I recently told Emma I wished we lived in a world where she could walk outside anywhere at any time in safety. She answered, "You're the one who's been attacked on the street."
She was referring to one afternoon on Victory Boulevard in Los Angeles. Now, I'm a guy with decent street smarts—I've walked in poor neighborhoods at all hours for much of my life, and I'd never been mugged or beaten by strangers, probably because I tend to dress in cheap clothes and while I hope I'm not more intimidating than any guy of average height and weight, I like to think I don't look like an easy target. But maybe I was just lucky for decades.
My luck ran out when I left our apartment in North Hollywood and saw a young Hispanic man of about twenty who I'll call the kid pissing in the bushes in front of the next building. Thinking he was drunk or tripping, I gave him a look that was meant to say, "Really, dude. Don't piss where families live."
Which, I grant, was a failure of street smarts. To this day, I do not know why I acknowledged him. Street smarts call for being simultaneously aware and indifferent, so you look like you know what's going on around you and don't care so long as no one hassles you.
The kid started following me. I assumed I was unlucky enough to be going in the same direction as he was until he ran up and began pummeling me. He was tall and wiry and half my age or younger, so he had the advantages of reach and strength. He also had the adrenaline advantage of being bi-polar and off his meds. I now know what facing berserkers was like.
I blocked his blows as well as I could, which is to say, I was pretty bloody by the time a driver pulled over and jumped out of his car to help me. The kid ran off. When the cops found him, I learned he was bipolar and had gone off his meds. I could have pressed charges, but I didn't—I was told the kid was horrified by what he had done, and they doubted he would let it happen again. I suspect that's true.
What I took from that was not that people with mental health problems should be feared—like most of us, they're more likely to be victims than victimizers—but that mental health deserves more resources in the US. Statistically, people with mental issues are more likely to be a danger to themselves and others.
We know the recent spree killer was in that category. He had therapists, and he said in his manifesto that he had been prescribed Risperidone, "an antipsychotic drug mainly used to treat schizophrenia (including adolescent schizophrenia), schizoaffective disorder, the mixed and manic states of bipolar disorder, and irritability in people with autism", but had refused to take it.
Which is why I was surprised when Jessica Valenti argued that Attributing the rampage in Isla Vista to 'a madman' ignores a stark truth about our society. Like many feminists, she thinks it's not about whether misogynistic mass murderers are crazy; it's about their ideology. But defining the Isla Vista killer's ideology is trickier than you might think. As Ally Fogg noted in Madman or MRA? Looking beyond easy answers to the Santa Barbara massacre:
In Rodger's manifesto there is no sign of even a slight interest in gender politics. He does not use the vocabulary or logic of MRAs, there is no ranting at ‘feminazis’ or other tell-tale signs of MRA ideology. Indeed, it is striking that the manifesto, unlike that of Anders Breivik, reveals no kind of political consciousness at all. For Rodger, this all appears to have been entirely personal.I hate saying anything in defense of pick-up artists, aka PUAs, but, like capitalists, they're exploiters who think what's legal is fair. Their code is reprehensible, but it does not call for going beyond the law. As for people who think PUAs are examples of traditional male values, traditional men despise men who use women—they were called cads and lotharios, and now they're called creeps and PUAs and men to watch out for. For actual traditional male values, see a little about America's idea of cowboys and traditional male values.
If Rodger's misogyny can be called an ideology, another question arises. What ideologies have not been used as an excuse by killers? Michael Carneal killed three members of a Christian prayer group and wounded five others—should atheists be blamed? Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinians and wounded 125 others—should Judaism be blamed? John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo terrorized Washington, DC, with sniper killings, planning to kill six white people a day—should the Nation of Islam or black racists in general be blamed?
In The Disturbing Internet Footprint Of Santa Barbara Shooter Elliot Rodger, Kashmir Hill notes, "His mental disturbance seems as much about class as gender warfare." Based on his manifesto, Rodger's misogyny was a subset of his misanthropy—his first victims were his male roommates. A self-identified Eurasian, he was obsessed with the white blonde women that he thought he deserved because he was rich. What he wanted was shaped by his culture, but what he did was not, and he knew his culture would stop him if it could—he sent his manifesto to his therapist when he knew it would be too late.
'PUAhate' and 'ForeverAlone': inside Elliot Rodger's online life | World news | theguardian.com
Anthony Kubiak - Using Murder: The Social Construction of Serial Homicide: "Despite the fact that serial killers are proportionately African-American, sometimes female, do not disproportionately attack women and children, and are quite unlikely, if ever, to have a cult motivation, groups continued to treat the stereotype as real."