Guys who are good at math, bad at small talk, and don’t go out much are actually very loving and caring. Unfortunately they may occasionally snap and kill dozens of people. But don’t worry, apparently it’s not their fault. See, It’s Hard Out There For Nice Guys.
Why #NotAllMen Are Nice Guys (see what I did there…?)
Brian Levinson wrote an article for Slate.com following the Isla Vista shooting that was re-run at several other sites including Little Green Footballs and Disinfo.com with an oddly positive reception. Under the pretense of explaining something the news had missed about the mind of a killer Levinson titled it, “I Could Have Been Elliot Rodger”. One might wonder if that is a warning or an admission but the subtitle clears up any misunderstanding, “Many Men – Including Me, Once Upon A Time – Know What It’s Like To Be Young, Frustrated, And Full of Rage Toward Women”. Right, so it’s a warning then.
The motivation to write a column with a title so elusive and disturbing might seem at odds with its implied premise. Thankfully he seems to sense such an introduction might seem slightly menacing so his story opens with a deceptively self-reflexive and honest assessment of the character flaws that he and Rodger possess, flaws that Rodger took too far: “The [Rodger] manifesto’s blend of misogyny, racism, self-pity, entitlement, and violent fantasy would make [the main character from ‘American Psycho’] blanch.” Anyone who could write that critique certainly couldn’t agree with Rodger’s ideas.
Except the suggestion at self-awareness is betrayed almost immediately by the very implications of the title. The body of the narrative does not actually speak for “many men”, it speaks for homicidial men. “Many men” don’t fantasize about being angry at a woman and therefore shooting to death several people at a sorority. “Many men” don’t then drive through their neighborhood shooting random victims when it turns out the door is locked to their intended targets. More importantly the title is exclusionary. It pretends to be sympathetic, but it is demonstrably speaking at, not to women. With half of the population excluded before he even gets started, Mr Levinson’s title is in many ways less of an explanation than an outright threat. “Many men” do not make women a monolithic creature that one can somehow feel justified rage toward.
To make his case Mr Levinson employs repeatedly the trope of aggressor-as-victim in the form of the passive ‘Lonely Man’, the ‘Nice Guy’, the long-suffering socially inept stooge who just couldn’t take it anymore. Specifically, “Rodger and I fit the profile of a handful of other lonely psychos: John Hinckley, who shot Reagan in a bid to impress Jodie Foster; Dylan Klebold, the lovelorn, less-psychopathic half of the Columbine shooters; Seung-Hui Cho, whose morbid short stories foreshadowed the Virginia Tech massacre.”
That analogy is all over the shop, and nonsensical. But significantly, it is also a lie.
Childhood friend Kim Gyeong-won recalled Cho having been “…a good dresser who was popular with the girls,” as early as fifth grade. Describing him as “lonely” is a stretch. In truth Cho went out of his way to threaten others, he was active in his menacing behavior by the time he got to college. Virginia Tech professor Nikki Giovanni threatened to resign rather than have him in class. He wasn’t misunderstood, he was aggressive.
The lie of Cho as “lonely” is compounded with describing Klebold as “lovelorn”. There’s virtually no evidence for that. Conversely, there’s plenty of evidence he was a grandiose fantasist who had planned a mass shooting for years. Klebold’s mother Susan, in an interview published in “O” Magazine, discusses not only his having been in the drama department in middle school, but that his friends and family were the ones in denial about him. As she says, “One friend was sure that Dylan had been tricked at the last minute into using live ammunition.” Somehow Mr Levinson feels that makes him “…The less-psychopathic half…”, which makes it all okay then?
In fact an FBI task force, in dissecting the writings and videos of Eric Harris and Klebold, found the Columbine massacre was only the first stage in a plan intended to dwarf the OKC Federal Building bombing. Harris and Klebold had been stockpiling guns and explosives for months. Determining which of them is “less psychopathic” seems like saying ‘less painful hammer’, it’s a nonsense statement painting Klebold as somehow sympathetic.
Hinkley readily admitted to getting his motivation from the movie “Taxi Driver”. He formed an erotic fixation on Jodie Foster, who plays a child prostitute in the film. He planned the assassination of Ronald Regan because an assassination is what the main character Travis Bickle does in the movie. Foster’s prostitute falls in love with Bickle as a result. Hinkley figured it could work for him too. Perhaps of the three, Hinkley was “lovelorn”, but it was far from poetic. He was delusional and stalked Foster obsessively, he went so far as to enroll in classes she was taking at Yale, calling her on the phone, and slipping notes under her door. These guys were a lot closer to Hannibal Lector than Dr House.
He’s More Afraid of You Than You Are of Him
Mr Levinson is right in one way though , obsessed and maliciously selfish is not how these men were initially represented. The narrative for each of them was almost immediately skewed toward alienation and pain. Like this article where the words “quiet” and “shy” are used to describe Harris and Klebold, set in opposition to “jock” even though both had played little league baseball and Harris was an active member of the Columbine soccer team for two years. Even their Wikipedia page suggests that bullying was the primary cause of their attacks. Apparently we have sports to blame (just not the ones they played).
While Harris and Klebold were victims of “jocks”, Cho was a originally a victim of a degenerative mental illness. Perhaps he had paranoid schizophrenia as this 2007 ABC story suggests. If they’d been doing their jobs, the school counselors should have caught it. Almost immediately after Cho’s rampage a news inspired collective guilt was quick to say that we should have cared more. If only we as a society paid closer attention to the ‘Nice, Quiet Guys’. Of course, Cho was more than willing to inspire that guilt himself from his own poison pen. His suicide note including the sentence “You caused me to do this“. We should have felt his pain.
Though, when his counseling records were released two years later it turned out Cho lied repeatedly about being ignored. Finger-wagging all but disappeared when ABC reported that several attempts at working with him had been made and proved useless. He actively fought against trying to get him help. For some reason that didn’t stop the same justification being trucked out when the Aurora, Colorado shooter James Eagan Holmes plead that he was in the “throes of a psychotic episode” when he opened fire at a “Batman” premier. This time the story was that he’d failed at school and was lost in a depressive spiral. Even though he’d bought the ballistic gear and extra guns that was his costume almost two months previous.
Saying he had a few days of a psychotic break makes a play for sympathy believable. Saying he had a four month long psychotic break where his “throes” included plotting to drop out of school (not fail), and buying several thousand dollars of equipment to rig himself like a one man SWAT team, is decidedly less pitiable. In fact, it looks downright focused, methodical, and vicious.
With Holmes we get the double whammy justification of a loner whose loneliness contributed to his insanity. Yet even an article which refers to him as “withdrawn and rarely started conversations” is forced to include the fact that he had detonators and bombs around his house. Perhaps he had trouble starting conversations because he was too busy trying to start explosions, or perhaps there was something to the reports he was trying to randomly bomb his neighbors. But the fact is, significantly more equipment than he used in the movie theater was waiting back at home. That’s not very ‘nice’.
What Was He Saying…?
Where is Mr Levinson going by attempting to throw his hat in with this motley band of homicidal lunatics? None of these people was remotely nice, and most of the claims that they were got made after the fact by people who never knew them. People who later admit that they were seeing what they wanted to see and not the person for what they truly were. Of the three men Mr Levinson compares himself to, none of them were victims.
But Mr Levinson has excused them all with one word, “Lonely”. Just that word was enough to get him published on a major online journal. The ‘Lonely Man’ is a myth with true power. So much power in fact, that the mere mention of it possibly being a false trope can derail an entire online thread. As billiscool so aptly puts it in that linked thread: “It doesn’t matter if these ”nice guys”are jerks or not, the fact [is] they are lonely and struggling… Feminist have a hatred towards unpopular guys.” Just the fact that they are a ‘Nice Guy’, that they are “lonely”, is enough to invalidate any criticism of their actions. It doesn’t matter if they’re jerks.
But how can someone be a “jerk” and still be a “nice guy”? Because of the assumptions that are given to his jerk-ish behavior. As Billiscool and Mr Levinson so clearly spell out, they’re doing their best. A ‘Nice Guy’ must be “nice” inside, where it’s hard to find. Sure, he’s callous to the point of cruelty, but his motives are pure, they must be. Klebold, Cho, Hinkley, their “shy” and “quiet” facade must hide a deeper and much more beautiful core that can be uncovered if one is only willing to assume that their attacks on women are a lashing out of their deeper love.
After all, that scene in “Revenge of the Nerds” where the geeky guy puts on a Darth Vader mask and has sex in a darkened room with a woman who hates him? That wasn’t a sex crime, he just had to manipulate her so he could win. It wasn’t Rape by Impersonation as defined by the California State Assembly, a law with precedent going back to 1822. No, women are stupid so she had to find out what a good lay he was by force. That way she could reject her boyfriend at the end and stick by her new man, the nerd with a heart of gold.
Of course the nerd actually having a heart of gold and hooking up with a woman he has stuff in common with is stupid. Dating someone who will appreciate him for who he is and not leave him for another guy who’s a better lay still just kills the joke. Thank god women aren’t people so we can use them for punch-lines. Because women have pink silk-lined platinum vaginas, they’re like a prize out of a vending machine, you just have to hit it right.
The Lonely Man Sits Alone
Western Society knows that the ‘Nice Guy’ isn’t hiding some misdirected love for the women around him. From the book “Dracula” forward to the 2012 film “Maniac” to Justin Beiber being photographed at a brothel, there is a collective understanding and acknowledgement on a deep cultural level that the excuse ‘lonely’ can be quite sinister. We also know loving or hating women and being “nice” have nothing to do with each other. Access to their pink silk-lined platinum vaginas is not about sex, it’s about winning, it’s about control and power. Yet, disturbingly, the idea that sex equals self-respect is made so often that CBS actually hired a consulting psychologist specifically to state the headline, “Elliot Rodger May Still Have Gone On A Killing Spree Even If He’d Had Sex With Women“.
That title would be laughable if it weren’t so disgusting. Even the implication that some woman somewhere should have given herself up so Rodger didn’t kill people is something out of a horror novel. And yet, Mr Levinson makes virtually the same argument, “It’s easy to mock Rodger’s assertion that he “deserved” a girlfriend. But the only system he understood was one in which good behavior was rewarded, and bad behavior was punished… When Rodger found himself punished for what he thought was nice-guy behavior, he responded with self-pity, which gradually gave way to anger. But how could Rodger—or any lonely psycho—react differently?”
Sex is certainly fun, but it does not somehow magically prevent mass murder. But Mr Levinson has now shown his hand, he’s making the case for women and their pink silk-lined platinum vaginas being a reward. That’s outright dehumanization. From serial killer Dennis Raider (BTK), to Ted Bundy, to ‘Green River Killer’ Gary Ridgway, to Ed “Buffalo Bill” Gein, all of their murders had sexual components. If sex is a reward for “good behavior” then those guys were friggin’ saints. Or maybe it’s a dumb-ass analogy from someone who genuinely doesn’t see women as people.
It should be noted that women too have blended sex and death in such a way that the suggestion one somehow prevents the other is absurd. It didn’t stop Aileen Wuornos. Nannie Doss definitely had sex more than once since she had several husbands and a few children, most of whom she killed. The ‘Bloody’ Benders had so much love that they became a family of serial killers that partially inspired the remake of the film “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. No one with any sense would suggest that Elliot Rodger just needed to get laid. And yet there sits that headline, and Mr Levinson’s justification, like a giant steaming turd of ridiculous. The ‘Lonely Nice Guy’ is such a powerful myth that it is even given the power to cure insanity and death.
When an article that is by no means rare can be written that is offended that a woman might choose to expect some negotiation on a date with a guy, even if he totally thinks she’s hot, this is not a simple misunderstanding or a question of word choice. This is not some tortured internal struggle. This is a command that women mean less than men. Or, to be more precise, “…Stop thinking about what you would prefer. Give his preferences top priority…” Right ladies, calm down, sit down, shut up, and do what you’re told. Oh, and hand over that pink silk-lined platinum vagina. Because damn it, he didn’t even chew with his mouth open this time. He was on his best behavior, he’s owed.
There must be a differentiation between those who are nice and those who are not. There must be a way to see into these people’s behavior that says they are dangerous, or at the very least mean. Because the conflation of ‘nice’ and ‘spree killer’ is not only costing lives, it is putting women in a position of fear and subservience. When any woman, confronted with a man who is sexually and physically aggressive, complains and is turned away because the person she is accusing is ‘nice’ that puts all women in danger. It becomes impossible for any woman to take the appellation of ‘nice’ even remotely seriously. It leaves genuinely nice and caring people being compared to mass murderers. Everyone loses, badly.
There Is A Pattern
Profiling is, at its core, an attempt at a predictive method for preventing destruction. From the Zodiac killer to Wayne Williams, “The Butcher of Rostov” Andrei Chikatilo to Jane Toppan, motives are dissected and methods are charted. Favored locations are tracked and methods are analyzed. Because of their actions, and the collection of the data we know several facts: serial killers are overwhelmingly male, white, of low-middle socioeconomic status, and in his 20s or 30s. The victims and locations of the killings often have a specific meaning to the killer. Interestingly, mass shooters have a pattern too.
They are overwhelmingly white, from middle to upper-middle class backgrounds, and in their late teens to early 30s. The pattern goes further, the location is standardized: most of them shoot at schools, locations they’re familiar with where the terrain is known and easily mapped. The weapon is standard: they use high power, high-volume magazine guns, not Molotov cocktails or driving over people in the parking lot. Meaning Rodger was not some “frustrated” youth with no sense of direction who lashed out, this was a cold and calculated act which was performed by someone who knew what they were doing. There are also specific differences, serial killers have a sexual component to their killings where mass killers have a flamboyant public component. Serial killers hide, mass killers announce themselves loudly.
Rodger made several YouTube videos regarding how he felt about his rejection from women. In several he made reference to being an “alpha” and how he should be appreciated for his car, his clothes, his generally being a prime example of manhood. Regardless of how one may feel about the argument, clearly he believed it and therefore felt everyone (specifically women with their pink silk-lined platinum vagina) definitely should share his self-captivation.
But as the tenor of the videos becomes more desperate to the point of outright threats (later carried out), it is clear that the women were not as moved with him as he was. This is not someone who was a Nice Guy, unless by “nice” we collectively mean, ‘someone who resents everyone who does not do what they’re told, and openly threatens everyone within their purview’. This has never before been the definition of “nice”, but more importantly it’s not the definition that people are using to describe Rodger.
They are using the other definition, the one that means ‘someone polite or differential’. In that case Mr Levinson’s argument disintegrates completely. Rodger was at no point polite or differential. Rodger was not nice. He was rude, he was callous, he was selfish, he was mocking. So was Cho, and Klebold. Rodger was actually less polite than John Wayne Gacy or Jeffrey Dahmer, both of whom were described by neighbors as “polite” specifically.
And yet, Levinson is not the only one claiming that these men were acting out of desperation. That they were sad misanthropes who’s ‘niceness’ twisted after years of neglect. From social critiques, to Fox News commentators suggesting Rodger was secretly gay and overcompensating, to a ‘Queen A’ article combining both and adding modernity itself, all of these articles are making the shooter the victim.
More broadly, Rodger didn’t call himself ‘Nice’, he called himself “glorious”. “Nice” is a behavior, maybe a personality trait, “glorious” is a state of being. The definition of which is “entitled to great renown“. The word “entitled” is key. Dahmer and Gacy felt themselves entitled to their victims. Roger felt himself entitled to the adoration of women and their pink silk-lined platinum vaginas, the reward for “good behavior”.
Rodger was not a ‘Nice Guy’. He may have been misunderstood, but only in that people misunderstood how far he would go. But he was one thing, the embodiment of a “misogynist”, a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts, or mistreats women. He ‘hated’ women for keeping their pink silk-lined platinum vagina from him, he ‘mistrusted’ them for dating all the wrong guys and therefore lying about what they wanted, and most people would agree that shooting women in the face is a fair degree of ‘mistreatment’.
This is the parallel of Rodger to Dahmer, and Gacy, and Toppan, not the parallel Mr Levinson wants. They felt entitled to other people, they felt a right to others bodies. Dahmer tried to dehumanize his victims by destroying their physical brains making them into living mannequins, Toppan used patients to experiment with tranquilizers, Levinson doesn’t even refer to his mother-in-law (or possibly his very mother) as anything other than “my father’s wife”. That’s not a person, that’s a thing his father possesses.
All of these mass shooters had a pattern. They began a massive gun collection months before they put their plan into action. One could even make the case that their pattern is so reliable that it could be the basis on which a re-examination of gun restrictions could take place. Rather than targeting all guns or gun owners, specific mandates related to specific patterns of criminal behavior could be enacted. But that is an argument for another time.
What is important is the idea, as Mr Levinson so romantically put it, that any of these people were “lovelorn” or under anything other than a self-imposed exile brought on by their own grandiose delusions of domination, simply cannot be allowed to continue. They recorded their fantasies in journals and letters and videos they published publically. They made it clear beyond any miscommunication they were not “sad”, they were angry and vengeful. They were angry because the rest of the world wasn’t falling at their feet.
Elliot Rodger attended UC Santa Barbara and his father was a Hollywood director. Eric Harris was a popular “jock” in any way that word could be interpreted. Cho was popular right up to the point that he began sexually harassing his classmates and violently threatening his teachers. Hinkley shot at a president because going to Yale didn’t get him close enough to a woman who played an underage prostitute in a movie. None of these men were suffering from a lack of access.
Every one of them systematically and repeatedly threatened the women in their lives with physical violence. Interestingly, so did Mr Levinson. Which makes his article all the more curious, is this a bid for notoriety? Given the pattern, all that is left is starting a gun collection.
Maybe Mr Levinson is cleansing his soul. But that should not make the world his father confessor. Mr Levinson is not a ‘Nice Guy’, and saying that he is to justify his past perpetuates a dehumanization of the women in his life and a collective myth that is dangerous. He ends by saying, “…While my anger has subsided, it has never completely gone away. I can manage it, but I live every day in fear of the Elliot Rodger who still lurks inside me [italic added].” There are not “many men” who could write a sentence like that for the whole world to see. There are many killers who have. They were not ‘Nice’.
Even in claiming to understand, Mr Levinson can only have sympathy for ‘women’ if they are pathetic. He still cannot view women as whole people. “My first romantic relationships opened my eyes to the battles that women wage against loneliness and low self-esteem, and gave me the sympathy…” Not all women have low self-esteem, not all women are lonely. Many are downright angry, and deservedly so, because they’ve been told that murderers are ‘nice guys’ and if women had just been more caring maybe some of these killings wouldn’t have happened.
Before falling into the trap Mr Levinson has set of feeling sorry for him, he did put himself out there, he paralleled himself with terrible people. But he also represents a very present and rarely discussed issue that perpetuates the very hatred of women he claims he’s speaking out against. When the only way Elliot Roger could do what he did was because he was hurtin’ for pink silk-lined platinum vagina. When the only reason ‘Nice Guys’ suffer is not due to their selfishness but due to the women in their lives not indulging them enough, then ‘Nice Guy’ is a lie.
#NotAllMen isn’t just disempowering, it’s aggressive. It is someone, walking into a discussion of violent sexual assault, even killings, and saying “Hey, this makes me sad. Let’s talk about something else, like this Nice Guy I know.” Anyone more interested in talking about their own sadness than victims being sexually molested is contributing to the silencing of those victims. Anyone more concerned with making a mass shooter sympathetic than facing their own misogyny, is placing personal discomfort over murder. Frankly anyone who does that is part of the problem. And it’s certainly not very ‘nice’.