I have been trying to think of something coherent to say about this, but it’s pretty hard. Frankly the whole thing has me pretty depressed. Things in the news like this affect me.
Much has been said about this, a lot of it nonsense, a lot of it insightful. People’s opinions tend to fall into two categories. First, there are people who think Elliot Rodger was just an evil person. The feminists or liberals say he felt “entitled” or was a “misogynist”. The game people say he was a loser who should have learned game, and stopped being such a loser, but since he was too much of a loser to learn game, he was just a big loser. Loser! Loser! Loser! Hateful misogynist!
Second, another group of people say he needed psychological or psychiatric treatment, which he got, but it just wasn’t the right kind or not enough.
We live in a highly individualistic society where we are expected to take care of our own problems, per the first group, or take them to a professional, per the second group. We are certainly not supposed to bother those around us too much, even our parents. Nobody was supposed to be responsible for Elliot Rodger, except Elliot Rodger, and to a limited extent some mental health professional, who on their first meeting would have told him he was primarily responsible for himself.
Before I criticize these attitudes, which are very close, I will say that everyone around him was responsible for Elliot Rodger. The kids at school who messed with him are responsible, the teachers and administrators, and his parents. Monette Moio is responsible for Elliot Rodger. She has had her father deny any responsibility, but she still has it. The funny thing is one of his nerd roommates in Santa Barbara expressed remorse he hadn’t done more for him, when he had actually done all that could be expected and more- he was kind to him and tried to be a friend to him.
Bullying is a bigger deal than is usually supposed. Rodger was said to be very quiet and withdrawn. He was probably that way naturally, but if you are in an environment where drawing attention to yourself can cause humiliation and violence, you will get even more quiet and withdrawn. Being as close to invisible as you can is a survival skill for getting through a day at school, although it becomes a bad habit in a less threatening environment. But to expect a kid to transition every day from a physically dangerous environment and the appropriate coping strategy there to a friendly environment and the appropriate behavior there is too much.
Being in this environment is very stressful, and Rodger found a place to relax with video games. This isn’t a productive way to deal with things, but neither is sugar, fat, alcohol or drugs, and people use them to relieve stress all the time. He tried skateboarding as a way to have some personal accomplishment, but wasn’t good enough to gain prestige by it. He apparently had pretty high status in World of Warcraft, but this doesn’t transfer other places.
It is said Rodger was very passive with people, especially girls, that he expected people to come to him. But if you are very low status and subject to humiliation and violence, you can’t just talk to people, because if they want to they can use it as an opportunity to attack you. Furthermore, they will justify the attack in that your behavior was offensive, and you won’t even have the defense that you were minding your own business, although no one ever cares about that.
The particular thing with girls is black knighting, which I talked about before. A girl can easily summon a large guy to mess with you. I’m guessing Monette Moio did this more than once, which caused Elliot’s special hatred for her. Having established this threat, pretty, popular girls become very dangerous, and even unpopular girls are a threat. The thing about being really low on the totem pole is people only slightly above you can use you to feel better about themselves by harming you.
The advice Rodger received was not just worthless, it was actively harmful. There is no reason to believe Rodger studied “game” much, but the advice he would have received would have been very similar to what he was probably told by his “therapists”- that the key to happiness it to be outgoing, to speak to a lot of people, to have a lot of friends and be popular. Elliot Rodger had no permission to be himself, to be a shy, timid boy who preferred solo pursuits to sports and parties.
Rodger was strongly introverted, and felt very bad talking to people he didn’t know well. To constantly force him to try to change his personality was child abuse and mental health malpractice. He mentions he loved climbing the hills around his home. Better parents would have encouraged his interest in the outdoors, and he could have gone hiking in the mountains or learned rock climbing. He might have made some friends who liked those things, and maybe a girl he met would have put the moves on him. Or his dad might have taught him photography.
Rodger was apparently on Xanax. My feeling about common antidepressants, SSRIs like Prozac or Paxil, is that they probably do more harm than good. His problem was anxiety, for which Xanax would help, and I was thinking before I learned this they should have put him on Ativan, another anxiety drug. But his problem was he was drowning in a sea of anxiety, and no amount of drugs was going to help. He needed to be freed from the expectation that he needed to significantly change his behavior and personality.
The story is fading away, but we will hear a lot more about this in the future. Rodger left a lot of information in his manifesto and made it public. It won’t easily be swept under the rug, and because he saw many therapists, there will be many people to sue. The fact that the police were alerted beforehand, interviewed him and did nothing will also bring a massive lawsuit. It was a juicy story for the press, and it will be a juicy story for a true crime book, probably several. There may be a lot of critical information we don’t know yet.
I don’t know if anything could have been done for Elliot Rodger. His life was the perfect storm of harmful influences on a vulnerable person. He does not come across as a very nice person, in fact he comes across to a great extent as the kind of person those who dismiss his story say he was, and angry, petulant, entitled, spoiled jerk. But if he was shallow and wanted nice things without too much effort, how is he different from the rest of us? His manifesto is the catalog of every bad feeling he ever had, and if any of us wrote all of this, we would come across pretty bad too.
He will get at least a little of what he wanted, some revenge. He named some people who for the rest of their lives will be associated with him. They will cry it’s unfair, but guess what, life is unfair, sometimes even for pretty people trying to make it in Hollywood.
My overall point with this blog is that if you are a person like this- a low status person who because of abuse has trouble with relationships- that certain aspects of “self-improvement” or “game” can help you, but only if used in the right way for the right purpose. The value judgment that humanistic psychology and game both make is that being open, extroverted, having no shame or high self-esteem, are the best things in life. These things are nice, they have hedonic value, but few people can really achieve them. The more important and realistic thing is to have a positive, but realistic view of yourself, accept yourself, and enjoy life on the terms it has presented itself to you.
RIP Elliot Rodger.