An excerpt from an interesting interview at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/27/michael-kimmel-masculinity-far-right-angry-white-men :
One of the most prescient observers of violence I’ve ever read, James Gilligan, wrote a book called ‘Violence’. He argued that shame and humiliation underlie basically all violence: “Because I feel small, I will make you feel smaller.”
In my interviews with extremists, both “actives” and “formers”, I have found time and time again that they have experienced that sense of humiliation and shame.
In his famous statement, Osama bin Laden talked about how the west had humiliated the Muslim world … that conservative Muslims have been humiliated by hyper-modern society and the cosmopolitan McDonaldization of the world. For them, restoring the seventh-century caliphate is their way of reinstating traditional masculinity.
I call this “aggrieved entitlement”. If you feel entitled and you have not gotten what you expected, that is a recipe for humiliation.
At least in the case of the German, Swedish and American guys that I interviewed, sometimes it is not really political at all. Many of them, especially the American guys, were sexually abused, beat up, bullied as children. Some of them have basically the same sort of profile as the victims of the Catholic priests. Growing up they were deeply ashamed of themselves; they didn’t do well in school, they didn’t have friends, they were sad, miserable, and they escaped into themselves. That just made them better targets, and the far right drew them in.
The camaraderie of the community validates their masculinity, and – even more importantly than that – gives them a sacred mission. That is really powerful for these guys.
There is a famous experiment by a primatologist at Stanford. He takes five monkeys and measures their testosterone. Then he puts the five monkeys in a cage. The monkeys immediately establish a hierarchy of violence – number one beats number two, number two beats number three, number three beats number four, number four beats number five. Of course, number one has the highest testosterone, and so on.
So the experiment is: he takes monkey three out of the cage and he shoots him up with testosterone, off the scale, and puts him back in. What do you think happens? When I tell this story my students always guess that he immediately becomes number-one monkey. But that’s not true. What happens is that when he goes back in the cage he still avoids monkeys number one and two – but he beats the shit out of numbers four and five.
So what any reasonable biological researcher would conclude is that testosterone does not cause aggression, it enables it. The target of the violence must already be seen as legitimate. You have a biological argument and a sociological argument. So the answer to your question is that it is never either/or. It is always both. Always.
- Michael Kimmel