Megs and Kerry have both laid into this absurd Sunday Times piece blaming the VA Tech shootings on (and let’s rrrrrrooll the wheel of scapegoats!) “the crisis of young males in a feminised society.” I’m usually wary of inferring exculpation from attempts at explanation, but this line from the piece in particular is especially stomach churning and emblematic of the article’s grotesque displacement of responsibility:
Then there were the college girls who reported him to the police for stalking and got him carted off to mental hospital after he sent them shy love messages full of yearning.
I’m hoping it’s otiose to take this rubbish apart in any detail, so I want to make a rather different point. Hidden amid all this swill is actually a moderately interesting question, to wit: How does greater sexual openness in a culture affect those who, for whatever reasons, aren’t getting any? Presumably there’s plenty of analysis from the literature on income inequality that could be cross-applied, at least as a first pass, and there’s a facial plausibility to the idea that such openness might make the already-alienated feel even more so, even if we think the net level of sexual frustration probably drops.
The problem is that the least productive imaginable way to approach that sort of question, guaranteed to yield precisely zero generalizable insights, is to use a deranged mass murderer as your starting point. Just about every sane commenter as already made this point vis a vis gun control—whatever the correct policy is, barring obvious things like “don’t sell guns to people with severe mental illnesses,” focusing on dramatic but vanishingly rare events like this is unlikely to be much help illuminating it. It’s not just that this particular narrative is dumb—though there is that—but that the whole approach effectively treats someone like Cho as canary in a coal mine, with thought processes basically similar to those of most other people, but more sensitive, and so more prone to snapping under the same pressure the rest of us feel, but adapt to better. I’m inclined to think Cho would probably have been angry and alienated in a wide variety of cultural settings, and that while one could always point in hindsight to some particular external triggers, it would be missing the point to think this told us anything very profound about the setting—in the military or a Bible Belt community, it would’ve been something different. In the case of most people, of course, talking this way would be succumbing to what psychologists call the “Fundamental Attribution Error,” but in the case of people who react so utterly abnormally to their situation, the generally correct tendency to look to the situation for explanations seems like the error.