We’re gonna need a bigger asylum


All this talk of Elliot Rodger being mentally ill is driven by the same circular reasoning: only a mentally ill person would commit mass murder, Rodger committed mass murder, therefore he was mentally ill. It’s what I said yesterday, that people think “violations of conventional mores, or doing acts that harm people, are prima facie proof of mental illness” — which, if true, would mean that atheists must all be mentally ill because they defy traditional expectations of behavior in society. You’d think we atheists would know better than to set ourselves up like that.

But here’s an even more vivid example. Rodger was a member of a group called PUAhate, a label which some people have used to argue that he must have been an anti-pickup-artist kind of guy. That’s completely wrong, of course — these were people who hated pickup-artists because their techniques don’t work, that they fail to provide easy push-button techniques to manipulate women.

Erin Gloria Ryan spent a day monitoring a chat room containing Rodger’s peers, fellow members of PUAHate. Trigger warnings galore: these people spent the day praising Rodger, wishing they could go out in a blaze of glory just like him, hating women for existing, calling them subhumans, and urging each other to go out and kill, or at least, go out and rape.

They’re wrong, they’re awful, they’re terrible people. I’m sure I couldn’t have a pleasant conversation with any of them for any length of time without storming off with a snarl on my face, and my regard for humanity suffering a precipitous decline.

But are we seriously going to diagnose them as mentally ill because they’re terrible people? Shall we slap them into straitjackets and shoot ‘em up with Prozac?

Because if that’s the path we’re going to take…we can probably lock up a few thousand World of Warcraft players, and I suspect we might easily find a million Call of Duty players who will fit this trivial online diagnosis of psychopathy. Then we can visit the Stormfront site, and get all the members there committed. All those contributors to Uncommon Descent, the intelligent design creationist blog…clearly insane. Especially Denyse O’Leary. I once visited a car forum when I was looking for a recommendation, and was appalled at the racism on display — a significant fraction of Honda drivers are clearly nuts. Oh, and Tea Party members! They all need to be rounded up and put in camps, for their own good…they must be so dysfunctional that they can’t possibly cope with the real world.

We also need to do this fast so that we become the majority, otherwise they will decide that commenters on Pharyngula are so far outside societal norms that we must be mentally ill.

Note please that I do not think that what the PUAHate crowd are saying is at all forgivable, conscionable, or defensible — I’m arguing that they are bad kids full of bad ideas. But bad is not a synonym for mentally ill. It requires a different approach to deal with corrupting ideas in a culture vs. dealing with victims of illness, and we do ourselves no favors when we so readily confuse the two categories.

Comments

  1. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    PZ, thanks for hitting this repeatedly and hard.

  2. twas brillig (stevem) says

    Are all these online denizens just a form of “Catharsis”; where one can vent one’s frustrations/anxieties/misogyny/racism/etc without doing so in the “real world”? Or is that just a conveenient excuse, the participants will use when confronted?

  3. fmitchell says

    Actually I’ve been wrestling with a similar issue for the past few days: if Catcher in the Rye isn’t responsible for John Lennon’s death, D&D isn’t responsible for suicides, and The Matrix or violent video games aren’t responsible for Columbine, then how can we say that MRAs and PUAHate are partly responsible for the UCSB shootings? Here’s what I’ve come up with:

    1. Novels, movies, and games aren’t created and sold as exact descriptions of the real world. The whole Manosphere, in contrast, represents itself as the “truth” about women, men, and society.

    2. Even children can pick up what’s supposed to be real and what’s not supposed to be real from contextual clues. The shooter’s alleged “Aspergers'” or other mental issues notwithstanding, anyone 18 or over without a crippling mental disorder can tell fiction from purported reality. (And purported reality from actual reality if they really make an effort, but that’s another issue.)

    3. It’s one thing to read, watch, or even play something dark and violent. It’s another for a whole bunch of people online to convince themselves and each other that half the population exists only as trophies and sex toys.

    There’s plenty of blame to go around. Where were the parents? What about teachers? Was there literally no one watching out for this kid? Did he ever doubt the bullshit he was spouting even once? But yes, a subculture of men who blame women and “inferior men” for all their problems owns the biggest chunk of blame; without them this guy’s spiral of frustration and self-loathing wouldn’t have taken out six bystanders.

  4. grumpyoldfart says

    I’ve heard (I could have been misinformed) that the insanity defense requires that the defendant be unable to tell the difference between right and wrong. Rodger made it clear that he understood the difference – and implied that it was the very wrongness of his actions which he found attractive.

  5. twas brillig (stevem) says

    re @4:

    yes, “peer pressure” is much more motivational that reading a book, or playing a videogame, or watching a video, etc.

  6. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    fmitchell @ 4

    3. It’s one thing to read, watch, or even play something dark and violent. It’s another for a whole bunch of people online to convince themselves and each other that half the population exists only as trophies and sex toys.

    This idea does not exist only in MRA/PUA communities. They’ve distilled it from the culture at large and amplified it.

  7. neonsequitur says

    Rodger’s psychiatrist prescribed risperidone, an anti-psychotic, which he refused to take. This is from his manifesto, which everyone here seems perfectly willing to take at face value as long it supports the “OMG what a misogynist!” argument. I’ll assume you’re all intellectually honest enough to accept his own words in both cases: Rodger said he hated women; fair enough. He also said his doctor tried to put him on risperidone, and he refused. Was he lying about the one and not the other? And how would you know?

    So yes, he was probably (I haven’t seen his medical records, and to my knowledge, neither has anyone else here, including PZ) diagnosed as being mentally ill by a professional. Deal with it, people.

    And yes, he was also a misogynist.

  8. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    And the mentally ill are still less likely than the general population to be violent. So what point do you think you’re making, exactly?

  9. smhll says

    Some of your satirical comments, PZ are likely to be misquoted in 3, 2, 1…

  10. says

    Human beings are capable of intense emotions. Human beings are prone to muddled thinking. Human beings are capable of violence. There are times (all too frequent) all those things come together and some human beings end up hurt or dead. No mental illness involved.

    I am so tired of people who just have to other, no matter how much they have to twist about to rationalize their views.

  11. says

    neonsequitur:

    Rodger’s psychiatrist prescribed risperidone, an anti-psychotic

    Risperidone is also used to reduce irritability of those on the autism spectrum. The point being, you don’t know what was going on in regard to Rodger’s therapy, so stop pontificating in your need to other.

  12. says

    neonsequitor:

    So yes, he was probably (I haven’t seen his medical records, and to my knowledge, neither has anyone else here, including PZ) diagnosed as being mentally ill by a professional

    Ok, for the sake of argument, I’ll bite: he had a mental disorder.
    Now the question is which one and what effect, if any, did it have on his decision to go on a killing spree?
    What does saying “Elliot Rodger had a mental illness” accomplish?
    And, as mentioned by Seven of Mine above, since mentally ill people are *less* likely than the general population to be violent, ER having a mental illness doesn’t mean said illness played a role in his actions.

  13. Pierce R. Butler says

    No problem with adequate asyla.

    If Texas fills up, we open Alaska.

  14. Rey Fox says

    #15: Damn, and I had tons of blinding insight and razor-sharp rejoinders all lined up.

  15. says

    Erin Gloria Ryan spent a day monitoring a chat room containing Rodger’s peers, fellow members of PUAHate. Trigger warnings galore: these people spent the day praising Rodger, wishing they could go out in a blaze of glory just like him, hating women for existing, calling them subhumans, and urging each other to go out and kill, or at least, go out and rape.

    -Oh, then. I renounce my previous objection to some of PZ’s statements in my comment at
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/05/30/mega-facepalm/

  16. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    nonsequitor @8:

    Rodger’s psychiatrist prescribed risperidone, an anti-psychotic

    My son was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. His doctor prescribed resperidone to help him control certain behaviours. My son was never diagnosed with a mental illness, nor was it prescribed as an anti-psychotic.

    Next time, do your homework.

  17. unclefrogy says

    I have been guilty of using the crazy term a little too loosely so I appreciate this discussion and the distinctions being made. My understanding I hope has increased a little.
    Just because someone is living or operating under the effects of a delusion or in some other way do not understand reality does not mean they are mentally ill as recognized by medical science.
    I guess my question now is what if anything can be done about it?
    What is it that makes us so prone to this? Believing things that are not true like religion which is a socially accepted delusion. it is not real and we know from history the horrific effect that has led to. It is not very different from these mass killings the difference being they are not very socially acceptable.
    Some people who believe things that are untrue are also suffer from mental illness but it is not necessary. It just requires being wrong and not realizing it.
    not always an easy thing to do.
    uncle frogy

  18. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Actually I’ve been wrestling with a similar issue for the past few days: if Catcher in the Rye isn’t responsible for John Lennon’s death, D&D isn’t responsible for suicides, and The Matrix or violent video games aren’t responsible for Columbine, then how can we say that MRAs and PUAHate are partly responsible for the UCSB shootings?

    BECAUSE THESE THINGS ARE NOT ALIKE?! LIKE FUCKING DUH?!

  19. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Video games. And roleplaying games. And movies and books. Are explicitly. Fantasy. Entertainment. They advocate nothing. They have no intrinsic association with any of those events.

    The PUA subculture. Is explicitly. A movement. With an ideology. Which expressly advocates a way of living and promises those who subscribe to it a solution to their problems and The Truth About The World. And in their “mainstream” form explicitly advocate a view of the world with which Rodgers’ stated motivations for his rampage differs almost exclusively in degree.

    How.

    Could you.

    Possibly.

    Think.

    This analogy.

    Could be valid or useful.

  20. says

    Azkyroth:
    I read fmitchell’s comment differently.
    Xe seems to be walking us through hir thought processes in trying to reconcile why the PUA/MRA subculture contributed to the actions of Elliot Rodger, but the video game subculture did not contribute to Columbine.
    They aren’t the same thing, but among the various reactions in the wake of these horrific killing sprees, you’ll find people placing blame on some subculture. In the case of ER, blaming the PUA/MRA subculture is justified. Not so in the other cases.

  21. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr says

    A hobby-based subculture vs an explicitly belief/philosophy-based one. The difference seems very clear to me.

  22. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Xe seems to be walking us through hir thought processes in trying to reconcile why the PUA/MRA subculture contributed to the actions of Elliot Rodger, but the video game subculture did not contribute to Columbine.
    They aren’t the same thing, but among the various reactions in the wake of these horrific killing sprees, you’ll find people placing blame on some subculture. In the case of ER, blaming the PUA/MRA subculture is justified. Not so in the other cases.

    Xe also claimed it took xem “days.” The comparison is facially absurd. That, plus my burgeoning visceral hatred for psueodoarguments of the form “But if we [accept/reject] argument with [true/false] premises X, how can we then [reject/accept] superficially similar argument with [false/true] premises Y?”, was what I was reacting to.

  23. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    @ Tony

    fmitchell eventually arrived at the right conclusion but the reasoning is still wonky IMO. Likening the MRA/PUA online communities to any kind of creative work is just…I’m not sure how that even comes to mind as a reasonable analogy, let alone withstands any scrutiny. Also, even though they arrived at the right conclusion, they still seem to be treating the MRA/PUA communities as though their views are purely the product of their collective imagination and not distilled from the wider culture we live in.

    I also don’t feel like, when people blame video games or D&D for violence, that they’re blaming the sub-culture. I mean, they’re imagining a subculture that grows up around these things and parlays the themes in them into a world view that leads to violence but they’re positing the cause as the games themselves. And that’s more or less the exact opposite of what the MRA/PUA communities do. They take attitudes they absorb from the wider culture and distill and amplify them into an explicitly misogynist word view.

  24. says

    HappiestSadist:

    A hobby-based subculture vs an explicitly belief/philosophy-based one. The difference seems very clear to me.

    Seems very clear to me also. I think a lot of people still want to believe that MRA/PUA beliefs aren’t widespread and based on foundational stones of sexism and toxic masculinity.

  25. twas brillig (stevem) says

    I also don’t feel like, when people blame video games or D&D for violence, that they’re blaming the sub-culture.

    Careful there. Subculture is NOT the game itself, while maybe inspired by the game, the subcultutre is real people having real influence on the behaviors of the subculture. It’s true that it is so easy to blame the game and ignore the subculture, But it is valid to blame the subculture for their actions, don’t blame the game itself.

  26. says

    Azkyroth

    Video games. And roleplaying games. And movies and books. Are explicitly. Fantasy. Entertainment. They advocate nothing. They have no intrinsic association with any of those events.

    Seven of Mine

    they absorb from the wider culture and distill and amplify them into an explicitly misogynist word view.

    And here is where some overlap occurs that I think may be part of the confusion fmitchell was expressing. Narratives of movies, video games, books, etc. often support/represent or at least strongly conform to the cultural norms that are distilled by assorted hate groups, in this case misogynists(Ophelia’s been posting a lot about this topic lately). In that regard, they can be said to share responsibility by perpetuating narratives where men have agency while women are prizes, and the best solution for any problem is a fist or gun(movies and video games are the worst in this regard; there’s a lot more variety in books, while RPGs kind of straddle a line. Some of them have problematic stuff baked into the rulesets, but for the most part it’s all down to the particular group what kind of narratives they build.)
    All that said, the biggest problem is that when the usual suspects blither about how video games or D&D or whatever is to blame that’s not what they mean, they mean something like what Azkyroth was complaining about, some simplistic bullshit about believing you can really cast spells or can’t tell Call of Duty from real life etc. Which is patent nonsense, and they should be ashamed to let it spill from their lips.

  27. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    Is gaming or D&D a philosophical approach to living and interacting with others in the way that the PUA/MRA subculture is? I mean, gaming can be important in someone’s life. D&D was important to me when I was in high school, but it did not (other than inside jokes regarding campaigns and characters) significantly colour how I interacted with friends and strangers, whereas the PUA/MRA approach sees the world as men (competition) and women (prey) and all interactions are based on that, right?

  28. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    twas brillig (stevem) @ 27

    Careful there. Subculture is NOT the game itself, while maybe inspired by the game, the subcultutre is real people having real influence on the behaviors of the subculture. It’s true that it is so easy to blame the game and ignore the subculture, But it is valid to blame the subculture for their actions, don’t blame the game itself.

    Either you misunderstood me or I’m misunderstanding you.

    What I meant was pretty much what Dalillama, Schmott Guy said @ 28:

    All that said, the biggest problem is that when the usual suspects blither about how video games or D&D or whatever is to blame that’s not what they mean, they mean something like what Azkyroth was complaining about, some simplistic bullshit about believing you can really cast spells or can’t tell Call of Duty from real life etc. Which is patent nonsense, and they should be ashamed to let it spill from their lips.

    and I meant it in response to Tony @ 22

    Xe seems to be walking us through hir thought processes in trying to reconcile why the PUA/MRA subculture contributed to the actions of Elliot Rodger, but the video game subculture did not contribute to Columbine.

    …where he talked about subcultures as opposed to the games themselves.

    I probably should have just quoted Tony to begin with.

  29. Jackie the wacky says

    Yeah, when I was a kid and I was being told that roll playing games made you murder people, it was because people thought that the devil got into you through the game.
    No shit, that was what we were told.
    Those were in the days when rock music was said to make kids kill themselves because of backward lyrics that told them to.

    Those were not warnings to us kids that the rock and roll lifestyle was dangerous to our health or that the gaming subculture had flaws.

    It was the actual act of listening to a song or playing a game that was dangerous, because of black magics that did not exist.

    Those arguments are nothing at all like the idea that social and “news” media sites that exists solely to denigrate a certain class of people and encourage animosity and violence toward them can actually lead to people acting on that encouragement. They are pushing a worldview that says women are evil, less than human and deserve to be punished. It’s not the same at all.

  30. says

    twas brillig:

    It’s true that it is so easy to blame the game and ignore the subculture, But it is valid to blame the subculture for their actions, don’t blame the game itself.

    Very true. In fact, many of the complaints I’ve seen about the “evils of video games” treat the games themselves as they’re the source of the problem. There’s some magical thinking going on when people think a video game can influence someone to kill others.

  31. Fionnabhair says

    neonsequitur @8:

    Rodger’s psychiatrist prescribed risperidone, an anti-psychotic

    And doctors never prescribe medication off-label. Except when they do.

    I was given risperidone at one point, and while my doctor didn’t really make it clear to me why I was being given this drug, I do know it was prescribed off-label (seeing as I’ve never been diagnosed with anything this drug is FDA-approved to treat). Considering how tired it made me, it may have been, at least in part, prescribed to help me with my insomnia, or possibly anxiety.

    It’s possible Rodger was given this medication because he was mentally ill, or maybe it was because, as others have mentioned, this medication is often prescribed to treat irritability in people with autism. Then there are the countless possible off-label uses for this medication. Since Rodger refused to take the medication, we should also consider the possibility that he was misdiagnosed and/or given this medication inappropriately.

    tl;dr: we can’t draw conclusions based upon one medication because there are countless reasons why he might have been given it.

  32. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Also, “Rodgers was being treated by a psychiatrist” and “‘mental illness’ is a necessary, and perhaps sufficient, explanation for Rodgers’ views and actions” are not the same proposition.

  33. mickll says

    The mentally ill are easy scapegoats because mental illness is widely misunderstood by laypeople and there are areas of mental illness that are an enigma even to professionals.

    Unknown = scary.

  34. says

    mickll @ 35, I think it’s more a matter of othering. People grasp for anything they can use to slap an “other” label on someone who commits a terrible act, it’s a way of distancing them, so people are more comfortable thinking that no one ‘normal’ could possibly do such a thing.

  35. says

    All it takes to permit an atrocity is true belief; the longer it’s been around, the better. The Germans of the 1930s weren’t completely naive pawns of the National Socialists; anti-Semitism was a centuries-old social reality reinforced by generations of lies and suspicion going back to Luther and beyond (the post-WWI humiliation was also still an open wound; the anti-Semitism was seized upon by those looking for a scapegoat). The soldiers who enslaved, gunned down and gassed men women, children and the elderly and those who gave the orders – were they “mentally ill” or just patriots convinced that what they were doing was right and necessary, convinced that their time nation was entitled to greatness?

    Rodger, while obviously not subject to indoctrination on a national scale, nonetheless hewed toward a toxic ideology that told him he was superior. He was told that he was entitled to sex; when his attentions weren’t returned and when the prescriptions for securing that attention failed, he didn’t abandon them. He didn’t try something different. He maintained his idea of superiority and the idea of the targets of his desire as some underclass to dominated and possessed and his loathing for those he desired and those that had failed to help him secure them grew. People needed to be punished – those who’d denied him and those who’d “succeeded” where he’d failed. He thought he was right and he acted accordingly.

    However on some level Rodger appeared to know that what he was doing was wrong, hence he’s no longer around to be properly analysed (which, btw, isn’t what I’ve done here; just tried my own summary of his own words). Accordingly I think the question of whether he was mentally ill and what role that illness might have played should remain open.

    On the other hand, the reasons for choosing the targets that he did are crystal clear, stated in black and white in his own words and calmly stated on film.

    Rodger himself told us why he did this. In the absence of a proper diagnosis, invoking mental illness makes as much sense as blaming this on a brain tumor.

  36. gingerbaker says

    “… only a mentally ill person would commit mass murder, Rodger committed mass murder, therefore he was mentally ill.”

    Good! There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

    …” It’s what I said yesterday, that people think “violations of conventional mores, or doing acts that harm people, are prima facie proof of mental illness” — which, if true, would mean that atheists must all be mentally ill because they defy traditional expectations of behavior in society. You’d think we atheists would know better than to set ourselves up like that.”

    Darn, I guess you still don’t get it.

    An atheist who commits mass murder IS mentally ill. Atheists who do things that a psychiatrist would diagnose as mentally ill, yup, they would be mentally ill. “Defying traditional expectations of behavior in society” does not make one mentally ill. Not even close.

    Trying to twist words and meanings to argue that a rampage murderer is not mentally ill – that makes you a bad thinker on the subject, not mentally ill nor an atheist nor a rampage killer.

    Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

  37. anteprepro says

    gingerbaker

    An atheist who commits mass murder IS mentally ill. Atheists who do things that a psychiatrist would diagnose as mentally ill, yup, they would be mentally ill.

    Citation fucking needed. Mass murder is not prima facie evidence of mental illness. You continuing to barge into every thread on the subject sneering about how Obvious it is doesn’t change jack shit.

    Clueless fuck.

  38. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Good! There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

    You must have missed. the /snark tag.

  39. ck says

    gingerbaker wrote:

    “… only a mentally ill person would commit mass murder, Rodger committed mass murder, therefore he was mentally ill.”

    Good! There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
    <snip>
    Darn, I guess you still don’t get it.

    Apparently neither did you. Defining mental illness like that is completely fucking worthless. You are not adding any new information, but rather just grabbing a label from somewhere else and slapping it on. Worse still, you’re associating everyone who has a mental illness with this mass murderer based on your pointless, evidenceless assertion.

  40. knowknot says

    @38 gingerbaker

    Atheists who do things that a psychiatrist would diagnose as mentally ill, yup, they would be mentally ill.

     
    Whoa there, tub thumper. Psychiatrists don’t diagnose “things” which are doed. IE, excessive handwashing is sometimes a symptom of excessive dirt.

  41. ck says

    knowknot wrote:

    IE, excessive handwashing is sometimes a symptom of excessive dirt.

    That’s an excellent point. Someone who washes their hands 15 times a day could be have an OCD, or they could be a doctor.

  42. anbheal says

    I know this has been said elsewhere, but “so what if he was mentally ill”. Even if you grant all the “Don’t Look Behind The Curtain, He Was CRAZY” misogynist-apologists their axiomatic certainty, and he suffered from a mental illness, so what? I’m not aware of any mental illness that organically causes its victims to kill women or gays or blacks or Jews, e.g. So if you suffer from a mental illness, and you go out with the intent to harm a demographic you’ve been taught to despise, the mental illness is rather beside the point.

    And here’s a really funny thing. Unless I’ve missed it, white Christian privileged cis Western (primarily U.S.) men who suffer from a mental illness NEVER suffer from a mental illness that makes them go to NRA rallies of white Christian privileged cis American men and attack that demographic with a plastic spork. I mean, if that happened a lot, I’d be less inclined to blame guns and bigotry and socially reinforced assholism. So, PZ, feel free to link to any stories about CRAZY PEOPLE zeroing in on rich white het Christian misogynist gun-nuts at their gun-shows, and attacking them with ninja shuriken.

    I’m all ears.

  43. says

    gingerbaker:

    An atheist who commits mass murder IS mentally ill. Atheists who do things that a psychiatrist would diagnose as mentally ill, yup, they would be mentally ill. “Defying traditional expectations of behavior in society” does not make one mentally ill. Not even close.

    Trying to twist words and meanings to argue that a rampage murderer is not mentally ill – that makes you a bad thinker on the subject, not mentally ill nor an atheist nor a rampage killer.

    As someone completely unqualified to diagnose the mental health of anyone else, that’s not a conclusion I am able to reach.
    Are you a mental health professional? If so, why are you making a diagnosis of someone you’ve never met? Is that how psychiatric diagnoses are performed? If not, why are you so certain ER had a mental illness?
    Moreover, what mental illness did he have? Simply saying “mental illness” tells us nothing. Was that mental illness a significant factor in ER’s actions? How do you know?
    If you don’t even know what the specific illness was, how are you so certain that he had one?
    An individual going on a killing spree does not mean they are mentally ill.

    The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent.

    Here is what researchers say about the link between mental illness and violence:

    – “Although studies suggest a link between mental illnesses and violence, the contribution of people with mental illnesses to overall rates of violence is small, and further, the magnitude of the relationship is greatly exaggerated in the minds of the general population (Institute of Medicine, 2006).”

    – “…the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illnesses (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).”

    – “The absolute risk of violence among the mentally ill as a group is very small. . . only a small proportion of the violence in our society can be attributed to persons who are mentally ill (Mulvey, 1994).”

    -“People with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime (Appleby, et al., 2001). People with severe mental illnesses, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are 2 ½ times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population (Hiday, et al.,1999).”

    Fact 2: The public is misinformed about the link between mental illness and violence.

    A longitudinal study of American’s attitudes on mental health between 1950 and 1996 found, “the proportion of Americans who describe mental illness in terms consistent with violent or dangerous behavior nearly doubled.” Also, the vast majority of Americans believe that persons with mental illnesses pose a threat for violence towards others and themselves (Pescosolido, et al., 1996, Pescosolido et al., 1999).

    Fact 3: Inaccurate beliefs about mental illness and violence lead to widespread stigma and discrimination:

    The discrimination and stigma associated with mental illnesses stem in part, from the link between mental illness and violence in the minds of the general public (DHHS, 1999, Corrigan, et al., 2002).

    The effects of stigma and discrimination are profound. The President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health found that, “Stigma leads others to avoid living, socializing, or working with, renting to, or employing people with mental disorders – especially severe disorders, such as schizophrenia. It leads to low self-esteem, isolation, and hopelessness. It deters the public from seeking and wanting to pay for care. Responding to stigma, people with mental health problems internalize public attitudes and become so embarrassed or ashamed that they often conceal symptoms and fail to seek treatment (New Freedom Commission, 2003).”

    Fact 4: The link between mental illness and violence is promoted by the entertainment and news media.

    “Characters in prime time television portrayed as having a mental illness are depicted as the most dangerous of all demographic groups: 60 percent were shown to be involved in crime or violence” (Mental Health American, 1999).

    “Most news accounts portray people with mental illness as dangerous” (Wahl, 1995).

    “The vast majority of news stories on mental illness either focus on other negative characteristics related to people with the disorder (e.g., unpredictability and unsociability) or on medical treatments. Notably absent are positive stories that highlight recovery of many persons with even the most serious of mental illnesses” (Wahl, et al., 2002)

    http://depts.washington.edu/mhreport/facts_violence.php

  44. krubozumo says

    Just as I decided to comment the conversation took a turn in the same direction in the last few comments.

    I think it is wholly unjustified to speculate whether a mass murderer has a mental illness in light of the fact that it stigmatizes those with mental illnesses even more but with no justification what-so-ever except maybe via the hollywood stereotype of the homicidal maniac. I have had a couple of friends in my lifetime
    who were or are mentally ill and if they are any kind of threat to anyone it is themselves first and foremost They do not lead happy lives and their own fear of their condition and its intractable nature is palpable.

    True people who live with fear are a little more prone than others perhaps to unpredictable behaviors but the arbitrary association of mental illness with violence is as unpredictable as any other behavior in that circumstance.

    One other thing that perhaps bears mentioning is the association between massively deadly weapons and the ease and relative impunity with which they can be used to bad effect. That there is a distinction between the perception of mental illness possibly leading to violence against others is itself a rather sad commentary on the simple mindedness of our perceptions of ‘illness’ in general. Those who suffer from it deserve our sympathy and help and every effort should be made to give them relief and hope, especially relief from the undoubtable fear that nothing can really help them.

    So I find it rather distasteful that some people are so quick to come to the conclusion that an act of undeniable evil is somehow associated with a condition that at the least hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of people suffer from just because it is a convenient way of avoiding confronting the fact that the ubiquitous availability of deadly weapons to anyone who ‘wants’ them for whatever reason
    is a cultural issue that we as a country and society have utterly failed to address.

    Perhaps the solution is to just make weapons exhorbitantly expensive to own. An automobile is a deadly
    weapon and capable of inflicting great harm and injury on many people, but they don’t come cheap. And they are hard to obtain without some scrutiny. I am living in Brasil where violence is fairly common place, but weapons are hard to come by. Maybe someone has the time to check the statistics
    in comparison but I suspect they are unfavorable WRT the U.S.

    In any event, mentally ill !/= violent. So stop it please. I know I have not made my case very well so go ahead and pick it apart, perhaps something good will come of the discussion.

  45. Stephen Brady says

    ‘Mental Illness’ is a really vague and useless term here. I think, that his parents picked up early on, that he was different. How else explain his repeated trips to various therapists since about age 7? Was he psychotic? His video rant and his manifesto don’t leave me with that impression. What I picked up on was an angry, frustrated young man with really odd expectations about how the world is supposed to work. He saw himself as unrecognizedly wonderful and blameless. I’ll bet the people who met him just thought he was kind of creepy. It is not a medical term with DSM backing, but I would bet there isn’t a primary care doc, psychiatrist, or other therapist out there who has not seen more than one of his type. Maybe ‘Creepy’ needs to become entrenched in the DSM series… I only hope someone was worried enough along the way to do standardized psychological testing and the odd brain imaging study and that they can be recovered. Now it is really a case for the forensic psychologists. What the rest of us need to decide is at what point we legally require testing for the ‘Creepy’ among us, who will pay for the testing, and how we will use it to protect ourselves.

  46. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Good! There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

    The major premise of the syllogism is demonstrably false, you student, lying sack of shit.

  47. says

    krubozumo:
    I agree with most of what you said, but I find this problematic:

    Perhaps the solution is to just make weapons exhorbitantly expensive to own. An automobile is a deadly
    weapon and capable of inflicting great harm and injury on many people, but they don’t come cheap.

    In thread after thread about guns, among the many responses of pro-gun people is a comparison between cars and guns.
    Cars *can* be used as weapons. Guns *are* weapons.
    The primary function of cars is transportation. That’s hugely important in society. They serve a necessary function for society at large.
    The primary function of guns is to cause death or destruction. They increase the ease with which humans can kill each other (as well as non human animals). Outside of military and law enforcement, I am not aware of any *need* for guns in society (no, I don’t think hunting is a *need*). Guns have no necessary function for society at large.

    Guns and cars are vastly different and I wish people would stop making this horrible comparison.

  48. says

    Ginger Baker:

    An atheist who commits mass murder IS mentally ill.

    No. You’re indulging in othering to make yourself feel more comfortable, full stop.

    In another thread, I wrote:

    That whole business about “snap and go berserk” drives me up a bloody tree.

    People seldom snap, it just seems that way to onlookers. Also, I can’t stand the “oh, they must have been mentally ill!” crap because it’s a handy way to discount how intense emotions can get, and how much they are a driving factor in the so-called snap.

    I also wrote this, which applies to you:

    In your need to other, you’re also happily causing splash damage to every person on the planet who deals with a mental illness. You’re writing as though no one can go on a killing spree without a mental illness, while at the same time making it sound like those who do deal with a mental illness are incapable of being rational beings.

    I have never known you to show the slightest interest in learning, however, I suggest reading this post and all the comments, as you may learn something in spite of yourself: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/12/14/before-you-reach-for-the-its-not-guns-its-the-cray-cray-argument/

  49. says

    Stephen Brady @ 47:

    How else explain his repeated trips to various therapists since about age 7?

    I was taken to one psychiatrist after another, and on occasion, locked up for short periods of time, starting when I was 7 years old. It was part of the abuse I dealt with, and having a parent in the medical field facilitated the abuse.

    A lot of children are taken to psychiatrists or psychologists for being rebellious, for not-conforming, for being non-cis gendered, etc. The point being, you don’t have the slightest idea of why he was in therapy, especially when therapy wasn’t his decision to make.

    What the rest of us need to decide is at what point we legally require testing for the ‘Creepy’ among us, who will pay for the testing, and how we will use it to protect ourselves.

    Oh FFS. No. What the rest of us need to do is to fight everyday, systemic sexism, to call out toxic masculinity, to support those who come out about being abused, harassed, a/o threatened. We need to speak up about rape culture, and privilege. We need to learn not to let a rape joke slide. We need to learn not to blame victims. We need to be aware of our own privilege, and learn not to let it shape our attitudes and actions. We need to help others to learn about autonomy. There’s so much for us to do, which will help to change ideas, which will change behaviour.

  50. says

    Inaji:

    What the rest of us need to do is to fight everyday, systemic sexism, to call out toxic masculinity, to support those who come out about being abused, harassed, a/o threatened. We need to speak up about rape culture, and privilege. We need to learn not to let a rape joke slide. We need to learn not to blame victims. We need to be aware of our own privilege, and learn not to let it shape our attitudes and actions. We need to help others to learn about autonomy. There’s so much for us to do, which will help to change ideas, which will change behaviour.

    Why do all that when you can slap a ‘mentally ill’ label on people and call it a day? Once you do that, you don’t have to look at any underlying issues. Attempting to understand how Elliot Rodger came to be a misogynistic asshole isn’t necessary. No need to look at the culture of misogyny sustained by PUAs and MRAs and how that would provide support for his misogynist views.
    I mean seriously, why would anyone think that
    -respecting the bodily integrity of all human persons,
    -fighting against rape culture,
    -chipping away at toxic masculinity and gender essentialism,
    -or supporting victims of sexual assault
    could lead to cultural changes?

    _____
    For those unfamiliar with me, the above is snark. I completely agree with Inaji. Change can happen. I know it did (and still does) for me.

  51. ledasmom says

    Both my children see therapists weekly; so did I when I was young. It’s not uncommon for those on the autism spectrum.

  52. ck says

    @Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!,

    Introspection is difficult, and uncomfortable. It’s so much easier when you can find some way to make the problem just go away.

  53. says

    ledasmom:

    Both my children see therapists weekly; so did I when I was young. It’s not uncommon for those on the autism spectrum.

    I was unaware of that, thank you.

  54. theoreticalgrrrl says

    Exactly what Hank_Says…says: “All it takes to permit an atrocity is true belief.”

  55. markd555 says

    I agree this isn’t just about mental health. But…

    Mentioning Stormfront and PUAHate along with other hobbies and views is really a disservice to the severity of those two hate groups. They aren’t a joke or something to be taken lightly.

    Stormfront and PUAHate are listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, and a hate website. That is serious. We aren’t talking about just an annoying group, a hobby, or a goofy political party. We are talking about violent and violence encouraging bigots as an organized group.

    Do you all know what is the biggest reason that makes a sane person murder?
    When that sane person does not consider thier victim human.
    Elliot R did not consider females human. They were beast minded, unable to reason, deserved no rights.

    Same with Stormfront, KKK, or Nazi germany in WW2.
    Those groups were NOT filled with insane people.
    They were perfectly rational people, killing what they viewed as sub-humans. They thought they were doing a good thing, and thought they were good people.

    Right now, similar people are cheering the actions of Elliot R on PUAHate. Some are planning thier own violence. Others are encourageing them.

  56. says

    I am not saying that the conclusion is wrong – surely one should have a definition of insanity that is not so flexible as to be completely meaningless. But the only argument behind this whole piece is that the majority of a society cannot be insane, and that is pretty much just another variant of the argumentum ad populum. Once there is an agreed-on definition, there is no reason why one should never be faced with a community where one would necessarily have to conclude that most of it is mentally ill.

  57. theoreticalgrrrl says

    Violence Is Not a Product of Mental Illness, Violence Is a Product of Anger
    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2014/04/anger_causes_violence_treat_it_rather_than_mental_illness_to_stop_mass_murder.html

    In a summary of studies on murder and prior record of violence, Don Kates and Gary Mauser found that 80 to 90 percent of murderers had prior police records, in contrast to 15 percent of American adults overall. In a study of domestic murderers, 46 percent of the perpetrators had had a restraining order against them at some time. Family murders are preceded by prior domestic violence more than 90 percent of the time. Violent crimes are committed by people who lack the skills to modulate anger, express it constructively, and move beyond it.

  58. theoreticalgrrrl says

    Clearly the feminazis are the deranged ones who need psychological help. It’s was common wisdom in the good old days.

    From 1840 to the early
    1900’s, the psychiatric establishment went so far as to posit a direct
    and casual connection between women’s reproductive organs and
    insanity (Murton, pp. 6-7 1995).
    – “Lunacy in the 19th Century”

    file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/HP_Administrator/My%20Documents/Downloads/Lunacy%20in%20the%2019th%20Century.pdf

  59. knowknot says

    58 Alex SL
     

    I am not saying that the conclusion is wrong – surely one should have a definition of insanity that is not so flexible as to be completely meaningless. But the only argument behind this whole piece is that the majority of a society cannot be insane, and that is pretty much just another variant of the argumentum ad populum.

    You know, I get a slightly different read.
    Attempting to illustrate:
    Question 1:
    – The kid next door has some mental disorder that makes him extremely susceptible to the influence of others. The neighborhood kids, find that he has a fascination with fire, and an issue with cats, perhaps an irrational but benign fear. The neighborhood kids, as a group, teach him that setting cats on fire is cool.
    – So he goes about setting fire to cats.
    – Understandably, the neighborhood in general becomes concerned.
    ____________
    In response, the neighborhood should:
    a):
    Because it is obvious to all that setting fire to cats is caused by some specific mental illness, press local mental health professionals for a definitive diagnosis, and if such is lacking, offer their opinions, in order to appropraitely label the cause, to be referred to in future as needed.
    b):
    Form a group whose purpose is to decry feline immolation as an act perpetrated by Evil in some form.
    c):
    Allow appropriate mental health professionals diagnose and treat the child who set fire to the cats as necessary, and address the culture and attitudes that resulted in the instigation.
     
    Question 2:
    – The kid next door is a part of a group of neighborhood kids. The group has been known to make odd references to animal suffering.
    – The kid next door goes about setting fire to cats.
    – Understandably, the neighborhood in general becomes concerned.
    ____________
    In response, the neighborhood should:
    a):
    Because it is obvious to all that setting fire to cats is caused by some specific mental illness, press local mental health professionals for a definitive diagnosis, and if such is lacking, offer their opinions, in order to appropraitely label the cause, to be referred to in future as needed.
    b):
    Form a group whose purpose is to decry feline immolation as an act perpetrated by Evil in some form.
    c):
    Allow appropriate mental health professionals diagnose and treat the child who set fire to the cats as necessary, and address the culture and attitudes that resulted in the instigation.
     
    Here’s a hint: Cats, fire, and neighborhoods do not always mix as one hopes.
     
    Here’s another hint, from Inaji @51:
     

    Oh FFS. No. What the rest of us need to do is to fight everyday, systemic sexism, to call out toxic masculinity, to support those who come out about being abused, harassed, a/o threatened. We need to speak up about rape culture, and privilege. We need to learn not to let a rape joke slide. We need to learn not to blame victims. We need to be aware of our own privilege, and learn not to let it shape our attitudes and actions. We need to help others to learn about autonomy. There’s so much for us to do, which will help to change ideas, which will change behaviour.

     
    …Also, I hope, for the sake of the balance of sanity in the world, that Stephen Brady intended snark @47… but I honestly can’t tell, since virtually all of the required indicators (with the possible exception of a parenthetical term) are glaringly absent. If not, then the FFS is resoundingly seconded. People actually do think things like this…

  60. says

    @56, theoreticalgrrrl:

    Exactly what Hank_Says…says: “All it takes to permit an atrocity is true belief.”

    Apols in advance for metaquoting myself, but I think it bears repeating that the people who instigated and who participated in some of the most infamous and brutal crimes in history were not, to our knowledge, mentally ill. Those old atheist-bashing chestnuts, Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot, for example – were they insane? Arguably, perhaps – who actually knows? But what about the large numbers of people who willingly went along with them and carried out their wishes? Can you diagnose millions of people as mentally ill? What about poster-country for Stalinist oppression, North freaking Korea – is that country “insane” in any sense apart from the colloquial?

    For that matter, what about those equally brutal and infamous crimes such as the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the witch hunts and everything else we atheists happily point to as evidence that being Christian is not equal to being morally superior? All performed and ordered by “the mentally ill” or conceived and executed by true believers who thought they were serving their God? The dispossession and genocide of the Native Americans, both north and south and the similar criminal treatment of indigenous Australians? How about the centuries of kidnap, torture, enslavement, abuse, lynchings and later denial of basic rights perpetrated against Africans and their descendants? The results of insanity or simply the results of technologically (though not ethically) advanced imperialists encountering and exterminating “primitives”?

    Hell, how about the faith-healing or Christian “Scientist” parents that, right now, are denying their children medical treatment for what should be trivial, curable conditions and instead praying while their children die in confused, terrified agony? Mad? Or just so convinced by their fringe dogma that what would be an obvious course of action to anyone else isn’t even on their radar until it’s too late?

    Erm…anyone for fucking Rwanda? Ugandan gay-murderers? Kenyan witch-hunters? The former Yugoslavia? Saddam’s Ba’ath thugs? “Honour” killers? Fundamentalists who kill abortion doctors or bomb clinics? Plain old nutters or in thrall to some highly compelling social poison and perhaps the terror of the consequences of not acting on it?

    I could go on but I’m hopeful the point is made. Start throwing diagnoses around after the fact, as far too many are far too keen to do right now, and pretty soon you find that the whole goddamn world is bugfuck mental.

    I maintain that all it takes to permit – even demand – an atrocity is strongly-held belief. Belief that the target is deserving of their fate via some inherent inferiority or some behaviour deemed unacceptable, and that the perpetrator is performing a service either for themselves or their group at large.

    Now, I realise the dynamics of a group – especially a large group such as a nation or empire – are not exactly like those of an individual, but Rodger wasn’t a lone angry man whose ideas came from whole cloth, unbidden and unfed by any external source. Far from it – he was the member of at least one large group of people who, regardless of its source, shared, propagated and defended a toxic and delusional view of women and their purported role in the world and an incandescent, adolescent rage at the perception that said role was not being correctly fulfilled.

    Those self-proclaimed “alphas” currently cheering Rodger on on social media and the kinds of fora he used to frequent – are they mentally ill? What about those on other male-supremacist sites calling him a “beta” and noting his “gay midface”, distancing themselves from his obvious raging misogyny? Their views can be just as aberrant as Rodger’s, even though they don’t follow through as Rodger did. Should we start tracing their IPs and just start locking them all the fuck up, just in case?

    To conclude this TL;DR: mental illness in this case might well have been a factor, but to blame such an illness both without sufficient evidence and to the exclusion of what has been presented by the killer in his own written and recorded words is an act of foolish, even willful ignorance and I’m fairly certain (I’d say 6.9 out of 7) that no hyperactive gushing on Youtube will convince me otherwise.

    However: even if you grant, beyond all evidence, that mental illness was THE reason Rodger went on a rampage, pure, raging, unchecked misogyny put the women Rodger both despised & desired, and the men whom he thought undeserving of their attention, in his sights. Were his victims random and had he not left a chilling public trail of hate and loathing behind him, this conversation would be very different – but they weren’t, so we must play the ball as it lies.

  61. says

    Ffffffffffffffffucking italics tags fffail! Just imagine that everything after “recorded words” in the second-last paragraph of #63 is normal script.

    Sheesh almighty.

  62. screechymonkey says

    Last weekend, I posted in one of the earliest threads about Rodger’s crime. I bristled at the notion that calling Rodgers “mentally ill” stigmatized other people with mental illnesses. And I insisted that we needed to be “able” to talk about Rodgers’ mental illness and how it should have been treated, etc. And I said some other things that were probably even less thought-out.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that while I stand by the second sentence above, at least in the sense that I don’t think that the actions of the violent and dangerous mentally ill should be held against the mentally ill generally, and recognizing that nobody was disagreeing with that part anyway as far as I could tell, I realize that I was otherwise totally wrong.

    Branding Rodgers as mentally ill is a knee-jerk reaction of which I was guilty. And as PZ’s post illustrates, I can’t provide a good definition of how he was mentally ill for acting out in a “logical” fashion the beliefs of a not-exactly-fringe segment of society, that doesn’t also allow society to declare other unpopular views as mental illness. (Unless, of course, we’re just going to treat all crimes as mental illness, which probably brings up back to square one.)

    So to Louis, and Crip Dyke, and anyone else who slapped me with a trout in that thread — I confess that I bailed out of that thread, mainly because I was on vacation with limited web access and time, but I also didn’t go back because I needed to think things through — my apologies and thanks. I’ve learned something from you, and that’s why I keep coming back here.

  63. Maureen Brian says

    Alex SL @ 58,

    There is a perfectly good definition of of insanity as it relates to criminal offences. In the US it goes like this

    (a) Affirmative Defense – It is an affirmative defense to the prosecution under any Federal statute that, at the time of the commission of the acts, the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts. Mental disease or defect does not otherwise constitue a defense.

    (b) Burden of Proof – The defendant has the burden of proving the defense of insanty by clear and convincing evidence.

    The Law Commission states that for England and Wales there are under 30 successful pleas of “not guilty by reason of insanity” in a year. That’s out of hundreds of thousands of cases through the courts each year.

    There is another possible plea, that of diminished responsibility, but it is a plea in mitigation – for a lower sentence or for the charge to be reduced to a lesser one. It is not a defence against the charge itself.

    This is getting very tedious but let’s those of us who have some idea what we’re talking about say it again. All together now …

    1. You can be entirely deluded about something and not be mentally ill.

    2. You can be mentally ill, even quite seriously mentally ill, and not meet the legal test for insanity. You remain competent to be held responsible for your actions.

    3. A plea of insanity requires proof. That means psychiatrists with a whole file of notes who are willing to be cross-examined in court and quite possibly to have their pet theories demolished by expert witnesses engaged by the prosecution. Armchair arseholes doing ex post facto rationalisations do not count.

    As for the rest of you, coasting along on a sea of ignorance and repeating the same drivel wherever you see an open comment box, please stop. Please take a breath and consider the harm you are doing – possibly to your own family and friends.

    If nothing else, show some respect for your fellow commenters, onto many of whom you have just pinned a huge sign saying MASS MURDERER and who as of now are extraordinarily and rightly pissed off with you.

  64. theoreticalgrrrl says

    @Hank_Says
    Have you heard of the Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes experiment? The day after Martin Luther King Jr.was assassinated, a third-grade teacher in Iowa tried an experiment where she told her (all white) students that brown eyed-people were superior to blue-eyed people. That brown-eyed people were better, smarter, learn faster. She would always point out to the class whenever a blue-eyed child made a mistake, saying it was proof of their inferiority. She had the blue-eyed students wear collars, didn’t allow them to use the drinking fountains, didn’t allow them to play with the brown-eyed kids or use any equipment on the playground. In just a short time, the kids started acting accordingly. She said, “I had watched what had been marvelous, wonderful, thoughtful children turn into nasty, vicious, discriminating third graders, in the space of fifteen minutes.”

    She tried this experiment many times, and noticed the “superior” eye-color students (she would switch them around) would perform much better on class assignments, such as spelling tests and math tests, than the “inferior” students. She said, “And almost without exception, the students’ scores go up on the day they’re on the top, down on the day they were on the bottom.” She sent the tests to Stanford University’s psychology dept, who did an informal review of them and said what’s happening here is kids’ academic ability is being changed within a 24-hour period, and that it is impossible.

    So, imagine a lifetime of being told girls and women are inferior, have the word ‘girl’ or ‘c*nt’ used to shame you, being told that boys are better at math and sports and anything else important. To look everywhere and see men dominating government, jobs, media, and being told it was proof of male superiority. Even in the experiment, the school teacher would say things like “all men are brothers,” leaving out the girls completely and not even noticing it.

    Believing your whole life that a group is inferior, and then feeling wronged by them for whatever reason, can turn you into nasty, vicious, discriminating bully.
    But it doesn’t turn you into an insane person.

  65. says

    theoreticalgrrrl, I heard of that experiment a while back – thanks for reminding me. It’s a perfect example of what I was babbling about and what Maureen summarised so neatly – you don’t need to be mentally ill to be utterly deluded. Anyone can do anything awful if they think they’re right, or if someone convinces them they are, or someone simply tells them what “right” is – even if they reverse it the next day!

    I just tweeted (same ‘nym there as here, if anyone feels like having a twoot):

    “Educated brown guys kill 3000: fundie Islam, not crazy – educated white guy kills 7: crazy, not misogynist. @pzmyers Did I miss anything?”

    My point’s obvious – according to some, it’s not crazy when Type A does it, it is crazy when Type B does it. I don’t really recall anyone invoking mental illness on the part of the 9/11 hijackers or of any suicidal jihadist with a pre-martyrdom video; I don’t recall anyone doing so after Columbine (they were victims, they were maladjusted, their ability to get guns was an indictment of gun-stroker culture, it was fuckin’ PLAYSTATION!!111 etc, but no “madness”); the very minute a blatant and self-identifying hater of women destroys some lives and people start talking about his motivations – the ones he left on video and strewn across the hate-fora he frequented, he’s Mentally Ill™ with the usual fucking predictable suspects falling bang into line like Border Collies.

    I would just like to know why exactly it is so important that misogyny not be the culprit – or even worth discussing as a contributing factor.

    I want to know why people are falling the fuck over themselves to defend misogyny. Isn’t it a bad thing to hate women, to view them as inherently inferior, to prescribe their social roles and rage out when they do something else; in short, isn’t it bad to be so goddamned irrational? Aren’t we meant to be the reasonable ones? Aren’t we meant to make provisional judgements based on available evidence and not what we’d like to be true?

    Sigh.

  66. Louis says

    Screechymonkey, #65,

    Just seen this.

    My thanks for your thanks and apologies if I was a TEEEEENSEY bit over-sarcastic! ;-)

    Louis

  67. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    Hank_Says @ 69:

    I would just like to know why exactly it is so important that misogyny not be the culprit – or even worth discussing as a contributing factor.

    Because much of what is in the murderer’s rant, much of the patriarchy, the misogyny, the sexism, the privilege, is so ingrained in US culture. MRA/PUA is not some tiny fringe philosophy. It is a tiny fringe group, but the message they promulgate, the philosophy of male supremacy and male victimhood, the philosophy of rape acceptance (well, most rape anyway), is mainstream.

    Huge numbers of US males accept that men being in charge of everything is normal. Of course, at the same time, many of them also accept that, whenever things don’t work out, it is the fault of women (thank you, Genesis). Hell, this entire philosophy has been accepted and integrated into the platform of the GOP — if women are put back in their place (as fertile chattel) and taxes are cut for white men, everything will be rainbows and unicorn farts.

    If we accept that misogyny was the motivating factor behind both choice of victims and decision to commit the crime, then we must actually look at US society, US beliefs, US gun worship, US acceptance of human rights violations, and the mainstream prevalence of these ideas.

    If we accept that (some undiagnosed but somehow obvious) mental illness was the motivating factor behind both choice of victims and decision to commit the crime, then US society, beliefs, gun woship, acceptance of human rights violations and the mainstream prevalence of these ideas is off the hook.

  68. smhll says

    Hell, this entire philosophy has been accepted and integrated into the platform of the GOP — if women are put back in their place (as fertile chattel) and taxes are cut for white men, everything will be rainbows and unicorn farts.

    And women who think they will lose their children or starve in the gutter if they can’t please their husbands will try harder and harder to be more pleasing to them. (Grrrr. This is the main feature, not a bug. Really not looking forward to my country turning in this direction.)

  69. says

    Thanks Ogvorbis (71). I think introspection is always the worst enemy of status-quopologists.

    I did wonder why Jaclyn G jumped on board this one so quickly (and clumsily), though on reflection she certainly wouldn’t be the first atheoskeptic woman with a profile to internalise general sexist culture and defend misogynists; she’s certainly not the first to hew to official skeptic dogma regarding when misogyny may be invoked or discussed – “rape: maybe; rape jokes: no, it’s just a bit of fun; online harassment: never; when a raging self-declared misogynist and failed PUA kills women in public: good Christ no; in a discussion about misogynist websites and the misogynists that frequent them to express their misogyny: don’t be a silly tart; if an FtB’er mentions it: MISANDRY! Release the flying goddamn monkeys” appears to be the consensus. Hell, I even heard that if you mention the “m” word without raising your eyebrow, Spock-like, there’s some kind of list you go on which ensures you’ll never get invited to speak at the bigger of the cryptozoology/dowsing de-bunk cons.

    Or maybe Jaclyn’s just crazy, which is apparently a thing now: if you’re wrong or deluded and do something horrible you’re simply insane unless you’re religious, in which case nothing else matters but your wacky beliefs which obviously cause every horrible thing you do and no atheist would ever do something horrible without being insane first. So, she’s wrong, plus while her hyperactive hwabba-di-blab isn’t the same as murdering people it’s still a cause for concern, so maybe we should lock her up preemptively.

  70. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    smhill @73:

    Really not looking forward to my country turning in this direction.

    Much of it is already there.

  71. says

    The whole thing reminded me of something that happened to my daughter in the after school daycare.
    For the record, she’s 6. The kids there are at most 4 years older than her.
    One day in spring she told me that some of the boys had told her that she had to pick three of them and then sleep with them.
    I’m not even sure if these boys were clear on the concept of what “sleeping with them” even meant, but at the ripe age of maximum 10 years they were sure about one thing: girls are there to please and satisfy boys while girls don’t really get a say in this.
    Kids are not born misogynist assholes. Those boys learned what they learned from adults in their lives.

  72. David Marjanović says

    In the OP, PZ links to this.

    Everyone who wouldn’t be triggered should read it. It’s quite instructive.

    Here’s a bit I feel like quoting:

    [1:21 PM]: how many of you here ever thought about committing mass murder?

    [1:21 PM]: yeah. just dont have access to guns in the uk. even the police just carry batons

    [1:22 PM]: if i tried pulling off a massacre, my kill count would be lower than elliots

    Guns don’t kill people. People with access to guns kill people.

    Jaclyn Glenn has also been mentioned. Here’s a post about what Dawkins thinks of her video. Take a pukebucket with you when you go there.

  73. says

    Hank_says:

    I would just like to know why exactly it is so important that misogyny not be the culprit – or even worth discussing as a contributing factor.

    I wrote this over at Ophelia’s:

    …Misogyny has been considered to be normal for a very long time. Centuries worth of time. It’s one of the major foundations of societies. It goes hand in hand with toxic concepts of masculinity. The backlashes seen against feminism are often based in fear of losing a misogynistic foundation, which allows for power, control, and privilege.

    You might want to read this, too: http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2014/05/how-dare-you-besmirch-the-good-name-of-misogyny/

  74. says

    To all the people pointing out that he was in therapy starting at 7 and that must be proof of mental illness:

    His parents were divorced around that time. It’s not exactly uncommon for children of divorced parents (or those who are having trouble and are in couples counseling) to be in therapy to help them through any problems this may cause them. Especially so when the parents are moderately wealthy and can afford to do so. Seeing a therapist sometimes has absolutely nothing to do with mental illness.

  75. says

    theoreticalgrrrl @68:
    I wasn’t aware of that experiment. Thanks for relaying.
    And thanks for this;

    Believing your whole life that a group is inferior, and then feeling wronged by them for whatever reason, can turn you into nasty, vicious, discriminating bully.
    But it doesn’t turn you into an insane person.

    ****

    Ogvorbis:
    Your #71 was spot on!

  76. krubozumo says

    @ 49

    Tony,

    I appreciate your POV. I only meant the car analogy in the context of expense. If a hand gun cost $25,000
    perhaps they would be less common. Since it is also obligatory to carry insurance against the harm that a vehicle can do, I do not see why it should not be obligatory for those who choose to own firearms to have insurance against the harm they can do. This is a very difficult problem because the culture of owning firearmas is so deeply embedded. As it is I think it is altogether too casual.

  77. says

    kurbozumo @83:

    I appreciate your POV. I only meant the car analogy in the context of expense. If a hand gun cost $25,000
    perhaps they would be less common.

    Understood.

    This is a very difficult problem because the culture of owning firearmas is so deeply embedded. As it is I think it is altogether too casual.

    Waaaaay too casual. It boggles my mind that there are gun lovers who don’t understand that openly carrying their guns in public makes many people nervous.

  78. says

    Jared Loughner was insane. Elliot Rodger was not – his diary is completely lucid and doesn’t contain the rantings of a madman, although he is quite delusional in the last 30 or so pages.

    Reading the Manifesto and watching the videos of the Santa Barbara killer Elliot Rodger, has truly been a mind-fuck for me. As far as I know, there haven’t been any other opportunities to look into the life of a mass-murderer posthumously, through a diary as lucid and comprehensive. I feel really shaken after taking it all in and I can’t explain why. Trying to figure him out after reading news reports, watching his videos, and reading his Manifesto really screws with your mind. You wonder how this kid, who sees beauty everywhere and has great taste in music, can resort to such abject cruelty in the Manifesto and in real life.

    Reports have said that Elliot, who was the son of the Hunger Games director, was high-functioning autistic, which seem to be in question, but also that he was a sociopath or psychopath, bi-polar, schizophrenic, schizo-affective, with narcissistic personality disorder, social anxiety disorder, anti-social personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive ideation. Articles have appeared saying that he “heard voices.”

    If you read the Manifesto, his major problem appears to be severe social anxiety, narcissism, and obsessive compulsiveness. He doesn’t appear to be autistic at all. His 140 page diary is completely lucid. Some things really stood out in his past – the number of times his parents “sprung” major life changes on him suddenly, a divorce, changing schools, an apparent affair, new baby, sudden trips for months at a time…….Of course none of these things combined make for mass murderers, but they stood out to this kid as being formative of his feelings of rejection that somehow drove low self-esteem and later delusion, triggered by puberty, at least according to him. He never mentions hearing voices in his Manifesto either.

    I am not sure about his having any sociopathic traits. For the most part, he was quite normal as a younger child, which is a time when you’d expect him to have enormous difficulty if he actually were ASD. Additionally, the accusation that he was a sociopath fails for me since there was no cruelty to animals or small children. His violent traits emerged as an adult, after years of rage building up inside without relief.

    He was simultaneously obsessed with and terrified of beautiful blonde girls – the word “blonde” appears in his Manifesto more than 60 times. He had no concept of women as people; he didn’t seem to realize that women had their own opinions, preferences, and thoughts. They were only walking measurements of a man’s self-worth – purely sexual objects. He was not only a misogynist, but he hated men as well, particularly other races and “half-breeds,” which was odd since he was of Chinese/Malay and white (British) parentage.

    You can see in his writings how he used neuralinguistic programming on himself by repeating the same phrases over and over again from childhood into adulthood. “It’s not fair,” I deserve it more,” etc. etc. He rejects women for having “base instincts,” but he objectifies blonde girls using the same base instincts. He never attributes any personality or other characteristics to the girls he covets, only that they must be gorgeous and blonde. Yet there’s no evidence he even communicated with girls in young adulthood. In the endgame, he finds it easier to kill girls than to communicate with them.

    The problem with a stand-alone suspicion of narcissism (he definitely had characteristics) is that in his Manifesto, he often describes much failure in his life, which he attributes to himself. This is not really characteristic of a true NPD, if you read the DSM-V. But since he did have narcissistic characteristics, then he would have truly been in hell on earth since he was socially paralyzed, as he would not be able to interact with those people who could gratify his ego. I wonder how it’s possible to have low self-esteem and narcissism present in one individual? Seems so incongruent to me, but I suppose it’s possible.

    Perhaps he was treated for so many years (since the age of 8!) without apparent success is due to the fact that personality disorders are generally assumed to be untreatable by the psychiatric field. Also interesting is that Dr. Sophy, and possibly his other therapists, are non-severe illness experts, so they were possibly not equipped to approach his severe anxiety, which progressed to social paralysis. And it’s sadly laughable that Dr. Sophy paired him up with a youth counsellor to “help him with life,” when he had already bought at least one gun.

    What I find most interesting is that when his family’s representatives and friends watch the videos, they don’t recognize him. To them he was stilted in conversation and almost completely withdrawn, capable of making little eye contact. Yet on video he is verbose, sinister, and occasionally flirtatious, all while so sensitively describing the beauty of the world around him. In some videos he seems likely to have been seriously medicated or has been drinking.

    How the hell did he go from an overly-sensitive young man who cries almost on a whim (a sign of depression) to a sinister character who slaughtered 6 and wounded many others? In his final days, Elliot was more calm than he had ever been, because his social anxiety was dying the closer he got to death – and the closer he got to becoming a murderous god. Feeling sympathy and revulsion at the same time is hard to reconcile. This kid’s story really got into my head and haunted me unlike anything else I have seen or read.

  79. Stephen Brady says

    Thoughtful comment, Heather! I went through his video and manifesto and thought he had gone through the DSM cafeteria and picked up a piece here and a piece there but couldn’t quite commit to a full diagnosis. He had, I think, a problem with empathy. He could not process that he had to reach out to others for them to reach out to him. Maybe these are those mysterious mirror neurons absent or gone awry. I don’t know. I am certain, though, that he talked himself into a hole he couldn’t get out of. Once he had himself convinced he was never going to be the recipient of the attentions he imagined he deserved, he created a fantasy of harming the people who ignored wronged, and denied him. It swelled and consumed him. Unfortunately he destroyed other lives with his own. We have to do better. DSM V is just the latest iteration of psychiatric voodoo. It all devolves upon an evaluators subjective impression of what is going on in someone else’s head. We are truly no better off here than 1000 years ago. Someone did something evil and all we can do is shake our heads or rage impotently. How about more research. How about getting non psychiatrists involved in the forensic process here?

  80. says

    Heather;
    Thanks for the thoughtful commentary on Elliot’s manifesto.
    I completely understand the difficulty in reconciling conflicting emotions (I hope you’re not beating yourself up for having them).

  81. says

    Heather:

    particularly other races and “half-breeds,” which was odd since he was of Chinese/Malay and white (British) parentage.

    Speaking as a half-breed, that’s not odd at all. The bigotry mixed-race people encounter is one which instills self-loathing, and it’s difficult to deal with, to say the least.

  82. says

    Knowknot, Maureen Brian,

    Sorry but I did not actually try to say any of the things you reply to. I have no opinion on Rodger’s mental state, nor am I entitled to an opinion on US gun laws or the US health system, but merely wanted to point out that “we’re gonna need a bigger asylum” is not an argument. It works like this: (1) define the illness, (2) figure out who is ill. If it turned out that 76% of humans are ill under that definition, then that by itself should be no reason to go back to step one and change the definition.

    This is somewhat reminiscent of the old discussion whether, as implied by Dawkins’ relevant book title, religion is a delusion. The dictionary definitions that go something like “delusions are beliefs in something despite strong evidence to the contrary, except religious beliefs” are simply begging the question.

  83. says

    Alex SL #89: It works like this: (1) define the illness, (2) figure out who is ill. If it turned out that 76% of humans are ill under that definition, then that by itself should be no reason to go back to step one and change the definition.

    Then we come around to what does “illness” mean if not a dysfunctional departure from the norm? If 76% of the population manifest a behaviour/symptom that does not generally interfere with the functionality of their daily lives, then how can it be said that they are in any way “ill”?

  84. says

    tigtog,

    You ask, what if 76% do not show reduced functionality, I ask, what if 76% do? There is no contradiction between the two questions because your definition of illness – reduced functionality – does not include argumentum ad populum in its criteria.