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Karen J. Greenberg: The Mass Killer and the National Security State
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You want to profile America’s mass killers? No need at all for the FBI or the national security state. You don’t have to secretly read anyone’s emails or check their phone metadata. You don’t need to follow them on Twitter. All you have to do is narrow down the possibilities in a logical way by looking at the history of mass killing in recent years. That means, as a start, leaving aside half the population, since women make up close to 0% of American mass shooters.

So, start with men. Admittedly, that’s a pretty broad category. Still, among men, you can narrow the field fast. Begin with age. Generally, mass killers are young. Unfortunately, this category isn’t quite as blanket as the no-woman rule. Just recently, in what looked like a copycat mass killing — a repeat of the 2012 shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater — a mentally unstable 59-year-old white man in Lafayette, Louisiana, with a chip on his shoulder about women (as well as blacks), opened fire in a theater showing the new Amy Schumer hit, Trainwreck, a film drawing female audiences, and killed two women. Similarly, in February, a disturbed and mentally unstable 36-year-old white man, barred from owning guns, carried out a mass killing of seven in the tiny Missouri town of Tyrone. Nonetheless, when you’re conjuring up the next mass killer, think young man (16-24) and think white.

Now, we’re getting somewhere. One more obvious thing: look for someone carrying a gun, generally obtained quite legally — most likely a semi-automatic pistol or an assault rifle — or come to think of it, three or four or more weapons and lots and lots of ammo. Now, given the 300 million or so guns floating around this country and the spread of “right-to-carry” laws that let anyone bring lethal weaponry just about anywhere, this may not narrow things down quite as much as we’d like. But it should be helpful. And yes, there are other factors, too, that might aid you in setting your sights on the next mass killer. As Karen Greenberg, the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law and TomDispatch regular, points out today, these would undoubtedly include feelings of hopelessness and anger, a history of mental instability, depression, and drug or alcohol abuse.


In the grips of a much overblown panic about ISIS-inspired terror in the U.S., the government, Greenberg reports, is about to spend a pile of taxpayer money doing a version of what I just did. Here’s my guarantee: it will cost you a boodle, most of which, as she makes clear, won’t go where it might do some good — that is, to helping unnerved or disturbed young men. And I’ll also guarantee you one more thing: the massed thinking and resources of the national security state won’t do much better than I’ve done above when it comes to the problem of identifying lone-wolf killers. But that state within a state will, as ever, emerge from the experience more powerful and more entrenched. And, as novelist Kurt Vonnegut might once have said, so it goes.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Homicide Rate, Terrorism 
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  1. Tom_R says:


    Thanks for the interesting article. What the author (or the original author?) seems to be suggesting is that we can, by looking at the characteristics (or demographics) of people who commit crimes, identify the group at higher risk of committing crimes in the future. And it works.

    I guess that is the same idea, like racial profiling, and it works.

    For example, we know that statistics show that young black men commit most violent crimes. See the book, the Color of Crime.

    Young black men commit most of the sexual assaults against white women. Eg. Bill Cosby.

    Black men rape 100 white women every day. See:

    So should we not warn white women (and men) not to go near black men, not to socialize with them, not to associate with them, not to be in situations where they are alone with them, not to go to parties in their homes, as their drinks could be laced with Spanish Fly (like Bill Cosby did)? I think doing so would be moral and ethical and just and fair. This is just common sense and it could have saved most of the the victims of Bill Cosby and others.

    In science this is called inductive reasoning. In fact, that is how we evolved–to recognize dangerous situations from past experiences. The liberals call it racial profiling, but it works better than all the NSA spying.

    Political Correctness can get you sexually assaulted and killed. Keep away from it.

  2. Wow! What’s with all the anti-White stuff on Unz all of a sudden?

    It is revealing that the author speaks in terms of identifying relevant demographics, and yet cites no statistics whatsoever. If she did, she would find that her assumptions (based on a lot of TV and movie watching, apparently) are simply wrong. Blacks are much more prone than Whites to violence of all kinds including gun violence and also including serial killings and mass shootings.

    As a previous commenter noted, an excellent one-stop-shopping publication on this issue is The Color of Crime:

    This is completely irrefutable IMO.

    It is really shameful that stuff like this article gets vetted and published. I know for a fact that Ron Unz is capable of good statistical analysis. I would really like to know: what is going on around here?

    • Replies: @Mudhole
  3. Mudhole says:
    @Tim Howells

    The Louisiana ‘Theater Shooting’ is quite likely to be another Boston Marathon style hoax.
    I have seen three interviews on three different networks- ABC, CNN and NBC. All five people interviewed worked in media. What are the odds of that in Lafayette LA – better than 3 million to one by my calculations.
    One of those interviewed was the daughter of the marketing director of the ambulance company that picked up the ‘victims’. She works for a TV production company in New York, but just happened to be attending the theater. If you want to see a crisis actor with zero acting skills, google ‘Emily Mann CNN Interview’.

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