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May 28, 2014

Rundle: Elliot Rodger the product of the world we have made

Elliot Rodger's Santa Barbara massacre was not the result of misogyny or violence in culture. It was the result of a rampant, uncontrollable narcissism -- and one that our culture breeds, as a matter of course, every day.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


elliot rodger

Last Sunday afternoon, I made a cup of coffee, fired up the laptop, went online, noticed that the “manifesto” of Elliot Rodger, the Isla Vista killer, had been put online, clicked on to it — and didn’t get up for two hours. I didn’t move, save to scroll down, and at one point to feel my jaw drop.

If you haven’t read Rodger’s 140-page document, you may well not want to. It was described in the news as a “rambling manifesto”. If only. It is neither. A narrative of his life up to the point where he started on the series of killings, “My Twisted World” is no manifesto, nor is it rambling. Repetitive, yes, as Rodger recounts his perceived humiliations and injustices, and above all rejection by women. But what it is is relentless, driving, as beat by beat, Rodger draws us towards the event that happened soon after it was sent to friends and associates — the stabbing murder of three people in his apartment, and the drive-by shooting of three more, two of them young women outside a sorority house — just as he had said he would. It is a terrifying read because you know what’s coming, and because it has the structure of a thriller and may well have been shaped by the genre.

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44 thoughts on “Rundle: Elliot Rodger the product of the world we have made

  1. Jennifer Nielsen

    Wow. Brilliant.

  2. SusieQ

    I always feel a bit stunned at the end of articles like this – so many thoughts and ideas to take in.
    I guess we all need to find a way to contextualise these awful incidents and of course we see them through our own prejuidices and experiences.
    Now I need to go away and think about this some more…

  3. paddy

    One of your best Guy.
    I’ve purposely avoided looking at the torrent of stuff swirling around the tubes about Elliot Rodger, but I’m glad I read this piece.
    Thoughtful and coherent stuff. Thanks.

  4. Mark Duffett

    This makes a lot more sense to me than anything else I’ve seen written on this sad case, such as this piece: theconversation.com/elliot-rodger-when-sexual-rejection-turns-deadly-27205

  5. Richard Scott

    +1 to paddy

  6. Djbekka

    Thank you, Guy. There’s so much to say – but it’s for conversation, not comment on this thoughtful discussion.

  7. Andybob

    I believe that one of the drivers of narcissistic alienation is failure to involve children in unselfish giving, both by role model and their own participation. For this reason I have encouraged my daughters to participate in Scouts (despite my own mixed feelings) and to volunteer in various ways. I think it has helped them, but it is probably more important for boys than girls. Boys seem more captive to the abstract ubiquitous screen.

  8. Peter Cook

    Thanks Guy. I really appreciate having had the chance to read an informed perspective on an incredibly disturbing event.

  9. Hunt Ian

    Yes, this is very thoughtful stuff. Rodger’s “testament” was plainly compelling, though I am not going to read it. It will make me feel sick. Rundle very perceptively says the alienation of a capitalist market society, though very real and fertile ground for the breakdown of personal connections with others around us, is not the whole story: we have to look beyond Marx to Durkheim.

    I think Guy is basically right in this but I feel he is also a bit hard on those who find misogyny in Rodger’s actions. I think he is also wrong to say that they seek to control thought. Identifying misogyny might be shallow, as might stressing the role of guns in making it easier for narcissists to harm others, but Rodger’s actions, as well as his thoughts, were misogynist, racist and superior. It is a tribute to the perceptiveness opt women he encountered that they rejected him.

    Guy’s best point, I think, is that we should not just turn to the law to repress such actions. This just puts an increasingly ineffective lid on things, which have to be dealt with fundamentally by rebuilding our capacity to live lives with others. We might dismiss the liberal idea that we have free choice as basically flawed, but it will be better to get us to be able to make better free choices than leaving us only capable of choosing that we should only be concerned with ourselves.

  10. David Vaile

    Great stuff, ‘self hood as a social process’. The implications of this are difficult to think about from inside an individualist frame of reference.

    Another recent take on this is from Slate, about a dangerously brittle narcissism generated as much by the success of the degenerate ‘self esteem’ cult as by the withering hyper-individualist soup in which it evolved:


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