Another bitter and disturbed young adult let his wrath be felt this weekend in a gun rampage, taking the lives of 6 innocent victims and himself in California. English born Elliot Rodger, son of Peter Rodger, assistant film director for the Hunger Games, and grandson of famous photojournalist George Rodger, declared his planned rampage as the ‘Day of Retribution’. In self-recorded videos and a 137 page email sent to his family and therapist prior to the attacks, Elliot describes his hatred towards women for not wanting to have sex with him and the unfairness of it all. The 22 year old virgin had planned to kill his house mates to use their flat as a torture chamber for the women he would catch. Instead the scene unfolded much more rapidly, with his parent’s calling 911 and racing to catch him before his rampage begun. Unfortunately they were too late.
Whenever there is such a devastating event it is natural for us all to point blame, to try and see what could of caused it, how such a thing could have happened. Unfortunately yet again autism has been put in the spot light. Elliot was diagnosed with high-functioning autism, and it is thought that many of his social inadequacies could be contributed to the disorder. I have written blog post after blog post on the negative impact that such media coverage gives to the disorder, which in fact very rarely results in serious violence. As I wrote in my previous article, Why Asperger’s is not a Scapegoat for the Connecticut Tragedy, it is important to understand that autism can not be the entire reason somebody commits such horrific crimes, as a population we are no more likely to commit them. However, in this case might it be that autism was an important factor and should we start facing the reality that these young adults can be dangerous?
It is not insignificant that Elliot also presented with severe mental health disturbances. This was a young adult that not only faced the challenges of Asperger’s Syndrome, but clearly also those of psychosis, and potentially other mental illnesses. He had been prescribed a drug which is usually prescribed to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, of which he had stopped taking. This drug, which has not been named, can also help control the behavioural problems sometimes present with an autism disorder. It cannot be said that these psychotic symptoms are not linked with autistic behaviours or that the two can not fuel each other. However, the behaviour that has been reported leading up to the killings is not just that of someone with Asperger’s. Social isolation can understandably lead to resentment and anger, but not the delusions and psychopathic tendencies Elliot displayed. The two could be described as a somewhat deadly combination. Those with Asperger’s can become fixated, which certainly cannot have helped his depraved fantasies.
Watching the last video he posted leading up to his ‘Day of Retribution’ makes for chilling viewing. It was easy to slip and think that you were just watching a film, not that this was a real life incident, the characters all real. Indeed, he himself seems to have also struggled with this reality. Witnesses described him on the day as looking like he thought he was in a movie, with a fake smile on his face riding through Santa Barbara firing bullets out of his window. He often boasted of his wealth, pictures of him in his BMW and of himself flying first class were posted online. Elliot had grandiose thoughts about himself and fantasized about becoming powerful and also deep rooted jealousy towards others who had what he did not, which seems to be a common occurrence amongst these young men. This is certainly not something which can be associated with autism, but more likely the delusions of psychosis or a personality disorder.
The internet played a large part in Elliot’s demise. It seems only when these horrific things happen that you realise how obscure some internet sites are. PUAHate.com was a forum where other men/boys congregated to discuss their failed attempts with women. It is not surprising that conversations on here turned to hatred and violence. Even after the act Elliot was championed as the Beta Male’s hero by some on the site. He truly believed that women were ‘wicked’ and ‘degenerate’ and on this site he found many others who supported and encouraged this warped way of thinking.
Ultimately who can we ever blame? A man so deep in the throws of mental illness and struggling with his asperger’s syndrome? The internet for fuelling his fire? His parent’s divorce? Society for not giving him the support he needed and isolating him? Gun toting America? His wealth? Possibly all of those reasons and more, but it gets us nowhere. Six innocent lives have still been taken, their voices hidden behind the ‘man who stole the show’ as we desperately try to find a reason. These kids come from all different classes and backgrounds, yet all have the same fundamental signs of serious emotional disturbance and coldness for their victims. We also cannot underestimate the effects of copy cat behaviour, these kids see someone else whose thoughts and beliefs they can identify with, and think that they have the solution and that what they did was even courageous. Each trying to outdo the horror of the last, justified in their self-righteous beliefs. However, I find it hard to imagine that were I to develop extreme beliefs and homicidal plans and psychosis that either my parents, partner, friends, work colleagues or therapists would not realise and step in. Elliot may have been socially more isolated but we know he had family and at least one therapist. Can I image this happening so frequently in the UK where guns are not readily available? Again no. Had Elliot taken more responsibility and took his medication do I think this could have been avoided? Perhaps not completely but the magnitude yes. It is a hard pill to swallow for all of us, that this happens in our society, but there is no Scapegoat for it and certainly Asperger’s is not to blame; certainly no more than Elliot Rodger being a virgin was.
I found this article after writing this post: