2014 Isla Vista killings
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On May 23, 2014, in Isla Vista, California, near the campus of University of California, Santa Barbara, Elliot Rodger, a 22-year old junior college student, went on a misogyny-fueled killing spree, murdering six people, wounding thirteen more, and finally committing suicide when confronted by the police. In the aftermath, Rodger's manifesto attracted much attention from the media and the blogosphere for its disturbingly callous attitude towards women.
The killing spree involved ten crime scenes in the town of Isla Vista, beginning in Elliot Rodger's apartment, where he stabbed three men to death, two of whom were his housemates and another who was either a visiting friend or living there temporarily (accounts differ). It is uncertain when the stabbings occurred, and it may have been while all three were asleep.
At around 8:30pm on the day of the shooting, Rodger was seen parked in his BMW outside his apartment, working on his laptop. This appears to have been when he uploaded his "retribution video" to YouTube, and emailed his manifesto to about a dozen people, including his mother, father and therapist. The video was uploaded at 9:17 and the manifesto emailed at 9:18, only a few minutes before the first shots were reported at 9:27.
Rodger drove to Alpha Phi sorority house to start his shooting spree. The manifesto states that he chose this target as "after doing a lot of extensive research within the last year, I found out that the sorority with the most beautiful girls is Alpha Phi Sorority", and that he intended to "sneak into their house at around 9:00 p.m. on the Day of Retribution, just before all of the partying starts, and slaughter every single one of them with my guns and knives" before burning the sorority house down. In reality, nobody let him into the sorority house, despite him banging on the door angrily for several minutes, and instead he started shooting passersby with his handgun, killing two women and wounding another.
After this Rodger embarked on a rampage, driving to several locations (largely around Del Playa Drive, a popular party area for students) and stopping to shoot pedestrians, as well as hitting some pedestrians and cyclists with his car. He killed three people and wounded thirteen others, either by shooting them or running into them. Rodger also shot at but missed a number of other people. Police responded swiftly and exchanged gunfire with Rodger, who eventually crashed his car and was found dead in it from a gunshot wound to the head, almost certainly self-inflicted.
All six of his murder victims were students at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Elliot Rodger's background
Following the shootings, numerous pieces of evidence came to light regarding Rodger's mental state, personality, opinions and motives, most notably his infamous "retribution video" and biography-cum-manifesto.
In the weeks leading up to his killings (which he had planned for months or years, according to his manifesto), his videos became increasingly disturbing, intimating or promising "revenge" for his suffering. One or more of these videos caused Rodger to be reported to a mental health helpline (possibly by his mother; this information is unclear), which resulted in a police visit on 30 April. However, Rodger managed to persuade the officers that there was no cause for concern, and they left without searching his apartment or taking further action. Rodger's manifesto also recounts the incident, and he reacted by pulling his videos offline and taking more care to hide his activities while planning the massacre.
Rodger uploaded his final video, the now infamous "retribution video", on May 23rd, mere minutes before the shooting started. In the video, Rodger, seated in his car, calmly stated that "tomorrow is the Day of Retribution, the day in which I will have my revenge against humanity". This may indicate that the video was filmed the previous day and only uploaded on the evening of the killings. However, since Rodger was observed sitting in his car for at least half an hour on the evening of May 23rd, and since his manifesto indicates that he actually intended to carry out his primary massacre on May 24th, it seems possible that the video was in fact filmed on the evening of the May 23rd with the intention of carrying out the shooting spree the next day, and Rodger simply decided for whatever reason that he just couldn't wait. If this is true, then the video shows the cold detachment of somebody who was not only about to commit a brutal mass shooting, but had already stabbed his three housemates to death at the time of filming.
The video lays out Rodger's massacre plans, his motives, his hostility towards women, and his bizarre worldview, themes which he also addressed at greater lengths in his manifesto. Displaying his almost total lack of self-awareness, Rodger saw no contradiction between his violent "revenge" and his self-image as "the perfect guy":
You girls have never been attracted to me. I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me — but I will punish you all for it! It's an injustice; a crime. Because I don't know what you don't see in me. I'm the perfect guy. And yet you throw yourself at all these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentlemen. I will punish all of you for it. Heh! [smirk]
After describing the massacre he intended to commit (at the sorority house and on the streets of Isla Vista), Rodger also vented his scorn for humanity:
I hate all of you. Humanity is a disgusting, wretched, depraved species. If I had it in my power, I would stop at nothing to reduce every single one of you to mountains of skulls and rivers of blood. And rightfully so. You deserve to be annihilated.
In the immediate wake of the shootings, the video attracted huge attention from the media as well as the police, and was soon pulled offline by YouTube as a violation of their policy against violent content. It was subsequently reposted by third parties and appears to have been approved (presumably because of its news relevance) with a content warning.
Rodger's "manifesto", posted online within hours of the killings, is actually more of an autobiography with some pieces of badly thought-out ideology included. Much of it concerns (almost typical) lonely teenage angst about not having friends or (in particular) a girlfriend, but this is tinged throughout with irrationally violent rage at boys who did have girlfriends and especially at girls themselves for (understandably) rejecting and despising him. Rodger believed that couples (usually complete strangers to him) should be "punished" for "the crime of having a better life than me" and fantasized about torturing or killing them, a fantasy that developed into his "Day of Retribution".
The manifesto makes it abundantly clear that Rodger was a conscious and devoted misogynist. Not only did he regard women's attention and sexual favour as something he was entitled to and wrongfully denied, but he believed that "women should not have the right to choose who to mate and breed with" and "women are vicious, evil, barbaric animals, and they need to be treated as such". The manifesto ends with a fantasy about his idea of "a fair and pure world" in which women would be "quarantined" in concentration camps and starved to death, other than a few kept in laboratories for breeding purposes where "they will be artificially inseminated with sperm samples in order to produce offspring". He believed that sex should be outlawed, saying that "If I can't have it, I will destroy it." He was also a racist on top of it, harping on about how he was descended from British aristocracy and hated to see "ugly black filth" with white girlfriends. (Ironically, Rodger himself was mixed-race, with a white British father and a Chinese-Malaysian mother.)
Despite being such a repellent character, Rodger (ever the nice guy) believed himself to be a "magnificent gentleman" and even (as he became more intent on carrying out a grand massacre) "the closest thing there is to a living god". The manifesto ends with these words:
I will punish everyone. And it will be beautiful. Finally, at long last, I can show the world my true worth.
And nothing good happens after someone writes that--although his actions did, at least, show his true worth.
Rodger was being treated by multiple therapists. Court documents from Rodger's parents' divorce revealed that he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at age 7. A psychologist has stated "there is no proven connection between the diagnosis [Asperger's syndrome] and [Rodger's] violent behaviour." He wrote that he had been prescribed risperidone but refused to take it, because his "research" led him to believe it was "the absolute wrong thing for me to take."  After turning 18, Rodger began rejecting the mental health care that his family provided, and he became increasingly isolated. He claimed that he was unable to make friends, although acquaintances stated that he rebuffed their attempts to be friendly.
Rodger was a frequent contributor to the manosphere, most notably on PUAHate, a website bashing pick-up artists but populated mainly by self-identified "incels" ("involuntarily celibate") and other malcontents. The site was taken down as soon as its connection to the murders started to gain publicity. He was also actively posting messages of the same character and sharing his videos on Bodybuilding.com's forum, where some local forum members characterized his contributions as pertaining to a serial killer.
Parts of the media and various feminists pointed out the misogyny angle, some referring to Rodger as an MRA. Various MRA sites and personalities switched into full defensive mode, dismissing any possible connection between Rodger's ideas and their rhetoric, and going on the offense, decrying the "politicization" of the murders by feminists. Many, sadly also outside the MRM, went as far as to claim that the murders were not caused by misogyny, blaming mental illness instead (as if it couldn't be both at the same time)— something that would need medical assessment first. A particularly odious form is the claim that because Rodger killed more men than women (his 3 roommates and a random person on the street) or any men at all, this couldn't have been motivated by misogyny. In addition to playing "no true misogynist", this also conveniently ignores a pile of evidence — the contents of his videos and his manifesto and his unsuccessful attempt to enter a sorority house, which he followed immediately by shooting three women outside (only one survived). If this had been successful, the body count would be very different.
The killings provoked many feminist responses, the most widespread of which was the hashtag #YesAllWomen, inspired by the irritating "not all men" argument used to derail critiques of negative male behavior towards women.
"Not all men" is the defensive whine from men who take critiques of structural violence and injustice personally. Thus, while many men claim that they do not and have not harassed women, treated them badly, or raped them, #yesallwomen is a statement that all women have at some point been sexually harassed, objectified, or violated by men. Within 24 hours of the killings, Twitter was full of women posting about their experiences of abuse at the hands of men and the precautions they have to take against them.
- Timeline: A killer's rampage through a California college town, CNN, May 28, 2014.
- Elliot Rodger's Retribution video
- Santa Barbara Independent, "Isla Vista Killer’s April 30 Check-Up", May 29, 2014.
- My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger by Elliott Rodger. See also our article on Elliot Rodger's manifesto.
- See here for a (fairly boring) example.
- http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-frantic-parents-isla-vista-shootings-20140525-story.html A family friend later stated that Rodger was not diagnosed with Asperger's
- http://abclocal.go.com/three/kabc/kabc/My-Twisted-World.pdf Page 125
- Risperdone is a relatively blunt instrument with potential for alarming side effects, but mental health clinicians are more than happy to discuss medication alternatives with an engaged patient.
- In one case, ""I have a boyfriend" is the easiest way to get a man to leave you alone. Because he respects another man more than you" it is noteworthy that said boyfriend need not even exist.
- "Girls grow up knowing that it's safer to give a fake phone number than to turn a guy down."