On the evening of May 23, a deranged 22-year-old boy, Elliot Rodger, went on a shooting spree in California and murdered six people. He had been found to be a member of “PUAHate,” a site where “nice guys” lament their losing out in a contest for the fairer sex to brutish types, all while giving ample demonstration of what it is that debilitates them in this struggle.
Rodger, a loser by any definition, had made pathetic videos he uploaded to YouTube lamenting his lack of a girlfriend, his apparently-dreadful luck, and his jealously of those men in his classes at university that had done better than he. In short order a manifesto was found where he had said, among other things,
The breaking point was when I saw good looking couples walking along the area where I dreamed of walking with a girl. To watch another boy experience it, with a beautiful girl who should be mine, was like a living hell. I constantly asked myself what I did wrong in life, to be unable to have a beautiful girlfriend. … There was this one obnoxious jock with a buzz-cut who was taking the class with his gorgeous girlfriend. They always sat next to each other, talking and touching each other with affection. Every day I had to see this, and my envy grew and grew. … What did I do wrong that he did right? I yelled out to the universe on the way home. Why does he deserve the love of a beautiful girl and not me? Why do girls hate me so? … All I could do was question why I was suffering so much injustice in life.
“Living hell,” “suffering,” and “injustice”: these are words one tends to associate with, say, the bloodshed in Syria; their use for teenage angst is beyond repulsive. But it nonetheless provided an ideological framework for his massacre: he hated women for rejecting him—as if he had a right to them—and this was his revenge. “[A]ll those girls I’ve desired so much” were going to pay the price for rejecting him, he said in his final video. He planned to “enter the hottest sorority house” and “slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blonde slut I see inside there.”
Commentators from Jessica Valenti in the Guardian to Laurie Penny in the New Statesman agreed on the cause: misogyny. No ifs, not buts: ideas kill. This is distinctly not the view this faction takes however when the greatest global menace to female advancement, namely Islamism, shows itself. At that point everything but the ideas behind that religion and are found to be at fault.
The truth in this case seems to be that there were early signs of mental problems and the parents have really dropped the ball, having been warned by people many months ago about the disturbing path their son was on and done nothing. There will be always be a number of people who are not quite clinically mad but who are mentally disordered and who need to kill but who will need a framework for this, some justification, to actualise it. In the 1970s they would have been Communist “urban guerrillas”. Now they are Islamists in general or, as in this case, votaries of some other idea that justifies lethal violence against innocents. (Something everyone should be able to agree on is that the PUA/PUAHate faction is as disgusting and creepy a cult organisation as one could meet in a day’s march.)
This individual case, however, does not take away the fact that ideas matter and indeed ideas kill. Believing Communists in the Kremlin and Red China killed far more people than the juvenile delinquents of the Red Army Faction decked out in their colours. And sincere Islamists kill because of their ideas—they are enraged at emancipated women, at the existence of homosexuals and Jews, and at free inquiry and expression—and continue to enslave whole countries where they have power.
Which brings us to the shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Three people were murdered and one injured the day after the Rodger spree. Now the culprit has been found: A French Islamist who had been inside Syria fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, al-Qaeda’s renegade branch. The belief of this group in a worldview drawn from ‘The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion’ explains why one of its members would attack a Jewish target. But there have already been murmurings that this episode is really about something else.
James Bloodworth wrote in the aftermath of the Rodger murders, noting the forthright way many feminists had identified Rodger’s ideas as his motivation,
[T]he next time an Islamist fanatic attempts to blow up a nightclub full of “slags dancing around,” or throws acid into the face of an unveiled woman, can we have no more chin scratching editorials blaming it all on Western foreign policy…? May we, taking the lead of the feminists, have no more of this talk about “legitimate grievances,” “root causes,” and “blowback”? Can we, from the pages of the Guardian, be clear about what the violence is really about…?
Now’s their chance.
Update: Tariq Ramadan has a unique take on this: The slain were MOSSAD agents, he says. This is what passes for “moderate” at the present time.
Update 2: In this post I argued that since Elliot Rodger had mental problems his ideas were, to that extent, diminished as a driving force. A study by Emily Corner and Paul Gill published by the American Psychological Association convincingly argues that this dichotomy does not in fact exist, and thus my main point—that ideas kill—can be applied unqualified to Rodger.