Enough with the media sympathy for white male mass murderers

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On 12 October, a hostage drama in Pretoria East ended in a bloodbath when the shooter killed three people in a residential complex before committing suicide. An article about the incident caught my attention – and caused my blood to boil. I did a double take when I read the heading: “The last hopeless step of a lonely man". Apart from a multitude of reasons why the analysis that followed is deeply problematic, the worst is probably that it’s written as though feminism doesn’t exist and as if there isn’t a mountain of research that explains the phenomenon of trigger happy mass murderers (almost without exception men) in terms of patriarchal conditioning. 

The headline is drenched in sympathy for the poor white man driven to such a horrific act by “hopelessness” and “loneliness”. Imagine for a moment that the media would analyse the psyches of farm murderers in the same sympathetic way and conclude that they were motivated by “hunger” or “desperation”. No, you can’t imagine it, because we don’t dare investigate what triggers black aggressors in the same compassionate way. 

Five years ago, I wrote an opinion piece about how sympathetic the Afrikaans media is towards white men who commit family murders and it’s depressing to see nothing has changed. The fact that the author of the article about the Moreleta Park slayer didn’t even bother to discuss gender in his analysis means we’re actually regressing in terms of understanding such violent acts. 

If you look at reports about mass killings, you can tell when a white man was the perpetrator, because chances are the media will go to great lengths to find explanations for why he “cracked”. According to newspaper reports, black people murder, kill and terrorise, but white men “snap”. After Anders Breivik went on a killing spree in Norway in 2011, an academic warned in an Afrikaans daily that if we don’t watch out “young Afrikaner men” will also “snap” and go on a killing spree. 

Women and gays pose a threat to male superiority and if you can’t stand not being the top dog anymore, you “snap” and take your frustration out on the lesser forms of life who provoked you.

One of the ways the media creates sympathy for white family murderers is to make them martyrs. We’re often told that because the man of the house couldn’t provide for his family, he “snapped” and killed everyone in sight. (Never mind that half of the world’s population can’t provide for their families adequately but don’t go on to butcher their nearest and dearest.)

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out such behaviour is linked directly to the perpetrator’s ego and a feeling of loss of power. And above all a very problematic concept of masculinity. When men grow up in an ideological context where their godliness is central (regardless of whether they are Muslim, Christian or atheist) a bloodbath is not a surprising outcome. Because who knows what will happen the day when the head of the house loses it…

Read more: Honour killings: why men kill female family members

Breivik and the Pretoria shooter were no “mad Satans” and also no more disturbed than Angus Buchan or any other minister, pastor or imam who preaches male superiority. Women and gays pose a threat to male superiority and if you can’t stand not being the top dog anymore, you “snap” and take your frustration out on the lesser forms of life who provoked you. It’s not your fault, it’s the “other” who drove you to violence because they dared to step out of line and disrupt the natural order of things.

In South Africa we’ll bar a foreign evangelist who hates gays to enter the country, but our own homophobic and misogynist preachers get a platform on national television.

It’s a dangerous mistake to assume such actions are rooted in inherent evil or madness. Because then we don’t have to admit we are responsible for creating an environment where weaklings are allowed to go through life with a frightening sense of entitlement. We live in a world that allows men to think you can do whatever you want, because “it’s in your nature”. Because God is a man and you’re a man and God has given you the power to decide about life and death. 

News reports with the subtext that it might be dangerous to undermine male dominance make us tread on eggshells around the haters. It fuels the fire of their megalomania. You know the conservative Afrikaans newspaper readers will get a hard-on in their khaki shorts because of the fear they instill in the “other”. “Ja, the k*****s and the libtards and feminists and moffies must watch out,” you can hear them grunt. “There is only so much a man can take…” 

And tomorrow they go out and buy the newspaper that convinces them how powerless they are and how massive their victimhood is. Or they switch on the TV to watch Angus Buchan’s new show on kykNET. Yes, you read right, sister. Uncle Angus of Mighty Men fame is getting his own programme on television. In South Africa we’ll bar a foreign evangelist who hates gays to enter the country, but our own homophobic and misogynist preachers get a platform on national television. 

We’re still trapped in peak patriarchy in all its lethal hubris. You can read the justification for it in tomorrow’s newspaper.

Angus is the guy who tells men they are kings who have been ordained by God to rule over their wives and children. This is also the man who tells women to never correct their husbands in public and to never criticize the “head of the household” in front of the children. “Madam, your husband is going to be a man of the word. He will lead the devotions in your house. Stand back and let him do it,” Angus has said. If your man wants to give the children a hiding, let him do it. “Don't try and compete with the men,” he instructs women. “We want you to be feminine and beautiful and petite.” He also believes homosexuality can be “cured” through prayer and that same-sex marriage is sinful.

Can you imagine a modern society that would tolerate a crusader telling white people God has made them the master race and given them the power to rule over black people – who should obey and respect and love their white lords? Such a racist freak would never be allowed to go near a public platform because of the unconstitutional, harmful bullshit he’s preaching. 

Yet we allow a sexist and homophobic idiot to spew his poison far and wide under the guise of religious freedom. Which goes a long way to explain why we live in a country where violence against women and gay people take on epidemic dimensions. Forget what anybody tells you about post-feminism. We’re still trapped in peak patriarchy in all its lethal hubris. You can read the justification for it in tomorrow’s newspaper.

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