Wednesday, May 28, 2014

His Twisted World

If the Santa Barbara killer had managed to survive what he called his "day of retribution," I think it's a safe bet that some high-priced Beverly Hills lawyer would already be invoking the Affluenza Defense right about now. The differential diagnosis would be Peter Pan Psychosis, or in layman's terms, severe Arrested Development.

Spoiled, entitled brat does not even begin to describe Elliot Rodger. And even allowing for the fact that he is obviously an "unreliable narrator" of his own "My Twisted World" life story, the fact that his killing spree was financed by indulgent parents can't be ignored. He didn't get the thick wads of cash to purchase his high-tech weaponry, or the luxury BMW he used to mow down some of his victims, from a part-time job or student loans.

CNN now reports that the parents were living above their means, deeply in debt, and that they had to scrimp and save to provide him with such bare necessities as a used luxury car and even occasionally forced to downgrade to economy class flights to exotic destinations.

He hated women, yes. There was no Wendy in his world. He gazed with contempt upon minorities who presumed to socialize within his physical milieu.  ("I was descended from British aristocracy. He was descended from slaves.") After all, he'd been brought up with minority women as his servants. He actually had an African-American nanny looking after him well into his teens, if you can believe his memoir. The psychological help that his parents are so widely praised as providing for him included "life coaches" and "socialization facilitators" as well as the standard pill-pushers.

It sounds so California. It rings so decadently true.  

Above all, this guy was a snob who believed that if only he was a multimillionaire, he would become a babe magnet. It seems to never to have occurred to him to make the first move, to exert himself, to use the charm offensive with the opposite sex. A smooth Ted Bundy-type predator he was not. He hated guys his age whom he perceived to be "scoring" as much as he hated the girls he perceived to be spurning him.

I read his 140-page poor little rich boy "manifesto" in its entirety. It's a cautionary tale of the cruelty of parental over-indulgence and neglect as practiced upon a budding psychopath. It could even be a script for a remake of Heathers, as told by V.C. Andrews, without the black comedy. (The kid's father was a Hollywood scriptwriter, so creativity must run in the family.)

"Mother always got me what I wanted, right when I wanted it," writes Rodger. "At Mother's house, all my needs were met with excellent precision."

Among his many needs were having his hair dyed blond at age nine, and unsupervised all-nighters at Planet Cyber, a gaming arcade, at age 13. 

He life, even if you believe only a tenth of what he wrote, was a whirlwind of exotic vacations, luxury homes, designer clothes and expensive toys. There's enough detail to make it sound plausible.

His greatest angst, toward the end of his life, was that although he was rich, he was not as obscenely rich as some of his peers. His mother, he fumed, refused to advance his class status by marrying into big money after his parents' divorce. There was even a hated stepmother who stars in a European version of Real Housewives. Despite spending thousands of dollars on Powerball lottery tickets, he never hit the jackpot. And so he despaired:

"If I could have become a multimillionaire at a young age, then my lifestyle would instantly become better than most people my age. I would be able to get revenge on my enemies just by living above them and lording it over them."

And this, about the last in a lifelong series of luxury vacations:

"I have always had a penchant for luxury and opulence and prestige, and traveling on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class would give me that experience, if only for a short time.... As holders of first class tickets, we skipped to the front of the line as we boarded the plane, and I took great satisfaction as I passed by all of the other people who flew Economy, giving all the younger passengers a cocky little smirk when they looked at me."

The whole manifesto, memoir, true confession  -- whatever you want to call it -- reads like this. A screen treatment, a storyboard, a script, complete with descriptions of facial expressions. A parody of the class war and the normalization of sociopathic greed.

If this guy had been just a bit more stable, and a little more patient, he would have done extremely well on Wall Street. Or Hollywood. Or Washington. Or wherever the military-industrial complex provides a socially acceptable outlet for greedy misogynists with a gun fetish.


Tara Crowley said...

narcissism is often the trait of the uber rich and well-to-do. that 'snubbing' of the common folk, the belief that one is entitled to the best of everything. Look at Donald Trump. Dick Cheney. George W. Bush. Donald Sterling. The Koch brothers. These guys made it work for them.

This kid was a tragedy waiting to happen. Wish the cops had taken the parents' concern more seriously. If only they had searched his bedroom. What a failure on their part.

Isaiah Earhart said...

The sociopaths that can't stomach directly killing people find their way to the very top of the corporate ladder. I can imagine this kid's bio matching closely with the bio of Lloyd Blankfein or Jamie Dimon.

I guess the Obama Justice Department is also a very good fit for sociopaths.

annenigma said...

The police scan license plates, infiltrate Occupy protests and other activist groups, bust down doors for suspected drugs, but they can't bother getting a search warrant to look for weapons after his family reports him as a possible danger to himself or others? I guess he wasn't a threat to the 'right' people - the government or corporations and their wealthy CEOs, aka The Economy.

If he was suspected of plans to do violence against a BANK, they would have hauled him in. If he had dark skin instead of being white, they certainly would have hauled him in. If they couldn't find cause, they'd simply claim 'failure to obey' in order to get him into custody for closer scrutiny, but they didn't. These days danger to ordinary people don't carry the same weight as perceived threats to institutions.

Forgive me for getting on another one of my soapboxes here, but ever since Congress decided to militarize our local police and county sheriffs behind our backs with free combat gear and armaments under the 1033 Program, trained them in counter-terrorism, and set up 57 Fusion Centers in the states so local police could work with the Feds in monitoring threats to the Homeland (Government), the focus has been on that rather than on keeping the community safe. Maybe safety is too boring compared to what the Feds focus on? Maybe all that heavy duty weaponry and extra money for travel and training puts them in a New York state of mind instead of community mindedness.

What about OUR security in our own communities? It's just another way the Feds have subverted our democracy. We didn't vote or have public hearings about the militarization of our police, but now that we see the results, or lack of, we certainly should. Our community police have quietly been co-opted to serve national security interests as proxy armies/federal commandos, if not outright snitches for the Fusion Centers through submission of Suspicious Activity Reports.

I wonder if the police are starting to suffer the same sense of ennui that our returning soldiers have as a result of being geared up by the Government for serious action but instead facing routine neighborhood policing. When they get a report about an imbalanced rich white kid, they yawn.

annenigma said...

@Isaiah Earhart

Welcome to Sardonicky! I'm sure I'm not the only one who very much appreciates reading your comments and following your links. It's good to have you here.


James F Traynor said...

"If this guy had been just a bit more stable, and a little more patient, he would have done extremely well on Wall Street. Or Hollywood. Or Washington. Or wherever the military-industrial complex provides a socially acceptable outlet for greedy misogynists with a gun fetish."

Oh, yeah!

On the other hand my mother always said I had a prince's taste and a pauper's pocketbook. To demonstrate she offered me a choice; 20 bucks for a fly rod or my high school prom (20 bucks, was 20 bucks back then). I loved that rod. Here's to sometimes indulgent moms!

Karen Garcia said...


Ditto re the welcome. I've seen your comments on Truthout as well, and happy to have you join the Sardonicky community!

annenigma said...

And welcome back to Tara, Elizabeth, Will, and Kat. And either a welcome or a welcome back to 'msandover54' and 'stranger in a strange land'.

We've kept the light on for you!

Kat said...

I thought the Ann Hornaday piece in the Wapost discussing the casual misogyny of Hollywood was good. It hurts women and men.

Discusses the casual misogyny of Hollywood. It hurts women and men.

More misogyny from Kerry: Snowden needs to "man up".

Pearl said...

Karen, I unfortunately had another reaction to the young man who went berserk, destroying so many people's lives. I agree that the kind of family he belonged to are not those we admire for many reasons, but he evidently was mentally ill most of his life according to his father and that causes just as much pain to family members as other parents. I wonder about the backgrounds of some of the other destroyers, like the Oklahoma bomber and whether people who are not nurtured growing up are equally liable to such sociopathic behavior. The tragedy, as with other killers, is having access to guns and when their brains go into overdrive have the means to cause so much harm.
Many sufferers commit suicide when they cannot handle their lives anymore which may cause pain to others, but not destruction of their lives as we see in all the recent massacres. His family and the psychiatrists on this case were negligent in not checking into the possibilities of the behavior that occurred.
I feel sorry for this young man in that he was unable to control his behavior and thought processes and it might have been the same if he belonged to a more responsible family circle.
The kind of bringing up in this case with other children may make them dishonest in their dealings, selfish and uncaring for others but not capable of mass murder.
But one question comes to mind as to whether our Congressional inhabitants are capable of mass murder via support for war, drones and torture and whether they are indeed sociopaths or follow the path of least resistance in our nation - President Obama's actions bring up many questions as to his level of mental balance and if so, how many others running the country can be so characterized?
Food for thought.

Karen Garcia said...


According to the parents' divorce papers, the guy was high-functioning autistic. It's commonly called "neuro-diversity" rather than mental illness. I have seen no reports that he was a paranoid schizophrenic, for example. His manifesto was extremely well-written, with no indications that he heard voices in his head or experienced other symptoms of psychosis. He certainly wrote with a kind of cold detachment about his own mental angst, as though he were writing about somebody else. He was the star of his own movie.

My point was that maybe if he had been raised in Podunk, Kentucky rather than in a culture hub of instant gratification and consumerism and social-climbing, things might have turned out differently. Of course, that is just armchair speculation on my part.

All of this reminds me of the initial reporting on the Columbine shootings, in which the culprits were portrayed as bullying victims who just snapped. However, further investigation, years later, revealed that the leader was a cold-blooded psychopath who manipulated his suicidal depressive sidekick.