Grace Dent: Of all the mass-murderers, Elliot Rodger is the one I’d most like to throttle. His creed was self-pity, his world a figment of the internet

He was an affluent youth enjoying all the luxuries of the Western world

Share

During the Isla Vista killer Elliot Rodger’s 15 minutes of posthumous infamy, I have pondered that he might be – to my mind at least – one of the most infuriatingly throttleable mass-murderers of modern times. His petulant YouTube warblings on “sluts” who won’t have sex with him, his hammy theatrics, the way he drips with pompous self-entitlement and snub-nosed self-indulgence. Those duckfaced selfies in his BMW.

Obviously competition for most loathsome mass-murderer is pretty stiff. Take the piggy-faced cod-academic righteousness of Norway’s Anders Breivik during his court appearances. Or the despicable thick-as-mince bigotry of British neo-Nazi David Copeland, who bombed The Admiral Duncan on Old Compton Street. I carry the memory of how quickly the pub was rebuilt – bigger, pinker, more raffish than ever – as human tenacity writ large. The bleak agenda of Copeland thwarted by stubborn, stalwart gays, quick builders and 100 tins of emulsion.

Breivik, Copeland and Rodger were all vile in their own way, but perhaps Rodger is the more nauseating as his cause appeared to simply be self-pity. Isla Vista was the most thoroughly modern of massacres. A slaying for the selfie generation. Rodger wasn’t fuelled by a twisted political plight, or by scoring points to impress his god. Instead, Rodger was an affluent youth enjoying all the luxuries of the western world. His higher power, if any, was social media. He was privileged, educated, lonely and angry. His “cause” was purely himself.

Rodger – who had been treated by several therapists – watched his contemporaries’ lives play out online and found his own sorely lacking. I don’t empathise with Rodger but I see how his mind spiralled. He was furious because no one “liked” his “selfies”. No one “swiped right” for him on Tinder. He was left off group party invites. All these “sluts” from his college were flirting online with boys and no one wanted to sleep with him.

Rodger remained a virgin at 22, which not that long ago was something young people quietly swept under the carpet while waiting for that special – willing – someone. But in his modern mega-sexualised world, Rodger felt utterly out of place. He recorded hours of self-obsessed whining about the pains of his existence, then broadcasted them on YouTube – actions that aren’t even considered remotely weird by today’s standards. The videos bore titles such as “Why Do Girls Hate Me So Much.” There is no mystery as to “why” Rodger took the actions he did. He had a history of mental illness and left an electronic trail of youthful, social media-exacerbated angst.

Clearly those of an older generation, such as myself, might have said, “Elliot, girls avoid you as you are broadcasting your anger and loneliness on social media. You don’t like women, and women don’t like you. It’s a vicious circle. Turn the computer off now. More fresh air. Less monitoring Twitter over which party you weren’t invited to and what a great time was had.” A little less “me, me, me, life should be perfect”, a little more of the Buddhist mantra, “life is suffering, with the odd nice bit, get on with it”. Clearly these remarks would set one out as a Luddite and be largely scoffed at.

And of course, “the damned internet” did not kill the Isla Vista victims in the end. That was down to the guns and knives that were accessible to Rodger, despite a record of mental illness. With other mass shootings still fresh in the memory, we’re all aware that any fury over gun laws inevitably splutters into nothing. “Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA” said victim Christopher Michaels-Martinez’s father. “They talk about gun rights, what about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop?” The answer being: absolutely no  time soon.

Instead, the Isla Vista killings will cause a minor rumpus on the internet, temporarily taking the place of those 300 missing Nigerian schoolgirls Twitter was upset about the week previously, which in turn distracted us from vanished flight MH370 that a hashtag didn’t solve either. Perhaps we all share a trait of Elliot Rodger – dead before he could enjoy his inflated YouTube viewer hits, or even apply for a Twitter blue tick – in visiting the internet frequently to assure us that the world revolves around us.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Time travel: Thomas Cook has been trading since 1841  

A horror show from Thomas Cook that tells you all you need to know about ethical consumerism

Janet Street-Porter
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?