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

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are working with this secondary s...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We are working with a school that needs a t...

Recruitment Genius: Recording Engineer

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A long established media compan...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We are working with a school that needs a t...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Auschwitz death camp survivor Jadwiga Bogucka, 89, holds a picture of herself from 1944  

Holocaust Memorial Day: This isn't the time to mark just another historical event, but to remember humanity at its worst

Jennifer Lipman
John Rentoul outside the Houses of Parliament  

If I were Prime Minister...I would be like a free-market version of Natalie Bennett

John Rentoul
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea