The Literature of Mass Shooters

Stan and I were analyzing the mass shootings of Elliot Rodger, Dylann Roof, and James Holmes. The initial question being: “which ones qualify as acts of terrorism?”

The initial conclusions:

-Roof was a straightforward outgrowth of the white nationalist movement and therefore his shooting is terrorism.
-Rodger was an outgrowth of the MRA movement so despite the fact psychological issues can be read into his action it’s still a political act of terrorism.
-Holmes was legitimately and exclusively mentally ill.

We accepted these conclusions because both Rodger and Roof left written material. Holmes didn’t.

Roof’s in particular cut straight to the chase. It says, plainly, “I shot these black people because they’re black and I hate black people.” This doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about white nationalists. Anything interesting in regard to it is in the reactions denying that it was clearly a political act of terrorism supporting the 2nd grade reading level model of white supremacy.

Rodger’s “manifesto” tells us a bit more. The MRAs, like Roof’s Stormfront folks, are the product of white men revolting over the fact they might not be as privileged as they once were. But Rodger more clearly outlines the surreal banality of the spiritually dead culture of privilege he was an extension of.

Rodger spends portions of his manifesto nostalgically lamenting how everything was fair and right with the world when he was a young man playing Pokemon, and how happy he was there was brand synergy between the cans of Mountain Dew he was drinking and the World of Warcraft MMOs he was playing. I’m not making this shit up, it’s all there. Rodger may have been the most boring person who ever lived.

By being more boring, Rodger takes on a weird interest. His privilege, and he had tons, is not enough. He fears the universe is manifestly unjust; that maybe women can’t actually be bought. In more optimistic moments he clings to the hope that maybe they can be bought but he just can’t afford them yet.

The surreal climax to his autobiography/manifesto describes his staking whether he’s going to kill himself and go on a shooting spree or not on whether he wins the Powerball lottery. He spends his time driving 8 hours across state lines because the Powerball tickets weren’t available in California. He can’t buy other lottery tickets because he doesn’t consider anything less than a couple hundred million dollars capable of making his life anything other than a story of someone tragically wronged by fate.

Part of how he’s wronged is by being a white man who can’t get literally everything he wants right this second. This being wronged doubles over on itself because his mother committed the cardinal sin of not being “white” so he can’t feel as fully wronged about his not getting everything he wants as he could if he were unambiguously “white”. Rodger spreads white supremacist diatribes all over his manifesto despite his being mixed race because white supremacy is an aspirational ideology.

Remember when Charles Koch, a man whose net worth equals a couple dozen Powerball jackpots and whose whiteness probably attracts moths, said when he was caught stealing oil from an Indian reservation: “I want what’s coming to me, and that’s all of it”?

Maybe Rodger was right about himself. He wasn’t crazy. He was just a loser.

Holmes only seemed to fit into this thread by being a white man who shot a lot of people. He dyed his hair and took Batman movies way too seriously. Clearly he’s crazy and not like any person any of us have ever met…

Except in the trial where he was convicted his line of reasoning came out, garbed in the vocabulary of human resources managers everywhere. It was pretty simple.

“You take away life, and your human capital is limitless.”

It took Elliott Rodger 120 pages to express this, it took Dylann Roof two. It took the US military several tens of thousands of pages to express this during the Iraq war. It took James Holmes one sentence.

Of course the jury couldn’t find him insane. He is the 1%.

This is a guest post by Daniel Levine. You can buy his first book here.

5 thoughts on “The Literature of Mass Shooters”

  1. Elliot Rodger appears to be a boring person only to those bore-ass idiots, who spend their time shaking their asses in parties and blowing their brains out with drugs and alcohol and occasionally with sex. To the others, he appears as a thinking person with a bit more profound interests than the previous mentioned, even if he went wrong, in the end. His so called “superficiality” is not the superficiality of his own, but that of his generation and his age group: who other 22-years old guy would NOT want to be rich and famous or have blonde hotties to bang? Yes, they want it all, esp. the ones who find people like Elliot Rodger boring.

    This article has good intentions, but it proves, once again, how severely people’s ability to view facts gets DISTORTED by their world view or chosen set of interests. To feminists Elliot Rodger was NOTHING but a misogynist, to anti racist movement he is nothing but a racist, to gun culture lovers he’s nothing but a hoax and to the MRA’s he’s nothing but a weak mangina. People are complete idiots in this sense, totally UNABLE to form a view that is wider than their own little sandbox.

    PS. MRA’s HATE the idea that Elliot Rodger is being called one of them. They do not want to consider themselves as terrorist movement, in spite of some of the raging lunatics among them.

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