Debunking the violence myth (again!)

As I’m sure many of you will have seen on the news, particularly those of you who live in the United States, there has been a recent horrific drive by shooting rampage in Isla Vista, California which took place on Friday. The perpetrator of this awful crime was Elliot Rodger, a 22 year old student at the University of California Santa Barbara Campus. Elliot killed himself after being apprehended by the police. There are several news articles I have read on the case and I have linked to a few of these below.

Elliot Rodger had Aspergers Syndrome. This fact has been paraded around the Internet in every news article relating to the case. To me, the fact he had Aspergers is not at all relevant to the fact that he killed six people and injured a further seven in a calculated and premeditated murder spree. Elliot clearly had severe mental health problems but even these, I don’t feel, adequately explain why he committed such an awful crime. From the articles that I have read on this case, it is clear that Elliot lived in a world of self pity and was furious that he had not been successful with dating girls. He considered being a virgin at 22 to be something so shameful that he felt inspired to take revenge on all the popular people on his campus who he felt had conspired to keep him this way. His rants show him to be utterly self obsessed and delusional. He likens himself to a God like figure who is superior to all other human beings and feels justified in killing them. Such delusions have NOTHING to do with Aspergers Syndrome-they are the result of a psychologically unstable individual who was consumed with self pity and appeared to devote his life to complaining about how lonely he was and hating others who were more socially successful than him.

The media are always on the lookout for the slightest thing that they feel can explain such murderous rampages. Society in general is obsessed with trying to rationalise irrational actions and I don’t always think that this is necessarily the right idea for reasons I will come on to later. Often, they focus on suspects deprived upbringings or any abuse or bullying that occurred in their lives. Elliot was from a wealthy, high class family-his father was involved in directing the Hunger Games film and was well respected in Hollywood from what I’ve read. He was highly academic and apparently was top of his class in elementary school. Therefore, journalists have seized on the fact that he had Aspergers and made the damaging assumption that his difficulties with social interaction were the main reason behind the shootings. This is despite the fact that there are thousands of people with Aspergers in the world who struggle just as much, if not more so, with social interaction than Elliot Rodger did who would never dream of taking another human being’s life or even hurting them. I am not trying to say that we are all saints who live our lives perfectly-nobody I have met in my life so far, AS or not, live perfect lives. However, what I will say is that a lot of people with Aspergers have a strong and keen sense of justice and know that targeting people is wrong and does nothing to address the areas of our lives in which we see ourselves as inadequate. We know how it feels to be bullied and hurt and would not wish to inflict such actions on another human being. I think it is important to point out here that people with Aspergers are at a lot higher risk of being bullied or of being victims of violent crime than of being the perpetrators. There is nothing criminal about being solitary or struggling with social interaction and people need to stop associating Aspergers with violent crime-you cannot criminalise a whole section of society for having a certain diagnosis. Unfortunately, only one article I read, the one published on the NBC website, bothers to explain that there is no link between his Aspergers and his crime spree.

I am, in no way, defending Elliot Rodger or his actions-I am defending myself and the other people with Aspergers who are living peaceful lives, having figured out the best way we know how, how to live in a world that is not Aspergers friendly. Elliot Rodger did not commit mass murder because he had Aspergers. He committed mass murder because, by his own admission, he was twisted. I don’t think that such actions can ever be rationalised or explained using logic because they are completely irrational and illogical. No stable, sane person would be driven to commit such crimes. It is important to remind everyone here that this was not a crime of passion or the result of a momentary lack of control-this was planned and premeditated. Indeed, he even wrote a 141 page document on what he planned to do. This was a calculated crime that he had thought out. He was seeing therapists and it is clear that he had some sort of personality disorder but, overall, it cannot be denied that his crime was evil-so evil that it defies logic.

I would just like to reassure everybody reading this (although I know most of you will already know!) that Aspergers is nothing to be scared of. We are just like you-it’s just our strengths and weaknesses meet a certain diagnostic criteria. We are no more likely, indeed probably statistically less likely, than people who aren’t on the spectrum to be violent or criminal. What happened in Isla Vista a couple of days ago was horrendous and my thoughts are with the families of the victims and the ones who were injured and now have to live with the flashbacks of what happened. What we should really be asking is how someone who was clearly severely psychologically unstable and was described by his relatives as “very disturbed” was allowed to buy his own handguns and ammunition. Rest in peace Katie Cooper, Veronika Weiss, Christopher Martinez, Weihan Wang, Cheng Yuan Hong and George Chen. Such an awful, heinous crime!





4 Responses to Debunking the violence myth (again!)

  1. Noah Weiss says:

    This was an excellent response. Your thesis about the violence being illogical and irrational is especially important–even when a person has some sort of mental issue, there needs to be some way for them to get help.

    Unfortunately, it seems that these mass-murderers are often the disillusioned young adults, and there MUST be enough warning signs that they exhibit.

    Additionally, there’s the argument that weapons are too easy to obtain…

  2. Sandra says:

    While it’s true people with autism are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence, that doesn’t mean they’re NEVER violent.

    Or horrifically violent, in the cases of Adam Lanza and Elliot Rodger.

    • sjmarsh2013 says:

      Hi Sandra. I agree that people with autism can be violent, just like people without autism. I have worked with people with severe autism for the past five and a half years and I know that they can lash out, often due to frustration. My main point was that Aspergers itself was not what caused Elliot Rodger to commit mass murder. As for Adam Lanza, a lot of people have doubted whether he was actually on the spectrum at all as, to my knowledge, he was never officially diagnosed and was just described by relatives to behave like someone who had Aspergers (something which could apply to a lot of lonely and socially isolated young men). Anyway, I digress. The point is both Adam and Elliot were suffering from other, separate, severe mental health problems which impacted on them more than the AS/suspected AS. Of course, that’s not to say that everyone with those conditions is driven to murder-in fact, statistically, very few are. The media seem to think that Aspergers is an adequate explanation for evil behaviour and it’s not-that was the main point of my post. Also I think it’s worth remembering that a lot of autistics would take anger out on themselves before other people (particularly those of us on the higher end of the spectrum) although I know that some people with autism take their anger out on other people (I have seen this and experienced this first hand in my job). What Elliot Rodger did was evil-nothing in his life excuses that, Aspergers or not xx

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