Elliot Rodger left a 140 page document which is a truly revealing window into his soul. After reading this “manifesto,” which is really more of a life history, his twisted life which led up in painful stages to his “Day of Retribution” becomes, if not excusable, at least more understandable. And understanding why people feel impelled to do these horrific acts is important if we are to come to any conclusions which just might prevent more of these situations in the future.
Understanding is more important than condemning. It’s not about Rodger, at this point, or his victims. Nothing can be done to bring them back. But lessons can be learned about what went wrong in this young man’s life and what could have been done to deflect him from his ultimate course. After all, right up until the end he expressed some tiny bit of hope that his life would take a more positive turn, and he wouldn’t be driven to commit the crimes that he did.
One of the misconceptions that the media has hastily come up with is that Rodger hated only women. For sure he was a misogynist, but he hated men equally as much, especially the cool jock type men that he fantasized women were exclusively attracted to instead of being attracted to an “intelligent gentleman” like himself. He couldn’t stand the sight of a young couple holding hands on the street or (horrors) making out! It enraged him since he fantasized about all the sex they were having while he was getting none.
His jealousy, envy and rage didn’t happen overnight. They built up to the breaking point over a number of years starting after he went through puberty. It got to the point where he hated both men and women whom he fantasized were having more sexual pleasure than he was. In fact his only sexual pleasure was masturbation; he never had sex with a woman. And he wasn’t willing to go on living that way. In his sick mind, if he couldn’t have the pleasure of making love to a beautiful blonde woman, then nobody else would have that pleasure either if he could do anything about it.
One of the major malfunctions of his sick mind was that he expected that it was girls’ (collective) responsibility to provide him with sex and love. And it just wasn’t any girl he wanted. He wanted a sexy, beautiful blonde. His problem was that he never put any meaningful effort into meeting, dating or establishing a relationship with any girl.
He gives detailed accounts of all his play dates in childhood going back to age zero, including all the names of every kid he was ever friends with, yet he never mentions one girl whom he actually dated or who actually rejected him. He fantasized that girls rejected him because they didn’t come to him and offer to have sex with him. In fact the rejections he experienced at the hands of girls were probably all fantasies.
One of the things about this manifesto is that Rodger is brutally honest about his own feelings and psychological predicaments, no matter how twisted they are. His negative feelings festered for many years until they built up to a boiling point in his own mind. He planned his “Day of Retribution” at least a year in advance. It was all about revenge for a world that didn’t satisfy his needs and caused him excruciating pain although he was willing to call it off at the last minute if only a beautiful girl would have sex with him.
Rodger grew up shorter than average and not physically strong. He was always trying to fit in and regretted his lack of cool friends although he had many others. He took refuge in video games, in particular, World of Warcraft. He was so badly bullied in high school that he begged his parents to take him out of it. They did and he finished high school at continuation school, the school for dropouts that enabled them to get a high school equivalency certificate.
One would have thought that he would have made some friends there since he experienced no bullying at all. Unfortunately, Rodger was a snob and considered those at continuation school to be low class losers.
Although he was the product of a broken home (his parents divorced when he was seven), he had a lot of perks due to his parents’ connections to the film industry and evidently quite a lot of money in the family despite his father’s financial debacle in the movie Oh My God that he produced. Peter Rodger was also an assistant director of The Hunger Games, a movie in which teenagers go around trying to kill each other.
Elliot Rodger got to walk down the red carpet at a number of Hollywood premieres. He had an admitted taste for luxury and opulence. He became convinced that the only way out of his predicament was to become wealthy, really wealthy. He tried to convince his mother on several occasions that she should marry a rich man. He fantasized about moving into a mansion like some of his parents’ rich friends owned.
As he became more and more desperate, he became convinced that he would be able to get a beautiful girlfriend if only he himself could become wealthy and the only feasible way of doing this was for him to win the lottery. He thought it was his destiny to win in order to make up for all the unfairness that he had experienced since attaining puberty.
He considered that he had had a happy childhood up until that time, and he was owed this destiny. He made numerous trips to Arizona to buy Megamillion Lottery tickets at a time when they weren’t offered in California. Later when it became legal in California he bought more. After each incident, his not winning left him even deeper in despair.
Finally, after giving up hope of ever having a beautiful girl by his side and having a happy life, he started making plans for a “Day of Retribution.” He even planned to kill his little brother, Jazz, whom he liked, because he could see he was the outgoing type that girls would be attracted to. His stepmother, whom he hated, would have to go as well. He made his elaborate plans over the period of a year, and they were a lot more elaborate than what tragically actually happened.
What can be learned from Rodger’s life history? That he was obsessed with having something that he couldn’t obtain? That he didn’t have the social skills to go about getting the thing he most wanted in life? That nothing else was more important to him than losing his virginity and having sex with a beautiful blonde girl? That he fantasized about how ideal the lives were of all the beautiful people who effortlessly were able to have what he desired?
That he considered the world to be unfair because women were attracted to obnoxious, alpha male, jock types instead of to intelligent gentlemen? That girls’ lack of attraction to him constituted rejection? That negative feelings can build and build to the boiling point at which they explode splattering other peoples’ innocent lives in their wake?
This episode also speaks to a hollow, crass culture, the props of which are guns, violent video games, material goods and sex devoid of meaningful relationships, a culture that places pleasure and entertainment above any and all ethical values.
Although Rodger had a variety of psychologists, psychiatrists and life coaches, they all failed miserably to apprehend the depth and nature of his problems or to be in a position to do anything about them. Actually, he had only one problem: how to have sex with a girl. If it could have been arranged, the tragedy in Isla Vista might never have happened. Rodger himself was powerless to make it happen, and he, narcissistically, thought the world owed it to him without any effort on his part.
Actually, his efforts, which consisted of walking around Santa Barbara waiting for a girl to approach him, were totally misguided. Being at a party school was just the wrong milieu for him. He didn’t have the personality to be a casual pick-up artist. He might have tried online dating. But he was a snob who was put out that he couldn’t be in the upper echelon of snobs and have everything that they had in the same way they had it. He wouldn’t have lowered himself.
If any verification for the theories of Wilhelm Reich were needed, the story of this individual’s life is it. Wilhelm Reich authored The Mass Psychology of Fascism, a book which was banned in this country in the 1960s. The San Diego Free Press, to its credit, published and distributed bootleg copies of the book. Reich’s main thesis was that what led to the Nazi era was sexual repression among Germans, Hitler in particular.
Comparing Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography, to Rodger’s manifesto, one can see that they had very similar dysfunctional personalities. Resentment fueled both their violent fantasies. Hitler resented the fact that he had been denied admission to Munich’s prestigious art school twice. The Germans seethed with resentment at the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which ended the First World War.
Reich wrote that sexual repression led to feelings being bottled up which eventually turned into rage and hatred. Rodger was a proto fascist. He fantasized about being dictator of the world and putting women into concentration camps watching them from a tower as they slowly died of hunger–Hunger Games redux?
He thought there was something wrong with them that they were not attracted to him but to the jock types. He would have outlawed all sexual pleasure on the grounds that, if he couldn’t have it, nobody else would have it either. Finally, both Hitler and Rodger fantasized and carried out a Gotterdammerung of total destruction of themselves and the world around them. Fortunately, in both cases the havoc they wreaked was considerably less than the havoc they envisioned.