Just a warning that this post will have upsetting content due to the nature of the incident. Please excuse all the mental masturbation I’ll be debasing myself on over this post. Hover over red text to see small notes and relevant warnings.
As many of you may be aware, on the night of May 23rd, almost an entire month ago, the city of Santa Barbara was thrown into disarray when 22-year-old gunman Elliot Rodger tore through the streets of Isla Vista, killing six victims and wounding several more before supposedly turning the gun on himself.
The Infamous Last Video
In the few days leading up to the incident, Rodger uploaded a few video logs onto Youtube (many of which have been taken down, though may be mirrored on LiveLeak), most notably one titled “Retribution.” In it he talks about how he’s been shunned by “the popular kids” and makes multiple misogynistic and misanthropic remarks. His major complaint is that “girls didn’t find him attractive,” the likeliest reason being that he holds himself too highly, as in other videos where he constantly describes himself as an “attractive magnificent guy” and “the supreme gentleman.” Don’t get me wrong, he’s quite easy on the eyes, but watching the video will turn anyone off. At one point (around 3:30) he mentions the contrast between “popular kids who live such lives of hedonistic pleasure while [he’s] had to rot in loneliness for all these years.” When one reads his manifesto (which I will go into more detail later), one can take note of the hypocrisy he spouts.
His narcissism soars to new heights when he describes other men as “obnoxious brutes,” bolstering his own perceived refinery and intelligence even further. He even goes as far as saying that he is a god, and that he has the power to slay all those that have wronged him, “a crime that can never be forgiven.”
While everyone would already be chilled at the rhetoric he spouted in “Retribution,” I noticed that his eyes had that detached look about them; that look that’s described as “there’s no light in his eyes.” He doesn’t seem all there, the lack of hope; emotionless. He also blinks excessively at a slightly varying but constant rate, which is a common sign of autism, which increased in segments where he mentioned his plans for slaughtering women.
His evil chuckle is trite. It brings to mind the over-the-top hammy villains in old 80s’ children’s shows. It seems like he is appropriating that personality, especially as quite a few of them ascend to near-godhood in the context of the setting. With his extreme need for control, his fantasies would revolve around being a god with the ability to smite anyone at any time that complements his talk of annihilation.
Some links to video responses about this video:
- MundaneMatt: RE: Elliot Rodger’s Retribution (Video Analysis)
- Victor Zen: On Elliot Rodger – Public Hysteria Does No Favors
- Egle Makaraite: response to elliot rodger’s retribution
Before his rampage, Rodger sent in a document almost 140 pages in length to local media. You can read it on Scribd. I spent a good 2 hours total going through the entire thing and gleaned recurring points of discussion from it. Due to Rodger’s inflated sense of self, many of the events are very likely to have been exaggerated or warped, so take a gallon of salt with you if you decide to read the document.
Sense of Entitlement and Self-Perception
This is a very major part of his autobiography and serves to give more evidence that this man was narcissistic. At a young age, this began to manifest in situations where the attention wasn’t on him, such as when he played video games with friends and they were cheering on his opponent (p. 17). Not long afterward he demanded that his parents get him a hair-bleaching job, which ended up being a partial job as he was too young at the time for a full one; he became livid and panicked about others judging him until one of the cool kids said that it looked “cool” (p. 17), at which point he got a few days of “attention and adoration [he] so craved” (p. 18). It is unclear if he understands that writing like this paints a very negative picture of him, or his own narcissism is making him not give a shit.
His desire of having the best of things was relatively sated at home. On the occasion that he had to go to Morocco to see relatives, the first thing that ran through his mind was “[t]hey didn’t even have the latest video games” and he was also quite annoyed that they didn’t manage to travel in First Class (p. 44). He also expresses contempt for people of a “lower class,” such as the students at Independence High School who “repulsed him” (p. 55). He also demands to travel with style: riding on the public transit system was presumably beneath him (p. 62). This has also extended to his job searching. He has rejected many job postings just because he considered them to be beneath him, despite him having never worked once in his life.
My mother wanted me to get a simple retail job, and the thought of myself doing that was mortifying. It would be completely against my character. I am an intellectual who is destined for greatness. I would never perform a low-class service job. (p. 67)
It seems as if he hasn’t read stories of heroes coming from humble beginnings.
Rodger displayed the need for absolute control, and he made a comparison with how different his two divorced parents’ households were: while his father’s place was more grandiose and exquisite, he preferred staying at his mother as “[he] had [his] way more often” (p. 19). In many respects he is very similar to Christian Weston Chandler, an Internet-infamous “high-functioning autistic” who displays narcissism almost on par with Rodger. Where they differ is accessibility to resources, outlook, and motivation. Both were on what are termed by observers as
Fuck Love Quests, where they tried to find girlfriends for them to fuck love. The two of them also expected the targets of their affection to take the initiative instead of themselves, almost presuming that said women reciprocated their feelings. The difference was that Chandler, while for the most part harmless, actually decided to go out and try to solicit girls; Rodger did not, and expected girls to come flocking to him in spite of the fact that he did nothing whatsoever to give them any reason to be attracted to him. Owning a BMW or wearing a Hugo Boss shirt does not count as a reason.
Rodger also seems to harbour the idea of a zero-sum game in his favour. He presumes that “[b]ecause of all of the injustices [he] went through and the worldview [he] had developed because of [everyone else], [he] must be destined for greatness” (p.56). This appears to be a common theme in many children’s stories that feature protagonists who have external conflicts thrust upon them mercilessly and they eventually triumph over them and live happily ever after. Rodger seems to have preserved that mentality well into adulthood. Whether or not that is a symptom of his autism is unclear.
He also blames his father for never teaching him how to attract girls at an early age (p. 59). This is something that can’t be really taught. One can get tips from people who have prior experience or self-help books, but ultimately the only way one learns is through trial-and-error, something that Rodger never took the first step towards because of his “social anxiety.”
Over the course of his life, Rodger became the Fox in the fable The Fox and the Grapes with a crab mentality; that is, he disparages the one thing he cannot attain (girls), and since he can’t have one, no one else should either. The best way of managing that is to destroy girls and their potential partners, leading to his Day of Retribution.
As part of his narcissism, Rodger also harboured a strong dislike for other races, including the ones he descended from. As someone who was born half-Caucasian and half-Chinese, Rodger displayed contempt for “full-blooded Asians”:
I came across this Asian guy who was talking to a white girl. The sight of that filled me with rage. I always
felt as if white girls thought less of me because I was half-Asian, but then I see this white girl at the party
talking to a full-blooded Asian. I never had that kind of attention from a white girl! And white girls are
the only girls I’m attracted to, especially the blondes. How could an ugly Asian attract the attention of a
white girl, while a beautiful Eurasian like myself never had any attention from them? I thought with rage.
I glared at them for a bit, and then decided I had been insulted enough. I angrily walked toward them
and bumped the Asian guy aside, trying to act cocky and arrogant to both the boy and the girl. (p. 121)
Callous Disrespect of Others
Rodger, thanks to his self-entitlement complex, also showed great disrespect to people he, for lack of a better phrase, was close to. His mother, Chin Li, divorced from his father at a time early in his life and for most of his childhood he was shuttled back and forth between the two homes. After a little while she met a man, Jack, who was quite affluent and allowed the use of his home for Rodger and his mother. Once he found out that his mother was dating Jack, he pestered her constantly to get married so that he would have money, as, in his own words, “[m]oney would solve everything” (p. 68). She refused every time as the experience with his father had been a bad one and became more affronted when he told her “that she should sacrifice her well-being for the sake of [his] happiness” (p.68). This continues well into his 20s during the time his mother dated men of prestige where he told her that “she should suffer through any negative aspects of marriage just for his sake, because it would completely save [his] life” (p. 91).Some context seems to be in order here: at this point in time he resigned himself to the possibility that he will never have sex with a woman, and he believes that the only way to continue living is to be richer and more powerful than the people who are afforded sex.
His relationships are less of a mutual admiration with the other party and more as a tool for him to use. After being evicted from his father’s house by his girlfriend Soumaya, he harboured resentment against his father but still needed him for things such as driving lessons. The only true friendship he appeared to have was with childhood friend James Ellis, who after years of going through hardships and WoW, dissolved after Ellis cut it off out of the blue by phone (p. 105).
Because of his self-described “social anxiety,” Rodger persistently felt that people around him were constantly judging him. At his 8th grade graduation, he focused intensely on where people were looking: at him (p. 56). For most of us this is to be expected: it is a big moment for you and everyone is looking at you because you deserve the respect of graduating. For that one moment, you are the single most important person in the room. Instead, Rodger interprets this as the audience wondering, “why is this weird kid on the stage? Get him off!”
These persecutory thoughts do not only encompass people but circumstance as well. Rodger’s father, Peter Rodger, hit a financial snag when a movie he invested in didn’t pan out. This is a typical occurrence in the film industry, but Rodger sees it as “embarrassing” and asserts that “[t]he universe was not kind to [him].” An unfortunate situation that didn’t actually put him at any disadvantage in any direct form or manner was a horrible thing to have happened to him.
Ponder that for a moment if you will, kind reader.
In psychology, attribution refers to “the process by which individuals explain the causes of behavior and events.” Rodger associates actions that he observes as either “good” or “evil,” with “good” being anything that is himself or benefits him and “evil” representing anything that causes him discomfort. In his grade 10 year, immediately after being bullied at his new high school and shocked that no one gave him a helping hand, he comes to this realisation:
The most meanest [sic] and depraved of men come out on top, and women flock to these men. Their evil acts are rewarded by women; while the good, decent men are laughed at. It is sick, twisted, and wrong in every way. I hated the girls even more than the bullies because of this. The sheer cruelty of the world around me was so intense that I will never recover from the mental scars. (p. 48)
Emphasis added. He is still focused on girls, and their reactions are the most important thing to him. With this one incident, his generalisation that all girls were this mean strengthened, and his descent into misogyny sunk deeper towards the moral event horizon.
Many people were shocked and horrified when the shooting occurred, and an outpour of condolences was sent out to the victims’ families. Rodger’s parents grieved more for the victims than for their own son.
What was quite worrisome, however, was the politicising of the incident and the disrespectful use of the victims as a platform for ideologists. Some Internet bloggers decided to post opinion pieces on the incident and gravely misrepresented it. As usual, there were the anti/pro-gun proponents debating on the possession of firearms in public, despite the use of a knife in killing the first three victims. This time, some feminist proponents (mostly from Tumblr) joined in on the fray and claimed that he murdered seven women and was a Men’s Right Activist because of his affiliation to PUAHate.com, the latter point being one of the things that made him slaughter people. The Tumblr post here debunks those claims.
As a response to the shooting, the hashtag #yesallwomen began to garner popularity and detailed stories of misogyny and sexism by many Twitter users. While the message behind it at first was quite important, later users joined in on using the hashtag brought the old proverb “too many cooks spoil the broth” to mind. Tweets that talked about violence and sexual harassment among women soon gave way to relatively less traumatic examples, such as complaining about sitcom couple dynamics and being told to smile. It appears to be going the way of #stopkony2012, where at first many people were deeply passionate about stopping an African warlord from recruiting children into his army, and the Occupy movements, whose message was originally about stopping corruption of moneymakers and devolved into… something that involved sitting out in the park outside the Vancouver Art Gallery and causing public dissent. Eventually another group of Twitter users got fed up with the trending hashtag and started #yesallcats, which parodises the oppression that cats go through against the patribarkchy.
When I heard about this tragedy I was shocked that something like this could happen so suddenly out in real life. The more recent events in Seattle and Moncton, NS gave me the eerie feeling that they were copycat incidents or that one incited the others.
When I started reading his document “My Twisted World,” I was amazed at how similar this person was to a younger me. Granted, I did not have the overbearing ego, separated parents, or the privilege to travel all around the world, but the loneliness, the video game time-sinks, and the reticence were all too familiar. The thing I identified with the most, however, was the revenge fantasies. Back in middle school a some kids harrassed me (or at least I thought they did) and I never did anything about it for fear of retaliation plus the lack of a social safety net. I believe that is one of the core reasons why Rodger turned out the way he did: his lack of control in real life contributed to his need for control in his ideal world. His claims of social anxiety and how he didn’t bother making friends with anyone unless he has something to gain from them are what keep him from breaking out of that cycle; the only things that he feels which can turn his life around are external factors, such as winning the lottery or being seduced by a buxom blonde woman. Like I mentioned before, he had absolutely nothing to offer girls and instead waited for them to approach him. How could he have even gotten to this stage when he hasn’t even had much practice with talking with near-strangers?
As to the horror he’s caused, I’m quite in favour of damnatio memoriae, or the act of erasing his presence of history. Unfortunately, with information spreading as easily as it does now like STIs, such a feat would be impossible.
tl;dr? The downfall of Rodger’s life was not from his hatred of women but from his inability to change his mindset. If he went on the path of his friend, James Ellis, I don’t think this tragedy would have ever happened and Rodger would have had a chance for a girl to approach him. Unfortunately, his stubbornness influenced him to accept that he would die a virgin and pushed him over the edge.
Please share your thoughts; I’d be quite interested in hearing them.