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We still don’t know for sure what led Andreas Lubitz to (allegedly) crash Germanwings Flight 9525 into a mountain in the French Alps, but some of the information that’s coming out today strongly suggests that Lubitz may indeed have been motivated by a toxic mixture of entitlement and rage.
The most revealing information, assuming it’s accurate, comes from an ex-girlfriend who gave an interview to the German newspaper Bild about her time with Lubitz, describing him as a “tormented” soul given to outbursts of explosive rage and delusions of grandeur, at one point telling her that someday he would “do something” to make “everyone … know my name and remember me.”
Based on information gleaned from her interview and from other news reports, a clearer portrait is emerging of the man who (allegedly) took 149 others with him in his dramatic suicide.
1) Andreas Lubitz seems to have been a “nice guy” in public who was given to explosive outbursts behind closed doors. According to the ex-girlfriend — and I’m using the translated version of her remarks you can find in this Telegraph article — Lubitz was a lamb in public. “He … could be very sweet,” she told Bild. “He brought me flowers.” But in private he was a “weak” person “who needed love,” and was given to wild mood swings:
During conversations he’d suddenly throw a tantrum and scream at me. I was afraid.
2) His girlfriend had apparently broken up with him relatively recently, in part because she was unnerved by his explosive outbursts. There’s some confusion about Lubitz’ romantic history. The girlfriend who spoke to Bild was a flight attendant who apparently dated him for some months last year; he also seems to have had a fiancée, who may have broken up with him more recently — some accounts even suggest she left him the day before the crash. According to some news accounts, he tried to win back one of his exes by buying her a car. She evidently refused the gift.
As I pointed out yesterday, angry men tend to react poorly to romantic rejection, sometimes lashing out with violence. Roughly a third of all female murder victims in the United States are killed by their exes. While Lubitz doesn’t appear to have inflicted violence on his ex (or exes) in the wake of their breakup(s), it certainly seems likely that rage over rejection was one of the triggers of his actions.
3) He suffered from depression, anxiety, vision problems, and possibly other medical conditions and was afraid — with good reason — that he would likely lose his dream job as a result. His ex-girlfriend said that when they spoke about work, which they often did,
he became another person. He became agitated about the circumstances in which he had to work, too little money, anxiety about his contract and too much pressure.
He seems to have felt this pressure keenly, sometimes waking up screaming from dreams of plane crashes. Yet he was unwilling to give up a job he’d dreamed of having since childhood, tearing up notes from doctors indicating he was unfit to fly rather than turning them over to his employer. Indeed, Lubitz’ ex believes that his fear of being fired was the primary motivation for his final act:
He did it because he realised that because of his health problems his big dream of a job with Lufthansa; a job as captain and as a long haul pilot was as good as impossible.
4) He was regularly teased by other pilots because he started off his career as a flight attendant, a job that usually goes to women. According to the Mirror, “he was nicknamed ‘Tomato Andy’ because they believed he didn’t know if he was a ‘fruit or veg’ – a reference to his sexuality.” (The British tabloid The Star has decided, based on this, that he was actually gay.) It’s likely that this sort of treatment at the hands of his co-workers contributed to the insecurities his ex-girlfriend spoke of. [EDIT: A native German speaker tells me that the “fruit/veg” explanation does’t make sense in German. But I have seen other references to the nickname and the teasing.]
5) He evidently had a highly developed sense of “aggrieved entitlement.” After one of his girlfriends left him, he seems to have thought he could buy her back with a car. He felt he deserved his dream job as a pilot even though he was deemed medically unfit to fly, and even before his final flight was putting passengers at risk by hiding evidence of his unfitness from his employers. And he evidently felt so wronged, both by romantic rejection and by the probable loss of his job, that he decided he needed to take revenge on his enemies with a grand nihilistic gesture that would, as he told his ex, make the world remember his name.
This toxic mixture of anger, entitlement, and grandiosity is, not to put to fine a point on it, quintessentially male. Women don’t fly planes into mountains or buildings to take retribution on a world that they see as their enemy; men do. Women don’t track down their exes and murder them; men do. (I am oversimplifying somewhat here; these are overwhelmingly male crimes, but not exclusively so.)
While only a tiny fraction of a percent of men resort to acts as violent as killing an entire planeload of innocent people, there are unfortunately many men out there cultivating a similar if less extreme mixture of anger/entitlement/grandiosity, devoting their live to collecting grievances and daydreaming about some apocalyptic revenge.
After five years of writing this blog, I have to say I have become very familiar with this personality type. These guys are everywhere in the toxic online world of Men’s Rights Activists, MGTOWers, PUAs and PUA-haters. No, Lubitz was not, as far as we know, an MRA. No, I don’t expect that any of the MRAs I write about will resort to mass murder, though there are a few I hope the authorities are aware of.
My real worry is that the extreme and often violent rhetoric of many of those in the mainstream of the Men’s Rights movement could push some man who is already close to the edge over it. I don’t see this as unlikely in the slightest; indeed, it seems almost inevitable. I will have more about this, and about the vitriolic anger my posts about Lubitz have inspired amongst some MRAs, in a later post.
EDIT: I removed part of a quote because the translation I was using (by The Telegraph) was wrong, according to a native German speaker in the comments below. I also added a note in the paragraph about other pilots teasing Lubitz, and made a couple of minor tweaks in that paragraph and elsewhere.