I often point out that we don’t have mass shootings in New Jersey. We’re smart enough to have gun control. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have violent crime, and it doesn’t mean we don’t have violent, nihilistic young men. This week, we had a crime almost as hideous as what happened in Ohio, Texas, and California. And it happened in tony, progressive Maplewood.
When officers arrived, they found a woman lying on the street — critically injured but still alive — outside a two-story colonial-style home. The police entered the house and discovered a male victim.
The man, David Kimowitz, 40, who managed comedians and owned a popular comedy club in New York City, was pronounced dead in his home, the authorities said on Sunday. The woman, Karen L. Bermudez-Rodriguez, 26, an au pair for Mr. Kimowitz’s two young children, later died at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
The police announced on Sunday that they had arrested Ms. Bermudez-Rodriguez’s boyfriend, Joseph D. Porter, 27, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, in connection with the deaths. He was charged with two counts of murder, possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and criminal restraint. He is being held at the Essex County Correctional Facility.
I know Maplewood well. All through high school I worked as a golf caddie at the Maplewood Country Club. It’s a safe, progressive, tolerant place. If you know Berkeley California or Brookline, Massachusetts, you know Maplewood, New Jersey. Joseph D. Porter had a knife, not a semi-automatic rifle. That meant he only killed 2 people instead of 20. Psychologically, however, there’s very little difference between Joseph D. Porter, Dylan Roof, Connor Betts, Elliot Rodger, or the founding fathers of the whole movement, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
If you read the comments on Advance Media’s website nj.com you will find yourself in the middle of a digital ku klux klan meeting. For reasons I can’t really figure out, Advance Media allows white supremacists to use its website to spin news stories. Not surprisingly you will find a lot of angry white people trying to make the murder of Karen L. Bermudez-Rodriguez a story about immigration, about race, about Hispanic culture, about the divide between urban and suburban America, about anything except what it’s really about. Indeed, in the United States over the past 10 years there have been hundreds of mass shootings. Some, like the attack in San Bernardino, have been committed by Muslims, others by Asians. The Virginia Tech Massacre was committed by a Korean American. There are mass murders like Dylan Roof who are white supremacists and mass murderers like Connor Betts who are leftists. There is no shortage, of course, of white Anglo Saxon Protestants from the Bible Belt. But if you wade through the hundreds of gallons of blood, and step over the tens of thousands of bodies that have piled up over the past 20 years, there’s only one thing they all have in common.
Every single one of them has been a man.
This is not to say that women aren’t capable of evil. Just go to the infamous YouTube video and watch Madeline Albright declare that killing 500,000 Iraqi children by economic sanctions was “worth it.” Or think about the way Hillary Clinton destroyed Libya, turned it into an open air slave market, and joked about the grotesque assassination of Muammar Gaddafi. He came. “We Came, We Saw, He Died!” Women are every bit as evil as men. But they’re evil in their own way. Random, lone wolf mass murder, at least in the United States, is entirely male. If you hear about someone running around in camouflage with an AR15 and a bump stock defending his “liberty” and his “Second Amendment rights” by gunning down random 6 year olds at the local Walmart there is a 100 percent chance (not a 99.9 percent chance or even a 99.99999 percent chance but a 100 percent chance) that when the police either kill or capture the killer he’ll have a penis, not a vagina. But why?
Let me describe a process that for lack of a better term I’ll call “incel shooter stabber nihilism loop.”
Imagine you’re a 15 year old boy. You’re shitty at sports. You’re fat, skinny, uncoordinated and unpopular. You might think of yourself as a nerd, but in reality you’re not particularly smart, creative or imaginative. Girls can’t stand you. But you’re still a 15 year old boy and you still have a mother and she might even tell you that you’re special. Just wait until you grow up, she says. Those dumb girls at school will regret ever having turned you down. So you say. OK. Those girls aren’t too good for me. I’m too good for those girls. You turn 18. You go onto the local state university. You might get decent grades. You might even get a degree. But nothing really changes. You don’t find a mentor. None of the professors finds you interesting. You don’t belong to any clubs. You don’t distinguish yourself in any way, and above all, you leave college, still a virgin, already, at 21, past your sexual prime. You go out into the world, still young and idealistic, strong enough to pick yourself up every day and carry on, but deep down inside you know it’s never going to be any different. Year after year piles on and year after year the only thing that changes is you get older, weaker and uglier. Finally, you realize. Your mother was wrong. You’re not special. She lied. Life is about competition. Nobody’s going to give you a damned thing you don’t take for yourself. Life is a ruthless struggle in a social Darwinian capitalist hellhole. There are only two kinds of people, winners and losers, and you know what side of the divide you’re on.
It’s an epiphany that if you’re lucky, you won’t have until you’re at least 40, even 50. It’s very dangerous for a young man under 30 to conclude that his life will essentially be one disappointment, one defeat after another. And there’s a good reason. It’s not an epiphany. It’s not the wisdom that comes with age. It’s a nihilistic failure of the imagination. Indeed, the more nihilistic you become, the more you conclude that down here it’s just winners and losers and don’t get caught on the wrong side of that line, the more you imagine that nothing will ever change, the more conservative and the more ruthlessly traditionalist you become. The great paradox of American life is that the weakest men are often the most reactionary, the most openly Social Darwinist. They set standards for themselves they can never keep, standards that no decent person would want to live up to anyway. A woman who concludes that she’s worthless might develop an eating disorder. She might cut herself or become addicted to prescription opiates. But a man, or at least a certain kind of man, at least a certain kind of American man, will decide that if nothing else works, there’s always one way to make your mark on the world.
You can always kill.
Joseph D. Porter wasn’t exactly an “incel.” He had a girlfriend and an ex wife. He had the keys to a swank colonial in Maplewood. But he was 27 and he still lived with his mother. He worked at a janitor. He looked into the future and saw year after year stretch into one defeat, one disappointment after another. He gave way to his fear and his nihilism. When Karen L. Bermudez-Rodriguez asked for her keys back, he saw the one thing in life he had of any value slipping away. He probably even imagined she was cheating on him with her boss. So like Elliot Rodger, Connor Betts or Dylan Roof, he decided to kill what he couldn’t have, to destroy someone’s world because he couldn’t imagine his own getting any better. He became one more in a long line of angry young mass murderers. Even worse, there will be many more Joseph Porters and Connor Betts in the years to come. We know it and we’re not going to do anything about it. Society as a whole has given into the same nihilism that drove them to kill. Things are never going to get any better, so why even try?