Illness, not misogyny, made Elliot Rodger kill

TRAGIC: Isla Vista massacre victims Christopher Michaels-Martinez, Veronika Weiss, Katie Cooper, Cheng-Yuan Hong, George Chen and Weihan Wang.
TRAGIC: Isla Vista massacre victims Christopher Michaels-Martinez, Veronika Weiss, Katie Cooper, Cheng-Yuan Hong, George Chen and Weihan Wang.

What to make of a disturbed young man who rants about killing women in revenge for them not having sex with him, who then murders two, as well as four men?

There's not much to like about Elliot Rodger - entitled, self-pitying, vain, insecure, histrionic, materialistic, racist, boastful and ungrateful - yet it's difficult for any of us to judge how many of these attributes arose from mental health issues or were simply the result of a nasty little mind. Our knowledge of him is incomplete.

What seems indisputable is he was an incredibly lonely young man, a virgin who'd never kissed a woman and didn't have a single male friend in the world. Reading his"manifesto" and watching his videos, it seems pretty clear Rodger hated everybody - women because they'd rejected him and men because they'd led the sexually active lives he'd not.

He disliked blacks, Indians and Asians - despite being Eurasian himself - and at least a few of his hang ups stemmed from this. He attached disproportionate importance to being "half-white", reasoning Asians were of less value in the world in which he lived.

Rodger may have been mentally disturbed but his instincts, at least on this subject, seem borne out by the lop-sided coverage given to his two white, female and one Hispanic male victims as opposed to the Asian males. They were Weihan Wang, 20, George Chen, 19 and Cheng Yuan Hong, 20, by the way.

Much has been made of Rodger's misogyny, yet he stabbed these three Asian men to death and mutilated their bodies. Think about the sort of mind needed to do something like that, then move calmly on to your next victims? Ask yourself if they're the actions of a sane man?

A family friend described Rodger as "incredibly shy", that he spoke haltingly and rarely looked people in the eye.

"He was fundamentally withdrawn," said the friend.

Some readers may think it obscene to waste one more word on Rodger, to give him any more of the notoriety he clearly craved, yet it's difficult to discuss cases like this without looking at the specifics of the perpetrators and the perpetrators of mass killings are overwhelmingly isolated, lonely males, with mental health issues.

I've dealt with a lot of men like Elliot Rodger over the years, men who shared many of his resentments, though never to my knowledge, his proclivity for violence.

People who are capable of, or are in loving relationships, who have friends, often find it inconceivable there are individuals who exist without either. I've been deeply moved by how common and corrosive it is.

Links have been made between Rodger and the Pick Up Artist community - which is kind of bizarre considering he frequented websites devoted to criticising PUA culture and considered it parasitic and manipulative of lonely men like him.

Like any culture, the PUA community has a spectrum of adherents. Some are misogynist sickos. Many are just average guys looking to learn social skills.

I've given talks to rooms full of men, from teenagers to grand-dads, who just wanted to know how to be more successful with women. Sure part of that desire was sexual but mostly they were men hoping to meet someone special who they could love and in turn be loved by.

I've dealt with men with disabilities, disfigurements, weight problems and also obvious mental health issues. Many of them were men of non-white racial backgrounds whose second or third language was English.

Many were incredibly shy, who spoke haltingly and rarely looked you in the eye. It was distressing how many times they told me they had few or no friends outside of family.

I've had very long conversations - painful, soul-baring conversations - with men about their virginity, their loneliness, their despair and I've walked away from some convinced "that guy is going to die alone".

None of these men - that I know of - have gone on to become killers but if loneliness, isolation and resentment are the pond from which creatures like Elliot Rodger emerge, mass killers would be everywhere, because it's a deep pond.

It's worth noting that many of these men spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, as well as years of their lives just to be able to do what you and I take for granted - talk to a member of the opposite sex.

Tragedies like the Isla Vista shootings make me wonder which is sadder: the number of men out there who feel just like Elliot Rodger did or the people who think this - and not mental illness - is what makes them kill.

Sydney Morning Herald