They say life is beautiful.
One thing I do know about is being a loser. I've been a loser for a long time, going back to way before I realised I was a loser. It comes as a shock, let me tell you. Being a loser and not being a nice person aren't the same thing, although they are often connected. I'd like to think I stopped being generally unpleasant once the realisation truly sunk in that I was a loser, although as one of the other associated symptoms of being a loser is low self-esteem and self-confidence, it's difficult to know for certain.
Which brings us to Elliot Rodger. Elliot Rodger was a loser. He wanted desperately to be an "alpha", a term used by those who ascribe somewhat to the "pick-up artist" way of thinking, describing men who are jerks but whom nonetheless seem able to have almost any woman they want. If he was anything he was in fact an alpha loser, and this in spite of everything seeming to be in his favour. Born into a well-off family in dear old Blighty, he moved to the richest country on the planet at a young age. Seduced by the life depicted in the film Alpha Dog, he went to college in Santa Barbara, convinced he would be entering into a world of casual sex and corresponding happiness. Instead he remained an "involuntary celibate", unable to form relationships. Rather than look inwards as to why he couldn't achieve such a lifestyle, he developed a pathological hatred of all women, convinced that in a more just world such a delightful, intelligent human being as himself would be rewarded merely for existing with sex and companionship.
Calling Rodger a misogynist doesn't really cover it. If we're to take his 140 page manifesto seriously, and having delved deeper than advisable into the similar if very different work of Anders Breivik I'd suggest treating it with caution, he seems likely to have had a severe personality disorder, quite possibly what once would have been called psychopathy, now usually referred to as antisocial personality disorder. Some reports have suggested he may have had Asperger's syndrome, which could account for his wholesale lack of empathy, but not necessarily his off the scale narcissism. Like other spree killers, he wanted his actions to be remembered as something more than seemingly inexplicable violence: he didn't just want revenge for the love he felt denied, he wanted women to be afraid, to fear retribution for daring to be anything other than subservient. Whether he achieved his aim or not, he fits the description of a terrorist just as much if not more so than some of those prosecuted, as others have pointed out.
Understandably, there's been much debate about what may have influenced Rodger beyond mental ill-health. Jessica Valenti writes he was "like most young American men, ... taught that he was entitled to sex and female attention". Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen in turn have responded in mock outrage to being indirectly linked by the Washington Post's film critic, their films having repeatedly shown sex obsessed young men sometimes achieving their dream of landing the beautiful, smart woman, regardless of their otherwise lack of charm. Violent films don't make people violent, but it really is the exception for a movie focusing on American college life (or the last year(s) of high school for that matter) not to depict it as at least something approaching one long party. It's also difficult to argue with Valenti's point: you don't have to buy all the anti-porn rhetoric of campaigners as I certainly don't to worry that the easy availability of hardcore porn can encourage exactly the sort of beliefs as Rodger had. His quite astounding sense of entitlement also seems to be key. He knew that he deserved someone equivalent to those he was denouncing seconds later as sluts. As for the Pickup Artist scene, it might very well be a minority one, floating as much on self-loathing as it is does depicting women as objects to be conquered, but some sections of it are faintly terrifying, and I say that as someone it takes a lot to scare.
You can't therefore strip culture entirely out of the equation, just as you can't the laws which made it a formality for Rodgers to get the weaponry he used. Laurie Penny writes movingly of the times when she could write without being trolled in the comments sections, of how she won't now be able to completely dismiss the idea of being raped and killed by those who tell her that's precisely what they intend to do.
I don't know what it's like to deal with those kind of threats. I don't know what it's like to fear being raped, even killed. What I do know is the vast majority of us losers, us inadequates, are a danger only to ourselves. I don't feel entitled to sex, relationships, friendships or to anything other than the modest safety net our democracies increasingly fail to provide. We might lapse into self-pity, just not the kind of angry, bewildered, egomaniacal self-pity Rodger felt and led him to believe the only answer was to strike out. The world owes us nothing, and almost always the only person to blame for your predicament is yourself. Some of us might manage to stop being losers and some of us won't. Life isn't fair, but we can try, have to try and make it as fair as we possibly can.