We deviate from our accustomed weekend posting schedule to cover the 2014 Isla Vista killings, coming as it did about three years after the Oslo Massacre. The main motivation was that the now-deceased perpetuator had left behind a 137-page manifesto - as Breivik and Cho Seung Hui, among others, did. This being an opportunity to digest it for my faithful readers, I skimmed through it for twenty minutes.
First things first, as I previously noted for Breivik, Rodger's My Twisted World was fairly good writing, if you ignore the content, and quite readable as far as autobiographies go. Again, this is not an endorsement of his deeds, but simply an observation that for much of the text, the writer comes across as completely sane (if kinda emo), which goes to show that there is only so much that counselling can do, for all the attention it got in the Lanza case. In fact, Rodger reveals that his talent for writing was recognized by his mother, but we're getting ahead of ourselves here.
Those who follow the news would have realized that the entire story can be summarized in a sentence - guy is angry at not getting laid, snaps, and kills a bunch of people. Actually, if you put it this way, crimes with similar motivations are not that rare, with thousands of ex-lovers getting offed by their former partners each year in the USA, with the distinction that Rodger didn't even get to first base.
As mentioned, it's a smooth enough read if you want the details, but here's the overview: he was born in London to a British father and Malaysian mother (with a grandma he refers to as Ah Mah), and had what was by almost all standards a privileged lifestyle, spending his childhood in a large country estate, attending exclusive private schools, and travelling through Europe before he was five.
This mostly-idyllic existence began to fall apart after his family moved to America, though it started off well enough with a swimming pool in his new California home. It went fairly well till he was seven, other than an episode in which he bemoaned his short stature, a recurring theme. Sidenote: I recall coming across some psychological research suggesting that it is height during the formative childhood years more than adulthood that influences self-confidence, but I'm unsure whether this still holds.
Anyhow, his parents separated soon after his seventh birthday, and his dad had to move to a smaller house due to some financial issues - but it is worth noting that at no point in Rodger's life does he ever experience poverty, or arguably anything less than an upper middle-class life; case in point, he had two nannies, and attended the premiere of the Star Wars prequel due to his mum's friendship with George Lucas.
His dad found a new girlfriend within months, whose discipline he never took to, but by all accounts Rodger was fairly happy. He split his time between his parents, and engaged in the standard hobbies of eight year-old kids - Pokemon, Nintendo, etc. However, he began to resent his (lack of) height and strength in earnest, which basketball didn't mitigate. He also acknowledges his (rather excessive) jealousy, extending to attention given to his baby sister, but I suppose this is not that uncommon with kids.
It began to go downhill from here, as he began to realise that he wasn't one of the "cool kids", which can be a big thing for nine year-olds. In a bid to gain popularity, and being painfully aware that he was "different" due to being half-Asian, he had his hair bleached blonde (hair colour being another of his later obsessions), which did work for a while.
Note: Rodger fit a number of the stereotypes presented
Sidetracking just a bit here, Rodger frequently mentions his best friend James Ellis throughout, and Ellis' ultimate severing of their friendship (after Rodger began to get... unhinged) might have been one of the factors that pushed him over the edge. This led me to realise that I have never truly had a best-best friend in my life, which I can only attribute to both a desire to be "fair" to all my friends (supposedly a typical Aquarius trait, for those who put stock in the zodiac), and because, well, the need never struck me. The one and only time I set this principle aside, during junior college, ended poorly (if not for want of trying), so...
Back to Rodger. His life began to become a constant struggle to be cool. Despite all his grumblings, however, he never appeared to be outright ostracized or bullied - just average, which wasn't enough. He began to get envious of a rival for attracting pretty girls, and fell back on the nice-guy lament: "...the polite, kind gentleman doesn't win... The girls don't flock to the gentlemen. They flock to the alpha male." Despite this, he mentions getting hugged by some of the girls, which leads one to imagine that he was likely exaggerating matters.
So, life was fairly good. Then he hit puberty and got his first peek at nudies, which had an... uplifting effect. Summer camp had a pretty girl curse at him after he accidentally bumped into her, though, which spoilt the entire experience for him, the more so when he witnessed that girl being nice to another boy, which would become one of his major repeat complaints.
As a twelve year-old boy in 2004, he soon discovered the Internet, CounterStrike, and World of Warcraft (which Breivik and Lanza were famously also dedicated to - but given the sheer number of players, any correlations drawn may be a bit spurious). Rodger made a couple of new friends (while detesting being known as "the shy kid"), spent much of his leisure time at the local LAN shop or skateboarding, visited the Malaysian side of the family on vacation (while praising Changi Airport)... wait, wasn't it supposed to be going downhill?
Well, his mum decided to move to an apartment (which, to Rodger, was irredeemably déclassé), and he lost contact with most of his closer friends due to his embarassment at his reduced circumstances. For the next four years, he would devote himself to World of Warcraft. At school, he claimed to be teased by a clique of popular girls, but to be fair to them, he was probably being vindictive at being rejected here.
During this time, he got a baby stepbrother, and pleaded to enrol in an all-boys high school to avoid girls. He made Level 60 in World of Warcraft, and was aghast at being packed off to Morocco to visit his stepmother's family for the summer, where he did at least discover real pr0n, and then wanking. Sadly, he began getting bullied for real by the older boys, but the last straw came when a classmate let him listen to a tape of him making out with a girl.
Remember the envious-at-other-boys-for-having-a-girl thing a few paragraphs ago? It's really coming into full flow now - Leo, a 12 year-old family friend, Max, an older French exchange student, random couples at the mall... all of them were getting some, and perfect gentleman Rodger wasn't getting any (but was doing fine in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion)! What injustice! Surely, the solution would be to abolish sex altogether (yes, that's what he wrote)
He did at least have his best friend to fall back on, and began discovering all of the usual fixes that guys in his circumstance stumble upon - a wardrobe upgrade, working out at the gym (and inevitably, the infamous Misc section of bb.com, where his threads have been removed for legal reasons), but apparently not a personality transplant. Guess what, no luck. More simmering followed.
Somewhere along the way, Rodger got the idea that his only hope of getting laid was to be rich - which, to be fair, has rather solid empirical basis. As the line in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes goes - "Don't you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn't marry a girl just because she's pretty, but my goodness, doesn't it help?" Sure, few would admit that wealth was a primary consideration (or even a consideration at all), but aggregate stats don't lie.
However, there's a teeny problem here - by most standards, Rodger was fairly well-to-do, if not super-rich (the guy wound up debating the use of his dad's Mercedes SUV against his BMW coupé, in executing his killing spree). Enthralled by the Song of Ice and Fire series, he tried his hand at writing for a while, only to give it up upon realizing that it would take years, if ever, to get rich this way. Believing that being a multi-millionaire was his destiny, after reading a self-help book, Rodger's solution was... to spend thousands on lottery tickets. Unfortunately, the visualization techniques availed him not, further proof that the world was, indeed, against Elliot Rodger.
He had by now enrolled in the UCSB, mainly due to its reputation as a place to get laid, but wound up simply getting enraged at all the couples everywhere - and the discovery that even guys he thought were obviously inferior had, or once had, girlfriends. His Armani shirt and Gucci sunglasses didn't have the desired effect, he found that his crush had a boyfriend (they generally do), his younger sister was getting laid at eighteen, his younger brother would have absolutely no issues with getting laid given his sociability, even the black friend of his housemates had gotten laid - with a white blonde at that (recall, one of Breivik's soapboxes - but then, Rodger was Eurasian...)!
His parents did notice his strange behaviour, and found him some counsellors, but the first one candidly revealed that he had gotten laid four times at the college town, which didn't help. Rodger tolerated the second one because she was a fairly pretty blonde, but stopped because "...it has the same effect as hiring a prostitute, I imagine. It temporarily feels good for the moment, but afterward it makes one feel like a pathetic loser for having to hire a girl when other men could get the experience for free". So, it seems, it wasn't just the getting laid - it was the genuine affection that was craved.
Subconscious admiration, that's what it's at
Unsurprisingly, this didn't turn out well, and Rodgers put his Day of Retribution into play, having acquired a Glock and Sig Sauer in preparation, for US$1800 in total. One wishes he had simply taken the cash and straight-out hired a couple of accomodating pretty blondes to lose his much-anguished-over virginity to; heck, if a friend had done it for him when he was maybe eighteen, it might well have cleared some of his hang-ups. Or maybe not, but it was probably worth a try.
In any case, he ended up stabbing his three Chinese roommates - who were, by his own account, "the biggest nerds he had ever seen" and thus likely more fellow-sufferers than anything, but Rodger was probably beyond rationality by then. He did fatally shoot a couple of sorority girls and a guy after that, before shooting himself. The end.
Next: What It Is (Part One)
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