Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Elliot Rodger: UCSB Isla Vista Murderer

The predictable reactions about the recent murders in Isla Vista were that people immediately used the tragedy to argue for previously accepted conclusions. So if you already felt that whiteness, white masculinity or even masculinity itself are all highly problematic or needed to be interrogated and altered you felt that your premise was vindicated by these murders, never mind that Rodger was half white. He clearly identified with white privilege and saw himself as better than other non-whites. If you thought that interracial marriages and immigration are bad ideas then you looked at the British born half-Asian Rodger and argued those characteristics were somehow salient to his actions. If you were convinced that the path to better living is found via psychiatry and aggressive state law enforcement intervention then you were outraged that therapists or police didn't do something earlier, as surely you would have done were you in their position. If you think that pick up artists or game theorists are synonymous with misogyny, hatred and terrorism then you probably wanted to know why the NSA, FBI or other agency weren't keeping tabs on Rodger's online presence and targeting him with drone strikes. If his last name hinted at Muslim heritage maybe agencies would have been watching him. If you think that youthful "bullying" will often bear dark poisonous fruits in later years then you were outraged that teachers or other authority figures didn't pick up on and correct Rodger's persecution feelings earlier. There were even some people who thought that the delicate featured Rodger was dealing with gay panic. And of course if you think that the NRA is the source of all evil then you were upset that Rodger was able to legally purchase guns in the first place.
And so on.


You can find all of these perceptions and more across the net if you deign to search.
Some might even have some validity. But I think that most of them are the worst examples of Monday morning quarterbacking. For those who have lost loved ones or have had their lives altered by being wounded by this madman, I would not contradict anything they might say in their grief. But  the rest of us must step back, analyze what happened and see if we can prevent such things. I don't think we can. I think it's only too human for everyone to look at this incident and immediately argue that they are justified in whatever preexisting conclusion they already had. It is understandable of course but it would make for bad public policy. First off let's look at the guns. Rodger bought the guns legally roughly a year before he went on his killing spree. He passed all the background checks. The guns were not "assault rifles". They had limited capacity magazines. In short, there was nothing under current law, which in California is tilted towards more restrictive purchasing standards, which would have prevented Rodger from buying a gun. Nothing. Absent outlawing guns in private hands, I'm not sure what more gun control advocates would like to see done. Keep in mind that Rodger stabbed three men to death and ran over at least one more with his BMW. For those who fixate on the guns I would just like to know what law, what standard would they seek to impose that would be able to distinguish between a monster like Rodger and the thousands of other people who purchase guns each year? 


Next look at the opportunities for intervention. If someone is thought to be an imminent danger to himself or others, there is an ability to place that person under a 72 hour hold. But the key word there is imminent. No one except the therapists and police involved know how Rodger presented himself but evidently they did not see the threat. It is easy after the fact, as some CNN windbags did, to pompously talk about missed signs. But the reality no one knows what any human is capable of, given the right stimuli. Our justice system is designed to convict people for what they have done after a trial by jury. It is not, with very few exceptions, designed to imprison or convict people for what they might do, on the say so of family members, police or mental health experts. If you want to open the floodgates and start locking people up for things they haven't done, well you will need to radically change our concept of law. Most people with mental health problems are not violent. I don't want people to be arrested for what they might do or even for their hateful ideologies. Rodger could accurately be described as a loser, a racist, a misogynist, a misanthrope.  He attempted to find other people who shared his views. Despite his outwardly directed hatred the person he most despised appears to have been himself. His sense of race and class based entitlement was apparently very strong. There was a yawning gulf between who Rodger was and who he thought he should be. Unable to stand it any more he wanted to make everyone else pay. I can't think of any consistent method to identify and intervene with people like this. 

Maybe if Rodger had improved his social skills with (white) women he would have reduced his frustrations and found happiness. Or perhaps not. Maybe eventually he would have snapped and killed any girlfriend or other sexual partner he had. We don't know and will never know. Anyone who tells you they have the answer to stop horrific events like this is mistaken. I understand and sympathize with the urge to find the reason why this happened and get the government to fix it. But sometimes there simply aren't answers.

Rodger Manifesto
My father drove up to Santa Barbara to meet me a few days later. When we sat down at our table, I saw a young couple sitting a few tables down the row. The sight of them enraged me to no end, especially because it was a dark-skinned Mexican guy dating a hot blonde white girl. I regarded it as a great insult to my dignity. How could an inferior Mexican guy be able to date a white blonde girl, while I was still suffering as a lonely virgin? I was ashamed to be in such an inferior position in front my father. When I saw the two of them kissing, I could barely contain my rage. I stood up in anger, and I was about to walk up to them and pour my glass of soda all over their heads. 
My two housemates were nice, but they kept inviting over this friend of theirs named Chance. He was black boy who came over all the time, and I hated his cocksure attitude. Inevitably, a vile incident occurred between me and him. I was eating a meal in the kitchen when he came over and started bragging to my housemates about his success with girls. I couldn’t stand it, so I proceeded to ask them all if they were virgins. They all looked at me weirdly and said that they had lost their virginity long ago. I felt so inferior, as it reminded me of how much I have missed out in life. And then this black boy named Chance said that he lost his virginity when he was only thirteen! In addition, he said that the girl he lost his virginity to was a blonde white girl! I was so enraged that I almost splashed him with my orange juice. I indignantly told him that I did not believe him, and then I went to my room to cry. I cried and cried and cried, and then I called my mother and cried to her on the phone. How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves.
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