Do Subcultures Kill?

Do Subcultures Kill?
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A guy named Maddox made an intriguing post on Facebook the other day.

“100% of gun massacres occur by people with mental illness,” he said. “If you disagree with that statement, be prepared to make the case that there are some rational, cool-headed people who, after thinking clearly and weighing the pros and cons, decide to commit mass-killings. There aren’t.”

At first glance, the logic is persuasive. Massacring other human beings is such a profoundly hideous, evil act — an act that runs so contrary to our internal programming even its mere thought provokes instinctive revulsion, misery, and horror— defective brain wiring appears the only plausible motive.

It’s an explanation that offers comforting affirmation of our shared humanity (which is probably why Maddox got 14,000 likes for it). It also has the added benefit of providing intellectual justification for a quick hand wave whenever a killer comes along who believes or likes a lot of the same things you do. Oh, well obviously he wasn’t motivated by any of that, you can say, he was just a nut!

Yet popular though it may be, we all have our exceptions to the lone-crank thesis. Particularly when a killer holds values or interests dramatically contrary to your own, the idea that such things do possess the capacity to corrupt a “rational, cool-headed person” becomes incredibly convincing, and the crazy defence considerably less so.

Most of us accept the idea that the Nazis slaughtered millions of Jews not because they were insane, but because they were otherwise ordinary people ruined by a wicked philosophy that ranked some races genetically less desirable than others, and that the killings of inferiors was morally justifiable. We’re likewise quick to pin other 20th century slaughters on other totalitarian doctrines we don’t care for — fascism, communism, etc. In our modern context, most of us accept that Islamic terrorists kill because they believe a hateful ideology that encourages them to do so.

Whether you’re a bleeding heart leftist who frets about the socioeconomic “root causes” that “drive” indigent Muslims to radicalism, or a hard-hearted neo-con just hostile to Islam, period, you almost certainly believe that the murderous rage of Al Qaeda-types is an explicitly ideological solution to whatever socio-cultural-economic-geopolitical “problem” they believe they’re confronting.

Similar frames of understanding have been used to scrutinize the recent crop of mass-shooters, with — again — our willingness to accept their ideological motives usually a direct outgrowth of pre-existing biases against belief systems we don’t support.

If you hate EU-skeptics and the rising European far-right, chances are you saw the massacre by Anders Behring Breivik as a logical consequence of his anti-immigrant, ultra-traditionalist political views. If you’re a skeptic of violent movies and video games, you probably thought James Holmes’ love of the same are what inspired him to shoot up Aurora. Liberals were quick to blame Tea Party extremism for Jared Lee Loughner’s attempted assassination of Democratic Congresswoman Giffords, and there are still conservatives who blame Lee Harvey Oswald’s socialism for his murder of President Kennedy.

And now we have Elliot Rodger, whose string of murders this week have been widely diagnosed by feminists as having everything to do with his misogyny.

22-year-old Rodger, we now know, was a participant in a certain sort of online subculture devoted to complaining about women. Many have described him as an “MRA” type — which is to say, a proponent of the growing “Men’s Rights” movement that champions “Game”-style aggressive sexual conquest and bemoans the increasing feminization of society. But as is so often the case with solo killers, the man’s personal complexities make it difficult to apply such a neat label with any sort of confidence.

Rodger appears to have been as much a critic of the MRA establishment and its conventional wisdom as an active proponent of it, for instance. He was a member of a forum devoted to hating the so-called “PUA” or “pickup artist” subculture so popular within the net’s broader “manosphere,” and far from being a chronic sexual exploiter of women, he died never having so much as kissed one.

The blogger “Lion of the Blogosphere” has written a powerful, condensed summary of Rodger’s fairly coherent manifesto/autobiography, which paints a disturbing picture of a deeply insecure young man crippled by endless family drama, school troubles, and crushing shyness, insecurity, and social anxiety. Though there seems to be some ambiguity as to whether he was ever formally diagnosed, the adults in Rodger’s life all believed him to have the autism-like disorder known as Asperger’s Syndrome, and certainly some of his most pronounced behavioural tendencies — particularly his inability to socialize with peers and his emotional overreactions to any perceived “rejection” by others, especially women — will be recognizable to anyone who’s spent time with a sufferer of that condition. Growing up in the deranged world of Hollywood, where his father worked as a low-level director, this combination of severe personality disorders and upper-middle class feelings of entitlement for a particular standard of success — including, as he often explicitly stated, sex with a “beautiful girlfriend” — clearly made for a toxic brew.

As he came to embrace his social isolation and retreated further and further into the darkness of his own mind, Rodger became obsessed with a classically lunatic revenge fantasy against a world that denied him what he was convinced he deserved. His enemies were not just the planet’s women, whom he never understood and barely tried to, but its men as well, whose (in his view, inexplicable) social popularity and sexual prowess filled him with seething jealousy.

On May 23 he stabbed his three roommates to death, drove to the University of California Santa Barbara and shot two sorority sisters, and shot a third stranger at a nearby restaurant before ultimately shooting himself. He did not kill his loathed younger brother or his equally-despised stepmother, though he had planned to. He didn’t kill half the people he planned to, in fact.

When we go around blaming this or that ideology for this or that slaughter, it seems the most reasonable standard of judgement is whether or not the ideology in question contains the seeds of murder in its core intellectual premises. This is an important distinction from the conventional way we often talk about ideological extremism and murder, which is merely that believing in something, anything hard enough will eventually make you kill.

The sometimes overlapping, sometimes conflicting subcultures commonly (and lazily) lumped together under the “MRA” banner — pickup artists, anti-pickup artists, fathers’ rights legal activists, anti-feminist trolls, general traditionalist bloggers, etc. — may be gross, insensitive, ignorant, or cruel, but it’s difficult to argue theirs is a community ideologically committed to murder as an acceptable means to their ends. Even this Slate column which appears to have tried mightily to find sympathy for Rodger in the dankest recesses of the MRA underground comes up empty-handed. (And of course, the less dank recesses have written articulate denunciations).

If Rodger was some manner of serial rapist, perhaps his feminist critics would be on firmer ground, given their oft-stated linkage between entitled male chauvinism and the controversial notion of “rape culture,” but we’re not talking about rape. We’re talking about the deliberate, indiscriminate mass slaughter of human beings. Of both genders.

Rodger’s personal ideology, formed as it was in an obviously unhealthy brain, was an ideology of murder — but the murders of esoteric enemies whose death served no larger purpose beyond raising the world’s awareness of the supposed tragic plight of Elliot Rodgers. In that sense Rodger was the moral equivalent of a Nazi or an Al-Qaeda fundamentalist, in that he possessed a worldview that made his enemies less than fully human, and thus worthy of death as a means of fulfilling some larger goal. But he was also quite definitively not like a Nazi or an Al-Qaeda fundamentalist in that no one beyond Rodger himself believed in Rodgerism. Which makes it an act of truly dishonest political opportunism to suggest — as many feminist commentators have — that his view of the world is any way popular or common among the other “privileged white males” who walk amongst us.

Not to pick on feminists, mind you. Had Rodgers been tangentially associated with some other unpopular cause or subculture, one imagines it would be critics of that thing now crying for collective atonement.

We must break the ghoulish cycle of treating every mass murder as an opportunity to stand on a pile of corpses and increase the volume on something we were just going to say anyway.


  1. Dryhad

    It seems like the Four-terms Fallacy. Rational cool-headed people would never commit mass murder, irrational people are all mentally ill, therefore mass murderers are all mentally ill. The trouble is mental illness in a clinical sense is better defined than mere irrationality, and the question also carries the implication that the aforementioned mental illnesses are known or knowable. As I said in a comment here a couple of years ago, more often we hear about how "normal" these people appeared (at least to casual observers) before they started shooting people. So it is fair to say that mass murders are always committed by mass murderers, but to draw some kind of public policy related conclusion (or imply one) from that begs the question. It's all well and good to say only madmen would do that, but if you don't pin down what defines a madman that doesn't really help you.

  2. Geoff 'Shivoa' Birch

    I think you say it best with, “he possessed a worldview that made his enemies less than fully human”. The question then becomes if this was aided by the particular school of MRA/PUA/anti-PUA he was engaged in (the anti-PUA seemingly being the same ideology, just with hatred for the ‘major’ PUA school for being considered more successful at it).

    From what I understand of that ideology, at least on the PUA end of the scale, the objectification that strips agency and implies women are hackable also preaches that they are less than fully human. That men (like the target for PUA conversion) are the fully formed, real thing and deserve everything even when this clearly involves encroaching on the autonomy of women. Not to say this is the universal message, but that it seems to be the ideology of some schools in the wider movement. Is that the same as explicitly preaching jihad/murder? Of course not, but it does tie into that worldview you describe.

  3. J.J. McCullough

    Dehumanization of women in the MRA/PUA/whatever set does indeed occur, but it's dehumanization for the purpose of sexual conquest, which, as I said in the piece, is really an argument about so-called "rape culture."

    Rape is not the same as mass murder, and even assaulting and killing a sexual partner is not the same as mass murder. These are all horrible crimes, but they have quite different motives, and it's a fallacy to believe that just because we can plausibly indict a subculture for culpability in one sort of crime, that means we can plausibly indict that same culture in all other crimes, too.

  4. Guest

    "These are all horrible crimes, but they have quite different motives"
    They may do, in many cases… but in some they may be the same thing. Broadly, an attempt to assert power. In some cases perhaps to try to 'prove something' specific to someone. Or in others, to cause fear in opponents. Harassment, threats, stalking, rape, torture, murder, all of these get used for similar ends.

    What gets called 'rape culture' is basically a form of objectification, really the term is now being overused at the moment often when really objectification is more accurate… it's about the role of 'doer' vs the passive role ascribed to others – women but also rivals etc.

    I don't think modern misogyny is anything like as simple as "dehumanization for the purpose of sexual conquest", though that may play a part. Sometimes its for the purposes of maintaining self-image (vs a former partner to make you feel better about treating them badly, vs someone who has stuck up for someone else who you've mistreated, vs someone who has got a job/promotion when you haven't, vs someone who has rejected your advances – or even who you imagine/realise probably would), sometimes it's more about position within the group (who can declare the most obscene threat). It might be because someone has said something which causes you discomfort and you have no reasonable argument so resort to threats. For someone who's got into a habit of dehumanising women, it's then a much smaller step towards violence, sexual or otherwise.

    JJ, you seem to have done some reading into this case – and the way you describe it does seem to fit this pattern – have I misunderstood your point of view?

  5. J.J. McCullough

    Again, I agree that dehumanizing women can lead to violence, sexual or otherwise. But there is a spectrum of what we mean when we say "dehumanizing" as well as a spectrum of violence.

    I feel the sort of "dehumanizing" mainstream misogyny leads to is the stripping of a woman's independent agency, as mentioned above. If a man lacks respect for a woman's independence and individuality and right to make her own decisions, he can easily justify her rape and assault, particularly in the context of a relationship, which is where most violence against women takes place.

    It does not logically follow in my mind, however, how mainstream misogyny can lead to the mass slaughter of strangers of both genders. I think Rodger's very very particular brand of misogyny, which was part of his larger worldview, did, but again, critics are trying to indict something much broader than that.

  6. Stranger

    I disagree, mainstream misoginy can lead to this through a very observable train of thought. The guy arrived at this point because he took what is considered to be the "default" state of the genders, women as sex objects and men as the sex searcher, and took it to its logical conclusion. Since nearly every form of mainstream media shows as being sexually active as a man confirms your masculinity and validates your existance, and he wasnt getting any despite, what he considered to be his best efforts, he decided that the fault was on everyone else, for not giving him the sex he thought he deserved, and for being in his way. So he went from socially approved misoginy to mass killings.

  7. Guest

    Very few people ascribe 100% to every tenet of any ideology, and most ideologies have intersecting disagreements.

    So while there's truth in the idea that "no one beyond Rodger himself believed in Rodgerism", the fact that nobody agrees with, say, JJ's entire personal set of beliefs doesn't make him any less of a conservative.

    What I'd ask is a) does much of the actually existing Men's Rights movement run close to whatever inoffensive ideal exists or is being constructed in response to questions, or is mostly a gathering of people with their own version of Rodgerism? b) Is Rodgerism a likely extension of the core philosophy and activities, or does it run counter?

    As far as "100% of gun massacres occur by people with mental illness"…

    People with mental illnesses are part and parcel of society, 100% of cultures and subcultures of any size contain people with mental health problems and people with mental health problems are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Some movements welcome and support them, make appropriate provision and make them part of the life of the movement. Some movements try to shun them or pretend they don't exist or aren't really part of the movement, and some movements and institutions prey on and abuse people's vulnerabilities.

    The really cynical ones start as if they'll go for option one, move to option 3 and then switch to option 2 when it becomes convenient.

  8. Aszreal JT Smash

    JJ this is an incredibly well written article – I truly wish more people took the time to read this.

    Course, you know, it's not an info-graphic so the chances of it being processed by the masses is sadly minimal.

    – David

  9. JJ McCullough

    Aw, thanks David.

  10. Jake_Ackers

    There is no denying that if we actually went after mental illness instead of guns, we actually would of reduced mass killings by now.

  11. Dryhad

    I deny it. These are not people who would have gotten treatment had it been available. If you're suggesting treatment be forced upon anyone who presents with so much as Asperger's (if that) it seriously throws into question your priorities with respect to liberties. But if the US "went after" mental illness with the efficacy that it "goes after" guns then that's a moot point, because it would likely amount to little more than window-dressing and have no effect whatsoever. Just like current efforts in gun control.

  12. Guest

    I agree that access to guns probably does not cause or trigger outbursts of violence like this one – but I think it very likely that the ability to inflict large numbers of serious casualties is increased because of access to firearms.
    Not as easy to kill large numbers of people hand-to-hand.

  13. Jake_Ackers

    When Italians started coming to the US in mass numbers Congress ban the switch blade. The mafia then started using guns. Guess what is next? Explosives. Crazy people are crazy. They won't use a less lethal way. That is way our efforts are best directed at crazy people.

  14. Jake_Ackers

    Many would have, the loner kid without a girlfriend protested videos on the internet. He had a manifesto, and his parents tried to get him help. Crazy people usually don't get help until they do a violent attack.

    For example. If you commit a violent attack you should be institutionalized. If you have a psychic outburst that is nonviolent you should be forced to have a psych-evaluation. Then given pills or given some form of treatment/therapy. If deemed dangerous to one's self and others you get forced those pills or incarcerated. All of this is legal. Again though it takes a violent attack and even then most don't get help. Why?

    You led to it in your last point is valid though the system doesn't do anything. Problem with crazy people is this. The same people who say its inhumane to leave someone in an asylum for the rest of their lives are the first ones to say lock those crazy people up. The largest mental health facility in the US is the Cook County Prison (Chicago). Not some mental hospital. The mentally ill in the US get no help until its too late.

    The guy who attempted to kill Giffords, they tried to put him on trial and locked him up. He is a paranoid schizophrenic. He clearly did that because he was crazy. Why is he in a prison? And not a more dedicated mental health facility. Even Giffords non-profit group only addresses gun control and not mental health issues. The bad guy still would of targeted her or anyone else even if guns didn't exist. Just like the recent university guy did with knives and cars. Who knows how the next one will be? Address mental health as well. Do we need gun control? Yes to a certain extent. But people also need help controlling themselves.

  15. Dryhad

    Of course both elements (gun control and mental health) need better support, that's precisely why I denied your "undeniable" claim that one should clearly be supported at the expense of the other. I stand by what I said about liberties too, the reason people who have not posed a threat to others by their mental illnesses are not presumed to have posed a threat to others should be pretty obvious. Of course there should be more resources made available to them. It should not be forced on them. Even if you don't accept the liberty angle there, you're arguing that it would be more effective to solve the problem at the source than to withhold access to weapons, and if you're throwing such a huge net over literally everyone with any kind of mental illness or disorder I think you're going to find that that's a lot less efficient.

  16. Jake_Ackers

    I'm not saying you have to put nonviolent people in jail. Just force them a mental health evaluation. When someone does death threats or disturbs the peace, which is the two main things non-violent crazy people do, they get investigated if not arrested. So at least get crazy people who have non-violent outbursts at least an evaluation. IF THEN deemed a problem to themselves and others then get them pills, therapy or something else. Jailing or housing (as in mental institutional housing) people who are not violent is ridiculous.

    Its like that episode of Seinfeld when George was sent to a mental hospital because he took credit for his boss's work.

  17. Dryhad

    I'm a bit confused about what you're advocating and what you're saying is already the case and what you think "it" is that is like a Seinfeld episode. I'm pretty sure that none of it is mutually exclusive with gun control, though, and I'd venture to guess it wouldn't have a noticeable impact on the incidence of mass murders.

    I think I agree with your proposals in general, but you're acting like they must be done by themselves (why are you even talking about gun control? There's no reason why your proposals couldn't accompany gun control) and that they would have a much greater impact that I think would actually be the case.

  18. Jake_Ackers

    Oh I think their should be gun control laws. I just don't think mental health issue will pass if you put gun control in with them. Gun control has to stand by itself if it ever stands a chance to pass.

    1) Universal background checks.
    2) Mandatory gun classes after you purchase your first gun.
    3) If you buy a gun you need a gun safe.
    4) Guns when not in use must have a gun lock on it or be in a safe.
    5) And limit guns to the factory standard. Like pistols to 15 bullets not have a pistol with those ridiculous extended clips.

    All that can pass. However, it won't. Because:

    1) The Left will try to put fingerprint locks (which don't really work yet).
    2) Then try to limit a gun to 5 bullets when revolvers have more.
    3) Try to limit assault rifles and automatic weapons. When shotguns and pistols kill more people overall and in each incident. Shotguns are meant to clear a room, which is where most mass murders happen. Pistols are semiautomatic those increasing the bullet to kill ratio.

    As soon as you share putting in the above the previously mentioned will fail. I think laws should stand on their own and not be lumped together when trying to get passed. Otherwise both sides speak over each other and forget what they might actually agree on.

  19. Dryhad

    You're getting into the nitty gritty of American party politics which I know little about, but I just wanted to point out that my disagreement with your original post was more or less along the lines of you lumping together two unrelated things and not allowing them to "stand on their own" :)

  20. Jake_Ackers

    Lol nice one!

  21. HeartRight

    Gun related murder in the UK per annum: about 60.
    Gun related murder in the US per annum: about 8000.
    Adjusted for population-size: call it 2000.

    Completely, utterly and totaly ban the possession of lethal weapons by non-State actors.
    Striclty enforce the monopoly of the State on physical force.

  22. Jake_Ackers

    Forget the fact that the people have the right to defend against the govt if it becomes a tyranny. What about places without police? There is a county in Montana which is about the size of New Hampshire. They have 8 quasi law enforcement officers in that county. You know what the police response time is? 2-3 hours. In Detroit its over an hour.

    Most rapes and sexual assault last 30 seconds. A good police response time is 2 minutes. What is a potential rape victim suppose to do? Scream real loud? Blow a whistle? I guess they should of learned self defense and not of used that short skirt! -_-

    Most gun violence is from gang violence. Aka drugs. Decriminalize drugs use and the sale of them and violence will go down. Also we have a border issue (gun running).

    Yet the violent crime rate in the UK is also higher. Also the UK is a smaller country. The US is a continent where many problems arrive from disagreements and poverty. Compare all of Europe to the US. Like add Eastern Europe and the Balkans into it see what the numbers become.

    More so, in Europe countries with higher gun ownership rates have lower violent crime. Those with less guns have more violent crime.

  23. jdjddkd

    Adding up all the countries in Europe and putting them against the popularion still gives Europe a murder rate considerably lower than that of the US. Canada is bigger than the US and diesn't have a third of the murder rate. China has an even lower one than Canada, and it's about the size of the US exactly.

  24. Jake_Ackers

    How is land size anything to do with it? It's population. Canada's population is tiny. China is also a totalitarian communist regime. Do I even to example why it's murder rate is lower?

    The US murder rate is only a little higher than Europe but the European violent crime rate is wayyyyyyy worst than the US. Although it does depend on how violent crime is counted.

    As a result it's easier to compare EU countries to EU countries. Countries with high gun ownership rates in Europe tend to have less violent crime than countries with less gun owners.

  25. jdjddkd

    You brought in the size of administrative divisions, Canada has a very large territory and less people to police it. Well, it's due to population, you say. Okay. The population of Europe is more than twice that of Europe, a continent with its fair share of disagreements and poverty in various areas, and Europe still has the lower murder rate. But, you say that the murder rate is not higher by a significant margin in Europe… the problem with that is that with the increase in murder rate to that of the US, that's another additional 12,000 people killed per year, about four 9/11s. I don't know about you, but I'd think that that's significant!

    We can't really talk about violent crime. The UK is a particular hotspot for that in Europe as said by its own statistics, but it must be kept in mind that the UK definition of violent crime is much broader than that of the US. The data collected cannot fairly be compared without presenting a highly misleading image.

    Even the most regularly gun-owning countries in Europe have much better gun regulations than the US. You may want to look up those regulations before implying that they're worthless or harmful.

    And let's see, China! You say violent crime is about population, well, China should be terrible for that as it's the highest population in the world! Furthermore, you said elsewhere that police response time should render them about useless in protecting an unarmed populace until after the fact of a huge murder spree and that anyone restricted from guns is just going to murder folks with explosions. Okay. How does China being a totalitarian regime with extensive gun restriction bring it one of the lowest murder rates around? Why aren't people all going around and blowing up people they don't like in Australia like the rates of gun murder they'd had before?

    None of this even brings in the huge gun suicide rates.

  26. Jake_Ackers

    The US has a intentional homicide rate of 4.8 per 100,000 population while Europe has a 3.2. Not is not that much of a difference especially considering the problems that are unique problems to the US. Border insecurity, drug/gang violence, massive diversity that leads to issues, etc.

    Moreover, the even when taking into account how each country reports it, the UK is still higher in violent crime.

    And on the regulation bit. I never said regulation on guns was bad. Just read my other posts. I support gun control with the objective to stop criminals and crazy people. I just don't support gun control with the objective to stop honest citizens from owning guns.

    Do you seriously think that a democracy is ever going to be as safe as a totalitarian regime? China will execute you for just about anything. They just off crazy people. Most crazy people say nutjob things before they do violent acts. You know what they do with people who go on the internet in China and say crazy things? Or threaten people? They execute them. In China you are never able to get to the point of doing a mass murder because the gov't does that for you.

    If you look at the drug problem in modern Russia versus Communist Russia. It's worst now. There is more crime. Do I really need to explain how with freedom comes crime and social problems. You can't gamble, do drugs, smoke (certain things), or a ton of other things in totalitarian systems. You don't even have the right to be crazy. China is a country that practices infanticide. Do you seriously think they have a problem with just offing people that they think, may some how in some possible minor tiny little bitty way even think of doing something remotely bad? No they don't.

    Everything in China is regulated. Only way to have almost complete safety is monitor everything. Imprison everyone. And just kill everyone you think might be a threat.

    A diverse population increases crime. Freedom brings more crime. An insecure border brings more crime. Lack of law enforcement brings crime. Canada doesn't have the diversity the US does. Canada doesn't have the drug and border problems we do. Even with regulation on guns, which we do need to a degree, those issues will still led to a great proliferation of guns. Considering you can just smuggle them in and out of Mexico.

    Most of our gun violence is gang violence. Which even heavily regulating guns, it won't solve it. If drugs are trafficked so will guns. We need to solve the reason why we have gun violence. Not just among ban guns and every problem will go away.

    Plus AU is an island, so its easier to ban guns. Moreover, UK which is one too still has a high as heck violent crime rate even when considering reporting differences. Even the police can't carry guns.

    Moreover, AU has a greater ability to address mental health issues than the US. Everyone loves to focus on how AU ban guns. AU also addressed and has been addressing mental health since those mass murders.

    There is more to gun violence, murder, and violent crimes than viewing allowing or banning guns as a total bulletproof solution.

  27. Guest

    Do you seriously think that Europe is a unicultural block with absolutely no concerns over the immigration (legal and otherwise) that its components face, as well as with internal migrations? You think there are no issues to speak of at the borders of the European Union? You seem reasonably intelligent, you've got to be trolling because I don't think you could be that ignorant. That, and again, a jump from 3.2 to 4.8 is HUGE. Did you miss the point where that difference applied to Europe's population would give the equivalent of four 9/11 attacks per year in terms of deaths? That's not a number to brush away and say that it's insignificant.

    What sort of source are you using that puts the UK ahead of the US in violent crime while factoring for that they include simple assault, non-rape sexual offenses and other crimes not considered to be officially 'violent' under US law? I tried looking for myself and I didn't come up with one. I did come up with a good number of websites saying that such comparisons are going to be flawed due to difficulties in differing legal terms and separating out what is what, and at least one of them was a libertarian one. Even with all that, the UK is considered to be one of the more violent crime-hotspot countries in Europe (possibly just because of that broader definition) so it seems unfair to single out the UK when you're previously arguing that to compare we have to look at the continent as a whole. I mean, we wouldn't want to single out Flint, Michigan as our representative for Team USA, would we?

    European countries don't tend to have restrictions that prevent people in all circumstances from ever owning a gun, they're just much stricter about making sure that certain guns aren't falling into the hands of crazies for any reason at all. Meanwhile we have people bitching and moaning about any restriction on magazine sizes and so on because they're sure that Obama is going to declare himself dictator any moment now and that the extra firepower would allow them to somehow take out the highly overdeveloped military that we have now.

    Assuming that China is executing 6,000 a year (kind of considered a high number for that), that's still half of US gun homicides per year. If you add murders in China to estimated executions, that's about the number of murders suffered in Europe despite China having like twice of Europe's population. This is despite the conflict going on within the nation with Islamist radicals and other agitators, and the number should shock you as being pretty low. If your argument is that they're making up for the number of murders that would otherwise occur by doing those murders themselves, they seem to going about this rather efficiently despite many of the other problems they face.

    If you're going to insist that a diverse population brings about crime, I'm going to have to ask what you mean by diverse. Religious diversity? Ethnic diversity? How strict are you on that, are you saying that this extra violence comes from interethnic conflict or what? Why is Switzerland working out okay when the country is divided nearly into three with various languages as well as religious traditions? How does that work with several really violent countries such as, say, Honduras, overwhelmingly filled with Spanish-speaking mestizos who at least nominally practice Roman Catholicism?

    Guns can be smuggled in and out of Mexico, sure. They can also be smuggled into Australia from the sea. If you put in the extra work and cost of getting guns smuggled in from Mexico across a number of state borders as well, though, you give a much harder time to a person looking to shoot up folks than if they can just waltz up and buy a gun at a gun show without anyone caring about an ID or anything. If even a few of these killers are thus dissuaded from killing, that's good. It's also good for suicides; it's a known fact that making suicide in the 'easier' ways more harder or more annoying to attempt cuts down on them vastly.

    Of course mental health is another thing to consider, but we have too many people preaching on the mental health bit over and over while insisting that they need their guns to shoot up federal officers of a vaguely defined tyrannical future and that thus nothing should be done on that front. It's a two problem-front. But what I was arguing with in the first place is that you're very unfairly casting aspersions on Europe.

  28. Jake_Ackers

    You are making it as if I am saying ONE issue causes higher or lower gun ownership and gun violence. My point is the complete opposite that it is never one issue. Because what point one side makes you can find some statistic to contradict it. Guns, violence and mental health need to be viewed as a complete issue. Not just point to on number and say there is the problem or solution. Education level, poverty, ethnic tensions, racism, lack of law enforcement.

    Europe is a varied yes, it has borders problem and ethnic problems yes. Much like the US is. The in using Europe was to point out that each country is different and their are different statistics to prove anything or refute anything. Each European nation has it's own gun laws and each nation has a different gun ownership rate. As a result thus shouldn't each US state,? To a degree of course; we still have borders. It's not just one issue that causes problems. It's a varied set.

    About China. China has a low murder rate because it's a totalitarian system. I'm not saying China fakes it murder rate numbers. I'm saying the gov't is the murderer as in they go around arresting people and executing them, legally (well at least legally in China anyways). State execution does not count as murder. The state executions that China does prevents a lot of other deaths. Because China just kills anyone it thinks will be a problem.

  29. Rachel

    "Compare all of Europe to the US. Like add Eastern Europe and the Balkans into it see what the numbers become. "

    They become higher, but why would you do that? The US is a rich and fully developed country, those aren't. If you compare us to Western Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, you find that the US has a much higher murder rate. UK has 1.0, Austria has 1.6, Finland has the highest in rich Europe at 2.2. Population average is probably about 1, 5x lower than the US.

    "Europe countries with higher gun ownership rates have lower violent crime. Those with less guns have more violent crime."

    Citation needed.
    Finland has one of the highest gun ownership rates, and the highest gun homicide rate of the set. Switzerland also has lots of guns and low homicide — but most of those guns are part of universal conscription, and basically locked down with every bullet accounted for.

    Also, "gun ownership" is a red herring. Most US gun homicides (and half of all homicides) are performed with handguns; I'd guess most of the suicides (the majority of all gun deaths) are also with handguns. Find me stats on handgun ownership per capita and let's talk.

  30. Jake_Ackers

    My overall point is this. Everyone likes to point to this statistic and that one.

    For example, the left says more guns, more violence. The right says less guns less violence. I can keep going on all day with stats and figures to refute both sides. I was trying to paint a picture that anyone who thinks guns is solely to blame/help is wrong.

    Hungary is a massively low own gun ownership rate yet it has a much higher intentional murder rate than Germany. Again still lower than the US but overall still higher than Germany.

    Belgium has half the gun ownerships of Germany and twice the homicide rate. Serbia has more gun owners yet a higher homicide rate than Germany.

    Why? Belgium has ethnic tensions. Serbia is still/was in a warzone. Hungary still not as developed as Germany.

    New Zealand has a higher gun ownership rate than Australia yet it has a slightly lower murder rate. Why? Because New Zealand saw that address guns made no since. They put in place gun restrictions yes. But there focus with their new system is to control users, rather than firearms.

    Again my overall point is. Anyone who tries to draw a correlation because guns and homicide are forgetting that these issues are not in a bubble. I still think reasonable gun control with the objective to stop criminals and mentally ill from getting access. Plus an overhaul in how we address mental health would do a lot more than just trying to ban guns altogether.

  31. w00062016

    "Switzerland also has lots of guns and low homicide — but most of those guns are part of universal conscription, and basically locked down with every bullet accounted for. "

    Can we stop repeating this myth? Switzerland has a large number of privately owned guns. Bolt action and single shot arms can be purchased without a license. Semiautomatics and handguns only need a permit, which can be obtained by anyone over 18 with a clean criminal record. And no, this isn't just limited those with "professional need" like security guards. All you need is a "legitimate" reason for wanting a gun. "Legitimate" reasons include hunting, self-defense, and "I collect guns". In fact Switzerland is #2 in world handgun ownership (after America). Even the militia supplied assault rifles are kept at home, not in lock down, and ammunition is legally available from any private gun store.
    Those laws that gun control advocates cite like "ammunition audits" and "ammo must be bought and expended on a range" only apply to government supplied/subsidized ammunition and are there to prevent abuse of government largess and to ensure readiness. They don't apply to private guns and ammo.
    I'm not sure how this applies to America since Swiss gun culture is very different (they tend to see it as a collective responsibility instead of an individual right), but gun control supporters have to stop imagining that Switzerland is a heavy gun control state. It's not and they're just going to have to accept that there's a country that hands out assault rifles for citizens to keep in their homes that hasn't turn into an Alpine version of 1980s Detroit.

  32. @TheInvisibleDan

    Great article – especially the last line. It's interesting — and sad — the the message is very much the same as your "Grieving for Virginia Tech" entry. Apparently the opportunists in our society still haven't learned this lesson.

  33. robota rozum

    Isn't identifying mass murderers as mentally ill practically the same as identifying them with a particular ideology that you don't subscribe to, or as evil? It's a defense mechanism, designed first and most importantly to assure ourselves that we could never do such a thing, and second to create the illusion that such horror is solvable. *We* just need to fix *them* and everything will be fine.

    People are just people. The only things that matter are the tools we give them and how carefully we watch them.

  34. William Kenneth

    While this article is interesting, it glosses over the fact that it IS the shooter's unrealistic idea of maleness that prompts his isolation and the ambivalence he feels towards men and women. This IS in fact a feminist issue, albeit not one directed at women specifically. It is not hatred for women that causes him to kill them. It is rather his belief that 'getting a beautiful girl' will solve all of his problems and then feeling denied that. Which actually fits in well with his jealousy of the PUA. He wants what they do with ease to be his. In fact, the issues he has with them are PRECISELY the reason he is a misogynist. Becuase he feels that he is owed whatever amount of inexplicable pussy they seem to get. The author of this article misses the point of this entirely. Rodger's insanity around women was created by unrealistic expectations created by the patriarchy. Expectations that cannot be met because they belong to a role that is a prison for a good man's soul. This is an anti-woman shooting… As much as it was an anti male shooting. It was, a patriarchal shooting.

  35. Guest in SoCal

    Shooter? Why not call him a "knifer"? He attempted to kill far more with his car, so call him a "BMWer"?

  36. Jake_Ackers

    THANK YOU. Even if guns didn't exist, he still would of tried to kill someone.

  37. Dryhad

    You take a knife, I'll take a gun, and we'll try to kill each other. Who do you think will succeed?

  38. Jake_Ackers

    The knife actually will depending how close you are. Or the more likely scenario will be. Explosives or a car over a gun. Do you seriously think crazy people will use knives because their are no guns? They will escalate.

    How is someone who is about to be raped, assaulted, stabbed by a much larger person suppose to do? Scream real loud? Stop crazy people from getting guns. Don't need to stop good citizens who are actually trained and educated about guns.

  39. Dryhad

    Of course the knife will depend on how close you are! That's the point! A maniac with a gun can shoot people from across the room, a maniac with a knife is still dangerous but at least would be victims can run away from him.

    I don't know why you keep bringing up explosives, do you imagine that I wouldn't even consider restricting the use of a much more dangerous weapon with even less justification to be in the hands of private citizens? I need this lump of C4 to protect my family, it's my 2nd amendment right. Bombs don't kill people people kill people. Really?

    Cars are a better argument but they're still a lot more cumbersome as a weapon than a firearm. If madmen were forced to use cars as their weapons of choice I daresay there would be a lot fewer deaths.

    Your last point is very familiar but the statistics of countries with strong gun control laws do not support your assertion that guns are necessary to prevent these sorts of crimes. Possibly this is because even in the US most people don't carry guns with them at all times to guard against mugging and rape, or it's possibly related to the point you bring up about knives being more effective at close quarters. The upshot being guns are very effective if you want to go on a killing spree in a crowded area but not as good if you're about to be stabbed by a much larger person.

  40. Jake_Ackers

    Valid point. But most explosives won't be C4. It will be what is under your kitchen cabinet.

    And my point on countries with high gun ownership is this. People say more guns mean more crime. No it doesn't. It's how the guns are used and allow to be owned. I'm not saying arm every citizen. But if a person lives in a dangerous neighborhood and wants to protect themselves why can't they own a gun?

    Why is it that I can't use certain medicines because some person will abuse it. Why is it I can't gamble because other people will be addicted? Why is it I can't own a gun because other people use them in a bad way?

    Gun control laws are suppose to stop crazy people and criminals from getting guns. Yet most of the regulations just stop honest citizens. I live in a state where it takes 9 months for a background check, they do it on purpose. And then never award you a permit. So what happens? The crazy person who was going to buy a gun legally, now gets it illegally. And the honest citizen who needed a gun, can't buy a legal one. And is without a gun.

    On a gun versus knife fight. Most incidents are not a standoff situations. It's stalking in the park lot, its breaking into someone's home. Why can't those would be victims have easier access to a gun and the criminals have harder ones?

    On a side note, I think we should allow taser guns, weighted baseball caps, certain keychains and batons as defense as well. Those are all nonlethal. Yet most of these liberal states have ban them.

  41. Dryhad

    Simplifying the argument as "more guns means more crime" is at best a huge misunderstanding on your part. Guns don't cause crime, but they do amplify the consequences of it. If someone sets out to kill people, he should have as hard a job of it as possible and a gun makes it very easy.

    If you think background checks in your state are denying guns to people who would not be a threat to anyone, then that's a problem with the standards of the check not with the amount of time it takes or the fact that background checks exist at all. It's weird that in the very next paragraph you ask why would be victims couldn't have easier access to guns while criminals have a harder time; how would you propose to distinguish the difference if not through some kind of background check? Those psychic mutants from Minority Report to tell you who is going to commit a violent crime before it happens?

    As for nonlethal weapons being more restricted than firearms, blame Jefferson. It wasn't my idea to constitutionally enshrine the right to dangerous weapons.

  42. Jake_Ackers

    I do support background checks. It just unnecessary to have it last 9 months. The background check will reveal who is bad and who isn't for the most part. But making to so long when other states have shorter times, benefits no one.

  43. Stranger

    The problem we end up returning to anyway, once all forms of debate are exhausted is that mass killings dont appear in a vacuum, and while many different problems can contribute to creating the killer, once all is said and done, you still have a mass murderer on your hands as a direct product of society. So what is the solution then? Just shrug and continue arguing impotently every time someone decides that using bullets to get their point across?

  44. Trenacker

    Some random thoughts.

    First, the “pick-up artist culture” has always been a mess of contradictions. It purports that successfully approaching women (“dropping game”) is a mechanical process essentially reducible to a set of fundamental principles, but its chief scribes consistently deploy the tones of Social Darwinism and treat flirtation like a competitive sport. Second, the first principle of pick-up artistry, that women respond positively to confidence, is hardly a unique proposition. Finally, it is quite impossible to tell whether one’s success with women is the result of correct “application” of the rules of the “chase,” or more “ordinary” factors. The only successful “pick-up artists” who I know are good-looking, charismatic, highly successful people. In my experience, if there is chemistry between two people, they give each other slack in the courtship. If there is no chemistry, a witty line isn’t going to salvage anything.

    Second, while I agree that Elliot Rodger was not uniquely representative of a wave of misogynists, I think that the response by women’s issues advocates is timely. We are, and have been, in the midst of a broad series of national conversations about whether and how to “restrike the balance” when it comes to social equality. Inasmuch as the Tea Party is an “interest” movement reflecting attitudes peculiar to middle-aged white people of Protestant denomination; inasmuch as the Republican Party was labeled, fairly or not, “hostile to women” during the 2012 presidential election cycle; and insofar as the failure of college campuses to adequately prevent or address sex crimes translates to immediate harm to women a far greater proportion of the time than it does to men, it is a conversation that I am happy to have.

    Third, I do think that a lot of the hate directed prominent female commentators on the Internet, especially those who talk about misogyny, is disingenuous. While doubtless some of the death threats are real, my sense is that the overwhelming majority are the work of teenagers who can’t resist the fame that is sure to be theirs if they simply act provocatively. It is traditional bullying in a new forum: the identity of the target is far less significant, in their eyes, than the promise of attention.

  45. @CFLancop

    I prefer to judge every crime individually. Jared Lee Loughner, for example, was a fringe left paranoid nut who felt slighted by Gabby Giffords for not embracing his delusional politics during a previous meet-and-greet. Same with Dr. Amy Bishop who opened fire on her colleagues after being denied tenure. Despite having been a big supporter of Barack Obama, I believe it was her mental instability, not her politics, that were to blame.

    That's not to say that there are instances where a particular ideology isn't to blame. For example, Karl Marx was clear on the use of violence to establish a communist state. Same goes for Muslim terrorists who cite chapter and verse from the Qur'an while committing heinous crimes. That's not to say all communists and Muslims are threats to society, but it doesn't mean that because they're not, their ideology isn't either.

    Again, judge every incident individually, but do not ignore the fact that there may indeed be an ideological commonality between some of them.

  46. Trais

    That is not anything like what the MRA stand for.

    Aggressive Sexual conquest? Are you confusing them with the PUA? MRA fights for the rights of men which have become increasingly abused. Please don't spread misinformation.

    Information about men that have been abused over the years.

  47. JJ McCullough

    As I said, there does not seem to be a consistent definition of what "MRA" even means. Some people consider "MRA" a catch-call umbrella term for anything anti-feminist.

  48. Cicero

    JJ has addressed this issue before, quite well, with the "Grieving for VT" piece:

    (There was another one involving a "Scapegoat Convention" as well, which also got at this point)

    JJ has been about as close to spot-on as anyone I've seen out there in dealing with this. I say this even as I likely disagree with him on guns based on what I've seen.

    One thing I would note is that a causal link between subcultures and violence is likely to be tenuous at best. The most you could hope for is a (weak) correlation with an independent cause for both of them. There may be a very few odd exceptions…but those tend to involve a certain amount of violence being part and parcel with the subculture, and even then the violent wing tends to be a subculture within a subculture (let's take Muslims vs. Muslim extremists).

    As someone I once heard speak said, America has a mental health problem that gets attacked as a gun problem. There are people out there who should not have access to guns: I agree wholeheartedly. The problem is that, at least in the US, we've gone from treating mental illnesses (however well or badly) to letting mental issues metastasize and then throwing someone in jail when they do something criminal. There's really no way to get them help otherwise…and on top of that, where there /is/ a way to, it is all too easy for those efforts to be thwarted (as was the situation here).

    Briefly swinging around to the shooter's ramblings, I believe they ought to be pointedly and blatantly ignored. Given my druthers, the next time a shooter or terrorist sends the media a manifesto like this, after making sure the police have a copy for investigative purposes, if they are going to do anything with such a document the only thing the media should do with their copy is pointedly burn it on air without discussion or consideration of the contents. That is the entirety of the attention that the words of someone who engages in an act like this deserves, and I know there was at least one show that did something not unlike this.

  49. Chris Ludwig

    Very well written post J.J. It's really these kind of careful and thoughtful essays that keep me coming back after all these years (the comics are great too).

    As J.J. already said, I think that a lot of liberals are jumping on this because they have such great dislike for this subculture. I find these aggressive and manipulative "hacking" strategies very creepy and disturbing. I can easily make the jump that these could led to a dehumanizing that encourages very aggressive and intimidating behavior. However, I don't see the connection to mass murder which for all intensive purposes was indiscriminate.

    Certainly Rodger had a crushing social loneliness and he grabbed onto to this subculture as an answer and later a justification, but he didn't demonstrate any logical connection and he could have just as easily gravitated to any ideology with a similar result.

    I think the litmus test should be is anyone in a given subculture thumping these mass killers on the back afterwards. If Rodgers had gone after an abortion clinic there would be a small, but vocal fraction on the anti abortion wing singing his praises. Likewise if he had done his killings against Americans for the sake of jihad. I think it's movements like these that have blood on their hands because elements within their ranks do advocate and praise violence and murder. I don't think anybody really believes that the Men's Rights subculture is idolizing Rodgers. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of this subculture, I don't think we need to force this one in too.

  50. John

    Read the comments of his fellow puahate forumites here:

    Certainly they seem to be thumping this guy on the back rather heartily. Not just him either, but other mass murderers who took it out on women.

  51. Chris Ludwig

    That's definitely disgusting, but I tend to give a bit less gravitas to forum talk. The date rape talk was more chilling than idiots talking about going Eliot. At any rate I stand corrected that some in this subculture are defending his actions. Just to punctuate this thread we have some cop killers from the anti government fringe.

  52. John

    It's amazing how, even after writing a 140 page manifesto outlining exactly why he is angry, why he hates women, why they deserve to die and how he is going to do it, people such as yourself(/ves) can still dismiss it on some kind of undiagnosed mental illness.

    You've got his fellow puahate angry men reveling in this hate, laying it all nice and clear: at least Elliot Rodger made it clear why he was killing so that the censors won't be able to brush it all under the carpet. (

    Alas, all the manifestos in the world won't shake the worldview of the priviledge: No *NORMAL* person would ever kill a bunch of people; therefore, it must be the work of someone with a "MENTAL ILNESS" (which?). QED.

    Heck, why even bother having laws against mass murder, if by definition every mass murderer is a sufferer from a mental illness?

    I've seen a lot of articles talking about Rodger's unspecified mental illness. Which illness is that again? Is the likely-to-flip-their-shit-and-murder-people a diagnosable condition now? Do they treat it with prozac? Because the only illness he might have been diagnosed with, Asperger's syndrome, makes people *less likely* to be violent, rather than more likely.

    No JJ (and supporters), Elliot Rodger didn't kill these people because of his mild case of aspergers (which the family later confirmed he was never diagnosed with). He killed them because he was an angry, deranged individual. You don't need to have a mental illness to be a deranged individual. You just need to be angry, desperate, to identify someone who's at fault for you feeling this way (re:women), and to take it out on them.

  53. Trais

    If you read part of the Manifesto, he actually mentions he also finds men disgusting and had a whole list of men he wanted dead too.

  54. Isabel

    I think what you're missing here is the importance of how misogyny can permeate our culture and create an environment that allows people like Rodger to legitimize these views in their own head. This is why when we have shootings like these, which are at the very least linked to his misogynistic views, it is a chance to discuss and bring these issues into the forefront. Sometimes you just need a launching pad to get people's attention – emotional reactions to this horrific mass murder will ensure people are listening and want to talk about it when they otherwise do not.

    I fail to see why it is a bad thing – I'm sure you have seen the countless stories circulating about how misogyny has harmed women and continues to do so today. It's a very real issue and we are nowhere near equality on that front. Why not bring more awareness to society and use this opportunity to learn and grow from it? How can we help young people reform their extreme views that do so much harm to people? By talking to them about it from a young age and helping them to understand that, for example, women are not objects to be raped and taken advantage of.

    Our culture is slowly changing, but it needs a lot of work. I don't see the point in dismissing dialogue which will ultimately help us become a better society.

    Also there's like zero proof that he had any sort of mental illness. Asperger's syndrome is extremely common and does not typically lead to a mass murder mindset. Also his views were not unique – if you see the forums where he posted his diatribes, there were tons of other young men on the same ones, expressing the same views.

  55. Jake_Ackers

    However, if a person does something bad because of TV they have a host of other issues. It's like those people who blame Catcher in the Rye for the Lennon killing.

    Most schizophrenics are not violent either but most of them do the killings nevertheless. Is their a problem with out culture? Yes. Does TV have a huge influence? Yes. Over several issues.

    If his killing is due to solely to TV. His parents failed him, assuming he is not crazy. However, his mother said he was seeing multiple therapist and he was autistic on TOP of other illnesses.

    Regardless, this killing was a long time coming. And nobody could of legally or did anything to get it to fully stop. The system has failed the mentally ill and their potential victims.

  56. Chris Ludwig

    I find that the Internet has been a breeding ground for misogyny and it needs to be addressed. The growing culture of young middle class male entitlement and hostility to anyone they see as outside of it is creepy. However, there needs to be some honesty in our connections. Elliot hated women and men. He killed them both. We can talk about how this subculture allowed him to victimize himself, but that can extend to virtually any sub culture. At a certain point we damage the credibility of our positions when we start cramming square pegs into round holes because it's a worthwhile cause.

  57. Jake_Ackers

    One thing I think everyone is missing is this. Doesn't matter if its a gun, knife or explosives. Doesn't matter if someone is a complete diagnosed nut job or not.

    Like is their no social or legal recourse? I'm not saying jail, all I am saying something more could of been done to identify, educate, treat and monitor people who are crazy, forget legally or medically mentally ill, just straight up crazy. Isn't making death threats illegal or at least merit an investigation?

    But I shouldn't be surprised. There was a person who started ranting at bars. Then tried to overthrow a gov't. That gov't imprisoned him for treason but never executed him. And that traitor then went to write a manifesto while in prison. The gov't eventually even released him. He got elected. Killed other politicians. Violated international law. And proceeded to do everything he said he would do including mass murders. Yet no one stopped him. Heck he was the one who stopped himself by suicide.

    I guess if someone like that can with so many signs can try to take over the world. I shouldn't be surprised the crazy gun/knife wielding people in this country get away with mass murders and the only way they are stopped are when they willfully surrender (because they feel they finished) or kill themselves.

    None of the solution provided by these politicians, press and groups would address the mentally ill. Moreover, even if a person is legally not mentally ill, how do we possibly allow someone to go around screaming they will kill someone and we do nothing to stop it.

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