Wait…I think I’ve seen this wreck before!
Richard Hernandez’s enraged rant at the National Rifle Association for getting three people stabbed to death by Elliot Rodger signaled that this mass killing would be exploited to the max by a succession of unscrupulous and/or irrational activists, social critics, and pundits, and, as my son used to say before he stopped respecting the French, “Voilà!”
The burgeoning ethics train wreck looks like it might be even more infuriating than most, though nothing, ever, will be able to top the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Express for pure, widespread, unethical lunacy. Early indications are that the usual suspects will try to wring lessons from the crazed acts of a very unusual, spectacularly deranged, unsympathetic creep as if the fair and obvious answer isn’t there for all to see who are objective and smart enough to perceive it: this one mad act proves nothing. Not about the U.S., men, not about whites, not about guns, not about law, not about Hollywood. Nothing.
It’s a big country, and there’s lots of time before climate change destroys us all or something else does first. The attack of Elliot Roger is the opposite of signature significance, an utterly meaningless convergence of factors with fewer lessons to teach than other odd but deadly events, like the Great Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919, or the St. Pierre Snake Invasion of 1905. He means nothing, and should be shunted aside to obscurity as quietly and quickly as possible, so his undeserved notoriety doesn’t set off differently motivated but similarly unhinged sociopaths who are teetering on the brink. Unfortunately, that would require journalists, politicians and single-issue fanatics to be fair, logical and responsible.
Some have met the challenge, even some I would never expect. For example, when Sen. Richard Blumenthal appeared on CNN to exploit the Santa Barbara tragedy for gun-control legislation, Carol Costello, the flagrantly left-biased morning anchor whom I have never written or thought a complimentary thing about before, had the integrity to confront him with the facts that 1) Rodger used a knife to kill half his victims, 2) purchased his gun legally while meeting all requirements and 3) did so in California, which has among the toughest gun laws in the nation, thus suggesting that none of the measures Blumenthal and others were using this incident to promote would have stopped Rodgers in any way. “California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, ” Costello said. “The shooter in this case abided by a background check and waiting periods. He had never been charged with a crime or voluntarily committed. How would any gun control law prevent this particular shooter from buying a gun?”
BLUMENTHAL: “Wait! I think I hear my mother calling me!” No, what he really said to change the subject was…“There is no single solution. There’s no panacea to the problem of gun violence, and not every death – even every mass shooting – can be prevented. But health professionals going with those police who spoke to Mr. Rodger, after he was reported as being suicidal, might have helped them to detect and even to treat the very severe mental illness that made him so dangerous to himself and others.”
Here, of course, if Costello were a responsible journalist and not the Democratic Party hack that she is, she would have replied, “No wait a minute, Senator: you just argued that the Santa Barbara killing shows that we need to revisit gun control, and now you’ve shifted to mental health policy. So you admit that none of the measures you’re complaining that the Senate hasn’t passed would have impeded Rodgers in any way, and that Richard Hernandez’s rant is completely misdirected, correct?”
But that would be expecting too much. For Costello, this was a career ethics high-point.
“How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like “Neighbors” and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”?  How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not fair”?  Movies may not reflect reality, but they powerfully condition what we desire, expect and feel we deserve from it.” 
1. None who are sane, Ann.
2. None who are sane, Ann
3. No, they really don’t. Unless we’re nuts. Like Rodger.
As a film critic, Hornaday feels that to make her field seem important (it isn’t) she needs to use it to graft the dubious influence of films onto a bloody, high profile tragedy based on nothing but moldy theories that we have been hearing forever. I remember listening to a psychiatrist in the Fifties argue that the Superman TV show was sinister because it reinforced childhood fantasies about flying, as my father laughed out loud. Some really dumb kid, you see, had grabbed a red blanket and jumped out his bedroom window to his death. Sad, but stupid. Drawing a universal lesson from the incident was absurd and irresponsible, but it got the quack’s name in the paper. Since nobody reads papers now and that’s where she is usually ignored, Hornaday got her name in the blogs and on cable TV.
Blaming Hollywood fantasies for the irrational fury of a spoiled, sick Hollywood kid is intellectually lazy and logically indefensible, but it figures: this is the current “blame anyone but the individual responsible” mantra that drives so much of our current policy discourse. Then Hornaday played the “War on Women” card:
“Part of what makes cinema so potent is the way even its most outlandish characters and narratives burrow into and fuse with our own stories and identities. When the dominant medium of our age — both as art form and industrial practice — is in the hands of one gender, what may start out as harmless escapist fantasies can, through repetition and amplification, become distortions and dangerous lies.”
Uh, Ann? Fantasies are distortions, and they aren’t lies unless someone seriously intends to deceive anyone with them. But I get your point: remember all the homely women who went on murderous rampages because “The Ugly Duckling” lied to them about growing up to be the most beautiful females on the pond, er, in their schools? No, neither do I. Stories about the underdog, little guy, nerd, poor boy, homely kid winning the karate tournament, making the big play, beating the bully, becoming President, or marrying the beauty queen convey hope and inspiration, and if some sick bastard misunderstands what almost everyone gets, that is not the fault of the fantasy-makers and story-tellers. It is absolutely not the fault of the gender mix in Hollywood, which will let trained lizards write and direct films as long as they make money. What are you asking for, creative affirmative action? How is that going to happen?
No, what Hornaday is injecting into the tragedy is another dose of anti-male bigotry, of exactly the variety that would have progressive lynch mobs forming for Rush Limbaugh if he made a similar slur against women. Bringing this theme to its ugly apotheosis was Laurie Essig, Ph.D., professor of sociology and women and gender studies at Middlebury College, and as vile a bigot as you could find running through the pages of the “Django Unchained” screenplay. The only difference is that Essig’s hate is focused on white males, and that kind of bigotry gets you published in Psychology Today, and maybe a hosting gig on MSNBC.
What do we call it when a politician or a pundit takes a horrible case of a single black man who commits a brutal crime and argues that it typifies black culture? Racist, bigot, hate-monger…fool perhaps. Yet here is Dr. Essig, brimming over with anti-male, anti-white bias, claiming that Rodger is the predictable result of white patriarchy and a rape-culture. “It is not an accident that the overwhelming majority of mass shootings are committed by men, but not just men, white men,” she writes. Later, she slips in the fact that Rodger wasn’t really white, but was also Asian. Never mind, she says…he was raised white.
Thus, presumably a black man who commits a mass murder also counts as a white killer, since if he wasn’t raised white, he’d be as gentle as a lamb. In fact, Essig is just engaging in lazy stereotyping here. It takes some statistical manipulation and a lot of confirmation bias to make that argument stick, which is why she uses a non-white killer ( like“Beltway snipers” John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, who are black, and Seung-Hui Cho, the Korean immigrant who killed 32 classmates and professors at Virginia Tech) to launch her attack on white culture. Is Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood killer, white? If you are trying to prove white culture is the scourge of humanity, he is.
Essig’s essay is the purest form of anti-male bigotry, and she stretches reason and fairness to the breaking point to somehow, some way, link the insane violent acts of one maniac with all men who haven’t embraced her definition—whatever it is, and frankly, I could not care less—of “feminism.” Her version, if I may speculate from what she writes, is the gender equivalent of “white supremacy.” Just accept that women are superior and men are brutes, and all will be well:
“Mainstream masculinity is often embedded in such a deep and abiding hatred for women, a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, and a seriously sick way of keeping women scared and in their place through violence and violent rhetoric that to name Rodger “mentally ill” is to create a smokescreen through which it’s difficult to see that there is something seriously sick in our culture.”
Oh…what? Well, yes, Professor, you sexist bigot, if you pronounce a crazy, frustrated, sex-addled loon as typical of American culture, then naturally, American culture seems seriously sick. But, you see, Rodger was crazy, and was not typical, as anyone who reads his manifesto can see who is not a male-hating pedant who is willing to abuse her credentials by using an aberrational whack- job to indict all American males. Using Elliot Rodger to make any conclusions about anyone and anything other than Elliot Rodger is the mark of bad reasoning, irresponsible scholarship, and an agenda, and using him to attack whites and males is bigotry in the guise of analysis. The sickness in American culture, if there is one, might well be related to the fact that essays like this are taken seriously.
I’m sure Laurie Essig won’t be the most despicable passenger on this ethics train wreck, as revolting as she is. After all, it’s just pulling out of the station.