Updated below. Friday morning. May 30, 2014.
Elliot Rodger was a hate-filled, bloody-minded misogynist.
He was also a cunning and duplicitous sociopath. And a narcissistic solipsist who apparently saw every other human being as nothing more than a screen on which to project his own feelings, vanities, desires, disappointments, angers, insecurities, and existential terrors.
Whatever “normal” emotions he had were amalgamated with his rage.
He was delusional. Possibly psychotic. Definitely paranoid. There are signs he was obsessive-compulsive: once he got hold of a thought, or a thought got hold of him, he couldn’t let it go.
He was mentally ill.
To put it mildly.
It’s not he was one or the other or some combination of these things or that one excludes another or all the others. He was all of them at once.
Rodger was practically a perfect storm of a human disaster.
On top of it all, he may have had Asperger’s or been high-functioning autistic, neither of which has anything to do with what he did except that either would have made it harder (not impossible, just difficult) for him to interact with other people and would have exacerbated his sense of social isolation and rejection; without help, without counseling, he’d have been thrown back inside himself with no company in there but his demons.
Keep in mind, I’m the father of a young man with Asperger’s exactly Rodger’s age. Rodger’s demons were all his own and weren’t caused by or related to or at all typical of Asperger’s. But if it’s true that his parents suspected he had Asperger’s---and this is one of the things that still needs sorting out---all it means is that they weren’t as lucky as Mrs M and I were in getting their child help.
Not that help dealing with Asperger’s would necessarily have helped him with his other problems.
One is that people with Asperger’s are still and wholly themselves, same as people without it; Asperger’s is something they have to deal with, but they deal with it individually as individuals. Asperger’s doesn’t make you anything except a person with Asperger’s, just as any disability doesn’t make you anything but a person with that disability, and Asperger’s is a disability not a mental disorder.
The other thing, though, is that Asperger’s or the diagnosis of Asperger’s can cause parents, teachers, doctors, even psychologists and psychiatrists to miss other problems because it can be used as an easy---and reassuring---explanation for all sorts of anti-social behavior, that is, a way to explain away things that are too frightening to accept, like an obsession with violence, expressions of suicidal self-loathing, or a murderous hatred for women. “That’s just his Asperger’s talking. He doesn’t really mean any of it.”
My point is that there was so much wrong with Rodger that almost anything you want to say about what caused him to become a mass murderer will have enough basis to be not just plausible but probably true, at least to a degree.
Blaming Judd Apatow’s movies for Rodger’s misogyny is over-reaching, but the sense of male entitlement those movies reward are expressions of culture-wide attitudes that are also expressed on the PUA sites Rodger made the center of his online life. There’s a big difference, though, which I’m planning to deal with in a follow-up to this post.
Still, along with everything else, Rodger was an insatiable consumer of misogynist propaganda that flattered his vanities, fed his insecurities, and stoked his rage, and the creators, propagators, and sharers of that propaganda are culpable, if not in having created Rodger’s hatred, then in having encouraged him to embrace it and define himself by it, just as they are culpable of encouraging other men like Rodgers in their midst.
As I said, there’s enough awfulness that you can point in almost any direction and find a cause, an explanation, or a measure of blame. Almost anything you say will have some validity.
Unless you’re saying “He was mentally ill” the way gun nutty conservatives are saying it, which is as a way of saying, “Rodger was just something that happens, like tornados or earthquakes. You can’t predict them or do anything to prevent them. So don’t you dare talk about taking away my guns or try to make me feel bad about my politics!”
Here’s one more thing that was wrong with Rodger.
In the end what he was was a product of our gun nuttery.
The NRA helped make him and the NRA helped arm him.
In his car he had three weapons that he owned legally that no one who isn’t a cop on duty or a soldier or Marine in a combat zone needs to own. His handguns were tools for killing people. That’s all they are. The only reason to own one is that you expect are going to kill another human being sometime soon.
In sane societies, this is not allowed.
Here, the NRA works very hard to drive us and keep us insane.
Here’s the thing. The NRA is not simply a lobby group for gun manufacturers, although it’s glad to act in that capacity. And it doesn’t get what it wants just by buying up politicians, although it does that by the dozen. The NRA is a political action committee and its main source of power is its ability to deliver votes. It’s true that the majority of voters, including Republicans as well as Democrats, are in favor of sensible gun control laws and measures, but these voters aren’t single-issue voters.
The NRA delivers a set of single-issue voters who when they come out in force can defeat a Democrat in a red state or red district or elect a Republican in a blue state or district.
These voters aren’t just gun nuts. They are Right Wing Reactionaries and the NRA mobilizes by appealing to their politics using their guns as a focusing symbol. Taking away their guns is the first step towards taking away not their freedom, their status and privilege and sense of self-worth. These are frightened, insecure, weak and delusional men who dream of the day when their guns will allow them to play at being the heroes they know they aren’t. They share a politics of white, male gun-toting supremacy because they are afraid of everyone who is not like them.
And the NRA doesn’t just deliver these voters. It creates them.
The NRA preaches hate, preaches fear, preaches violence as the solution to all that causes you to hate and be afraid. It induces paranoia---They are coming! They are out to get us! They are going to take over!---and it encourages self-loathing---if you didn’t feel weak and afraid before you will once you start reading its pamphlets and going to its meetings---that it then offers to cure through delusions of grandeur.
It indoctrinates its members with a politics of heartlessness, cruelty, and solipsism that amounts to sociopathy. “Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.”
Seems almost trivial to mention that this notion of Constitutional rights is anti-Constitutional in that in separates individuals from and makes them superior to We the People.
It very much agitates for a government by and for but not of an anti-democratic minority who rule by force of arms.
Once upon a time, the NRA was an educational organization that taught gun safety to responsible adults who needed their weapons to kill animals. It’s still possible to meet liberals and sane (but old-fashioned) conservatives of a certain age who were members of the NRA. One of them is my old friend Rennie, who is not actually a liberal. Liberals are too conservative for him. He left the NRA when a couple decades back when he began receiving mailings that might just as well have been coming from the John Birch Society. Another is the inestimable TBogg, who has a terrific post up at RawStory that chronicles his family’s one-time happy relationship with hunting, guns, and the NRA and the day his father gave up hunting and put away his guns for good:
As I grew older I began to notice a different breed of hunter; men who showed up with multiple shotguns as if they were golf clubs needed for specific shots. While most of us wore jeans, t-shirts and hunting vests, these newcomers dressed like they were going on safari, wearing bush hats, shooting jackets (in the 100 degree heat), and cargo pants with more pockets than there existed implements to fill them. You would see them walking the fields; shotgun draped over one arm, can of beer in the other hand. We learned to stay away from them.
For these men hunting was a manhood thing, a way to get in touch with their alpha male, a way to prove they weren’t soft city dwellers and what better way to do that than to get together with some buddies and shoot some guns at whatever moved.
It was no coincidence that, at this same time (this being early seventies), the NRA changed their focus from hunting programs to promoting gun ownership and defending the 2nd Amendment from imaginary enemies.
Read the whole post, I was the NRA, at Raw Story.
What I said about Asperger’s and autism above?
…the diagnosis of Asperger’s can cause parents, teachers, doctors, even psychologists and psychiatrists to miss other problems because it can be used as an easy---and reassuring---explanation for all sorts of anti-social behavior, that is, a way to explain away things that are too frightening to accept, like an obsession with violence, expressions of suicidal self-loathing, or a murderous hatred for women. “That’s just his Asperger’s talking. He doesn’t really mean any of it.”
Asperger’s and autism are not mental illnesses. They are neurological impairments. Both are treated with therapies that would not address let alone diagnose any mental illnesses someone might have in addition.
It appears that Rodger was diagnosed as having Asperger’s and was receiving help but that help was utterly useless because it wasn’t designed or intended to treat what psychologist Enrico Graulti, writing for the Atlantic and going by Rodger's manifesto and videos, thinks was Rodger’s real pathology, “malignant narcissism.”
Gnaulti does an excellent job of laying out just how different Rodger was from someone who actually has Asperger’s or is high-functioning autistic, so please read The Isla Vista Shooter: This Is Not the Autism Spectrum.
Corrected Friday afternoon: For some reason this morning I subsituted the name Goddard for Rodger throughout the update. Fortunately, reader ruviana spotted it and let me know. Thanks, ruviana.