For a guy who made his intentions and motivations pristinely clear, it's surprising how blank a canvas Elliot Rodger is turning out to be for many in the media punditocracy. If you're someone with a specific agenda who's made a career out of warning the masses of the threat posed by a particular injustice or societal ill, Rodger is the Rosetta Stone that can make all your previous pseudo-intellectual grandstanding fall neatly into place. Concerned about guns? Rodger proves the need for better and smarter gun control. Concerned about your guns being taken away? Rodger proves there should be more weapons on the street to defend against lunatics. Wonder why there isn't a more robust mental health care system in this country? "See what happens when a crazy person is allowed to go unnoticed?" Believe white men and their misogynist privilege represents a clear and present danger to women (and everyone else)? Well, you can submerge yourself in a veritable think-piece tar pit for days on that one.
While the blame for this reprehensible crime should be laid squarely at the feet of Rodger and Rodger alone, as he's the purest example of a lone wolf killer you're likely to come across, there are of course worthwhile discussions to be had about the environmental factors that might have led to his rampage. But it feels like nuanced takes on the UCSB murder spree are few and far between, overpowered by a cacophony of opportunists determined to plant their flags atop Mount Rodger and claim it as their own. There's no doubt that who Elliot Rodger was says something about our society because he's in some ways a product of it, as are we all. But no one is exactly the combination of mind-boggling narcissism, grotesque sociopathy, visceral hatred of women and jealousy of men, and unfortunate access to deadly weaponry that Rodger was. In other words, we can and should address potential issues but Rodger's behavior doesn't necessarily prove that it's time to shut the whole damn system down -- whatever that system might be -- and start over.
A measured response doesn't always draw page-views or otherwise get attention the way a knee-jerk or even calculatingly over-the-top response does, however. So, predictably, we get to wade through a lot of pompous media horseshit to get to some clear-headedness on Elliot Rodger, what turned him into a despicable little shit with a monstrous superiority complex and a massive axe to grind against humanity -- King Joffrey of Isla Vista, only without the crown -- and what allowed him to finally fulfill his fantasies of gaining power over his supposed tormenters and bringing his "Day of Retribution" to sickening fruition. It's just too easy to try to put the blame for Rodgers on one or another cultural affliction -- or to otherwise respond to a contemptible act with a contemptible and offensive piece of commentary on it -- in the name of satisfying a personal agenda and being able to say, "Told you so." And there's been a hell of a lot of that kind of thing over the past three days. Here's the worst of the worst (so far).
6. Joe the Plumber Returns To Assert his Constitutional Rights
If you thought #YesAllWomen was the only hashtag to come out of this rampage, try throwing #GunGrab into your Twitter search. As soon as Richard Martinez, the grief-stricken and angry father of 20-year-old shooting victim Christopher Martinez, lashed out at the NRA and Congress for its ongoing promotion and protection of American gun culture you knew what would happen next. Within minutes, Martinez went from being someone whose inconceivable loss and heartbreak made him off-limits to being fair game, a "California liberal" who represented a direct threat to the United States Constitution. The usual suspects began circling the wagons, with idiots like Jim Hoft wondering aloud why the elder Martinez neglected to mention the three people who were stabbed to death in the spree, as if this fact somehow diminishes the more considerable damage Rodger was able to do with firearms and the greater potential for damage his guns gave him.
But it was the triumphant return of irrelevant Tea Party action figure Joe the Plumber, AKA Samuel Wurzelbacher, that really drove the message home. He published an open letter to Richard Martinez in which he came right out and said, "Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights." To his credit, Wurzelbacher acknowledged that he couldn't really criticize Martinez for speaking his mind in a moment of anguish, but he also couldn't help but bring the Great Kenyan Satan into the fray by writing, "We still have the Right to Bear Arms and I intend to continue to speak out for that right, and against those who would restrict it -- even in the face of this horrible incident by this sad and insane individual. I almost said ‘Obama Voter’ but I’m waiting for it to be official." Good one.
I've never been one of those people who wants to see all guns eradicated. But what guns represented to someone like Elliot Rodger -- summed up perfectly by the "Who's the alpha male now, bitch?" line in his manifesto, written after he was finally able to arm himself heavily -- is at least worth being talked about. Gun rights are one thing, gun culture is another -- this notion of guns as an extension of masculinity and the use of them as an expression of power. As I've said many times before, responsible gun ownership and gun fetishization aren't the same thing.
And as for Richard Martinez -- sorry, but his grief buys him at least a few days' grace period before you can drag him up on the altar of the cold steel god you worship and begin flogging him.
5. The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday Says It's the Fault of Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen
You knew the popular culture blame game would begin before the last shots had finished echoing off the pavement. Ann Hornaday, though, gets the award for the most ridiculous and maybe most offensive attempt to tie Rodger's violence to the artistic tropes that permeate American pop culture. Normally it's violent content people begin examining and wringing their hands over after tragedies like this, but Horndaday inexplicably decided that in this case it was guys like Judd Apatow and the unrealistic worldview they tantalize poor losers like Rodger with that may be the real culprit here.
Rodger’s rampage may be a function of his own profound distress, but it also shows how a sexist movie monoculture can be toxic for women and men alike. How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like Neighbors and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of ‘sex and fun and pleasure’? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, ‘It’s not fair’?
And she suggests what exactly? That what may be the driving force behind all art throughout history -- desire, unrequited or not, and both male and female wish-fulfillment -- be abandoned or approached with newfound caution because you never know who's going to use it to fuel his inadequacies?
Seth Rogen had a swift response to Hornaday and summed it up pretty well.
4. Fox News Contributor Says Rodger was Probably Gay
Because, of course.
Lest you think Dr. Robi Ludwig is the only hack TV shrink Fox News managed to get an asinine diagnosis out of, Keith Ablow called anyone complaining about guns in the wake of this rampage "reprehensible creatures" who are "willing to sacrifice the lives of Americans to advance their disempowering agenda." He says guns had "zero" to do with the attack, even though four people were killed with, you know, guns.
3. The New York Post Really Wants You To See the Blonde in the Bikini That Set Rodger Off
It's tempting to link to the Post's predictably horrific front page today, given that being tasteless and offensive is the paper's bread and butter and its editors really managed to outdo themselves this time. But even though it might be worth it to see just how strongly they imply that a young, beautiful girl pictured reclining enticingly in a bikini -- a stuck-up hottie who doesn't even remember poor Elliot Rodger -- is what sparked his hatred of women at a young age, I just can't feed that kind of shit.
The facts are that in Rodger's manifesto he rails against a girl he had a crush on when he was 12 but who didn't give him the time of day. In the echo chamber of rage, entitlement and self-mythology that existed between his ears, Rodger saw her as the Patient Zero that began his life of unjust rejection by women. The Post -- and to be fair, a couple of other shitty tabloids -- are quietly furthering that nonsense. Put simply, they're insinuating that a girl who had nothing to do with this rampage, other than being the fuel for a budding sociopath's rich fantasy life and arrogant resentment, was at the center of it. The image of her in the bikini almost feels like it's meant to slyly force men to confront the question, "What would you do if the lust you're feeling right now looking at this picture went thwarted and unfulfilled for years?"
2. Salon Declares That "White Male Privilege Kills"
If there was any response column you could've seen coming from a mile away, it's this one. It's easy to picture three or four Salon writers actually scrapping over who would write the inevitable "It's All About the Privileged White Male Patriarchy" piece like sharks fighting over a wounded sea lion. Alas, in the end it fell to Brittney Cooper, AKA "Professor Crunk," who was in a position to hit all the necessary Salon markers simply by virtue of the color of her skin. (Two days earlier, Katie McDonough was able to bemoan only "toxic male entitlement," minus the racial component.)
Here's the salient quote:
This is madness. But it is neither singular, nor anomalous. Every few years, the American public has to watch in horror as some white kid goes on a rampage, killing everything from babies to old people. Yet, neither the press nor the law will understand such perpetrators as monsters or terrorists. Few will have a conversation about white male pathology and the ways that systems of whiteness and patriarchy continue to produce white men who think like this.
There's no controversy whatsoever in stating that Elliot Rodger was so resentful and so convinced that he was entitled to wealth, power and the complete sexual dominance of anyone he chose -- a woman's own thoughts on the matter be damned -- that it led him to kill to assert his authority. What Cooper doesn't seem to notice, however -- or maybe she does and just doesn't care because, again, nuance doesn't equal outrage which doesn't equal page-views -- is how neatly the linchpin of her entire argument cuts both ways. The above quote could easily be turned around, and has in the past, by racists determined to make the claim that selective crime and prison statistics prove that black people are inherently dangerous and therefore should be regarded with suspicion. It's the kind of bullshit racial rationalization that got Trayvon Martin killed.
A blanket statement is a blanket statement, no matter who's unfortunate enough to end up underneath it.
1. If Only Women Knew Their Place and Rodger Had Access To "Game"
Without a doubt, the worst response of all to the Elliot Rodger rampage has come from someone Rodger was both envious of and felt cheated by. Daryush Valizadeh, AKA "Roosh," heads up the "Return of Kings" website, which acts as the self-proclaimed center of the Pick-Up Artist (PUA) universe. Rodger hated, literally hated the PUAs, mostly because he couldn't be one of them in terms of the image guys like Roosh sold to the masses. Certainly, he was just as misogynistic as your average PUA devotee, but he believed himself to be better than them, which made it all the more infuriating that he didn't reach what was billed as their heightened state of sexual prowess. Still, it was the PUA shibboleth that women are mere "targets" for sexual conquest, bit players in the satisfaction men are entitled to, that compounded Rodger's rage.
With this in mind, you'd think that someone like Roosh might either do a minor amount of soul-searching in the wake of Friday's rampage or at least have the good sense to keep his mouth shut. But of course not -- not when there's marketing to be done. And so here we have Roosh lamenting the way men's sexual needs are denied by those thoughtless women who put their own desires above what's good for society, and the progressive culture which shuns hetero-masculinity and creates sad little beta-males like Elliot Rodger.
Six lives would have been saved if there was a societal mechanism to steer sexually frustrated males like Rodger into learning self-improvement, game, and masculinity, the very values that are taught here and on many other manosphere sites that inexplicably have been attacked, disparaged, and even sought for eradication by the American media and blogosphere, men’s rights activists, “PUA haters”, and progressive organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center. All these groups are complicit for creating a cultural environment that allowed this massacre to occur. It is them who must accept responsibility for these seven deaths and make the moral change to their ideologies in order to prevent such an act from happening again...
If Rodger came to me, he would have received actionable and effective advice. He would have been exposed to material detailing how socially corrupt American society has become, and how being a beta male provider—his principal strategy in trying to get laid—is no longer useful in achieving intimacy with women who now see men as entertaining clowns that should provide them with excitement, drama, and tension. After these truths would be painfully delivered to Rodger, he would have to make the personal choice to accept them or not, but based on his intelligence level, I have little doubt that he would, as it would match what he saw on campus with what he termed “obnoxious” (i.e. “alpha”) men getting the girls he wanted...
More people will die unless you give men sexual options. Until you give men like Rodger a way to have sex, either by encouraging them to learn game, seek out a Thai wife, or engage in legalized prostitution—three things that the American media and cultural elite venomously attack, it’s inevitable for another massacre to occur. Even game itself, as useful as it is on an individual level, is a band-aid fix upon a culture which has stopped rewarding nice guys while encouraging female whoring to benefit only the top 10% of alpha males, all in the name of societal progress. Game is a tiny release valve on a cultural pressure cooker where meaningful relationships have become sick, fractured, and unfulfilling compared to the time of our grandparents when traditional sex roles existed.
Seriously, somebody punch this asshole in the mouth.