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.