It happens so often, I almost missed the news alert.
During the tail end of a year full of loss and anger, police reported an angry man with a gun committed a mass shooting in Denver. Like so many of these stories go, it seems he was radicalized online by violent rhetoric that has long been closely associated with white supremacy and, of course, extreme misogyny.
If my language feels flip, it’s because I’m exhausted. The angry man who hates women online so often turns into the angry man who opens fire — in a school, in a movie theater, on a city block, in his home, in a tattoo shop. It’s a tale, not as old as time, but certainly frustratingly familiar to Americans.
During the evening hours of Dec. 27, police said Lyndon McLeod began a killing spree that eventually left six people dead, including him. (McLeod was killed in an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement.) In the hours and days after the story broke, just another one of the nearly 700 mass shootings that occurred in the United States in 2021, reports began to surface about McLeod — information that may shed light on his motivations and that fits terrifyingly well into a larger pattern of gun violence in the United States.
McLeod, it turns out, had a social media account that echoed the familiar trifecta of white supremacy, male supremacy and the fetishization of gun violence.
"Aggro white males ARE violent & will be more violent as they are made irrelevant by a country that HATES them," McLeod is believed to have written on his now-suspended Twitter account, under the alias Roman McClay. "Their limbic system is in revolt against the modern world. War is coming."
The 47-year-old seems to have frequently posted online about the necessity of female chastity, the “suppression” of alpha male “honor violence,” neo-Nazism and the plight of “white males.” He's even believed to have written a series of books, which according to reviewers were “packed full of rants on diversity, women, and globalization” and which followed a character named Lyndon McLeod who commits 46 murders. (The three-book series has since been removed from Amazon.) And according to The Associated Press, the majority of the victims of last week’s shooting were known to McLeod, either professionally or personally. He had been under investigation by authorities in 2020 and 2021, though never charged with anything.
But this story, while surfacing briefly, disappeared quickly from the national media landscape. If you missed it, like I did initially, it’s worth asking why. Are we so frequently forced to contend with mass gun violence, spurred by the dissemination of white supremacist and misogynist ideology, that it barely registers anymore?
McLeod’s past writings are terrifying on their own. But his exhausting predictability is arguably worse.
The vast majority of mass killers are men. According to research conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety, a family member or intimate partner of the perpetrator was shot in more than half of the mass shootings that occurred in the U.S. between 2009 and 2020.
It feels almost a bygone conclusion at this point that a mass shooter will have a history of domestic violence and/or a connection to the “manosphere” — online hotbeds of misogyny, like the incel (“involuntary celibates”) community or men’s rights activists. Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and injured 14 in Isla Vista, California, in 2014, wanted to punish women who had sexually rejected him. Connor Betts, who killed nine in Dayton, Ohio, in 2019, had kept a hit list of female classmates he wanted to kill or rape. Scott P. Beierle, who shot up a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, in 2018, had been twice charged with battery and likened his younger self to Rodger in a video.
McLeod reportedly raged about women who have premarital sex and the way that “females are scamming/disrespecting incessantly.”
“Until real alphas risk jail nothing will change,” he tweeted in 2019.
In preparation for writing this story, I reread a piece I wrote in 2015 for HuffPost. In it, I outlined the now-familiar way we collectively deal with the constancy of these mass shootings: “Shock. Horror. Debate. Exasperation. Ignore. Repeat.” Seven years later, this cycle mostly still holds. Except now “shock” has ceased to be part of the equation.
Human beings, forced to live in collective trauma, have little choice but to normalize such horrors — especially when legislators (particularly the Republican ones) prove themselves unwilling to do anything that might meaningfully change the society that provides fertile ground for these tragedies to keep happening.
But it also speaks to how ubiquitous the ideologies that ultimately fuel these angry men are. As MSNBC’s Ja’han Jones pointed out last week, McLeod was not “spewing hate in a vacuum.” He was simply regurgitating a more extreme version of the misogyny and alleged white male victimization frequently espoused by right-wing politicians like Sen. Josh Hawley, who declared in October, “The left is telling America and its men, you’re evil. You’re terrible.”
A February report on misogynist incels and white supremacism from the New America think tank made this connection between the mass violence perpetrated by angry men and the fundamentally misogynist culture they absorbed even more explicit: “Misogynist incels cannot be separated from broader societal patterns of misogyny. Misogynist incel beliefs develop from a male supremacist culture that consistently fails to mitigate violence against women and girls, and teaches men that they are entitled to women for sexual and romantic fulfillment.”
When you fundamentally believe you are owed all things — high status, unfettered wealth, unlimited access to women’s bodies and labor — it is wholly predictable that you might also feel entitled to commit physical harm without consequence.
We’re no longer surprised when we see these patterns play out in horrific ways in our daily lives. The next step must be to ask ourselves: Are we just resigned to accept it — or can we do something to change it?