The Friday night rampage in Isla Vista, California, by 22-year-old Elliot Rodger began with the fatal stabbing of his three roommates, followed by a shooting spree in which Rodger killed three more people and injured several others before shooting himself in the head.
Over the holiday weekend, the story became international news. Writing in The Guardian, Daniel Jackson called the rampage part of the "Era of the YouTube Killer," with Rodger coming from the "first generation that could turn the process of growing up into personal broadcasts." Rodger had posted a deranged YouTube video, since pulled by Google, where he promised "slaughter" for his sexual frustrations. Jackson notes that this and other videos "look like an amateur performance, a bad audition for a bad part."
Rodger's participation in the online "anti-pick up artists" community—not a group opposed to so-called "pick up artists" (PUAs) per se but just upset the techniques don't work for them—led to renewed scrutiny of PUAs and the culture that helps create them. Slate reported that one PUA site suggested it could have prevented the rampage if Rodger had "gone to our website and got our personal dating coaching or purchased one of our products" and that this was "why we do what we do"
The rampage—in which Rodger both fatally stabbed and shot people, as well as injured some with his car— was also seized upon to advance gun control agendas. The father of victim Christopher Martinez blamed the tragedy on "craven, irresponsible politicians" who refused to pass stronger anti-gun laws after violent incidents because the National Rifle Association (NRA) wouldn't let them do so. Martinez's father is reported to be a criminal defense attorney, and his mother a deputy district attorney.
At The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik seizes on the opportunity to politicize:
Why did Christopher Michael-Martinez die? Because the N.R.A. and the politicians they intimidate enable people to get their hands on weapons and ammunition whose only purpose is to kill other people as quickly and as lethally as possible. How do we know that they are the 'because' in this? Because every other modern country has suffered from the same kinds of killings, from the same kinds of sick kids, and every other country has changed its laws to stop them from happening again, and in every other country it hasn't happened again. (Australia is the clearest case—a horrific gun massacre, new laws, no more gun massacres—but the same is true of Canada, Great Britain, you name it.)
You can draw your own conclusions on Gopnik's definitions of intimidate and modern country for this rhetorical contortion. Gopnik goes on to decry the culture of euphemisms and cliché, without any hint of self-awareness.
Elliot Rodger had been seeing a therapist since the age of eight, and his parents reportedly contacted his therapist and then police about Rodger's videos and other social media postings. Police said he didn't meet the criteria for an involuntary hold, while Rodger wrote afterward that he had multiple guns under his bed when police visited him and a search would've "ended everything." His parents did not appear to search his room.
The rampage has also been used to push for more mental health policy, especially by legislators. Roll Call reports:
"How many more people must lose their lives before we take action on addressing cases of serious mental illness?"
[Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tim] Murphy says he has a solution: He calls his bill the "Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act."
"Washington must take action on my bill," he said.
Murphy, a clinical psychologist, said in a statement Saturday that he will hold a briefing Thursday on his committee's report on mental health, written over the course of a year following the Newtown, Conn., massacre.
Among the report's findings are a push to give law enforcement and emergency medical personnel better training on mental health.
Murphy says his bill would also expand access to psychiatric treatment.
It would also encourage states to set a new standard for committing people — that they need treatment, not that they present an imminent danger. It would also make it easier for family members to take action.
Brendan O'Neill, the editor of spiked in London, suggested that those looking to draw points from the rampage should examine "therapy culture":
It is striking how therapeutic is the language used by Rodger in his videos and his murder manifesto. He talks about how people's attitudes towards him "really decreased my self-esteem." He clearly sees such assaults on his self-esteem as unacceptable, saying "if they won't accept me… then they are my enemies." In short, fail to offer recognition to this damaged creature and you will pay the price. And then he makes the key cry of our therapeutic era: "It's not fair. Life is not fair."
… Perhaps we should see Rodger as a kind of therapeutic terrorist, using murder to gain recognition; his rampage can be seen as a very violent therapy session, a real primal scream in defense of his sacred self-esteem.
Related: Reason TV's "Five Rules for Coping With Tragedy"