Nerds. Dangerous. Same sentence? Yes, in Vanity Fair:
In Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 movie Straw Dogs, Dustin Hoffman plays an ineffectual intellectual, a mathematician, indeed, a nerd, who moves with his alluring wife to her hometown, in England. Local rowdies continually harass them, until Hoffman’s character executes a violent revenge.
The words “nerd” and “violent” do not usually go hand in hand, but the harmlessness of nerds is hardly a settled formula. Along with severe emotional disturbance, likely psychosis, and a slowly festering decision to carry out the rampage that ended in the deaths of six students, as well as his own on May 23 in Isla Vista, California, Elliot Rodger, for most of his life, fit the mold of a “nerd.” In his manifesto, “My Twisted World,” he noted that video games were his only refuge growing up: “I immersed myself entirely into my online games like World of Warcraft. I felt safe there.”
Among recent murderers and would-be murderers, Rodger wasn’t alone in his nerdish pastimes. The Newtown Connecticut school shooter, Adam Lanza, even more of a loner than Rodger, was addicted to video games, including one creepy offering called School Shooting. Two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls who, a week after the Isla Vista shootings, stabbed a friend 19 times to invoke the imaginary character Slender Man acquired their ideas from an online game, as well as the horror urban-legend forum creepypasta.com.
After the Isla Vista killings, commentators quickly linked Rodger’s worldview to his lifelong embrace of nerd-culture offerings such as Pokémon, Halo, Star Wars, World of Warcraft, andGame of Thrones. Arthur Chu, a former Jeopardy quiz-show champion, judged the mass murderer’s autobiography as “a standard frustrated angry geeky guy manifesto, except for the part about mass murder.” Chu posited that the sexist trappings of the video-game world abetted both Rodger’s belief that he was entitled to a “hot chick” and his vengeful ruminations when he continually failed to connect. Indeed, according to Chu, video-game graphics and storylines encourage a more general “rape culture.” He concluded it was time for fellow geeks to “grow up” and throw aside the sense of entitlement nerd culture engenders.
This is hardly the first time nerdiness has become associated with aberrant behavior. History, however, suggests that nerd panics generally say less about geek communities than they do about the people doing the panicking—and the uncertainty of the times…
[continues at Vanity Fair]
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