The Carnage In Isla Vista, Hashtag Justice and Echidne

Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 11.41.50 AMI have not been there in a while, but I have been there quite a bit before, and the Isla Vista/Goleta area surrounding UCSB is everything good and bad that surrounds any major university. It is a melting pot teeming with brilliant young minds, eager to expand and ready to experiment and socialize. It is also cliquish and too easy to separate the in from the out crowd and, sometimes, rich from poor. Above all else, at least from my visits there when I was younger, IV was one wild party that could be anywhere along a couple of key streets, if not indeed out in the streets themselves. It was one hell of a good time.

But not this Memorial Day weekend. Something different and jolting happened, leaving seven souls dead, seven more injured and yet another community, and national audience, grieving and reaching for answers.

I don’t know what the answers are, and to a great extent, I do not think the pathology of this incident is yet ripe enough to draw them with any real definition. That has not, of course, stopped the light speed social justice court of Twitter and the internet.

The reaction on Twitter has run the spectrum from sober to hysterical. If you are on Twitter, you have seen it, if you are not, it is not hard to imagine if you are internet savvy enough to be reading the instant post. Speaking only for myself, however, I have been a little disturbed by the alacrity with which valuable social justice movements, and their participants, have glommed on to a tragic spree crime as the defining vehicle for their arguments, whether it be women’s rights, gun control or otherwise.

It strikes me, while certainly all of these things figure into the Rodger situation to some extent, hitching up to a spree murder by a mentally disturbed individual is not exactly a great vehicle for your social justice movement. It is more complex than that, and it is too easy in haste to mistake manifestations for root causes. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc if you will.

And, while I know the intent was good, I have found the “hashtag advocacy” via such tags as #YesAllWomen, and the reflexively responsive #NotAllMen, to not necessarily do all that much to further the well meaning intention of their adopters. While some of those tweets have seemed germane and helpful, a great many seem

counterproductive. It is unlikely the battle over misogyny will be won by pitting intelligent men and women against each other, even rhetorically. That’s just my thought, and I may be wrong in how I am seeing this. But there you have it. I’d rather see this discussion had under more sober terms and not hitched to a psychotic spree homicide.

Which leaves us to the last item in the title to this post. For all the, in too many instances, emotional, aggressive and wrongheaded discussion in the Rodger aftermath, one article has struck me as pretty remarkable for its reflection and view. It is by Echidne and, in discussing how different people read different things into the Rodger scenario, she says:

These are of the expected type and often reflect the writer’s position on the political map. That Rodger had access to semi-automatic weapons made him a very efficient killing machine. That he suffered from clear mental problems was also pointed out. That he was a misogynist of rather extreme nature is given at least a nod in most places (though at least one writer disagrees on that as the cause for the massacre). Whether he indeed was “a madman,” in the sense of an isolated, impossible-to-prevent-but-horrific event or whether something could have been done to prevent the massacre also seems to depend on one’s general slant about such things.
This has been a difficult post to write, a difficult post to write in the correct tone, a difficult post even to think about. And I have failed in finding the correct tone, failed in the distance I should have had, perhaps failed on the side of cold and hard anger myself. The victims of the massacre deserve my focus, not its perpetrator, and even though I justify my writing about the perpetrator as a search for greater understanding I’m not sure that I achieved that.

Yes, Rodger was a troubled individual with severe problems. Yes, he managed to slip through the police net, yes, he was able to buy three semi-automatic guns, apparently with no questions asked.

Perhaps all that is the framework, the flow-chart of what happened.

I think the above quotes are spot on, but are merely a taste of the fantastic discussion and analysis in Echidne’s piece. It is required reading in full, and it contains a superb background and synopsis of Rodger’s manifesto. It properly and fully draws in the the glaring issue of misogyny and degradation of women without making it a means unto itself without a nod to the underlying issues that may trigger it.

Rodger’s psychoses look like they go far deeper than just misogyny, though there is obviously an abundance of that. And it strikes me, very much, the real complexity behind this is being lost in the screaming hashtag rush to peg it as the vehicle for discussion of all things misogyny and mistreatment of women. Such is a huge component to be sure, and ought be discussed, but there seems to be a lot more going on too. Echidne lays a lot of that out quite well, and her struggle in doing so displays why this is such a tough situation to peg in such simplistic terms as I have been witnessing, on twitter and the net, for the last two days.

23 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    I don’t think there’s any simple solution for situations like this: a mentally-ill person, weapons, and, apparently, a self-centered philosophy that says that men deserve to have sex on demand. Any two of those would be a problem; all three – well, IV is lucky it wasn’t much worse.

  2. Anonsters says:

    *tries to think of a joke about bmaz and hysteria, fails, walks away mumbling to self*

  3. Bay State Librul says:

    I like Charlie Pierce’s take — when he discusses the carnage.

    “Wayne LaPierre gets paid when his masters sell guns to the bad guys. Wayne LaPierre gets paid when his masters sell guns to the good guys because of the guns he’s already arranged to sell to the bad guys. Wayne LaPierre is the strange white man in the Congo who knows where he can get you some AK’s. He’s the shadowy fellow in the coffee shop in Kabul who knows where RPG’s can be had, cheap. He’s the well-dressed, silken-voiced operator, sipping his tea on a cool and breezy veranda outside of Bogota, who smiles at you and shows you on the map where you can pick up your order, because it is time once again for you to make war and him to make money. His look is the smooth and shiny black of the vulture’s feathers. He feasts on the carrion of nations”

    I am putting my money on guns.

    • Bitter Angry Drunk says:

      Pierce is an amazing writer — and a sickening Obamapologist. He’s just a tool…

  4. Bitter Angry Drunk says:

    Yeah. Trying to make a social statement based on the actions of the insane doesn’t really work. I mean, we tried to pin Columbine on Marilyn Manson and the Insane Clown Posse, but now, a mere 200 or so shootings later — and not even the only one this weekend (see link below) — I think most people realize that lunatics are simply lunatics. And that, maybe, they should have easier access to mental health services than they do firearms.

  5. orionATL says:

    i can’t grasp the person and personality matters here, nor the social psychology.

    i think of the families and friends and this loss that will never be far from their conscious thought, popping up in breath-catching grief for the rest of their many lives – grief like that of the families and friends of a young woman and her new boyfriend, pistoled to death twenty years ago by her newly ex-boyfriend in a small, “peaceful” american town.

    guns are like open sewers, cigarettes, lead or mercury, foul drinking water, moldy peanuts and grains, nuclear wastes, unregulated industrial production, hydrocarbon emissions, etc.,

    too much or too many make people sick or kill them.

      • P J Evans says:

        Something like 850 comments, and most of them supporting him. There are, however, the NRA backers who wander in and try to claim we need more guns, or that the only sides are the NRA and the gun-banners.

  6. whitewidow says:

    I think the hashtag #yesallwomen is actually a preemptive response to #notallmen, because that comment is made with nauseating predictability whenever women discuss sexism and misogyny, especially violence against women. I think the outpouring reflects how personal this one feels to many women. My right to stay alive, even though I callously sport blonde hair and have vaginal autonomy, is not some pet cause.
    Thanks for the thoughtful post and the link.

    • bmaz says:

      Not positive, but fairly sure the #YesAllWomen came first here; it certainly clearly did in my feed.

      Interestingly, I am about the same age as TBogg and had about exactly the same experiences and relation to NRA as a kid as he did, except I was in Arizona and he in California.

  7. Peterr says:

    Just when you think you’ve heard it all, Fox News proves you wrong. From The Advocate:

    It didn’t take long: In the wake of the multiple killings at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a Fox News contributor is wondering if the perpetrator was motivated by “homosexual impulses.”

    And yes, there’s video.

  8. Lindsay Beyerstein says:

    I read the guy’s manifesto twice. I wish all English comp students could formulate a thesis and support it as clearly as he did.

    He told the world exactly why he went on this killing spree. He spelled it out in excruciating detail and sent his narrative of the killings to the media. In case that wasn’t enough, he made a series of YouTube videos to cement his narrative of his own crime in the public mind.

    Here’s why: He was distraught because he had never had a girlfriend. He was enraged because he believed he was entitled to sex and adulation from women. He believed that women would never be attracted to him because women are sub-human animals who are instinctively attracted to “brutish” “stupid” men, instead of magnificent gentlemen like himself. Women, in his view, should not be allowed to make their own decisions about whom to have sex with, because, as subhuman animals, they are incapable of choosing the good men. As a result, humanity continues to degenerate, because women only breed with stupid, unworthy men (including, to his infinite exasperation, men of color). He explained that he was fighting a personal “War on Women,” his words, to strike fear in the hearts of all women everywhere because the women of Alpha Psi represented everything he hated and feared about the female gender. Namely, attractive women having sex with whoever they wanted and ignoring him. He explained that he was angry at men because women chose these other men over him. He makes all these points at least three times over. He’s very clear about being angry at all women. He’s very clear about wanting to send a message to the larger society, as opposed to simply taking revenge against specific people he has a grudge against.

    A person’s own account of their behavior is never the final word. But when the person outlines their motives as lucidly and in as much detail as this guy, that is the starting point for any reasonable interpreter. Yes, we can talk about mental illness. Yes, we can talk about gun control. But none of these factors negates the fact that Rodger was a textbook misogynist terrorist, on the model of Marc Lepine and George Sodini.

    When a guy shoots an abortion provider, most of the people on this list readily accept that as terrorism. We all understand that the clinic shooter is ultimately trying to control women’s sexuality. We get that his behavior is more about bullying women and doctors than about trying to directly influence legislators. We still understand that this is terrorism. Why is it so difficult to understand that a different type of maladjusted guy is trying to bully women by attacking a sorority house? He explained himself quite clearly.

    People commit terrorism for causes ranging from animal rights to regional separatism to religion. When Boko Haram launches a raid on girls taking a physics test in Nigeria, we readily accept the most logical explanation for their behavior, given their stated ideology: this is a symbolic blow against women’s education.

    Why is it so difficult to accept that some people in the United States commit terrorism to further an explicitly misogynist agenda? I am not reading between the lines or inferring misogyny. I am simply relating this guy’s explanations for his own actions.

    • bmaz says:

      In response, a couple of thoughts. If you read the post clearly, I absolutely attribute Rodger’s motivation to misogyny. My point is that it is not likely as simple as misogyny alone. And I can pretty much guarantee that forensic psychologists will agree based on what is known so far. It is remotely possible a further fleshing out of background facts would change such a conclusion, but it is rather unlikely. Unfortunately, without a criminal trial process forum, that analysis may never be fleshed out further. In short though, I will stick by my point that there are deeper mental issues that contributed to the manifestation of misogynistic homicidal rage, that precipitated a spree homicide; a spree homicide clearly bearing other manifestations, including racism, in addition to just misogyny.


      Secondly, I disagree rather strongly that this incident is “terrorism” within any legal definition. To my eye, it does not all that easily fit within the general definitions of terrorism contained in 18 USC 2331, which is the national standard. It is obviously not international terrorism, and very arguably not domestic terrorism under the definition statute either. Further, I think there is grave danger in expanding the definition of “terrorism” and this is a prime example of why. You mention a Tiller like clinic shooting as an analogy, and I have the same reaction to that: it is a heinous and depraved crime, but it is nevertheless a crime that can be easily and properly dispensed of within the standard criminal law. The moment you classify common crime and common predicates as “terrorism” you hand the government wildly expanded powers and tools. Powers and tools that most of us (at least certainly here at this blog) spend a great deal of time decrying and lamenting the the casual expansion of. And if you start letting the government into citizens’ thought processes regarding general crime, in the guise of “terrorism” prevention and eradication, well you are going to open up the ultimate pandora’s box the Bill of Rights was designed to keep a lid on.

  9. bdfan says:

    Those stabbings sucked too. What was the death toll from the knife, machete and hammer, 3? 50% (Lunatic’s death doesn’t count, that goes in the win column). I hope the people in the hospital from the strikes with a 4,000 lb BMW, recover quickly. So glad Local, FBI or NSA eavesdropping picked up on this year long plan, scattered all over blogs and YouTube.

  10. sb says:

    isn’t it probable that both misogyny and mental illness contributed equal part?

    Yet, it’s probably also true that misogyny in itself is a kind of mental illness, but it doesn’t seem to be acknowledged as such. It should.

    And here, we seem to have somebody with access to the mental health care system, but it seems to have failed as well. What a terrible thing.

  11. sb says:

    Cogent, Bmaz.

    Yet another reason perhaps speaking to your point about terrorism, is simply the possible role of Big Pharma. When a person is incorrectly diagnosed, and subsequently medicated inappropriately, and even compounded with the fact that addiction medicine is not generally applied to addictions of the mind, – rage – then this can be a possible result. I’ve seen it happen, but not to this degree, where for example, a severe manic phase was accelerated into horrible judgement by SSRI’s. I’ve been awfully close to at least two people that had that happen and did a lot of damage. If they owned a gun, I’m sure there would have been fatalities. And I don’t know how it would have ever been characterized, fairly or not, as mysandryst terrorism. But that said, it’s clear the facts are not yet in, nor do I mean in anyway to diminish the fact of mysogynist violence. I’m in particular looking at the fact of over 60 indigenous women missing on one highway in Canada, whom will never, ever get the press that this tragedy has occasioned in only two days. Now that is institutionalized mysogyny.

  12. RUKidding says:

    Thanks for the post. I don’t own a tv; was out in the woods all weekend; so only heard about this by accident. In reading various posts, including the excellent ecidne post, I’m pretty baffled as to driving factors in this young man’s recent life. I’ve already seen one rightwing post, most likely sent out “undercover” by the NRA or similar, wishing to blame it all on Hollywood (as in: his Dad worked in evil “liberal” Hollywood, so what do you expect?), young people having too much exposure to sex, and the porn industry. Absolutely nothing said about Rodger’s mental illness issues, nothing said about his misogyny, nor one peep about him owning not one, but three semi-automatics.

    I’m no expert, but one thing stands out for me, thus far. I have worked with 2 people over the course of my career who I think may have narcissistic personality disorder (insofar as I know about that). These 2 people, thankfully, weren’t in a place like Rodger was, but they both appeared to me to believe that it was their bounden right to be praised & acknowledged for their clear superiority to everyone else 24/7/365. Even though one co-worker, in particular, was duly acknowledged and praised a lot (in this case, much more than any other co-workers), this person was angry & vengeful (not on Rodger’s scale, thankfully, but still sought revenge where feasible) all the time. Always felt slighted and not given the “due” that was so deserved. And absolutely enraged (use term deliberately) if anyone else got something that that person wanted. Of course, if this co-worker wanted something, then they HAD to get it or else.

    I’ll stop with that, but I always found it odd that this person consistently presented this portrait of themself as totally victimized by the rest of the staff, as horribly & terribly mis-treated, as not getting ANY praise or acknowledgement ever under any circumstances, and how unfair it all was… all while doing everything possible to sabotage, undermine, and otherwise diss all the other co-workers whenever possible.

    I was happy when that person quit and took another job. It seems like Rodger had an extreme form of narcissistic personality disorder that ended up with him having an extreme form of misogyny that said all women are inferior and should be caged and available for any male to “use” at any time.

    Just rambling but that’s how it looks to me on first review. I have no idea what kind of mental health care Mr. Rodger got, nor how effective the treatment was (clearly not that great). Anecdotally I have heard from friends who are therapists/counselors that treating someone who is narcissist is really really really difficult due to their extreme form of entitlement, not grounded in any sort of reality.

    I think the bigger picture here is that guns are far too readily available. It’s unlikely that Mr. Rodger’s *apparent* form of mental illness would have necessarily shown up on any background checks (if those exist in CA; unsure). The issue, for me, is: why are citizens permitted to purchase that many human-killing machines, plus the ammo that goes with it? Granted, of course, that Rodger also killed his three male roommates with a knife, but still.

    Yeah, I know: the dog forbid we discuss gun control ever under any circumstances bc if you talk about any control of any kind it just means you want to ban all guns blah blah blah… clearly the NRA and the brainwashed don’t care how many humans are killed. All the NRA and the guns and ammo industry cares about is parting the benjamins from the rubes. Less eaters? Too bad, so sad, get used to it.

    Thanks for a thoughtful post on the topic. I don’t do twitter, so I have little to say about that aspect of it.

  13. scott says:

    There are a lot of other issues that could be discussed as a result of this incident, but by his own admission it’s about a guy who killed people because he couldn’t get laid and blamed women for it. Misogyny as a topic for discussion seems pretty central to the incident. I’m all for understanding context and incorporating complexity, but that shouldn’t mean losing focus on the issue that pretty much reaches out and grabs you by the lapels.

Comments are closed.