The tragic story of Elliot Rodger

Yesterday I was drawn to read the ‘manifesto’ of Elliot Rodger. At first glance this was no different to many other disturbed young serial spree killers in America with easy access to firearms who post self- justifications for their actions.
I started to read and immediately was hooked by an extraordinary, literate, claustrophobic but ultimately horrifying account of a young man’s journey to meltdown and random murder.
In a hundred and thirty seven pages he detailed his life and delusions from 0 to 23 years old right up until his planned killings.
You may wonder why I would persevere in such a venture but remember I teach in a primary PRU and am always interested in children who are on the fringes of society. This young man , so it subsequently appears, had Aspergers and was frequently referred to psychologists and psychiatrists throughout his life. I am not a medical professional nor a criminal expert so I am not going to attempt to analyse in depth why Elliot did what he did; however as a teacher with experience of negative behaviours there is much to interest and provide food for thought.
Elliot was obviously highly intelligent and came from an ostensibly privileged background. At one point he says his mother advised him to become a writer, and indeed he displays a talent for this, but not in the way she would have wished.
So what does his account tell us? We find he had an extreme hatred of some of his peers and blonde girls in particular; he was racist and towards the end of his story appeared to have a God complex which enabled him to contemplate the destruction of others in a peculiarly lucid way. He was goal oriented (towards killing) and was able to plan and act accordingly (buying and practising with guns). However it is in his descriptions of his earlier life that we can see the seeds of this hatred being sown.
At this point I wish to underline the fact that we only know Elliot’s side of his story but this is what I want to focus on.  It gives us an insight into his mental processes, however flawed, and why he felt he had no choice but to kill. He appears to have had a happy childhood up until his mother and father separated. There is a lot of talk about the arrangements for shared childcare, a new step mum who he didn’t get on with and a father who was always away working. His mother and father seem to move house often and he is very concerned with status – the right area, size of house, bedrooms etc. At first he doesn’t present as a self-obsessed loner addicted to computer games; he has friends albeit he frets about being with ‘cool’ kids. His problems seem to really start with puberty and his inability to attract a girlfriend; I would imagine his mental issues drive girls away despite him being a good looking boy.
He feels if he could only win the lottery and be really rich his problems with girls would dissipate. He interacts with other disaffected young men on the Internet and drives his remaining friends away by articulating his hatred and paranoia. By the end of his account he is fantasising about killing his step mum and young half brother who he feels will grow up to be more successful than him; he can’t however quite contemplate murdering his dad. His elaborations on this become more detailed and lurid. He knows he is twisted and plans to commit suicide after the murders on what he calls ‘The Day of Retribution’
So what can we learn from this (if anything)? Again this is only my view but here goes. Not all children who live unsubstantial lives have the potential to kill and it appears that socioeconomic background is not always a factor in predicting homicidal tendencies. Elliot came from a wealthy background but he was unsettled and insecure. His relationships were poorly formed unless he felt in control as he appears to have been with his mother. He loved his brother but this was eroded by jealousy. His father was largely absent and there was a growing resentment towards him. Money and status were key to Elliot and it was money that allowed him to carry out his preparations for murder largely unchecked. He could live alone, buy guns and act out violent fantasies on the Internet despite his mother having some concerns. He was able to conceal his true nature from the police and present as a nice young man. He was able to reject the medication he needed without ringing alarm bells.
Fortunately the Elliots of this world are still uncommon but the damage they do is phenomenal because it is on a grand scale. Elliot’s life epitomises the dangers of the modern world: family breakups, rootlessness, computer games, status, Internet porn and money without responsibility. This leads to a state of unconnectedness and a break from reality where the self is paramount. The tragedy here is that an immensely bright young man was tormented by mental issues to such an extent that he was driven to kill almost against his will and in the process destroyed many innocent lives.

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One thought on “The tragic story of Elliot Rodger

  1. Pingback: The Tragic Story of Elliot Rodger by @jordyjax | SENBlogger

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