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

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

Recruitment Genius: IT Buyer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award winning IT company are currently re...

Recruitment Genius: IT Account Manager

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

What the advertising world can learn from Zoella's gang

Danny Rogers
Rachel Reeves is the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary  

What are we voting for? No one knows

Stefano Hatfield
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor