Sleeping Cyborg

Jonathan David Page talks about whatever he happens to be thinking about. Sometimes other people join in.

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The value of talking, or, why you're missing the point

by on 26 May 2014
in , , ,
with some comments, maybe.

You’ve probably heard about the UCSB shootings already. Short version: a guy with mental issues and a history of disturbing rhetoric and behavior, which was apparently ignored by those around him, snapped and went on a killing spree, murdering his roommates Cheng Yuan Hong, George Chen, and Weihan Wang by stabbing them. He then went to a sorority house and attempted to enter it, with the intent—based on his manifesto—of murdering all of the occupants. Failing to get in, he instead killed two sorority members who were outside at the time, Veronika Weiss and Katherine Cooper, before leaving and shooting Christopher Michaels-Martinez, and finally, himself.1 All six victims were UCSB students. All six of them had lives and futures and dreams and friends and family.

The feminist community erupted with rage, like everyone else, at the murders. But soon, the rage was also directed at the reaction to them. It’s clear that the murderer—Elliot Rodger—had absorbed a lot of society’s endemic sexism. Hell, you want a citation for that? Take a look at the middle of page 11 of his manifesto:

Because of my father’s acquisition of a new girlfriend, my little mind got the impression that my father was a man that women found attractive, as he was able to find a new girlfriend in such a short period of time from divorcing my mother. I subconsciously held him in higher regard because of this. It is very interesting how this phenomenon works… that males who can easily find female mates garner more respect from their fellow men, even children.

Now, the disturbing part? Go back to the beginning. Read some of it. It’s the story of a perfectly normal little boy. This is how we raise perfectly normal little boys. This is the attitude that’s embedded in the media we consume, and the interactions we observe. And that’s why we need to talk about this.

I briefly considered omitting a link to Matt Walsh’s article “I think we should stop giving these mass murderers exactly what they want”, because that would be giving Mr. Walsh exactly what he wants, but when it comes down to it, that’s just being petty, and it’s a hassle for my readers. (Since I’m not above being petty, I decided to put him below the break instead.)

The first thing that irritates me about it is that instead of just cutting to the chase about why he thinks we shouldn’t be talking about this, he goes on a meandering bit about some doctrine.

Humanity has always seen something intriguing and mysterious in the banality of evil. That’s how it lures you in. That’s how it catches you, converts you, empties you out and turns you into nothing. And when you finally implode and disintegrate, everyone will stare slack-jawed and riveted. Your nothingness will seem so damned interesting to us.

So I will try not to contribute to The Coward’s legend as I make just a few points in light of his murder spree in Santa Barbara…

Now, normally I don’t have a problem with doctrine. Ask anybody, I am happy to talk five out of four legs off of a donkey on the subject. And if you really want to hear more about that, I suggest that you go read Marc Barnes’ article on the banality of evil. The problem is that Mr. Walsh immediately followed that with this:

First, if you immediately attempt to use the mass killing of innocent people to score ideological points, you are demonstrating many of the same characteristics as the mass murderer himself. You are displaying the same kind of detachment, selfishness, callousness, manipulativeness, and lack of compassion, integrity, and empathy that ultimately drives people to do these terrible things.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. (Also, if you’re playing the Conservative Rhetoric drinking game, take a shot when he uses the phrase “liberal feminist” in the next paragraph like it’s a dirty word.)

They said he’s nothing but a product of a misogynistic culture. “Misogyny kills,” they said. Not “evil kills,” or “hate kills,” or “this particular individual kills” — just misogyny.

[citation needed] Yes, all of those things kill. And you’ll find that most of the people pointing out that misogyny kills are also pretty hard on hate crimes. But talking about how evil kills, besides being comfortably general, isn’t useful, for the exact same reason that talking about how that individual kills isn’t useful: because everyone already agrees on it. So we’re drawing attention to the bits that need attention. But you don’t want to pay attention to them, gentlemen, because you’re guilty of them. We all are. Not because we actually avow these views, but because we’re swimming in poison. And we often don’t know better, because it’s difficult to see something that’s so ubiquitous.

The deranged psycho in California can’t just be a deranged psycho in California. He has to be a point. An example. A case study. A platform. We can’t weep for the lost and grieve with their families — we have to argue about the War on Women, as if this lunatic somehow exemplifies and illustrates the universal misogynistic feelings of all men everywhere.

This is a false dichotomy. We can do both. Let’s do both.

I have to wonder whether the Eternal Victims who’ve used this tragedy to advance their feminist agenda ACTUALLY think that most or all or many men share even one shred of one crumb of one iota of this maniac’s views about women. Do they hate men so much that they’ve convinced themselves we’re all one step away from murdering sorority sisters, or are they callously pretending they believe it because it makes for great propaganda (and it gives them something to do on a lazy Memorial Day weekend)?

We don’t need to share his views, Mr. Walsh. We’re not Vulcans; nobody follows their stated ideology. We’re both being whispered to by the spirit of the times, saying that yes, this is fair. The difference is that you and I are more-or-less well-adjusted human beings, and so the whispers tint our thoughts and actions, instead of ruling them entirely. But the shooter, like all crazy people, was not more-or-less well-adjusted. It’s always been that way. Name me a crazy person whose delusions weren’t in line with their environment. People don’t just come up with stuff out of the blue.

It’s worth noting that all of the people I’ve heard talking about this now are people who talk about this the rest of the time, too. There’s some input bias going on here—just because something is reaching a wider audience doesn’t mean that the people saying it changed tactics.

I’m going to ignore the second part of his article, because I don’t have particularly strong opinions on gun control, which I’m sure is a heinous oversight on my behalf, but there we go. Instead, we’re going to backtrack to Ms. Zimmerman’s article about how misogyny is poison.

It has been suggested to me that Ms. Zimmerman’s article is misandristic. Far from it—I was saying the same thing as her at the beginning of the article. He doesn’t need to have been a madman, because all of us, men and women, are raised this way by society. And that’s a problem, and that’s why we need to talk.