Analysis: Santa Barbara Killer Was a Narcissist, Not a Reject

Santa Barbara mass murderer Elliot Rodgers claimed that he had acted out of retribution for his rejection by women. Yet even a cursory examination of the videos and the 141-page manifesto left by the 22-year-old suggest the opposite: that he, in fact, rejected others. His account of his life is a meticulous, articulate, and yet absurd effort to construct a world in which he occupies the absolute center of attention, both negative and positive.

His musing about power and sex mingle with rantings about race: he flies into a rage at "an inferior, ugly black boy," an "inferior Mexican," or a "full-blooded Asian" who succeeds at winning the affections or attentions of "white blonde" girls when he, "half white," somehow cannot. He shows little interest in other kinds of women, whom he regards with disdain. He both hates and desires women, but it is status, not sex, that is his true obsession. 

The well-to-do Rodgers fantasizes about being a multimillionaire, then repeatedly despairs when he fails to win the lottery. He expresses shock at his own violent fantasies, but takes grim pride in methodically eliminating any hope of redemption from his life. He observes himself with obsessive detail and fantasizes about controlling the world, taking revenge on more successful men and herding women into concentration camps to starve.

It is the testimony of a lucid yet insane young man. It suggests there will be no easy answers, no conclusions to fit neatly into ongoing political debates. He hated women, but his first victims--by design--were the men closest to him. He hoarded guns and ammunition, but used knives and his car as weapons, too. He became obsessed with violent video games, but outgrew them. His parents tried to intervene, and he rejected their assistance.

It is not yet clear that more could have been done to stop Rodgers. The local police had interviewed him at his apartment weeks before, and left satisfied that he was not a threat. (Had they asked to search his room, he writes, they would have found his guns and foiled his plot.) He rejected therapy; he rejected psychiatric medication; he rejected the assistance of counselors, the help of concerned parents, and the advice of friends. 

The single act that saved the most lives this weekend was the enforcement of the Alphi Phi sorority's apparent rule against opening the door for strangers. Had Rodgers gained entry to the building, he would have murdered dozens. Other than that, there seem no easy answers, no policy prescriptions, no one to blame. The most fitting punishment for Rodgers would be to deny him any more of the attention he craved than is absolutely necessary.


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