When the news first hit that 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six students in Santa Barbara, it didn’t foreshadow the horrific details yet to come.
Six promising young lives knifed and shot dead. Families instantly plunged into grief. Rodger’s film industry parents getting his 137-page biographical manifesto and seeing his threatening YouTube videos racing from Los Angeles to try and stop him, then learning of the crime and their son’s role and death on the car radio.
It immediately raised larger questions about imprinting.
His manifesto detailed his life, evolution, racism, obsession with blondness, and why he planned to murder innocent people -- from his little brother (who he didn’t kill), to his roommates (who he stabbed to death), to the women he felt could reject him and the guys who he felt might get women (he did some of that). His YouTube videos were peppered with rage, envy and threats voiced with script-like phrases and a wannabe laugh seemingly modeled after a stereotypical movie villain.
He was obsessed with being a virgin and filled with fury towards women and taller guys. Could a Hollywood culture grinding out movies such as “The 40 Year Old Virgin” have contributed to the word “virgin” being seen by him as tantamount to utter failure and rejection? Some on the left immediately pointed to his prolific internet trail of postings in misogynistic internet groups. Did these groups encourage violence towards women? Were they to blame? Do they pose a continuing threat to women’s lives?
Meanwhile, on the right, a Fox News analyst suggested Rodger may have killed due to “homosexual impulses” (to heck with proof). Todd Kincannon, former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, tweeted: “No idea how my son will die, but I know it won’t be cowering like a bitch at UC Santa Barbara. Any son of mine would have been shooting back.”
Samuel Wurzelbacher, the “Joe the Plumber” mascot of Republican Sen. John McCain’s failed 2008 Presidential bid, offered ostensible condolences to the grieving families, but just couldn’t help himself from swiping at devastated parent Richard Martinez. Shortly after learning that his 20-year-old son Christopher was shot dead by Rodger at a convenience store, Martinez blasted the National Rifle Association and called Congress’ politicians “rudderless idiots” for not acting on gun control after the December 12, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, in which 20 children and six adult staffers died.
“Joe the Plumber” apparently fell into a septic tank, because the stench of Wurzelbacher’s words could be smelled for miles: “I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now,” he said to cushion his coming blow. “But: As harsh as this sounds - your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.”
Wurzelbacher thus joined the parade of Republicans seemingly racing to distance themselves from anything resembling “compassionate” conservatism -- even when faced with the unspeakable grief of a father who suddenly lost his son and best friend. How have we gotten to a point where ideologists and partisans are so imprinted that they can’t even let a parent grieve but must immediately lash out and try to discredit him? FYI: Martinez never called for a total BAN on guns. Just safeguards.
“Guns don’t kill people,” the oft-quoted slogan goes. “People kill people.” Actually, guns don’t kill people.
Politicians who are paid political escorts for lobbyists, pressure groups and ideological activists who block serious legislative attempts to genuinely keep guns and ammunition from easily falling into the hands of nutcases kill people.
They’re doing to the country what escorts do with their clients. And they will continue to do so. People will continue to die because they want money, are experts in carrying out their politically kinky business, and seemingly only want to service their voting partisan and contributing lobbyist clients.
So, yes, Eric Rodger was imprinted. But, in our knee-jerk (with the emphasis on the second word) responses, so are we.
And both of these facts are so -- SO -- scary.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. He also writes for The Week’s online edition. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joegandelman