycham1979 Tue 26-Jul-16 13:57:30

But, as the cliché goes, 'one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter'. The ANC were terrorists, as were the French Resistance during WWII.

The Kurdish Peshmerga, Irgun (or Stern Gang) in Israel, FARC in Colombia and the LTTE in Sri Lanka are/were left-wing terrorist groups/freedom fighters that pioneered suicide attacks and have comprise very significant contingents of female fighters and commanders.

If you're talking only about Islamists, then the sexist/mysoginist/patriarchal narrative of their ideology is key to the preponderance of male attackers. There is nothing uniquely male about either terrorists or freedom fighters though.

scallopsrgreat Tue 26-Jul-16 14:01:41

What mass shooters have in common
DV links
Commonalities between DV and mass killings

There have been a number of pieces, which although they haven't specifically talked about the age of the attackers, have talked about the sex of the attackers. They've also related the violence to DV and the high correlation there.

So these attackers aren't just suddenly violent. They've often had violent histories for several years. I'm be reluctant to label them as 'vulnerable'.

I agree with Matilda that the use of the word terrorist is very selective and many reserved for people with brown skin. These articles all group 'terrorist' acts and other violent acts as mass murders/killings because that line for what is or is not terrorism shifts according to the prevailing wind.

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Tue 26-Jul-16 14:19:29

Those are interesting links scalops

Surely for an act to be terrorism (as indicated by the fact that indeed one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter) it has to to be solely motivate by a "cause" external to the one individual carrying out the murders?

If you are killing a load of people because you were bullied at school and nobody likes you, you are a mass murderer with a very personal back story, but not a terrorist because you are not primarily driven by a social/ political/ religious/ nationalistic/ idealogical cause - it is all far too personal to be terrorism. That goes for most if not all of the recent attacks. Even where there was some half arsed latch on to ISIS the murder/ suicides were primarily personal vendettas against the world.

scallopsrgreat Tue 26-Jul-16 14:34:48

So why wasn't Elliot Rodgers ever called a terrorist? His motives were certainly driven by a cause external the individual. His motives were shaped by society and how men think of women. There are certainly enough men who are violent against women, who hate women to make it a 'cause' external to him.

But of course it isn't because society doesn't actually want to admit that it is set up to support the kind of behaviour in men where they feel women owe them something and all he was doing was showing 'extreme radicalisation' of that behaviour.

VikingVolva Tue 26-Jul-16 14:55:49

Terrorism isn't just planned or carried out by men (unless you have a reason to specifically examine only a subset of attacks where you think there is a causal factor).

The numbers of people carrying out these murders are low, and (though Instand to be corrected by any statisticians) this means that you cannot, from the basic numbers, have sufficient confidence that it is representative of a gender issue as both sexes are involved in both the planning and execution of operations, and this has been the pattern over decades.

If you look at armies, however, they are often predominantly male especially in the branches most likely to close with an enemy in direct fight. This is related to size and strength. And in choosing an operative for a task, it's sensible to choose the one you think is most likely to succeed. So if your aim is to overpower then kill, being big and strong is an advantage. But it's not an absolute requirement (as, for example, the Moscow theatre siege showed).

antiqueroadhoe Tue 26-Jul-16 15:01:25


scallopsrgreat Tue 26-Jul-16 15:02:16

Mass murder is overwhelmingly carried out by men. Violence is definitely gendered. The stats on the first article I linked to show how gendered mass shootings in the US are, for example.

I suspect when we look at groups such as IS then they would have a larger proportion of women than you would think given other statistics for violence, but they are still overwhelmingly male.

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