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He had posted almost the same kinds of complaints that Elliot Rodger posts. He says this quite clearly: I am so angry, I am going to get even with you.
You write about violence as a way for angry men to prove their masculinity or overcome humiliations. You don't just kill them, you take yourself too. 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.
We're not going to go backwards. It's retaliation. Just imagine for a moment if Elliot Rodger is black. Nobody noticed because he seemed like the rest of us. Are we going to be dragged kicking and screaming into this future, which is what these internet sites basically portend? 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.
How is it possible that a guy like this — it seems on its face sort of obvious that he's mentally ill. MK: It will take us making race visible. And so seven police officers show up at Elliot Rodger's apartment. You go out in that blaze of glory and then your manhood is magnificently restored to you. Violence in this case is revenge. When he is looking at "these white girls" who are with black or Latino or Asian guys, he identifies entirely as white. 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.
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So that when the police do come, they think, we got a call, it was credible, let's take a look. This is not simply mass murder; this is suicide by mass murder.
Do you think if they'd be asking if he had suicidal thoughts? So it's a sense of white men's victimization. He's entitled to sex, they've turned him down, and he's getting even by going out and killing them. InSodini walked into an aerobics class filled with women at a Pittsburgh-area gym and opened fire.
They feel entitled, as white men, to the idea that this is their country, this is their world. 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. They've all turned him down. 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. LN: You write about male economic entitlement, about political entitlement. He says no. MK: I think it would be facile to argue the manosphere, as it's called, urged him to do this.
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's not that they expected to have it, but that they felt entitled to it.
MK: When it's a white guy, it's always about mental illness. I think those places are kind of a solace for that sense of aggrieved entitlement.
And so when they see others getting it, they feel like it's an injustice. We're far more gender-equal today in America than we ever have been, and we'll be more equal again tomorrow. MK: We expected our lives to look like the lives of our fathers or grandfathers — that we would work in offices that would look like the set of Mad Men. That world is completely gone. Hell no. They provide a kind of locker room, a place where guys can gripe about all the bad things that are being done to them by women, by people of color, by feminism. He can't get a pretty white blonde girl to go out with him, even though he has a fancy car.
MK: It's so interesting how he uses his own race.
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.
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. In a way, I guess it gives someone comfort that there are others like me, I'm not the only one to whom this is happening. It's restorative. They would instantly have handcuffed him, and they would have searched his room and found all the guns and it never would have happened. And then, of course, killing himself. Here's a thought experiment for you. Inner-city violence. 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.
When he thinks about it, he's of mixed race himself.
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. The truth is, of course, we're moving inexorably toward greater and greater gender and racial equality. He's been emasculated by this, he's been humiliated. His goal all along was to kill himself as well. 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.
What they inherited from their fathers and grandfathers, what they thought was their birthright was access to money, power, and women. 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?
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So he's getting his revenge. That's part of what the entitlement sounds like. What follows is a transcript of a conversation with Kimmel, slightly edited for clarity and length. In his manifesto, Rodger constantly complains that he sees white girls with black guys, or Latino guys, or Asian guys. 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. LN: So how does this entitlement turn into violence? And that's unjust and unfair to you.
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? Violence is the way you get even. That's also a very big part of this plan, and part of the similarities among many of these guys.
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. It seems like what we're seeing in the Santa Barbara shooting is sexual entitlement. Anybody who runs around shooting other people, we assume they're mentally ill. 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.
So you would hear aggrieved entitlement, for example, from Tea Partiers who say "Let's take our country back. The question for men, then, is how are we going to deal with them? We're going to become inexorably more equal every day. The ideal of the American man is we don't Santa Barbara CA women black men dating mad, we get even. LN: What will it take to have a broader conversation about cultural factors in a situation like this? It's a way to retrieve your manhood.
When it's a white guy it's always some kind of individual problem: "He was mentally ill. They leave. That's part of it: women's greater equality. MK: These kinds of sites and these kinds of chat rooms — I think they're kind of a rear-guard action. 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.