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The Dangers of (Ignoring) Violent Misogyny: Isla Vista Shooting NOT About Mental Illness

Yesterday, I wrote about how the media covers mass shootings, especially when the shooter leaves behind a trove of crazy rantings like the Isla Vista shooter. However my friend, writer and comedian Liz Labacz, made some points that stuck with me throughout the day regarding this particular shooting. She disagreed that Elliot Rodger’s “manifesto” and YouTube videos should not be aired saying, “I think the source material is key in reminding people that this was hate driven.”

Because most of the news media, outside of a few print journalists, are lazy and unoriginal when it comes to covering anything they typically take a few minutes out of glamorizing the shooter to bring up the issues of both gun control and mental illness in America. Elliot Rodger’s own family claims that he was “mentally ill” and certainly everything we’ve learned about him, from his sex-obsession to everything that led up to his killing spree seems to indicate that is so.

Yet, Liz has an excellent point in that this particular tragedy has far less to do with gun control or mental illness than it does with violent misogyny. In an video chillingly titled “Retribution,” Rodger says that “I’ll take to the streets of Isla Vista and slay every single person I see there,” and that his victims will “deserve it for living a better life than me.” He rails against “sluts” and “all the girls” he just wanted to “love.”

Rodger is not the only person in even the past five years to orchestrate a mass-shooting because of his insecurities and lack of attention from women. In my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA in 2009 George Sodini walked into a LA Fitness gym and opened fire in an Aerobics class, killing three women and injuring nine others. His online blog and YouTube videos were also broadcast ad nauseum, eerily similar in both tone and content to Rodger’s.

Writing off these two acts of terrorism as simply the result of untreated mental illness is both highly irresponsible and, frankly, plain wrong. While surely Sodini and Rodger suffered from some kind of mental illness, the prime motivating factor for these animals was misogyny. They both felt that women – notice they rarely mention specific individuals – owed them sex and affection because they were “nice guys,” which should go without saying that if “nice guys” (as they see them) even exist, they were the farthest from it one can be.

So while I still believe that showcasing his videos and manifestos will only encourage other madmen in the future, my friend Liz is right in saying that they need to be shown if only because much of the coverage of this story ignores the most important and terrifying part of it.

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.

  • I disagree. This is very much about mental illness. Misogyny is the product of distorted thinking. It’s “black and white” or “all or nothing” thinking. All or Nothing thinking is one of the 10 Distorted Thought Processes of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Distorted thinking is found at the root of many mental illnesses. I speak from personal experience on this. My own anxiety and depression did not improve until I went through CBT and learned how to recognize distorted thoughts and how to change my thinking.

    This person, at least, had Narcissistic personality disorder and Anti-social personality disorder (aka he’s a sociopath. He’s shown this by his lack of empathy). Because so many conditions are “co-morbid”, who knows what else he had?

    I do agree that we should never ignore misogyny or misandry, violent or not. However, this young man was mentally ill, which fed his misogyny. The system failed here. He should have been in some intensive in-patient therapy, but because the law says his parents can’t have him involuntarily committed unless he’s actually brandishing a weapon and threatening to kill himself or other people, he went without proper treatment.

    • Joshua M. Patton

      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to share your opinion. Please keep reading Latest.com!