The California spree killer: why is that loser’s face all over the media?

28 May 2014

9:37 AM

28 May 2014

9:37 AM

Last Saturday a young man in southern California murdered six people. I’m not going to name him or link to his picture because you would have probably seen it anyway, and he does not deserve to be remembered except by his family. He achieved nothing.

One of the depressing inevitabilities of such atrocities is the eagerness with which people in the media jump to some sort of political explanation; since many of these killers are men hateful of women or other people generally, and are obsessed with guns, some commentators put this in a wider context of political conflict where scant evidence actually exists.

If we were to draw a counter, conservative political explanation we might as well blame modern sexual mores that create intense and frustrating sexual competition, or point out that such killers are more likely to come from broken homes, or play lots of computer games.


But such explanations are unhelpful because spree killings are an anomaly. Such a tiny, tiny proportion of men from broken homes or misogynists or computer game addicts or virgins open fire on schoolmates that it’s fairer to say that such massacres are truly meaningless. Perhaps that is harder to take because it suggests that the victims are not martyrs for a political cause and their deaths were just a tragedy.

There is analysis to be done on the reasons and the patterns involved (and there is a profile of spree killers – late adolescents, male, white or Asian, not especially successful with women), but it would be more usefully conducted in the dry atmosphere of academia rather than the comment pages.

One thing a lot of experts do say about spree killings, a phenomenon that really took off in the mid-1990s (although there were cases before that), is that the killers are to some extent seeking fame and meaning in their otherwise pointless lives.

I recall a while back talk that the media would stop showering these losers with publicity, yet the latest atrocity has seen the killer’s face all over the papers and major news sites, as well as the numerous attractive women caught up in the tragedy, thereby potentially encouraging further massacres.

Considering that we’re facing the prospect of press regulation here, shouldn’t the media be behaving a bit more responsibly? Sure, the public might like to know the details of this man’s pathetic obsessions, but a like-to-know isn’t a right-to-know; many of them would like to know the gruesome details behind suicides but the media restrains itself on that subject in order to protect the vulnerable. So why is this man’s face all over the papers? Let him, and all the others like him, be swallowed into the darkness of anonymity for ever, and future lives will be saved.

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Show comments
  • Liz
  • Liz

    This is a roundup of comments posted in Rodger’s favourite forum in the immediate aftermath of his killings. Many posters talking about their intense hatred of women and admiration of Rodgers, one discussing his plans for planting a bomb and killing 100 people, one his plans for another spree killing.

  • Liz

    “Such a tiny, tiny proportion of men from broken homes or misogynists or computer game addicts or virgins open fire on schoolmates that it’s fairer to say that such massacres are truly meaningless.”

    And a tiny proportion of the right or left wing are extremists, far fewer still are violent, a tiny proportion of those few carry out spree killings.

    And the same can be said of Muslims.

    Ignore patterns at your peril. Or in this case, at my peril.

    • LucieCabrol

      Think you will find its a wee bit more in the case of muslims…lot more medieval people under that banner.

  • Liz

    “Not especially successful with women”

    The thing that confuses people about male sexist hatred and violence against women is that it often has a s*xual element to it. This is true of men who verbally abuse women (e.g. In the Spectator columns and comment sections, those who physically assault them and often those who kill them.

    The s*x confuses people to the point that they no longer recognise hate speech as hate speech and no longer recognise hatred as hatred. They think it makes the violence more complicated, more of an individual anomaly and deserving of more diluting analysis than other types of violence, specifically the type of violence perpetrated by men against other men. After all what could be more personal and non-political than s*x?

  • Liz

    Rodgers said his motive was hatred of women. I think we ought to believe him, don’t you? It really is quite odd the way that male pundits are at such pains to find alternative explanations, you don’t find them doing this when the motive is religious or racial hatred (Ie. Male victims). Quite odd and quite sinister.

    He’s not the first spree killer to say so. There have been a number in recent years and decades who have been motivated by sexism and misogyny.

    Spree killers might be rare, but male violence against women is not – it is widespread and common. In Pakistan this week a group of 20 men battered a woman to death for choosing her s*xual partner without their consent. In America Eliot Rodgers wrote of how women shouldn’t be allowed to choose who they have s*x with, that it was the job of intelligent men. In the UK men write he wasn’t a misogynist, he was a feminist.

    It’s time we started taking sexist violence seriously and it’s time we recognised the manosphere is reaching a tipping point into extremism and terrorism.

    It’s time s*x was added to the anti-hate crime legislation in this country so we can start measuring it and tackling it. And that includes the hate material that is inciting it.

    • LucieCabrol

      Kinda contradicting your comment above Liz…

      • Liz

        I mean adding s*x as in gender to the legislation. Sexist hate crime is going under the radar currently.

  • Laguna Beach Fogey

    The perpetrator of the killings was a feminist who hated (1) men who were successful with women, and (2) the women who slept with them.

    • Liz

      Yeah and Breivik hated white people.

      • LucieCabrol

        he hated socialists…he killed white socialists…….

        • Liz

          The people he really hated were Muslims. White socialists were targeted as their enablers.

    • Christina

      Are you high? He was most certainly not a feminist. He claimed that women should not have the right to choose who to sleep with, that should be decided by ‘civilised and intelligent’ men. He was a misogynist serial killer and failed Pick Up Artist.

      • LucieCabrol

        I think he was just mad…you read too much into one sad little boy….legislation on the back of such atrocities would be bad.

        • Liz

          He isn’t just one boy though, there are a lot of boys like this. Others talking online right now about their violent plans. There are forums full of them. Rodgers is their new poster boy.

          Perhaps now people will understand that we should take online threats against women seriously, because they’re coming from these guys.

  • mariandavid

    All I can say is that British media must, based on the comments below, be peculiarly self obsessed with the United States. Here in Canada the Brussels attack got comparable attention to that in California. The sole distinction of the latter was the much higher ‘reporting’ on the social media because of the much greater plethora of visual images.

    And I utterly disagree with Ed’s assumptions. What he calls ‘spree attacks’ get attention because of their unexpected nature – and it is utterly natural for everyone (even a Spectator columnist) to react more sharply to the unexpected than to the mundane. But of course Ed is in effect using a tragedy to promote his view that only calm, considered journalism (like his of course) is appropriate and that his colleagues who dare to comment or speculate on causation are letting down his proud but now defensive profession.

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      This does;t make sense:

      ‘must be peculiarly self obsessed with the United States’

      • mariandavid

        Apologies for being abstruse and trying to be clever. A simpler statement would have been better – “always obsessing over the meaning of what happens in the United States and how it relates to them, rather than simply reporting”. Will try to do better in future!

        • Marie Louise Noonan

          I think I get you. Did you mean that some Brits identify so closely with the US that when we read about them it seems that what is happening to them is happening to us?

          Compounded by the fact that some have connections/relatives over there too.

          • mariandavid

            Much clearer than I put it – the only caveat being that I was talking only about the British Press who have this love/hate relationship with the US and some of whom seem to swim between the US and the UK.

  • Baron

    In a society of more than 300mn people that’s full of drugs, guns and failed dreams what should be comforting is that there aren’t more killings of this kind.

    • Kitty MLB

      I remember when Obama ( believe it was him)
      Said Americans have their guns in one hand and bible
      in the other. His fellow countryman were not very
      happy. Even children in south I understand
      use guns as toys to shoot tin cans.

      • Kaine

        Obama referred to people clinging to their guns and religion in the face of economic and social change. It wasn’t actually a criticism, though some interpreted it that way.

        • Puss in Plimsolls

          ‘Clinging’ was certainly a slur and he was trying to paint a picture of non-Obama-voters as knuckledraggers. I for one didn’t care for it.

          • Kaine

            No, he wasn’t. Saying someone is embittered because their country has abandoned them economically isn’t an insult, in fact it’s a compliment. It says they’re smart enough to understand what’s happening to them.

    • Puss in Plimsolls

      Hi Baron. It’s also a society full of crucial constitutional rights, achievements, beauty, freedom, and aspirations for personal fulfillment and happiness. Which is why I live here.

      • Baron

        Hi Puss: Everything’s relative, always has been. If you were talking about the 60s last century you would be spot on, the American New World ranked top.

        Since then the Republic has morphed into a poorer replica of her glorious past, constitutional rights are under threat, achievements are turning stale as others do as well or better, the scenery got despoiled here and there (still alot of it left to be tampered with though), freedoms are getting circumcised by executive edicts.

        The aspirations may still be there, and thanks God for it, but the climate one needs to bring them to bloom has worsened, shows no signs of turning around.

        Still, let’s hope you won’t elect another messiah like leader when the next count comes. She would bury you for good.

        • Kennybhoy

          I live and work on both sides of the pond Baron. Puss is mostly right.

          The US is huge and diverse. You would be amazed at how little impact the antics of the federal governemnt has on everyday life.

          • Baron

            Point taken, Kennybhoy, but at some stage, the massive pile of debt, the entitlement culture, the meddling by the Federal agencies must have an impact on the vibrancy of all the Republic’s diversity.

            • LucieCabrol

              Entitlement culture……think we do that quite well here….about 20% of the population feels very entitled to take and not work…the poor benighted loves.

              • Marie Louise Noonan

                Where are you?

                • LucieCabrol


            • Puss in Plimsolls

              If you in Britain are still alive, Baron, you can bet your breeches that WE still live, as well : )

      • Prospero

        Really? Achievements, beauty, freedom by whose definition? You sound a bit too much like a politician.

        Reflect on Christopher Lasch’s book on narcissism, Allan Bloom’s “The Closing of the American Mind.” These are Americans with a sense of history, and they do not paint a rosy portrait of the national character in its contemporary form. Contra you and @kennybhoy:disqus America has become an insane place.

        And what beauty? By whose definition? I have been to a lot of western countries, and by the standards of the west, and as a whole, the US is as ugly as they come.

  • Chris Bond

    Yeah… incidents like this tell you everything you need to know.

    People need to ask themselves why certain events are hyper promoted when others are downplayed like this –

    What message is being sent to the proles as a result of the particular stories which make it to press and what message is being sent by the concentration of certain points? –

    And if it is still not obvious, read this –

    “Our findings demonstrate the benefits and limits of group-based guilt as a basis of support for social equality and highlight the value of understanding the specific emotions elicited in inter- group contexts”

    The media is not there to provide the news, its there to filter the *correct* news.

  • Shazza

    This horrific killing and the non-ending BBC/MSM coverage serves as a diversion from other horrific events around the world that do not suit the Lefty agenda.
    Why no in depth coverage of the killings in Brussels? Why was the article in the Spectator on this event pulled so suddenly?
    Why no coverage of the attacks on Jews last week in France?

    • Kitty MLB

      It may have something to do with the Leftie obsession
      with America. From terrible gun crimes to murder trials.
      They as you say don’t go into the same amount of
      depths with similar crimes in other countries.

      • Marie Louise Noonan

        American news has aways taken precedence over ‘European News’ in this country. It’s nothing new. Nothing to do with one’s position on the left-right spectrum. Not everything can be attributed to that.

    • Jimmy2Shoes

      It is because the killer was “British born”. I remember watching the six o’clock BBC news the other day and they opened by revealing/confirming that bit of information as if it were hugely important to the story. Maybe they want more British self-flagellation for all the problems in the world.

      • Baron

        Nothing to do with ‘British born’, Jimmy, it would have been the same if the deranged killer were American born. Shazza above has it right. The Brussels killing, all the other attacks on Jews ain’t comfortable for the progressives, they stink of genuine racism, but of the wrong kind.

        Let’s hope Ukip isn’t just about Europe.

    • IainRMuir

      My thoughts exactly.

      Why didn’t the BBC follow the usual practice of referring the killer as a “man”.

    • Jabez Foodbotham

      Why no in depth coverage of the killings in Brussels?

      I suppose because the first assumption is that because of the location and the victims it is somehow linked to that simmering pot of hatred and violence in Israel and Palestine, and is thus, regrettable but not particularly remarkable.
      But if some nutters were just touring around museums and shooting visitors at random then people would be a lot more alarmed and interested.

    • The Masked Marvel

      Why no excessive BBC coverage of the attacks on Jews in Brussels or France? No agenda to pursue. Those incidents do not push any buttons in the minds of BBC journalists and producers and editors, other than a vague notion that it’s probably all Israel’s fault. The BBC – and the rest of the media – have an agenda to push regarding guns in the US, though, and they react far more strongly and emotionally to the incident in California than the one at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.

    • Laguna Beach Fogey

      Because covering the killings in Brussels–in all probability committed by a Muslim–would cast a negative light upon the mass immigration-invasion policy pursued by EU power elites.

      • Shazza

        Spot on.

  • Kaine

    We have the internet. He uploaded stuff to YouTube. He doesn’t need a Spectator columnist to have millions of people hear him.