Our idea of Elliot Rodger is a description of who we are

Monday, June 2, 2014

Good morning:

Just as light passing through a prism separates into beams distinguishable from each other by color, our reaction to Elliot Rodger and his day of rage, which ended with his suicide after killing six and injuring 13 students, is a reflection of our knowledge and sensitivity to debilitating mental illness. The national reaction, this blog’s reaction as a community within that larger group, and our individual reaction identifies who we are and where we stand. As such, it is worthy of independent study to increase our understanding of ourselves.

Individual perception is a selective interpretation of information we acquire through our senses. We use our brains to assemble that information into something we recognize and understand. The resulting idea is what we call reality.

Individual perception of reality may vary from person to person due to differences in sensory detection and past interpretations of reality. This is why we often see what we expect or want to see.

Scientists use the term experimental bias to describe this process and they design experiments to exclude it. For example, in a blind study to determine the effect of a drug, participants will be separated into two groups. One receives the drug while the other receives a placebo. Participants in both groups do not know if they are receiving the drug or the placebo. To further exclude bias, the people who administer the drug do not know if they are administering the drug or a placebo.

The New York Times has an article today that informs us about the opinions that various adults in his life had about him and the effort to get through to him.

I have changed my initial opinion of Elliot Rodger from he was a rich and incredibly spoiled brat to he was a rich and desperately sick human being afflicted by a compromised sensory detection system and a compromised memory storage system that further skewed his interpretation of reality.

I now have compassion for Elliot Rodger which I did not have when I wrote my first post.

I believe empathy and compassion are our signature characteristics. I do not believe we would have survived the last ice age without them.

How we react to Elliot Rodger and his day of retribution defines who and where we are.

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25 Responses to Our idea of Elliot Rodger is a description of who we are

  1. lurker says:

    Malisha–I think that the difference between us here is that you are regarding that manifesto as having significant content, as explaining somehow some logic pattern that explains a rational set of choices. I disagree. I see it as a nonsensical rant from a person deeply mired in something (probably including fear and pain–neither of which are rational) that he was unable to break free of.

    Likewise, his killing spree was something of an attempt to flush from himself a myriad of pressures/feelings/thoughts over which he had no control. One of the symptoms that appears in the DSM is that of “racing thoughts.” The content is aspecific–what is critical is the lack of control over the leaps and bounds of one’s own brain.

    There ARE rational people who go around ranting against how they are victims of women, minorities, liberals, some system, whatever. Some of those people had contact with Rodgers online, and even THEY found him to be over the edge.

    I recall an early experience with my daughter in a doctor’s office. I forget what it was, probably a shot. But, she was apparently terrified and completely powerless over what was about to happen to her. The words that came out of her mouth!. These were things that I didn’t suspect my little darling even knew. I had never heard them from her before (or since). But, the were born in sheer terror–and completely non-rational. That is how I regard that 141 pages of garbage–just the scream of someone terrified of his own existence and helpless to do anything about it.

    • Malisha says:

      I agree about the manibarfo except for one thing: He carefully planned out and efficiently carried out his threats. The manibarfo cannot be ignored; it cannot be sloughed off; it is a living thing and I see it as something that should be dismembered and its pieces dismembered. Also it is a very revealing view of some unfortunately not-uncommon antisocial ideas that are pretty close to trends.

      • crazy1946 says:

        Malisha, If this insane individual thru his writing was trying to get into peoples heads, it would seem as if he has accomplished his goal! I don’t hate this person, perhaps because I actually never knew him, do I hate the acts that he committed? Yes I do, but I will not allow my hate of those acts to over ride my thoughts about his “manifesto/Screen play”. He mentioned in his writing that his emotionally absent mother suggested he become a writer, well it appears that he did, I wonder how any one of us would react if our child had done what he has done? In his words I see a child that was emotionally neglected (but given gifts to make up for that) by both of his parents. A child that was never actually given a need for responsibility, nor did he develop a need for it on his own. In his eyes, it would seem that he blamed others for his failings in life, many people do that as well, but they don’t hunt down and kill their mentors. I simply do not know why this person turned out this way, nor does anyone else IMO, we can guess, we can hate, but in the end nothing will change, he will be dead and his victims will be as well. Life for the rest of us will go on, for better or worse. It would seem that in today’s society we live our lives going from one tragedy to the next, all the while wondering when the horror will end? For us as individuals we will at some point cease to exist, but will we be as remembered for our good deeds with as much emotion as people like this man did with his misdeeds?

        • Malisha says:

          Good post.

          The manibarfo, though, is (not just to me, but it seems to other feminists as well now) a watershed event for feminism. This document has plenty of information in it other than information about this punk failure’s ravings about his own boo hoo’s and his own “so well deserved rights.” It has information in it about how every woman in this country (at least) lives her life, regardless of whether she PLANS to live her life allowing for the shit piled up by shitpilers like Rodger.

          Yes, his acts resulted in the death of twice as many men as women. That, however, is not what the whole incident (and it is not a “tragedy” — a “tragedy” is constructed of heroism together with hubris followed by a fall) means to us as a culture. It has to mean that there is great force in the sick, rotten ideas in the manibarfo; there must be a resounding force and a real attempt to achieve enough concerted power to counteract that great and evil force. First step toward that kind of “concerted power” is taken by addressing it squarely with a NO. And a big one.

          Ignoring the manibarfo as the ravings of a madman is not enough. As I intimated, “Mein Kampf” was also comprised totally of the ravings of a madman. And although Rodger is dead and can’t kill millions of people, what he said really does live, it really is a monster that keeps coming back out of its grave over and over again, it really is a horror movie, and it really is here and it is now. And those six deaths — they have their concentric circles of harm. Each of them is reverberating right now in more and more concentric circles of harm, still being generated from the waves of hatred in the jots of an evil pen.

  2. Malisha says:

    If our idea of Rodger is a description of who we are, then this is about us, and not about him.

    If this is about us, it is about me.

    I feel it is important for me to respond appropriately to his 141-page manibarfo. Women cannot keep responding to things like this by carefully policing their own voices to make sure they don’t get “STRIDENT.”

    This 141-page pile of bullshit calls for real screams. NO! comes to mind.

    No you don’t get to design how people see you.
    (Were those women able to design how YOU saw THEM?)

    No you don’t get to be the judge of what you are and what you do.
    (Why do you think you’re the judge of what others are and what others do?)

    No you don’t get the last 100,000 words.

    Here’s the last word: You suck, you stink, you’re nothing. No boo hoo’s for you. NOTHING for you.

  3. crazy1946 says:

    Professor, O/T but this case seems to have fallen under the radar and now suddenly new evidence surfaces… Perhaps it is time the truth will come out about the racist fool in Az…. No, perhaps I should say, now maybe the white supporters of this racist fool will finally admit that he is what he is… but then again, unless FAUX News reports on it, they will not..


  4. colin black says:

    i dont know if you noticed but I never made any comments on thease tragic events
    i did read this troubled persons manifersto and it didnt make my eyes bleed nor was i unable to finnish due to its utter self centred mundane nonsese wich he elevated himself .

    A liveing God despite the contradiction off haveing the world at his finger tips.
    An yet being unable to understand the concept of a thumb and grasping it.

    It was his utter emptyness his banality and his obvious isolated vacum of non existance .

    Mental illness is a fact of the human condition.

    In fact its been speculated that the great unexplicable leap in Human intellegece wich ocoured A couple of hundred thousand years ago .May have been brought fourth by Schtitphrenic condition that made some eary humans act differnt think outside the box.

    Like fuck Im sick of makeing my speartips like this like my fathers an fathers father ect.

    I think I will make them different ,An this burnt stick can make marks on a rock surface,

    Art was born or Im hungry an theres a bit of food in my teeth rip a peice of finger nail of an use it as a tooth pick,

    Dental hygine was born

    Many forms of mental ilneess especial schtzphrenia or like the rainman lead to heightend intellegence.

    So it makes sence when it happened in the past our ancestors observeing the strange behaviour of thease Family or Tribe members .
    Would have mimicked them if they liked what they saw..

    An lets face it the Human race in genral espcialy military genrals often show blatant streaks of insanity.

    We are shitting on our own doorstep by poisoning the planet and if thats not isane then im a Duthchman.

    And to get back on point the Profs post says it all our atatudes towards others tells us every thing about ours selfs.

    We are not what we think we are,

    We are what we think.

    Your face may say Im smileing as do your eyes and words flow in platatudes from your mouth.

    As you engage another in converstion.

    But its the silent thoughts you have in your head the things you think but will not say or can not say for what ever reason.

    That Is whom you are .

    And If you are blessed enough to meet an know even one person where your silent thoughts and your spoken words an facial gestures are in harmony.

    Then you are blessed.

  5. lurker says:

    Malisha–responding to both of your posts. I recall waaaaaay back in the dark ages when I took Psych 101 in college, reading about a couple of studies, at least one of which I am fairly certain could not even be conducted today, due to ethical considerations. One study gave subjects a drug of some sort that would simulate the physical experience of anger (increased heart rate, raised temp, etc). They were then placed in some sort of social situation with another person. The subjects then, experiencing physical feelings associated with anger, reported that the actions of the other person had in some way angered them.

    The second study had to do with simulating deafness or hardness of hearing. I forget how it was done–possibly by observing a conversation through a glass. However, the interpretation of a subject who could witness two people laughing and talking, but not understand their words, was that they were laughing at the subject.

    This is all just to illustrate how weirdly egocentric we all are, and the degree to which our perceptions can be drastically altered by fairly minimal physical stimuli, or lack thereof.

    Now, imagine someone going through life with something cockamamie like periodic rushes of something that feels just like anger–from some miswired brain firing or something else we don’t quite understand yet. We could easily expect that person to go through life understanding that they were constantly being victimized by persons around them who had done nothing whatsoever except to be handy when some brain message went awry.

    What we really know about the brain and emotions–and their various means of going wrong–is really very limited. Let’s consider the reality that because this kid had parents of means, he very likely had access to the best in American mental health care and treatment, at any rate far better than a good many. But, most mental health conditions are diagnosed behaviorally–lacking definitive biochemical markers–and in a social context in which aspergers, perhaps, is more acceptable than say, schizophrenia. And adolescents by their very nature are behaviorally erratic. Further, some mental health conditions do not truly emerge until the early 20s–at precisely the time that such people have moved out into the world independently.

    Six dead people is awful. No way around it.

    But that doesn’t mean that the killer’s life ought not also be examined and understood with empathy.

    • Malisha says:

      I have no objection to anybody examining and understanding Rodger’s life with empathy. I did not call out gblock or anybody else for any of their posts understanding Rodger, explaining Rodger, even coming close to making excuses for him (for instance by attributing his conduct to perceptual disabilities). I’m not trying to guide other people’s reactions and responses to this. I was expressing my own. And I GOT CALLED OUT for it and I feel VERY strongly that I am holding a banner I need to hold: NO MISOGYNIST EXCUSES FOR CARRYING OUT AN EXTERMINATION PROGRAM AGAINST WOMEN FOR NOT WORSHIPPING YOU. NONE.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      The central issue for me is background checks for firearms. I don’t think many people support the Elliot manifesto or misogyny of that extreme, especially coming from a sick person. To me it’s just a given that this type of behavior is crazy. Not so much something to get angry about except at the system that doesn’t provide enough mental health care and allows whackos to have firearms.

  6. Malisha says:

    We have a PERSON Elliot Rodger (now deceased) and we have a PERSONA (still in existence) Elliot Rodger. I never knew the person. Because of my horror at the image presented by the PERSONA, I don’t care that I didn’t know the person.

    I have been accused of something — I’m not sure exactly what. Here’s the initial language of the charge:

    Furthermore, by doing so [expressing myself allegedly wrongly and having the wrong tone, thus being disappointing to people who were expressing themselves RIGHTLY and having the RIGHT tone], you implicitly made excuses for not give thought to the very real issues raised by this incident.

    Well I don’t think I made excuses for not giving thought to the very real issues raised by what is commonly being called “this incident.”

    What are those issues?

    I can think of a few.

    1. Misogyny is common and extremely dangerous.

    2. Fire-arms are being handed out to people who should never have them and who could never pass a simple forensic psychiatric test to qualify for gun ownership.

    3. The sense of entitlement that seems to be prevalent among some of our young adults (“enhanced” by their misogyny) has reached a noticeable “critical mass” wherein a young person who feels he is good may conclude that he should be rich and have a great sex life. This may have implications about our education system, but may not.

    4. Our mental health systems and our public safety systems are unable to deal with the propensity of some of our citizens to commit “shooting sprees.” That is, some mentally disturbed homeless individuals who appear shaggy get beaten or shot to death while other mentally disturbed well dressed individuals with apartments and room-mates shoot and stab others to death.

    And, well, that may be about it, but

    The Media has tossed in several more (if not in articles, then in comments):

    “Why don’t you bitches behave better so a guy like that doesn’t go off and kill folks?”

    “Why do people ‘feminize’ Asian men?”

    “Why don’t you ban knives, since three innocent people were stabbed to death?” [I still cannot figure out how he was able to stab three people to death without being incapacitated!]

    “Women are violent too you know!”

    “Parents are often to blame. If not parents, then bullies. If not bullies, then his past psychotherapists.”

    “Oh well, Asperger’s, that explains everything.”


    But really: not any of these “issues” whether it is investigated or not, whether it is changed or not, whether you’re on one or the other “side” of it, should excluded MY ISSUE which is this: I get to respond to this with rage and indignation, and SEE the persona of this dead person (from his own writings, which HE clearly wanted me and everyone else to read) in exactly my way. Precisely my way. Whatever it says about me, so be it.

    No, I don’t have any sympathy for Fogen, and none for Smelliot.

    • elle says:

      Malisha, you are an advocate. With every breath you take, you are a victim’s advocate. I respect and admire this so much. Someone needs to make sure we remember the victims, This is who you are, and it is a good person to be.

  7. Malisha says:

    I really consider myself a compassionate person but do not feel the need to prove it. Since I do not believe that St. Peter (or anyone else) will be tallying up my “goods” and “bads” after I die, I’m using only my own intellect and emotional life to guide me in what I say and, of course, in what I think and feel. The reason I have NOT changed my position as Professor has is that I just can’t get over the six dead innocents. AND their parents, their siblings, their lovers, friends, employers, pets, etc., all the bereaved. I would have had all the compassion in the world for this guy had he not made a very cold, calculating decision to impose his own sorrow on others who (he said, in his sole discretion) “deserved” it.

    When you think about the kinds of things that people have to endure, and you factor in the movies, TV, entertainment, cultural influences, etc., and the way they affect people, you realize pretty soon that SOME people are going to feel deprived and angry much of the time and everybody having a roof over their heads, a bowl of rice every day and a winter coat will not be considered “good enough to live for” for many of them. But there MUST be some way for our society to insist on some boundaries. You aren’t allowed to go out and kill a nameless unarmed Black kid on a rainy February evening because you’re mad that you have no job, no prospects, no money, and get no respect. You aren’t allowed to go kill “a bunch of blonde sluts” because you want to be rich and get laid. And we others, we who have not done these things, DO have a right to whatever degree of righteous anger, indignation, disdain, rage, and LACK OF COMPASSION we feel when that line is crossed. We have a right to express this much hatred for the dead kid who expressed all HIS hatred for the innocent people he actually killed.

    If that marks me as not having enough compassion, OK. I don’t want to live in a society that has more compassion than that.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      In a nutshell, I think a perpetrator like this young man suffers greatly too, and all perpetrators of violent acts eventually deserve compassion for that reason. Even that damn Fogen, who upsets me more than anyone, even still.

      And I think karma eventually balances all things out and it’s because of this that we can let the burden of our anger and outrage go.

      • Malisha says:

        I think I’ll keep carrying this burden of anger and outrage.

        But thanks for thinking of me.

        • Two sides to a story says:

          I don’t mean to be preaching at anyone – just thinking out loud in writing.

          It’s good when we use our anger and outrage to make positive changes in the world. I have to remind myself all the time to apply my emotions in a positive way. I suspect you use your anger for positive change from all you’ve written here.

    • I gained lots of experience in my death penalty cases learning how to manage my emotions. During the 90s, I pretty much limited my practice to dp cases. Sooner or later in each case, I had to step away for awhile to avoid being overwhelmed by my reactions to the horror. Viewing crime-scene and autopsy photos, particularly if a victim was a child, was extremely upsetting. Hating your client is not a good place to be when your job is to save his life.

      I would have withdrawn from representing my client, if I failed to regain my ability to objectively analyze the case. Fortunately I was able to do that in each case because I always had a reliable second lawyer to cover for me.

      I got my shit together by cultivating the art of detachment from the horror while finding something about my client that I liked. I had to get to a place where my client’s life mattered to me.

      These experiences taught me that nothing good can come from hate.

      I did not always believe this. I used to believe hate was empowering. I hated lots of people for lots of reasons, some real and some imagined. I believe I am a better person today for jettisoning that idea.

      • Malisha says:

        The killing that Rodger planned, enjoyed, and did was not, ipso facto, what motivated most of my responses to his memory (because obviously I don’t hate HIM; I hate his MEMORY and as I described it, his PERSONA). And the reason is this: the 141 pompous POS manibarfo he left behind. HE chose to write that for the specific purpose of it living on after him. Most spree shooters and mass murderers do not do this. HE wanted that document to be his “immortality project” and to take on a life of its own after his death and to continue to do harm long after he no longer COULD do harm and he simultaneously decided that he would not give his society the opportunity to punish him.

        Here’s my take on this: HA HA you sniveling piece of nothing; this is only to be mocked. It doesn’t enhance your image at all. Every line of it is to be subjected to ridicule and nothing more. Your own little personal “Mein Kampf,” huh? um…FAIL. ❗

        Just take the analog. Here he is, “I wanted sex and I didn’t get it so I killed people and destroyed lives, see? [stupid giggle]”

        How about the opposite. Some girl did NOT want sex but she ended up either pressured or forced into it so SHE wrote a 141-page anti-male self-promoting manifesto and then went out to kill everyone in a fraternity house (not, incidentally, the fraternity house of anyone who pressured or forced her into sex for which she was unwilling). Do we “understand” her?

        I think I’ll stop hating after a few hundred of the analogous “killing randomly because sex was forced on an unwilling girl” scenarios takes place.

        I’m not planning to become a better person between now and my timely demise.

  8. ed nelson says:

    How do you know he’s really dead, if there aren’t any photo’s to show the body, it might be another scam. They used to have open casket funerals to show the guy is dead. these crazy pointless killing sprees might be kind of like mini false flag events to drive political adgendas, fake events, and they get nuttier and nuttier!

    That guy didn’t look suicidal in the video, he looked like a smart ass who was being coached along, looking to get a pay day.

    • lurker says:

      What, exactly, does suicidal look like?

      What I see as getting nuttier and nuttier are the conspiracy theorists willing to claim anything and everything as a “false flag” action when it doesn’t fit into the world view chosen by them.

      A closed casket is a family decision and may reflect many things, including the difficulty of reconstructing a face and body to a semblance of the person as their family may like to remember them. Not all religions hold with such practices. My family had closed caskets for both my parents’ funerals, in part to my mother’s discomfort with the practice of being “viewed,” and in part due to family shock, and possibly denial, regarding their particular timing and means of death. There is no “right” way to grieve, it is very personal. Some feel a need to see their loved one again (I have friends who were exceedingly angry at the husband of a dead friend who chose immediate cremation and scattering of ashes–they felt excluded from having their personal grieving needs met), others prefer memories already in storage.

      If anything, the above response illustrates what the professor was saying–our responses to this situation define each of us as individuals.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      Mentally ill people can display a wide range of emotions and are just as capable of hiding their true feelings as anyone else when approached by others. He may not have felt suicidal on a particular day, having been in some up and down cycle, or perhaps hid his true feelings, as most of us would when confronted by authorities.

      I’m also wondering about people who want these tragic and all-too-frequent mass shootings to be a government false flag event. I think there’s some massive denial on the part of 2nd amendment supporters that we do need state and federal gun control to keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally unstable as well as people who have already committed violent crimes. It’s far too easy to acquire firearms.

      We all have a right to be safe from the misuse of firearms and I feel this trumps 2nd amendment rights. All those 2nd amendment weapons belong locked up at home or in personal vehicles.

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