When I wrote yesterday's lighthearted post, I was ignorant of the details about yesterday's horrific mass shooting near UCSB. On Saturdays, I work until 4AM, wake up at 11AM, listen to NPR for a couple of hours, and return to work at 5PM. At work, I am in a bubble for the first couple of hours- I have to interact with the public for an hour-and a half, and then have to run around closing the site up after operating hours. Whoa, did I have a horror story awaiting for me when I checked out the web in my first quiet moment.
Now that I'm catching up with the coverage of the shooting, two things strike me- the first is that the killer had a history of making misogynist and racist comments on "Men's Rights" sites, and the second is that he wrote a lengthy manifesto describing himself as a "good and pure" individual suffering at the hands of "brutal and twisted humanity". Two toxic cultural narratives, the MRA narrative of evil women "withholding" sex and love from "worthy" males, and the NRA narrative of the "good guy with the gun" defeating the "evildoers" combined in a poisonous synergy that ended up with seven corpses.
Reading snippets of the killer's "manifesto", one sees a picture of a bitter guy, obsessed with the facts that the "hot" women go out with "brutes" (in a number of instances, a racist obsession with blonde women going out with "dark-skinned Mexicans" and “ugly black filth” comes to the fore). Hypocritically, the guy excoriating women for not seeing his worthy qualities was solely concerned with women's superficial attributes. He was a shallow person, railing at the shallowness of others. In one jaw-dropping statement, he railed that women “should not have the right to choose who to mate with”. Aping the MRA obsession with "alpha males", he decided that his ticket to "alpha" status would be the ability to kill- after the purchase of a Glock 34, he asked, “Who’s the alpha male now bitches?” Whatever personality deficits he had, his dive into the fever swamp of online misogyny caused him to make the transition from an awkward youth to a wannabe supervillain straight out of a Jack Vance novel.
The other evil thread running through this sordid narrative is the idea that violence is the answer to all of life's problems- the "good guy with a gun" being the preferred hero of the tales Americans tell themselves. In the case of this killer, he was the newly-minted "alpha male", armed and ready to kill the "bad" people: “How sweet it would be to slaughter all of those evil, slutty bitches who rejected me.” Distilled to its essence, his warped view of the world could be summed up by his assertion that “the ultimate evil behind sexuality is the human female.” Fit into the narrative pushed by the gun-lobby, he was the "good guy" and the women that he hated were the "bad guys".
While the prevailing media narrative is going to be that the killer was "mentally ill", this is unfair to the already marginalized mentally ill community. No matter what was going in his head, the killer's embrace of misogynistic websites aggravated his problems- a toxic blend of MRA and NRA talking points combined in a synergistic fashion, resulting in a horrific tragedy.