I’m sure almost everybody on tumblr, and especially this blog, knows what happened the other day. A young man attacked his roommates, then went on to shoot others and eventually die. I, as well as many others, are refusing to use his name as we don’t believe he should be rewarded post-mortem with fame; if anyone must be immortalized, let it be his victims. This attack is being dubbed the “2014 Isla Vista massacre” and I encourage others to use this, or a similar, name.
His killed victims were Cheng Yuan “James” Hong, George Chen, Weihan “David” Wang, Katie Cooper, Veronika Weiss, and Christopher Martinez.
Despite what he did, his parents still lost their child in a tragedy. Their suffering will be punctuated by wondering what they could have done to stop him, what they did to create his mindset. They tried to prevent it and discouraged the sort of thinking that led to his attack. When he started his attack, they were searching for him to stop him. They are not guilty of his crimes.
Despite this attack, a huge number of girls are still missing in Nigeria and a Jewish museum had a shooting that killed at least three people in Belgium, the motive suspected to be anti-Semitic. These attacks have been forgotten and ignored and we must make efforts to not overrule these events for one that furthers our personal ideologies.
I want to make it very clear: I did not read his “manifesto” or watch his videos. I had planned to, but exposure to the case was draining and I did not want to spend any more time thinking about him. I am lucky enough to be unrelated to the case and to be able to choose that for myself. Any information about his videos and manifesto are second-hand, which is why I’ve chosen to avoid making direct statements about them.
The facts, and related observations:
Initially, death counts of seven were given and believed to be entirely women. We now know he was included in that death count and his victims were not all women. He killed three men, his roommates and their friend, by stabbing them in the groin; he shot and killed two women in front of a sorority and one man at a deli, for a total of four men and two women. He injured thirteen more (eight with gunshots and four with his vehicle, with the last undeclared; two are currently in serious condition) and exchanged two bouts of gunfire with police. We do not currently know more than a few genders of the injured or their names.
It was initially unclear whether he shot himself or whether he died by police shot; it was initially believed he died when his vehicle crashed, but it’s now believed the crash was because he shot himself in the head and was too injured or dead to direct his vehicle.
He was diagnosed as having high-functioning Aspergers. Some have theorized after the fact that he had Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a God Complex, depression, or sociopathy/psychopathy, among other things; he was not diagnosed as such and though we have video showing his personality, beliefs, and demeanor, we cannot make a diagnosis and should not attempt to. His parents sought mental health for him. He was given a prescription for Risperidone but refused to take it. He was seeing multiple therapists.
The police were called on him over worries about his youtube videos and, after speaking with him outside, said he was polite and left him as is. This was about a week before the attack, when he’d already accumulated some weaponry. He kept a gun nearby in case they came back, intending to shoot them if they caught on. Police near the situation have stated it is difficult to handle mental health cases because balancing the rights of the mentally ill against the potential risks can be difficult to manage; we should not assume malicious intent or corruption without evidence.
He was college-age, having twenty two years.
He was half-Malaysian. Some have said he is white but this is only partly true. He was born in England.
He wrote a “manifesto” (an autobiography) and sent it to his parents, his therapists, and at least one news station. It has been made available to the public. His “retribution” video was removed from youtube by the staff but is likely able to be found elsewhere. His other videos are currently still on his channel, but will likely be removed by youtube in the future.
His views and beliefs:
He had a preoccupation with wealth. He had plenty of money. His father was a director who had worked on at least one popular film and he owned a BMW. He would go out of his way to appear well off. He felt that while he was better than the public, in his social circles he seemed poor. His resentment of women not dating him seemed to stem partly from the idea that wealth attracted women. He routinely played the lottery.
He apparently claimed he had never asked a woman out, assuming they would reject him in advance. His spoken attack was against a sorority he felt had particularly attractive women. This suggests he felt attractive women owed him interest, speaking to a sense of entitlement. Given that he is alleged to have driven around attacking multiple locations, it’s likely he also attacked people he felt had slighted him personally or felt were insulting him by being happy without him.
He hated women for not dating him and he hated men because women dated them instead of him. He somewhat stalked happy couples, pretty women who didn’t give him attention, and women and men playing together happily, culminating in pouring staining drinks on them and their clothes. He was extremely lonely and jealous. He hated anyone he thought was having sex.
He believed women were superior to him, in a way. He considered sex with a woman to be extremely important and thought other men weren’t good enough for women; he was jealous of men in relationships, believing them to have better lives. He also believed women were inferior to him, shallow and unevolved, needing to be rounded up into breeding camps and controlled by men because they were animal-like.
He was uncomfortable with hiring a female therapist as he felt it was prostitution to hire a woman for her time. This suggests a distaste for prostitution, although it is unclear whether he had a similar attitude towards porn or other ways of expressing sexuality.
He hated feminism, believing it had caused humanity to devolve into animals. He believed the sexual revolution had shifted focus from women giving affection to all men evenly to women only pursuing “alpha” men. He believed when arranged marriages existed, “beta” men each had a woman assigned to them.
His last attempt to lose his virginity had him try at a party. He ended up getting violent but in return he was beaten, mocked, and had his leg broken.
He claimed he was bullied since childhood and that teachers were too strict. He was shifted from school to school, amplifying these feelings. He claimed his only true friend had cut off friendship without explanation. It’s likely his bullying was very real.
He partly blamed playing World of Warcraft as a young teenager for his difficulties socializing. This is unlikely to be a major cause, but probably didn’t help him overcome his difficulties.
He expressed an interest in torture, allegedly wanting to torture his close male relatives. He claimed he wanted to kill his step-mother and half-sibling, but wasn’t mentally prepared to kill his father.
He hated both his parents. He blamed his father for not teaching him how to attract women and for not being a good enough director. He blamed his mother for not remarrying into high class. He allegedly believed his step-mother was abusive, his mother was neglectful, and his father was distant, but it’s unclear whether these were reasonable interpretations of their relationships or not; considering his parents sought treatment for him and searched for him when he revealed his plan to them, it’s likely he was more sensitive to rejection than reasonable.
He was racist, but doesn’t appear to have acted on it beyond rants. He was harsher on non-white men dating white women than the reverse. He seemed to think his mixed race made him better than full race non-whites. He connected race to previous class status, referring to the former aristocrat-slave dynamic between whites and blacks.
He had apparently in one of his final videos/writings declared himself a living god. Whether he was exaggerating or whether he truly believed so isn’t clear.
His relationship to the “manosphere”:
First, a few abbreviations expanded: PUA = Pick Up Artist, also dubbed in popular culture as members of a “seduction community”; Incel = Involuntary Celibate; MRM = Men’s Rights Movement; MRA = Men’s Rights Activist/Advocate. Of note: MRAs don’t like PUAs, believing them to cement traditional male gender roles, elevate sex beyond a reasonable level, and general misogyny. While I’m not as familiar with their views, PUAs don’t like MRAs, apparently believing them to be weak and cowardly, “gameless” virgins or uninterested in sex, and don’t like them trying to change the dating script (I could be wrong about the details but I do know they don’t like MRAs for sure).
He visited PUA websites, as well as bodybuilder websites and at least one website complaining PUA tactics didn’t work. He referred to himself as an Incel, a term primarily used in extremist PUA circles.
Some have claimed his views were based on or solidified by MRA rhetoric. This is demonstrably not the case. Only one website, one with a previously-established bias against the MRM, has claimed this. Their evidence was that he went on various websites related to the “manosphere” and men’s opinions, not noticing or choosing to ignore that he had few or no MRAs in his youtube subscriptions and had signed up to few or no MRA websites. The websites he went on were closely associated with PUAs, a group that, to put it simply, hates MRAs and that is hated by MRAs. MRAs have distanced themselves from him and condemned him, both on an individual and MRM-wide scale. His actions should not be opportunistically tied to political opponents, no matter who they are and no matter how tempting.
Screenshots of a forum he posted in have been passed around, labelled as an MRA forum. There is no evidence this was an MRA forum, with some pointing to particular bodybuilder or PUA forums. On many of the forums he frequented, other posters thought he was too extreme, or even trolling/joking. These screenshots were selectively chosen and are unrepresentative of those forums’ views.
Interpretations and the aftermath:
I’ve tried my best to declare that interpretations are not universal. I don’t believe all of these interpretations have merit or are reasonable, although my biases will likely show through.
He was very sexist and displayed both misogynist and misandrist beliefs. That is, he hated and/or looked down on both women and men. As a result, some have said they consider him a misanthrope, as he seemed to hate all humans. As his focus was primarily on those who were sexually active, it may be unfair to say he hated all of humanity when he targeted his hate at certain demographics.
Some have claimed his attacks were solely motivated by misogyny and that we should therefore treat the incident as violence against women. As he intentionally stabbed his male roommates, he could not have accidentally killed them, meaning his attack cannot fairly be dubbed violence against women. He did attempt to gain access to a sorority, meaning that part of his attack was aimed at women, but his overall attack was not.
He was upset women didn’t have sex with him. His reaction to this was not to rape them, but to kill them, a more permanent act. Twitter exploded about how this case related to rape. The connection can be made, but isn’t direct enough to declare it as an obvious connection.
A very small group who initially claimed all victims were women have now started saying how important it is to be accurate about the genders of the victims… not because it erases the men he killed, not because dishonesty is wrong, but because it gives their political opponents reason to distrust them and point out flaws in their dialogue about the attack. This is using the bodies of his victims as tokens against your political opponents; it is extremely disrespectful and serves no one but the ones standing on their soapbox.
A few people have used his attack as a reason to eradicate the MRM and investigate or jail all its members. He was demonstrably unrelated to MRAs, yet these particular people say the victim’s blood is on all of their hands. All this does is shift blame from him onto others and in turn excuse his actions.
Some people have claimed his attack was about being stuck in the friendzone and decried the concept because of it. Some have claimed his attacks were motivated by rejection. Given he claimed he’d never asked a woman out, he was not friendzoned as that requires an active rejection and continuing friendships. He felt rejected by women as a unit, not individual women, so using this to portray the concept of the friendzone as dangerous is dishonest.
Some have used this attack to justify fearing turning men down for dates. It is important to remember that one man does not all men make, and millions of people have been rejected without attacking their targets of affection.
He didn’t want to hire women for their time because it felt like prostitution, even therapists and doctors, preventing him from bonding with them and getting effective treatment. Some have suggested that reducing the stigma on sex work may allow men like him to accept outlets for their frustrations, even if they don’t directly hire prostitutes, preventing them from building up and acting out on resentment.
Some have argued that while the PUA mindset certainly made him feel particularly resentful, the feminist mindset did him no favours by discouraging any venting he could have done safely. They have argued that the PUA mindset that men can be taught to be attractive is more appealing than the feminist mindset that no man is entitled to affection and while the latter is correct, the former is infinitely more hopeful until the supposed seduction techniques don’t work.
Some people have blamed those sources who influenced him for causing his attack, although they’ve directed their accusations at the wrong sources. We must remember people are not responsible for the actions of their fans and followers, only retaining part of the blame if they told someone to take those actions. Nobody that we know of intentionally told him to do this.
Comments on his youtube videos have showed some sympathy to his situation and possible methods. It is unclear which videos the comments come from but they are portrayed as coming from his declaration video. Some comments, when taken with a specific context, appear to approve of his actions. It is impossible to tell whether they are honest comments or sarcastic/trolling comments; if the former they are very disturbing, if the latter they show his beliefs weren’t mainstream. Either way, they’re unsettling, although dangerous people would be best revealed and helped before they become like him.
Some have pointed out that we need to look into why he committed this attack rather than just say he did it “because of misogyny” and leave it at that. They suggest we need to find out why he was misogynistic, and why he acted on his misogyny in this way, so we can prevent similar situations from happening in the future. They’ve pointed out most misogynists don’t actively attack anyone.
Some have theorized that his Aspergers didn’t cause his problems, but certainly made them worse. If he found sarcasm difficult, sarcastic comments blaming women and any comments telling him to act out his plans could have seemed serious to him.
Several mentally ill people have pushed for recognizing that he was mentally ill and that recognizing so isn’t blaming every mentally ill person, or even some; a few have pointed out that certain mental illnesses are more likely to be violent while others are less likely to be so. Many of those people have suggested that if we took mental illness more seriously, he would have been treated and helped before his plan formed. Several mentally ill people are worried this focus will place blame on his mental illness instead of him, and vilify them when they are harmless; this is reasonable to feel, but should not cause us to lie about his mental state. Saying he was mentally ill is not excusing him for his actions; it is trying to explain why he went on to attack when others who share his views and opinions don’t.
Several people have pushed to emphasize help for bullying victims, as they argue most school shootings were committed by people who were bullied. If we look into this path, we must be careful to not shift blame from the attackers to their bullies, as bullies are responsible for their own actions and not the actions of others.
Some, including the father of one of the victims, have chosen to blame the attack on lax gun control, corrupt/lazy politicians, and the NRA.
His face has been placed on memes. (Unsurprisingly, several images shame his sexuality, a major cause of his hatred.) All this does is make him famous after death. The last thing we should want is to teach people that if they have a cause motivated by hate, they should die in a blaze and be famous for it, especially one like this.
A minor few have said he was attractive. Even if true, it’s not a good thing to focus on. Hopefully the attacker won’t become the next Boston bomber.
The attack was complex and cannot be blamed on a single factor. By assuming his motivation boils down to one or two points, we won’t prevent similar attacks in the future. We must look at this attack, as well as similar previous ones, with a clear mind and examine all possible reasons so we can find the best prevention methods. We should prioritize preventing future attacks rather than focusing on decrying or praising certain ideologies.