How has America’s mass killing community become a group of such pathetic, pitiful losers?
Surely, this wasn’t always the case. In the good old days of the Great Depression, we had the likes of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow—happy-go-lucky twentysomethings who robbed banks and shot their way across the landscape just for the fun of it. As the movie tagline sang, “They’re young. They’re in love. They kill people.”
Flash-forward to the present day, and we are presented with one Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who murdered six (and himself) and wounded 13 last week in Isla Vista, Calif., all for the very excellent reason that he could never get laid.
We know that sexual frustration was his primary motivation for going nuts and shooting up the joint, because he left a 137-page note saying so—a document that our media, with its usual tact and taste, took the liberty of publishing in its entirety.
The essence of this would-be manifesto is that Rodger’s life had been one long string of bummers—bullying, rejection, social isolation, the works—and so it was only fair for it to end in one big hail of gunfire.
(My observations are based on excerpts. I confess I didn’t get through the whole thing.)
Although he ultimately had it out for all of mankind, Rodger seemed to harbor an especially burning grudge against women. Not any particular women, mind you—just women in general. Because none had had the basic decency, even once, to climb into bed with him—an adolescent rite of passage Rodger took as nothing less than his due—all are guilty of withholding from him even a faint glimmer of a happy, fulfilling life. Therefore, all of them must die.
As you can probably sense by now, this is a first-person account featuring a slightly-less-than-reliable narrator (and not a sympathetic one, either). Were it not for the carnage that its author ultimately wrought, it would not be worth even a moment of our attention, let alone our interest.
Indeed, viewed simply as a piece of writing, Rodger’s rant can scarcely be taken seriously at all. Removed from its real-world context, it could very easily be confused for satire, albeit of a decidedly pedestrian and juvenile sort.
In his self-righteous rage, Rodger seems to have attempted a modern-day rewrite of Mein Kampf, except instead of scapegoating the Jews for all the trouble in the world, Rodger scapegoats the world itself and all the people in it. (Except for himself, of course.)
As literature, this could conceivably be a compelling project, except that the allusions to Adolf Hitler are so obvious and over-the-top that the conceit quickly grows rather tiresome. (To wit: Rodgers employs terms like “final solution” and “concentration camps,” apparently without irony.)
Much the same could be said for his accompanying video, which he posted online shortly before embarking on his rampage. This monologue, which coldly sums up Rodger’s case against humanity, has been called things like “chilling” and “haunting” in light of the darkness that followed, but it would also fit right in, in some alternate universe, as a video spoof on The Onion or FunnyOrDie.com. One can easily imagine the headline: “Narcissistic Sociopath Mystified Why Nobody Likes Him.”
What I’m saying is that Elliot Rodger was a joke. A toxic, stupid, monstrous, hateful, destructive joke, to be sure. But a joke nonetheless. A one-man cult of death. An enemy not of women, but of all civil society.
What he was not, then, was some sort of cultural barometer for the status of sexism in today’s America. And yet that’s exactly what has been implied by the sweeping Twitter campaign #YesAllWomen, whose basic message is that every woman today is subjected to male sexual harassment—sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, and all rooted in the assumption that women are subhuman objects of possession—and that this disease must be fought with the fire of a thousand suns.
It’s arguably a true statement and unarguably a worthy cause, respectively. But connecting either or both to a loony toon like Rodger—as if he is a representative male—is scarcely more useful or appropriate than holding up Osama bin Laden as a demonstration that organized religion can sometimes make people behave badly, or pointing to the Führer himself as evidence that antisemitism has a downside. It’s just a little too lazy and convenient.
Indeed, it would be great if these sorts of problems could be so easily dismissed as manifestations of pure psychosis, and therefore limited only to our most extreme, depraved (and well-armed) citizens. But alas, they are more complex, stubborn and pervasive than that, and demand to be treated as such.
But a guy like Elliot Rodger? He deserves to be treated like the boring, humorless parasite that he was.