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This is not simply mass murder; this is suicide by mass murder. He's been emasculated by this, he's been humiliated.
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LN: One thing you write about with regard to school shootings in particular is that there hasn't been the attention to gender and race and class with white, adolescent, middle-class guys that there might be in other cases. And so when they see others getting it, they feel like it's an injustice. You don't just kill them, you take yourself too.
Violence is the way you get even. LN: So how does this entitlement turn into violence? MK: I have a chapter in which I talk about the prototype, the early instance, of something that reminds one of Elliot Rodger: George Sodini. He "sees" race when it is about others; with himself it's the class the BMW and gender his male entitlement that seems to hold sway.
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And he's sitting here shaking, the whole time, thinking, if they walk into my bedroom I'm in trouble because they'll see the arsenal I've accumulated. So he's getting his revenge.
Hell no. The ideal of the American man is we don't get mad, we get even. And when you do that, you go out in a blaze of glory.
He says this quite clearly: I am so angry, I am going to get even with you. They leave. That's also a very big part of this plan, and part of the similarities among many of these guys. And then, of course, killing himself. It's not that they expected to have it, but that they felt entitled to it. LN: You write about male economic entitlement, about political entitlement.
So it's a sense of white men's victimization. When it's a white guy it's always some kind of individual problem: "He was mentally ill. He was very polite and very deferential and the police officers take a look at him, and they asked if he ever thought about suicide. He had posted almost the same kinds of complaints that Elliot Rodger posts.
He says no. It's restorative. How is it possible that a guy like this — it seems on its face sort of obvious that he's mentally ill. Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology and gender studies at Stony Brook University, wrote about Sodini — and about angry men as varied as the school shooters at Columbine and Virginia Tech, fathers' rights activists and the Tea Party movement — in his book Angry White Men. Not all of the men Kimmel describes are white. For example, "I haven't had a date in years, I haven't had sex in 20 years" — Sodini says — "I've been rejected by 30 million women.
MK: It's so interesting how he uses his own race. They've all turned him down. So you would hear aggrieved entitlement, for example, from Tea Partiers who say "Let's take our country back. That's what I mean by aggrieved entitlement: the sense that you are entitled to those things, and you're not getting them and other people are getting them. That's part of it: women's greater equality.
Violence in this case is revenge. What follows is a transcript of a conversation with Kimmel, slightly edited for clarity and length.
Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, was Korean-American, the first nonwhite ram shooter in more than a decade; Elliot Rodger, who shot three people and stabbed three more, was half Asian. It's a way to retrieve your manhood.
Here's a thought experiment for you.
So that when the police do come, they think, we got a call, it was credible, let's take a look. So how is it this mental illness managed to sail just below the radar of virtually everybody except his parents, who tried to do something? He seemed so "normal.
When he is looking at "these white girls" who are with black or Latino or Asian guys, he identifies entirely as white. And it is absolutely baffling to Rodger or to Sodini that all these other guys get them. MK: It will take us making race visible. Anybody who runs around shooting other people, we assume they're mentally ill.
And he doesn't understand it — he's so much more deserving. He feels humiliated by all of these women who go out with all of these undeserving guys, while he — and these are his words — "a perfect guy," "a supreme gentleman," gets rejected all the time and is still a virgin and can't get sex. MK: When it's a white guy, it's always about mental illness. All of the arenas in which men used to just be with other guys — the locker room, the boardroom, the operating theater, the college classroom — all of those areas have now been, from their perspective, invaded by women. It seems like what we're seeing in the Santa Barbara shooting is sexual entitlement.
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His goal all along was to kill himself as well. That's part of what the entitlement sounds like. Do you think if they'd be asking if he had suicidal thoughts? As he says, it's the day of retribution. You write about violence as a way for angry men to prove their masculinity or overcome humiliations.
You go out in that blaze of glory and then your manhood is magnificently restored to you. And so seven police officers show up at Elliot Rodger's apartment. LN: But if Elliot Rodger isn't a white man — and he wrote about his half-Asian background in his manifesto, arguing that it held him back with women — how does he fit into this phenomenon? A suicide note in the gym bag pointed investigators to a website with a litany of complaints: Sodini was frustrated and angry that he wasn't dating or sleeping with women, and he shot three people and injured six others as revenge.
Nobody noticed because he seemed like the rest of us. InSodini walked into an aerobics class filled with women at a Pittsburgh-area gym and opened fire.
Despite Rodger's multiracial background, the Santa Barbara shootings are "a textbook case of everything I've been writing about," he said in an interview. But they're united by a central phenomenon that Kimmel describes as "aggrieved entitlement": a growing anger that privilege men once considered their birthright has slipped away as American society has become more equal, and a belief that they are justified in taking revenge against people who harmed them. They feel entitled, as white men, to the idea that this is their country, this is their world.
Just imagine for a moment if Elliot Rodger is black. When he thinks about it, he's of mixed race himself.
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But to someone like Elliot Rodger or George Sodini, the rules are if you play the game right, if you're good and clean and reasonably good-looking, you should be able to get a girl. He's entitled to sex, they've turned him down, and he's getting even by going out and killing them. Inner-city violence.
What they inherited from their fathers and grandfathers, what they thought was their birthright was access to money, power, and women. And that's unjust and unfair to you.