Elliott Rodger was criminal. He was mentally ill. But in his hatred of women, the alleged University of California Santa Barbara killer was not alone. He found plenty of like minds on the Internet.
They populate so-called “Pick Up Artist” communities, where men share tips — mostly tricks — on how to get women to sleep with them. They post rants on the Men’s Rights subreddit, and on a website called PUAHate, to which Rodger belonged. All of these sites are petri dishes of hate, where angry young men go to rail against women (and even self-identifying male feminists). And their moderators bear some responsibility for the culture that created this tragedy.
The users constitute a hive mind of twisted self-victimization that only gets amplified with every post. These sites are not a place for morale-boosting, back-slapping, get-back-on-the-horse camaraderie. Instead, they’re a hellhole of gang-style bullying, slut-shaming, rape jokes, and most of all, an attitude that blames women — never themselves — for the collective misery and loneliness of the members of the group.
Somewhere along the line, the message that their failure with women might be their fault is lost. Because how could a women not love a “supreme gentleman,” as Rodger called himself on YouTube? After Friday’s shooting, a thread on the PUAHate subreddit asked community members, “Will American women become nicer after today’s attempt? I heard New Yorkers became a lot nicer after 9/11.” Meanwhile, over at a Men’s Rights Advocacy thread, Redditors complained about the post-shooting feminist hashtag #YesAllWomen, about being linked to the incident at all, and about feeling marginalized for being male.
It’s nothing short of schoolyard immaturity, and that’s the least of what Rodger’s ilk are guilty of. By not monitoring message boards like the one Rodger belonged to, and by not standing up to this kind of content, website administrators are complicit in continued violence against women, and they have blood on their hands.
Amanda Hess at Slate dove into the forums to see how PUAs responded to news that Rodger was one of their own, and her conclusions were astounding.
“It would be wrong to pin the crime on Internet forums that indulge in self-hatred, then project it onto everyone else,” Hess wrote. “But they’re certainly not the solution. Misogyny and violence against women are social problems as well as individual ones. The fact that these men see ‘game’ as the remedy to all personal and social ills is perhaps the greatest indictment of the way they view the world.”
Even the founder of PUAHate.com, who uses the pseudonym Nicholaus, has said that lumping women together to label them is a mistake. Yet the posters on the boards maintain a macho preoccupation with bedding women, no matter the cost — and Nicholaus admitted in an interview with the website The Hairpin that he doesn’t monitor those threads. It’s obvious now that he should reconsider.
It’s not surprising, after stories and comments on the boards get upvoted, shared, and responded to, how one troubled individual might feel he’d be validated by the community for murdering women. It was only a matter of time before one delusional misogynist took his hatred of women off the keyboard and into the real world.
Alex Pearlman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Lexikon1