Why don’t people shoot their bosses? by mattsteinglass
April 14, 2009, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Crime

This point comes in a very weird tangential fashion, via Matthew Yglesias pointing out Jason Zengerle noting Rush Limbaugh’s weird rationale for not arming merchant vessels, viz., that the sailors would tend to use the guns to mutiny against their captains. Limbaugh:

the historical reason why you don’t arm the crew on a cargo vessel is to guard against mutiny against the captain and the ship, ’cause you know how CEOs are hated today, and the captain of the ship is a CEO, and employees resent and they’re being told to resent the boss.

This little Billy Budd fantasy world Limbaugh creates here, where he gets his sympathies worked up by imagining captains to be honorary members of that most persecuted of minorities, the corporate CEOs, is hilarious in its own right, but it also got me thinking: pace Limbaugh, I actually can’t think of a single case of a corporate CEO being shot. Yet it’s pretty easy in the US to own a gun and bring it to work. So why don’t people shoot their bosses more often? People, especially but not exclusively in the US, seem to shoot pretty much anybody these days, and in ever-larger quantities: spouses, children (their own, or just random kindergartners), police officers, drivers on freeways, gay and lesbian people, Jews, Muslims, in-laws, churchgoers, classmates, students and teachers at schools they do not attend, women and men they are attracted to, etc. But you almost never hear about somebody just going in and shooting their boss. You’d think that people would be getting mad at their bosses a lot more often than they’d be getting mad at random strangers, or that if there’s something’s wrong with your life, it’s much more likely to be the fault of your boss than of some kids at a community college you don’t even go to.

One hypothesis might be that there are strong narratives embedded in our culture that discourage people from thinking that the demands made of them in the workplace are to blame for their unhappiness, and that their anger is instead being repressed and directed at inappropriate targets. But that would be a crazy thing to say.

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Do individuals not shoot their bosses, or THE bosses?

If anything, the Captain of a ship is more middle management, and, though I have no data or antecdotes (the singlular of Data), I’d imagine that some workplace violence is directed at direct supervisors. See also: Bossnapping, France.

Jumping from the direct person who is causing you misery (direct boss) to another person (immigrant, Jews, CEOs, Capitalists) seems to require some intellectual leaps.

But, the Baader-Meinhof Group was killing CEOs of major european firms as late as 1991:

I would say that one of the reaons that you don’t see an (leftist) economic consciousness to American violence is that the post war leftist movements in America spent more energy on civil rights and identity politics than their European counterparts.

Comment by Brian

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