Slate’s Brian Levinson: I Could Have Been Elliot Rodger

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 3.43.23 PMWriter and editor Brian Levinson draws parallels between his adolescence and the life of Elliot Rodger

Anyone can find plenty to hate in the 141-page manifesto by Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who killed six people and wounded 13 more last week in Isla Vista, California. The manifesto’s blend of misogyny, racism, self-pity, entitlement, and violent fantasy would make Patrick Bateman blanch.

Of course, I’ve got my own reason to hate the manifesto: Elliot Rodger could have been me.

I could’ve written an identical screed as a teenager or college student. In fact, I did write crappy stories about popular jocks getting pushed off cliffs by vengeful nerds, and sad sacks who commit suicide after whining about the happy couples slow-dancing at junior prom. So after I finished Rodger’s opus, I started reflecting on the boy I used to be: a boy whose emotional pendulum swung constantly between misery and anger; a boy who thought all his problems would be solved if he got a girlfriend; a boy who took grotesque pleasure in unleashing his rage against the girls he could never have and the boys he could never be.

Rodger and I fit the profile of a handful of other lonely psychos: John Hinckley, who shot Reagan in a bid to impress Jodie Foster; Dylan Klebold, the lovelorn, less-psychopathic half of the Columbine shooters; Seung-Hui Cho, whose morbid short stories foreshadowed the Virginia Tech massacre.

via I could have been Elliot Rodger: Young, frustrated, and full of rage toward women..

Hat Tip: The other Ted.

36 Comments on "Slate’s Brian Levinson: I Could Have Been Elliot Rodger"

  1. Anarchy Pony | Jun 1, 2014 at 8:18 pm |

    If you take a picture like that, you’re a douche.

    • Oh yeah. Unless the image was meant to be ironic, it’s hard to look at it and escape the conclusion, “What an absolute arsehole.”

      Seriously, maybe it makes me a Bad Person, but even if he’d never killed anyone, I just want to smack that face.

    • kowalityjesus | Jun 1, 2014 at 10:46 pm |

      There’s a shitstorm that came together for this kid to happen. 1 good listen to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness….lol

      • Tuna Ghost | Jun 1, 2014 at 11:57 pm |

        What does a seminal 90s album have to do with anything? I mean, I know you’re not being serious, but I honestly don’t see how that functions as a joke.

        • kowalityjesus | Jun 2, 2014 at 12:04 am |

 If you read some of this kid’s writing, I can only think of how well it goes with the tone and subject matter of the Smashing Pumpkins. I don’t see how people don’t get that, its plain to me.

          • Echar Lailoken | Jun 2, 2014 at 12:24 am |

            Apparently he was obsessed with sappy lovelorn 80’s progressive rock.

          • kowalityjesus | Jun 2, 2014 at 1:10 am |

            I think I just love the smashing pumpkins. But thanks for interesting info, lol.

          • What? Not the preeminent magnificence of Huey Lewis and the News?

          • Echar Lailoken | Jun 2, 2014 at 2:25 pm |

            I recalled incorrectly about Genesis… Mind you, the link is one of many clickbait that have blossomed up after this disturbing event.

            Rodger, you see, was in the habit of filming some of the more scenic drives he took in his beloved BMW, often with the accompaniment of 1980s pop tunes. He seemed particularly fond of romantic songs that touched upon his loneliness and sexual frustration, including Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love,” Phil Collins’s “You Can’t Hurry Love,” Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know,” and, in a bitter irony, “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & The Waves.


            No wonder dude was so destructively sad. He listened to awful “poor me” music that kept the wound of loneliness festering.

          • Number1Framer | Jun 2, 2014 at 12:40 am |

            Seems more like a Cure kinda guy.

            *In empty room with candle & notebook; spoken in dark voice:

            “I’m looking…….at these pictures of you……”

            *slashes arm, goes back to writing.

          • Tuna Ghost | Jun 6, 2014 at 9:51 am |

            It’s possible that, since we’re both old enough to remember the release of that double album (huuuuuuge release), neither of us has his or her finger on the pulse of probing young minds

          • kowalityjesus | Jun 6, 2014 at 2:09 pm |

            LOL, speak for yourself, boson.

            I actually was in middle school at the time, and had no knowledge of it whatsoever because I listened to classical music exclusively until high school. I remember seeing the ‘infinite sadness’ t-shirt on an 8th grader in the hallway and being very intimidated by the big scary mainstream scene. I had always liked 1979, but I didn’t actually discover the Pumpkins until a few years ago, at which point I became more than a little obsessed with them. Seriously, Siamese Dream. What a pillar of American pop art. Love it to bits.

  2. I do understand his self questioning. I had the technical makings of one of these incidents when I was in school. Not inclined to associate with others well, full of anger and self hatred, violence played a very large part in my junior high and high school issues…

    But on reflection, I had two things that made all the difference in the world. I had a good family…even with its issues…and I knew that I mattered to them…even if they were an enormous pain in my ass 😉 That disapproval or approval mattered to me…I knew that I counted. That helped a lot. The other thing I had was a family history of rugged pride, handed down from grandparent to parent to kid. So even when I was angry, even when I was enraged…I fought with my bare hands or not at all. It would have been the ultimate act of cowardice to attack people with a weapon…which would have unraveled the entire point of trying to prove my strength…my self worth…while questioning my sexuality and identity. Guns were for sport, self defense in extremis, and hunting…not for settling scores or evening odds. The way I was raised, if you couldn’t win a fight, you just went down swinging anyway and made sure they paid for their victory with some marks of their own. Bringing weapons into the equation was the ultimate shame, the ultimate failure…the mark of a person who was so weak and worthless that they had no spine or will of their own…they had to borrow it from a weapon.

    That ethos, and the family that lived it, sustained me…until one day I found a few friends…and realized that I was hungry for conversation…liked hearing what other people thought (even if I wasn’t sure how to process it)…and liked feeling like there were people I belonged with…and was welcome among. In due time…the world seemed like a better place than I had thought…and when i left home and came out (on the same day…different story lol) I entered the big wide world with a sense that I would find other people like me, and people who weren’t like me but were a pleasure to be around just the same. I suppose that attitude made all the difference in the world.

    • Echar Lailoken | Jun 2, 2014 at 12:20 am |

      I found myself revisiting this gem of an interview after reading about this latest mass killer.

      I set the time to start at the applicable information in relation to this event. In case you are concerned about burning 30+ minutes. Although it’s a very interesting interview, in my opinion.

      “You Can get exactly the same rotten psychopath either through neglect or overindulgence”

      • Oginikwe | Jun 2, 2014 at 1:22 pm |

        Interesting! I was curious about this guy, Richard Walter, and it turns out he’s considered the father of criminal profiling. NPR did a story on him and the Vidocq Society. I’d post the link but Disqus would either mark it as spam or post it next week. The title of the article is ”

        The Vidocq Society: Solving Murders Over Lunch” from August 12, 2010.

  3. Oginikwe | Jun 1, 2014 at 9:02 pm |

    Oh, brother! That’s some column he’s got there.
    First of all, maybe this is part of the problem:
    “All your life, your parents and teachers told you that you were unique
    and wonderful, that you could accomplish anything if you tried hard
    Yes, everyone is unique and wonderful. No one has ever walked this earth with your combination of DNA and no one ever will again. We are unique and wonderful, just like everyone else. That’s not a call to egoism/narcissism; it’s a call to enjoy your life in your own special way by finding friends who welcome your uniqueness. And, no, no matter how hard we try, we can’t become “anything” we want.

    Secondly, “Why did these guys pick up guns, but I never did?” I’m more interested in why none of these shooters have been women. To date, not one psychotic woman has picked up a gun and went on a shooting rampage against strangers.

    Last, “So while my anger and misogyny have subsided, they’ve never completely
    gone away. Over the past 15 years, I’ve gone through romantic breakups
    that included hideous words and actions, and I’ve argued with female
    co-workers in ways I never would with men. Just a few months ago, I got
    into a screaming match with my father’s wife in which I called her
    atrocious names.” No one can control another person: the only person we can control is ourselves. Levinson continues to have problems in that area. His misogyny still lurks just below the surface.

    • I do like that he confesses the inherent wrongness of some of his actions. I know that when I was young, I was violent in ways that were wildly inappropriate and way out of proportion to what was called for. I accept my share of the fault in that. It shows conscience, and a willingness to self analyze and accept blame for failings. If anything…once a person has accomplished that much…they are already on the road to resolving their issues in a worthwhile way.

      • Oginikwe | Jun 2, 2014 at 3:05 am |

        We all do things that we know are wrong but it seems to often come down to a “gradient of wrongness” or a “gradient of evil” of antisocial behavior. Levinson admits to his mistakes but I suspect his behavior won’t change that much (like the last 15 years) until he gets older when men typically mellow and choose their battles more carefully.

        • A worthy point. I forget that I’m looking back after two decades since calming my ass down. My forties and even my thirties have been exemplary conduct (with just a cpl slip ups here or there…more like grumpiness than violence)…and I’ve come a long way from the days when I once doused a guy at a gas station in fuel and chased him with a lighter…just for insulting me while we stood there pumping gas. I have no idea what prompted him to talk that smack out of the blue…but I’m pretty sure that nearly immolating a dude was an overreaction. Creative…but an overreaction 😉

          • Oginikwe | Jun 2, 2014 at 1:24 pm |

            Wah!! I’m more curious to what prompted you to do what you did rather than the other guy’s mouthiness. Did you not consider at all (while this was going on) what it would mean should you be successful?

          • Believe me…that question has crossed my mind after the fact many times! I count myself lucky I didn’t catch him!! And thats not the only fortunate moment in that checkered history. I’m damned fortunate that most of the people I crossed swords with long ago didn’t have any great of love of law enforcement. If they’d been upstanding folks with no reason to fear police scrutiny…I’d have been behind bars for sure.

          • Oginikwe | Jun 2, 2014 at 1:42 pm |

            Yeah, sometimes what we want isn’t good for us . . .

          • I suppose, if I’m brutally self honest, it may have been the guys choice of terms. I’d only been out of the closet for half a year…and while I don’t look or act particularly gay…I suspect he was a grumpy closet case who recognized me somehow. He went right for the homophobic epithets out of nowhere, with no conversation between us as a starter or cause. As soon as I heard the word fag…the world went red. Next thing I know I’m stomping back to the car reeking of gas. I felt like i was getting control of myself and my life…but I’d traded that secrecy and misery of closeted life for a new freedom that came with a different cost…dealing with ‘phobes. I didn’t too much better in Denny’s with my first bf one night…some jackass had to yell “Cinderfella” and wound up pinned to a table with a fork next to his eyeball getting a lecture about politeness. (See what i mean about being damned lucky to not have been in jail!!)

          • Lol. Ever seen “Lonesome Dove”? There’s a scene in that movie where Tommy Lee Jones comes out of a store and sees some guy whaling on one of his hands and son. He runs over there, beats the living crap out of the guy, and then later, after he calms down, apologizes to the townspeople for his behavior. He says, “I can’t abide rudeness in a man,” thus the beating for the “rude” guy. So, whenever I wish I could “hold a fork to someone’s eye” for being rude, I think of that line and walk away.
            I deal pretty well with name-calling because I was a “controversial adolescent.” I am truly mystified when someone takes offense at something I’ve said because I believe that opinions are like assholes: everybody’s got one. So, I keep tabs on my enemies just because they might try to hurt me or my family (for example: a friend of mine was passed by her driver’s side back tire on the highway one day whereas another friend started carrying a gun when some logger tried to run her off the road–those kinds of things) while not interacting with them other than in the public sphere in front of witnesses.

          • Matt Staggs | Jun 3, 2014 at 4:54 pm |

            I’m a pretty mellow guy who is far more likely to turn my anger on myself than another person (even when I shouldn’t do so), but I can definitely be provoked: being bullied or smacked around, Talk about “trigger warnings”: I’ve got a big trigger when it comes to a few very specific acts of violence that resemble some that were visited upon me as a scared and defenseless child. Even friends who have playfully smacked me in a certain way while I was not expecting it have had to be politely warned that it causes me to literally see red, and that I might respond without even thinking. I’m getting annoyed even thinking about it now.

            Also, watching someone else be bullied in many cases is another big one, as are serious threats to my loved ones, and cruelty to animals or children.

            I think everyone has the potential for responding to the right/wrong set of circumstances with violence, should they be pushed far enough. They call them crimes of passion for good reason. It’s good to be aware of this so that you can recognize it and avoid simply “reacting” to situations.

            Being aware of that potential has helped me avoid it, as has martial arts training, ironically enough.

          • Same here…I’ve always a weak spot for underdogs, human or otherwise. Observing victimization enrages me. Likewise the martial arts helped a lot. The calm of ritual is transformative…moves reaction from the merely emotional to the conscientious. Self control is the route to self mastery. I don’t think I’m ‘there’ yet…but then again…perhaps its not a thing that can be measured as a destination…just a journey that never really ends. I know I’m happier on the road to ‘it’ than I was before…so I don’t mind 🙂

    • kowalityjesus | Jun 1, 2014 at 10:48 pm |

      shooting rampages are probably a phallic thing.

      • Anarchy Pony | Jun 1, 2014 at 11:02 pm |

        I imagine high testosterone induced rage factors into it.
        Then again there is a cold calculated-ness about some mass shootings…
        Will we ever actually know what causes some to simply go from being angry and miserable to being horrifically and maniacally violent?
        I was angry and miserable and sometimes still am, and yet I have no urge to start indiscriminately(or partially discriminate, i.e. targeting women or different people of ethnicity, but still essentially random people) killing. I just don’t get what pushes them over that threshold.

        • kowalityjesus | Jun 1, 2014 at 11:49 pm |

          jah mon, but you have to make like a nuclear engineer and imagine the worst of the worst case scenarios. We all being earthlings (and the similarities that this entails), I can totally see how someone would lose it. Even egged on by evil spirits I probably couldn’t, but I used to be baffled by the fact that so many comparatively pathetic people went through life without killing themselves.

    • Echar Lailoken | Jun 2, 2014 at 12:06 am |

      Secondly, “Why did these guys pick up guns, but I never did?” I’m more
      interested in why none of these shooters have been women. To date, not
      one psychotic woman has picked up a gun and went on a shooting rampage
      against strangers.

      This is not true. The first modern school shooter was a 16 year old female.

      With every school shooting, I feel I’m partially responsible,” BrendaAnn Spencer told the parole board back in 2001. “What if they got the idea from what I did?”

      Spencer was 16 on Jan. 29, 1979, when she opened fire with a .22 rifle on Grover Cleveland Elementary School across from her home in San Diego, killing the principal and the custodian while wounding eight youngsters and a police officer.

      She also wounded 8 more…

      The First Modern School Shooter Feels Responsible for the Rest

      There’s more as well. Some don’t fit under the mass murder. A couple are spree killers, and some more serial killers (Aileen Wournos, Elizabeth Bathory) However take a look at Amy Bishop on this list.

      Famous Women Mass Murderers in Recent History

      I agree with you about control, however some clearly don’t even have control of themselves.

      • Oginikwe | Jun 2, 2014 at 3:01 am |

        Hmmm. That’s some story! I did not know that: never heard a word about it. The only other female shooter I’ve heard of was the professor who started shooting her colleagues when she didn’t get tenure. But, still, that’s two out of how many? Seems to be mostly a guy thing. Plenty of woman killers; not so many shooters.
        Thanks for that link. I’ll add it to my files. :^)

        • Echar Lailoken | Jun 2, 2014 at 4:31 am |

          Perhaps females have more to risk than males do, so they are more careful with their choices of how to kill. Perhaps the male mass shootings are a statement. A look at me now. In nature females tend to be most dangerous when protecting their social status, their young, and their young’s social status. An outward energy compared to an inward one. Of course it’s not that simple, but maybe a place to start.

          • Oginikwe | Jun 2, 2014 at 1:05 pm |

            I like to blame John Wayne and all the cowboy movies: that’s about as simple as it gets. lol.

          • Echar Lailoken | Jun 2, 2014 at 3:02 pm |

            Perhaps meta programming encoded in our mythology and legends, going back thousands of years. Surely the bible is full of violent acts, as well as Greek and Celtic mythology. Odysseus phrasing “fortune favors the bold”. The early literalist Christians were basically a suicide cult, in the sense that it was a sign of how fervently christian they were to die as a martyr. Check out this interesting PDF on ancient Irish rhetoric.

            Rhetoric of Myth, Magic, and Conversion: Ancient Irish Rhetoric


            or this

            The Sacred Cauldron

            Closely associated with the goddess archetype is the symbol of the cauldron, chalice or grail. The signification of this particular symbol seems closely related to that of the fountain or spring, at the heart of river-goddess cults of the Ancient Celtic world.

            Cauldrons of regeneration,cauldrons of inspiration and cauldrons of endless bounty all feature in the annals of Celtic mythological lore. But besides this, the cauldron also must have occupied a central role in mundane world of Celtic tribal life. It was the source of food, drink and nurture in the household, and perhaps the hub of that most consummate of Celtic social activities: the chieftain’s feast.

            Traditionally, this would involve the slaughter of a pig and its boiling in the tribal cauldron. Warriors would then be given portions therefrom in strict order of heroic merit, followed perhaps by the cup of mead served by the queen. So strong was the feeling and depth of significance aroused by this ritual that it was not unknown for violence to break out in the Celtic feasting hall, over this contested ‘hero’s portion’.


          • All mythologies have violent acts but with a purpose. The deal with the three book-based religions (mythology) is that they are combined with some historical fact. Those cultures dealing with an oral history knew they were dealing in metaphors within a spiritual belief system that enhanced their lives. Some cultures wrote things down: the Irish in your pdf above; the Aztecs and Mayans, and the Ojibwa who initially had the only alphabet of glyphs north of Mexico. Still, that did not solidify their belief systems into “fact” like it has with the three book-based religions.

            Our viewpoints on mythology and fairy tales are extremely skewed. Once women were domesticated through the rise of patriarchy and the vilification of Lilith, women took their storytelling into their spinning rooms. Fairy tales (women’s tales) are incredibly violent, not to glorify violence but to illustrate that keeping to the high road, deflecting “bad energy,” protecting one’s person, and keeping a pure, caring heart leads one to a good life. In order to get to that point, one has to make the hero’s journey and be tested, which is what hero stories and fairy tales are about. There are no shortcuts.

            Women have as much a violent bend as men when we look at mythology, fairy tales, and history. Our culture socializes it out of women so women tend to turn their anger inward–thus the high rates of depression in women and few public shooters. We socialize our young men for violence and don’t press the point that “Warrior” does not necessarily mean “killer” but is an entire set of honorable, masculine traits which includes gentleness, compassion, and patience. See the documentary “Tough Guise.” It is important that we talk to our young men about being men: that each of them needs to decide what that means on their own, from inside themselves, and not based on the imagery that they see all around them.

          • Echar Lailoken | Jun 3, 2014 at 4:22 pm |

            Thank you. I agree with every word you have written.

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