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A Shameless Rush for Meaning

The Media and the Santa Barbara Shooter

by RUTH FOWLER

Here’s how it goes: a shooting. Multiple deaths. Words like ‘loner’ pop up and bob around on the surface. The phrase: ‘Didn’t fit in’. ‘Outsider’. Deaths confirmed. Terrorism? Not mentioned. OK then. White male, gotta be.

We ask ourselves the question ‘Why?’ even though, in this day and age, if we don’t know why, we soon will. The serial killer rarely performs these days without an arrogant digital imprint somewhere. We find it. Devour it. Tweet it. Retweet it. Come up with grandiose statements which sound like they’ve come straight from a really bad daytime TV show. Journalists and twitter commentators swarm into overdrive. “How could this man fly under the radar?” they bleet darkly. Of course, we know why. Because he’s male, intelligent, from a nice family, educated, affluent, relatively innocuous, even – under different circumstances – attractive looking, and, to all appearances, white.

“What does it reveal about our society?” now this is the big one. It could reveal a need for gun laws. It could reveal the dangers of video games. It could reveal the futility of America’s police. It could reveal rampant white supremacy. Entitlement. Elliot, conveniently, ticks pretty much all the boxes and reveals an obnoxious personality which manages to span pretty much all unpleasant ideologies over a 141 page manifesto. Reams of endless hate and self pity are dredged up from the young killer’s blog, vlog, manifesto and transcriptions of everything in between. The liberal media quickly decide that ‘the angle du jour’ will be – misogyny.

Jessica Valenti in The Guardian makes the fatuous point that Elliot Rodger’s California shooting spree is “Further proof that misogyny kills”, as if the feminist movement and history has been lacking ample evidence up until this moment. She bolsters her argument by quoting her friends’ tweets, as if they too are the “further proof” that White Feminists have needed that they’re a peculiarly oppressed and tormented species. Delving onto twitter, other feminists resort to bad drama: When you are an affluent man who benefits from white supremacy, knowing how to talk to the police gets you a free pass… TO MURDER. @thetinavelazquez writes. In fact, everyone from Salon to The Guardian to The Atlantic to The New Statesman to The Huffington Post to Twitter, all basically say the same thing: Elliot Rodgers killed because he hated women, although they all seem to be conveniently missing each other’s articles and acting as if they’re the only ones drawing such a ‘radical’ conclusion.

Let’s cut the crap. Killers are not usually attracted to nonviolent philosophies, peaceful ideologies and challenging systemic oppression. Quit fucking acting like it’s a surprise Elliot Rodger was a misogynistic, racist, sex starved, white male privileged fuck either formed by, or attracted to, the kinds of ideologies expressed in his disgusting
fowlermanifesto.

It’s of absolutely zero surprise to me that Elliot Rodger’s blog, vlog, manifesto and everything in between reveal a singularly unpleasant screwed up hateful little fuck that embodied everything that could possibly be wrong with society today. The dude murdered a bunch of people. What were we expecting? That he adopted stray cats and rehoused them? That he had Hello Kitty bedsheets and sponsored a Nepali girl through Christian Aid? Cried at ‘The Bachelor’? Fuck’s sake, people. Intersectionality – there, I said it! But don’t dismiss it for a headline, folks. Elliot Rodger hated women because he had never had sex. He despised people of color. He played World of Warcraft and had no friends. Society rejected him – or he rejected society. He jerked off a lot. He was a virgin. His parents had paid for him to have social skills counsellors. He had a shrink who had expressed concern about his behavior more than once. He had a stepmom – Soumaya – who has a reputation for being a kind, loving, gentle woman with a ferocious talent for acting, a woman who loved her only biological son and was deeply concerned about her weird stepson. He planned to kill both his stepmom and her son on his rampage. His family called the cops on him (who does that?! I read online somewhere. People who think their kid is a killer and have no other fucking option, moron, I thought in response). But let’s not forget – the insane can make any ideology fit their madness.

The urgency to krank out an important Op Ed – an essential opinion, a lesson to take home, something to digest about our society – is nonetheless pervasive. Killers only get about a week of airtime (Poor Kim. Worst time to get married.) Something pompous and important must be declared! We’ll pretend it’s the first time we’ve written it. We’ll pretend we care, but really, next week, we will have forgotten. Remember the names of any of the Sandy Hook victims? Columbine? Of course you don’t. They’re news. Political points. They’re opinion pieces, soundbites, tweets. Sandy Hook wasn’t misogyny, it was all about gun laws. Columbine too. Elliot – he changed the dialogue a little. Got the woman angle in there. Throwback to Damini. Remember her? Of course you don’t. You’re part of the problem. How could this happen? How could we let this happen? How could we ignore this man’s marked misogyny, racism, tendency towards violence…. already composing the next Op-Ed, one eye turned to the incoming wire declaring the next grand tragedy.

Of course we fail to see the obvious. Too busy counting how many retweeted us, how many likes we got.

Ruth Fowler is a journalist and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. She’s the author of Girl Undressed. She can be followed on Twitter at @fowlerruth.