Elliot Rodger’s Massacre Isn’t About You

FILED TO: Headline Articles

Elliot Rodger’s murderous Santa Barbara rampage is, without question, tragic. It is also terrifying, disturbing, confounding, and abhorrent. However, as deeply upsetting as the stabbings and shootings are, and as many issues as they raise, there’s one thing that the massacre is not: a teachable moment.

In the wake of such disasters, it is all too easy to give into the urge to diagnose — and, presumably, treat — the social illnesses that gave rise to yet another killing spree by a disaffected and unhinged young man. However, while Friday’s heinous acts have raised myriad issues, from misogyny, to mental illness, to gun control, to bullying, to social alienation, to autism, to racism, to attitudes toward virginity, to the scourge that is the men’s rights “movement,” this disaster cannot solve a single one of them.

No close reading of Rodger’s 140-page manifesto or YouTube videos will reveal how to spot future mass murderers, let alone how to intervene. A rebuttal of his disturbing comments on men’s rights forums will do little to nothing to sway the horribly misguided and hateful individuals who frequent those outlets. Wall-to-wall news coverage detailing how Rodger acquired his guns and ammunition won’t lead to changes in how people purchase firearms in California, and establishing a timeline of Rodger’s mental health care and interventions will not benefit people seeking treatment now or in the future.

Which is not to say that we do not, as a society, need to address each and every one of those issues. We absolutely need to investigate the pervasive roles of misogyny and racism in our everyday lives, and to revamp the way we do and don’t care for individuals with autism and specific mental illnesses. Those complex conversations are essential to change. However, tying such important matters to a single tragedy — or, ultimately, revisiting them again and again in the emotional aftermath of tragedy upon tragedy — does them nothing but a disservice.

Perhaps we could put the Monday morning quarterbacking and hashtag activism aside, even if for a few days, and unite in our heartfelt sadness and bewilderment. We should, first and foremost, be mourning the loss of Cheng Yuan Hong, George Chen, Weihan WangKatherine Cooper, Veronika Weiss, and Christopher Martinez, and caring for the individuals who survived the attacks, rather than dispatching a swarm of news crews to the scene of the crime and participating in heated arguments in online echo chambers.


If, after funerals are held, and as life in Isla Vista returns to some semblance of normal, you wish to dedicate yourself to finding sociological explanations for mass murders in America, more power to you. If Rodger’s crimes have inspired you to volunteer time to anti-bullying efforts in your own community, or to stand up to the misogynists you encounter in everyday life, or to petition your lawmakers about gun control, or to return to school to study forensic psychology, that’s a fine thing.

However, in the short term, we may need to step back and acknowledge the senseless nature of the deaths in Santa Barbara, rather than squabbling over the issues they’ve raised, or attempting to suss meaning or motivation out of one disturbed young man’s deeds. After all, Rodger deserves neither fame nor infamy, and should not, in death, be given sway over either our emotions or national discourse.


If you love what we do here at the Banter, please consider becoming a Banter Member and supporting independent media! Readers get access to the Magazine and unlimited monthly articles

  • asdfasdf


  • CL Nicholson

    You mean…..treat this tragedy as if the victims are actual humans and not characters in some meta-fiction for intellectual entertainment of media pundits? Madam, you speak sacrilege.

  • Frau From Fly-Over USA

    that’s right meat puppets of america-check that outrage over yet another senseless violent death and stop talking about it. shusssssss! shussssss! silence now! talk about something else…like….oh look the kardashians!

  • j hentai

    well said!

  • Rolf

    A superb piece.

    The torrential stream of gibberish flowing from media outlets in the wake of this tragedy is further evidence that many journalists are ready and willing to jump over dead bodies just in order to peddle some lame stories about how “culture/misogyny/gun control/lack of gun control/whiteness/or everything else is to blame for the shooting. It’s pathetic, and it’s good to see someone addressing all this brazen punditry. You caught the gist of the matter brilliantly. Kudos.

    • Frau From Fly-Over USA

      considering you have been toting the pro-gun anti regulation message all over DB I am not surprised you would be tickled pink at this articles shush-piece. I think you can pick up your check from the NRA now.

      • Rolf

        Considering you don’t read anybody’s comments and keep getting outraged, I am not surprised you’re trolling here as well.

  • Jeff Cramer

    This is the best piece I have read about this tragedy. I don’t have a problem with anyone doing what they think should be done to avoid future tragedies like this. I do think people should try to be as sensitive as they can before they proceed with whatever agenda they have in mind.

  • condew

    There is a lot of social wisdom in some of the customs we inherited. One of them is to take time to mourn. Taking time for anything is very difficult in the internet-paced 24-hour news cycle.

    If you use a tragedy like this to push your own agenda before the bodies are cold, you will be considered an opportunist, and trusted less. Or at least that’s how it once was, and how it should be. Taking time to mourn before diving back into squabbling as usual reminds us we are all human first, and political pawns second.

    • JozefAL

      The only problem with your comment is that in light of Sandy Hook, the politicians (you know–the ones who could’ve done something to help make it a bit more difficult for just anybody to develop their own personal arsenal) pulled this “take time to mourn” and “let everyone calm down” routine and what happened?


      Absolutely fucking nothing. Well, aside from giving the NRA time to build up their “arguments” to stop any sensible gun control from being seriously discussed.

      Sometimes, you need to act BEFORE the bodies are cold. Waiting just allows the political animals to develop the ways they’re going to devour their prey (who, in turn, are too busy “mourning” to believe that anyone could be so callous or opportunistic).

      • Sabyen91

        Good point. It is always “too soon”. And then the next one comes along and it is again “too soon”.

        • conundrum

          So we should all be like the Wesboro Babtist Church, and take advantage of the publicity surrounding any major tragedy to parade all our petty little bigotries around, and target the mourners in particular?

          • Sabyen91

            Yes, that is exactly what I mean…

        • Razor

          Exactly. When some sort of tragedy with political implications happens every 3 weeks now, when is the appropriate time to have the conversation?

          It’s going to sound cold, but I don’t know the victims of these tragedies and feel like it would be tacky to “mourn” them. Being really sad for people you don’t know doesn’t do anything, but people can pressure their representatives to make changes. People can raise awareness of issues.


Subscribe to the Banter Newsletter!