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I'm Surprised


I'm Surprised

Thomas Harrington

I’m surprised. I'm truly and breathtakingly surprised that another young American has decided to open fire indiscriminately on his fellow citizens in a public space.

I'm surprised that another young person living in a country where films are filled with guns and violence and present the killing of human beings as a rather normal “solution” to one's pressing problems, would want to take the lives of others.


Good summary, but the author forgot to close with "/s".


Professionals don't need to use that tag. Us, on the other hand, sometimes do need to have a sarcasm tag to make sure we're not taken as seriously.


Thank you for this, Mr. Harrington. You covered many of the elements I was thinking about this morning as I read that Obama lashed out at the politics that allows the mad proliferation of guns in this country, and then read that one of our computer-directed jets apparently bombed a charity hospital in Afghanistan. All of the things you describe are part of a culture that seems to be breeding young mass murderers as a countable subset of the population. You didn't touch on the most horrific trend I've been seeing this past year -- the blank detachment exhibited by mothers and fathers who've murdered their children. Situations that don't seem to be a only matter of rage and depression leading to the belief that there is nothing to lose by committing murder, but worse, where there seems to be no emotional connection whatsoever even to one's own child. And it's happening over and over.


And I am surprised and oh, so grateful that the author chose to step beyond the knee jerk response of calling for more gun control after such incidents. It's time to move beyond simplistic solutions and take a good hard look at our culture of violence. Of course guns are part of the problem, but to think that more restrictions on guns will solve the problem is childish and intellectually lazy. As an example, think about a president who piously calls for gun control at home after each mass shooting, while at the same time selling and sending more arms time to the most troubled and violent regions of the world.


It is easy for those with privilege to assume their experiences are universal. Because our media, our government and our cultural institutions constantly reflect special societal privileges back at us, it is easy to act as if it is the default. When those perceived privileges are thought to be threatened in any way many become angry and act on their anger.


I can't say that I am particularly surprised that Mr. Harrington leaves out gender--although 95% of the violence cited in the article indeed comes from males, and race--although most of the shoot-outs that are now becoming an extension of America's media-driven modern Roman Arena are executed by white males.

By making gender invisible, when it's largely the premise of masculinity tied to aggression (organized, through militarism, or in local pecking order spectacles) that signifies the martial state's definition of manhood; and also leaving out race... another generic tome to the "human condition" as served up inside the "land of the free" is offered.

Until the root causes of violence are properly diagnosed, these arguments are shallow and superficial. They only observe the veneer and avoid any honest analysis of driving content.


Obama should be forced to read this on television, with all other media blacked out during his address.


I'm guessing (with tongue in cheek) that were you to become one of these mass murderers SR, that you would only shoot men. I suppose that is something... or half of something.


I agree - there is great hypocrisy and deflection when politicians call for restrictions of citizens but empower and increase US military attacks on civilians, very often termed "mistakes" or "accidents".

There are claims (and evidence) of serious linkage between legal psychotropic drugs increasingly prescribed to young people for an increasing variety of "conditions" and behaviors (that increase big-pharma profits) and violent anti-social behaviors - unfortunately the focus is predictably on the instrument of violence rather than at least some official focus on the why. The influence of big-pharma on legislators and investigations is likely responsible for the silence on a potential "why" many of these tragedies occur. There should at very least be an immediate comprehensive, transparent, thorough, investigation by reputable unbiased experts to determine if psychotropic drugs, including their increased use, induce violence and mass killings - and wide reporting of the results.




I think it is important to recognize as the author does that there are a number of factors that go into the creation of these mass killers. AS SR points out gender is one of them. So to is the use of prescription drugs. So too is wealth inequality and a number of other factors the author missed.

Many of the things the author points to (such as those video games and violent television shows) exist in other countries where there not 990 mass shootings in 3 years time. Those countries do not have as many mass shootings because some of the factors are not there.

This condition of the human mind and spirit can not be blamed on just one factor. It a composite of many and in the USA those many factors are more prevalent than almost any other country. It is Not genetic and there not a predisposition for humans being violent as some suggest. The more other countries emulate the environment that has been created in the USA , the more they will see these mass killings.


Agree. Best summary I have seen so far. Whether it is missing one or more factors, it is not relevant. What is relevant (and peculiar) to this article is the fact that this is a multi facet problem. It is a society-wide related problem, as this is a new type of killing - impersonal and not driven by a moral compass. The shooter is just as much a victim as his victims.



i wrote Professor Harrington this morning to cite your comment, and to inquire about his omission of maleness from his analysis. Here is our exchange:

Professor Harrington,

i just read your article "I'm Surprised" posted today at Common Dreams. i agree with your perspective on the sources of "random" violence and mass shootings in US society and political culture.

i'm writing because a point was made by another commenter at Common Dreams, noting that you refer exclusively in your article to "young persons" and never to "young men," despite the overwhelming correlation.

Is this omission purposeful on your part, as it appears on surface reading? If so, what is the purpose?

i wonder if you might consider including the enculturation of maleness as another key element in your assessment. Or otherwise address the fact that the overwhelming majority of these shooters are not simply young persons, but young men.

Thanks for your work,

webster walker

Dear Webster:

It was absolutely not purposeful on my part.

I am well aware of the strong correlation between the contemporary constructions of masculinity and the type of violence that provoked me to write the article. Indeed, if you read carefully you will see that I address it obliquely in the paragraph on video gaming.

In fact, I am nothing short of obsessed with how much an embrace of violence and dehumanization lies at the core of most widely circulated models of masculine comportment in our culture.

But that was not the article I was writing. Rather, writing about the broad cultural environment in which we are raising our children. But apparently that was not specific enough for you.

That being the case, perhaps you could write a sequel to my article centering on the very real and specifically masculine aspects of the broader cultural problems i was addressing.

Best: Tom

Hi Thomas,

Thanks much for your reply, i will share it with the person who made the original comment.

i do have some time for writing, i will consider your suggestion.




You have ZERO understanding of what patriarchy means and how often it tries to make gender invisible. What a stupid thing to say, flea...


You are one of a handful of posters who is not stuck on ONE issue and thus suffering from tunnel-vision. I also note a plethora of factors; however, the pains so many writers go to in making the gender element invisible is itself telling.

I recently mentioned a psychiatrist doing studies on serial killers; and while the EVIDENCE proves that 90% of serial killers are men, this idiot is STILL trying to say that gender is irrelevant!

It's important for all of the following reasons--although they are typically viewed as separate, unrelated phenomena:

  1. The specific use of rape and throat cutting--done to female characters in teenage video games
  2. The sexual violence--including anal rape--done to prisoners (of both genders) and so many women
    . The widespread "consuming" of pornography that is based on degrading females
  3. That most weapons look like phallic extensions
  4. That leaders are considered leaders when they show hardness, firmness, toughness and no "sissy" emotions like empathy--which is associated with females
  5. That football teaches males, in particular, that slaughtering the enemy is manly

There are SO many other examples, but these come to mind. Western culture is suffused in idioms, images, and subliminal messaging tied to the above examples.

The worst insult a man can say to another man is to compare him with a female.

Thus the fact that the misogynistic components that go into aggression are NEVER mentioned is a really bizarre item. On occasion, Chris Hedges does speak up about this. Robert Jensen is another; but by in large, the same lockstep dialogs that now are so obvious across the MSM also dominate what's considered society's norms. And this idea of pretending that the great WE expresses equal masculine and feminine components is a GREAT and damning lie.


Thank you. I am glad that you wrote and pleased that Mr. Harrington responded; but don't you think it's telling that he felt a need to mention the gender factor "obliquely." I caught that reference. I didn't think it was substantial enough given the preponderance of evidence.

When Riane Eisler, not to mention a number of Feminist researchers began to show evidence of earlier Goddess-centered societies that did NOT make war or aggression into norms, the academic establishment gave these ideas very little validation or support.

Any individual who sees outside of the existing, let's call it "The Control Paradigm" is usually punished, silenced, marginalized, criminalized, or rendered invisible.

The control paradigm wants people to think that women's struggle for equal rights is a thing of the past, ditto, the rights of Blacks and Hispanics. This is one of the reasons why I rail against the promiscuous use of the collective-WE frame because its usage largely keeps these groups invisible... all are amalgamated into the whole, and that whole continues to reflect the narratives (and lies told often) of the Dominators.

I wonder why posters feel the need to address me as Susan when I am widely known as Sioux Rose?


You must try to retain a sense of humor SR. I specifically added the tongue in cheek commentary to alert you that I was not being serious. Of course it was a stupid thing to say if it were said seriously... but it was said in jest since you are so obsessed with this one issue (besides the we which isn't we... um ...well you know).

You should say it was a stupid thing to say but do so only with a smile on your face acknowledging that it was just kidding around. My name is not flea... and for all your supposed progressive views you are losing your perspective. There are two genders to humanity not just one and if you tell yourself that you are being fair to both and just telling the truth etc. then you are truly losing it.

Okay once again...you do not seem capable of appreciating a bit of humor. Gee sorry SR. please continue your hatred of males as if that were a normal way to be in the world and do focus all this stuff in the place where it is least needed. Keep criticizing only where it is safe SR. Keep railing against progressive males as if they were garbage like reactionary ones. Why show intelligent discrimination between good and bad. Just lump all males together and call yourself progressive simply because you are female. You rest on your delusions madam. Fairness has become lost to you.

It was a good joke ... and a friendly heads up since all you ever do is blame males for everything. It is becoming ridiculous.


In this thread, a higher consciousness is shown by Suspira, and also, by Webwalk in taking the time to inquire of the writer, his thoughts on The Gender Item. You, in contrast, enjoy mocking it. If we didn't live in a rape culture with misogyny so pervasive as to make many women fear for their lives, privacy, safety, reproductive rights, and so much else... maybe I would be amused by "your humor." I'd say, grow a consciousness.

P.S. Any male who addresses me with "you must" should be forced to run naked through the streets.

A fool takes Feminist doctrine for "all you ever do is blame males." An open-minded male understands what patriarchy means--in the way of war, resource denigration, and financial models based on cruel forms of domination--to ALL citizens.

You are incredibly immature and lack scholarship, sensitivity, and the capacity to think past your other head.


Fine SR, you as usual seem incapable of understanding other people unless they agree with you. In this case I actually do agree with you about patriarchy and have often written about it but you see only what you wish to see.
It was most certainly not mocking the issue in any way but you see what you want to see. It was teasing you and in a most obvious and clearly facetious way but to no avail. You have appointed yourself as some sort of matriarch judge of everyone else (while excusing your own faults and failings btw). You read other people's thoughts and regurgitate them as if you thought of them and even later criticize them for having stolen those thoughts from you. Sigh.

I realize that you are getting older as am I but I remember you back in the days when CD first began taking comments. You have become isolated and difficult to communicate with. You are in fact hostile but you forget where you are. These are in the main progressive males who for the most part agree with most of your complaints about patriarchy etc. Yet you lash out at people indiscriminately and often. The slightest disagreement and you attack, insult and demean people way out of proportion too. You want to obliterate not just refute a comment. What happened to you SR?

You are so often so damn hostile to innocent people ... their only crime is that they happen to be men.


I was listening to a radio program where they detailed how the game of "football" evolved in the USA. If you contrast "football" in the USA with what Eurpeans call "football" they are very different sports.

Shortly after the Civil War and the final wars against the Plains Indians in the American West , administrators and students in prominent US Colleges were concerned with their student body become "feminized" Their predecessors had all used such an eductation to go on to join the Military fighting in either the Civil War or against the last of the free tribes in the west.

They decided manhood would be expressed through the game of football which was designed to emulate a battlefield where one fought over territory both on the offence and defence. They had little in the way of protection and the games were especially violent. Eye gouging , biting kicking were all allowed. many games resulted in broken arms and legs and in one year alone 19 people died from injuries sustained on the field while playing "the game". Teddy Roosevelt indicated that if such deaths continued they would look to ban the sport and it was after that where some rules to prevent injury put in place.

In one early game that drew the attention of both fans and the media from across the nation a team of players from a College whose student body was all First nations youth was matched up against one of the more prominent eastern Colleges. It was advertised as a war between the "White men and the Indians" and a battle of "Civilization against savages."

Oddly even as the games were played and the audience watched the much smaller First nations team try to use speed and skill to defeat the other side who resorted to the tactics of brutality and violence a good number of the fans started cheering for the Native American team.