Male rage and narcissism: The unspeakable keys to the Germanwings disaster


Andreas Lubitz: hard-charging macho with a deadly grudge.

By now, it’s no secret that various stripes of misogynists have seized upon the Germanwings crash as evidence that women are evil, as much as claiming that Andreas Lubitz was “driven” to kill, somehow, by some evil female (or females) who crushed his manly spirit. In their feverish effort to justify his crime, they seem to have unwittingly put a finger on a part of the problem, even if it is the wrong part. Yes, gender was a driving cause behind the crash, says EMMA’s Alice Schwarzer. But it wasn’t any woman’s fault. The problem lies with how men are socialized to deal with feelings of hurt, failure and loss of honor…or rather, not to deal with them, but to simply act out their blind, entitled rage:

The shitstorm that raged against EMMA on the Internet on the last weekend of March was violent. “Absurd and fanatical”, “disgusting”, “the height of tastelessness”, posted and twittered the outraged. What happened? After the plane crash in which co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately and, as we now know, after long planning, crashed a Germanwings Airbus in the Alps with 149 passengers aboard, linguist Luise Pusch called for a quota of female pilots. Because: “Rampages and so-called family murders, which are often whitewashed as ‘expanded suicide’ and ‘take-along suicide’, are crimes that are almost exclusively perpetrated by men. For rampage flights, which apparently occur more often than is publicly known, the same holds true.” Pusch’s conclusion: If Lufthansa wants more safety, it should raise the proportion of women pilots from just six percent.

The same thing was called for on the same day by a Swiss psychiatrist, Prof. Gabriela Stoppe, in Schweiz am Sonntag and in the Tagesanzeiger. “It would make sense, not only for diversity, but for safety above all, to have more women employed in human transport,” wrote the vice-president of the umbrella organization for suicide prevention. According to Stoppe, in recent years pilots committed suicide by plane six times already, outside of Europe. Says Stoppe: “It was only a matter of time before a pilot in Europe also committed suicide with a plane.”

But while the Swiss media reported the psychiatrist’s opinion without upset, in Germany the Internet swarmed all over EMMA. And the media quickly followed up: “Is EMMA really instrumentalizing the dead for the quota?” demanded the Süddeutsche Zeitung in tones of outrage. And the Frankfurter Allgemeine moaned over EMMA’s “untroubled tone” in view of the dead.

The question of what role sex plays in a rampage-crime like that of Andreas Lubitz is thus still taboo. But the facts have long spoken for themselves. Rampages, most including the eventual suicide of the killer, are carried out as a rule by men. The list is unfortunately long; here are just a few examples: Montréal, 1989 (14 victims); Colombine, 1999 (13 victims); Erfurt and Eching, 2002 (19 victims); Emsdetten, 2006 (5 victims); Virginia, 2007 (32 victims); Winnenden, 2009 (16 victims); Utöya, 2011 (88 victims); Newtown, 2012 (28 victims); Santa Barbara, 2014 (6 victims).

Female rampagers are, to date, almost nonexistent. Not, by any means, because women are the better people, but because frustration and aggression take a different route in women than in men — namely, more inward than outward, less physical and more psychological, more self-destructive than destructive.

Rampagers often suffer from feelings of humiliation and “wounded pride” — that is, from overblown narcissism. So says a report for the Frankfurter Allgemeine by Heidelberg psychiatrist Reiner M. Holm-Hadulla. He wrote of the Lubitz case: “Much more likely than a depressive illness appears to be a narcissistic personality disorder, characterized by strong self-centredness and a lack of empathy for other people.” And he continues: “Blind rage is the determining mode of reaction for narcissistic individuals in the face of hurt feelings…The grandiose destruction makes Andreas Lubitz’s crime comparable to a terrorist attack. Cold hate can grow so strong that one’s own narcissism can be executed without regard for the individual suffering of hundreds. Andreas Lubitz is responsible for that.”

This motive also applies to the so-called “expanded suicides” of married men. The Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law recently published a study, “Familial Killings With Additional Suicide in European Lands”. Researchers scanned 250,000 newspaper articles about so-called “family dramas”. The result: 1,100 victims in a ten-year space; that is, over 100 a year in Germany alone. 963 of these victims were killed by men; among them, 700 (married) women.

The commonest case is the “murder-suicide”: A man, who kills his wife (and sometimes their children, too), for example after the announcement of a separation, and then himself — but the suicide attempt often notably fails. Central signs of this variant, according to the Max Planck Institute: “Jealousy, possessiveness, control, punishment, restoration of pride.”

So, it’s a fact: Men are more likely than women to “take others along” when they try to kill themselves. That could also hang together with the fact that narcissistic disorders are more common in men than in women. Signs: “Fragile self-esteem, but grandiose sense of self-importance”, together with “lack of empathy”. So says the Network for Psychosocial Health.

And then there’s the notably higher suicide rate for men. Of the 10,000 persons who take their lives in Germany per year, 70 percent are men, according to the German Society for Suicide Prevention. The grounds for all that, obviously, lie not in biological sex — men are not “evil by nature”, and women not “naturally good”. It has something to do with sex roles that men tend to react differently to breakups and hurts.

That goes for the deserted husband who tries to restore his injured “male honor” by murdering his wife. It goes for war veterans, whose cultural indoctrination not to kill was torn down by war and also no longer functions in peacetime. In the US, in the last decades, there have been various cases in which returning soldiers killed their wives or others. The consumption of porn and violent movies can also play a role. Specifically “male” violence can have many causes. But as long as we don’t name these causes, we can’t alleviate them either.


After the Winnenden massacre of 2009, Alice Schwarzer urged people to take note of what until then had been a blind spot: The fact that the killer was male, and the victims in the school class, with one exception, were all female. “Why are even the investigators whitewashing the sex factor in the Winnenden massacre?” asked the EMMA publisher, six years ago.

Back then, even the public prosecutor’s office didn’t think the gender relationship meaningful, nor the fact that 18-year-old Tim had about 200 violent pornos on his computer, showing dominatrices tying up and torturing men. Nor that Tim Kretschmer had named serial killer of women Ted Bundy as his idol on an Internet forum. All “irrelevant details”.

The storm of outrage that broke out over EMMA’s commentaries on Winnenden didn’t direct itself at the ignorance of the investigators, but at Alice Schwarzer. Tenor: There she goes, harping on gender again! And, just as now, the “instrumentalization of the crime” accusation. Not, as in the current case, over female quotas, but because of EMMA’s PorNo campaign at the time.

Six years after Winnenden, and various killing sprees later, the whole world is discussing the gender aspect of rampages — and the potential risks that insecure masculinity conceals. Only Germany seems to be lagging behind, as is so often the case in questions of gender.

Only in August 2014 did Der Spiegel publish an article on so-called “incels” (involuntary celibates) — the unwillingly womanless (young) men who meet out of frustration in Internet forums, and bloviate about their (woman-)hatred and revenge fantasies. Title: “Male, Single, Deadly”. […]

So it must not only be permissible to ask these questions in the case of Andreas Lubitz, it is urgently necessary! The 27-year-old was apparently — according to all that we know up to now — panicked by fear of failure. He seems to have been afraid, rightly, that he would have to give up his dream of flying for health reasons. An acquaintance of Lubitz told Stern that he believed that the pilot wanted “to drag Germanwings through the mud, because they apparently warned him several times that he would lose his job”. Psychiatrist Holm-Hadulla was right when he wrote: “We can and must learn from this terrible occurrence.”

Let’s just imagine that Andreas Lubitz were Andrea Lubitz. Is it likely that she, too, would have flown the Airbus with 149 people into a mountainside? And not on impulse, but with cool premeditation? The answer would be “Not very likely”. Why the answer, in the case of Andreas Lubitz, should be “Yes, likely”, should interest us. Even if it is disturbing.

Translation mine. Linkage added.

So yeah, score one (own goal) for the misogynists of the Internets. They were right about Andreas Lubitz being wounded in the machismo, at least, and that this was a reason for his deadly rage and his ultimate, premeditated act.

But it wasn’t because the evil females wouldn’t blow him. In fact, he had at least one woman in his life at the time of the crash, so it’s safe to say he wasn’t lacking for female attention, or regular sex of any kind. It was because his job — the one he’d busted his ass to qualify for, because the only thing in the world he wanted to do was fly jets — was on the line. His disturbed, narcissistic personality had caught the attention of airline officials, as had the fact that he’d been treated for suicidal tendencies before. He was in danger of being dismissed on grounds of mental illness and unfitness to fly. And, knowing that, it makes sense — horribly — that he would want to “drag Germanwings through the mud” with one last, terroristic act behind the controls of the plane. His aggrieved pride would demand nothing less than the gruesomest “punishment” possible for those who had “wronged” him (in his own eyes).

That’s why he chose to take along in “suicide” not the girlfriend he was having so much trouble with, but the passengers of the airline. If he couldn’t punish his bosses directly, he could still smear their name as he felt they had done to him.

An uglier act of spite could hardly be imagined. And it could not be imagined at all if he were a woman. Not because women aren’t perfectly capable of flying planes, or of flying into rages either, but because their pattern of socialization makes it unthinkable that a female pilot would have flown that Airbus into an alpine rock wall. We women are socialized to look after others, not regard them as acceptable offerings on the altars of our egos. When we kill ourselves, we generally don’t take anyone else along for the ride.

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