Inside this morning... Leonard remembers Maya... Dana Milbank looks at the incredible political 180 for gay marriage... But first, three takes on tragedy and how we respond...
Ross Douthat is ready to talk about men who hate women.
In an ideal world, perhaps, the testimony left by the young man who killed six people in Santa Barbara would have perished with its author: the video files somehow wiped off the Internet, his manifesto deleted and any printed copy pulped.
But this is not an ideal world, and so instead of media restraint we’ve had a splendid little culture war over the significance of the Santa Barbara killer’s distinctive stew of lust, misogyny and rage. Twitter movements have been created, think pieces written, and all kinds of cultural phenomena — from Judd Apatow movies to “pickup artists” and Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret” — have been invoked, analyzed and blamed.
And in fairness to the think pieces — I have to be fair, because I’m writing one — in this particular tragedy, the killer’s motives really do seem to have a larger cultural significance.
Often you step into the mental landscape of a mass murderer and find nothing but paranoia, nightmare logic, snakes eating their own tails. But compared with the mysteries of Tucson, Newtown and Aurora, this case has an internal psychodrama that is much more recognizable, a murderous logic that’s a little more familiar. The Santa Barbara killer’s pulsing antipathy toward women, his shame and fury over sexual inexperience — these were amplified horribly by mental illness, yes, but visit the angrier corners of the Internet, wander in comment threads and chat rooms, and you’ll recognize them as extreme versions of an all-too-commonplace misogyny.
Contemporary feminism is very good — better than my fellow conservatives often acknowledge — at critiquing these pathologies. But feminism, too, is often a prisoner of Hefnerism, in the sense that it tends to prescribe more and more “sex positivity,” insisting that the only problem with contemporary sexual culture is that it’s imperfectly egalitarian, insufficiently celebratory of female agency and desire.
This means that the feminist prescription doesn’t supply what men slipping down into the darkness of misogyny most immediately need: not lectures on how they need to respect women as sexual beings, but reasons, despite their lack of sexual experience, to first respect themselves as men
So, the real problem is that... hmm, women are too sexually empowered and make inexperienced men feel bad by flaunting their... wait, it seems like I've read this somewhere else.
Frank Bruni looks at the conflict between facts and instant gratification, and has his own take on the aftermath of Santa Barbara.
We no longer have news. We have springboards for commentary. We have cues for Tweets.
Something happens, and before the facts are even settled, the morals are deduced and the lessons drawn. The story is absorbed into agendas. Everyone has a preferred take on it, a particular use for it. And as one person after another posits its real significance, the discussion travels so far from what set it in motion that the truth — the knowable, verifiable truth — is left in the dust.
This trade and tic were manifest in an essay in The Washington Post last week by its chief film critic, Ann Hornaday. I’m sorry to single her out: She’s an excellent writer merely drawn into the quasi-journalistic sport of the day. She itched to join an all-consuming conversation — and to refract it through her own area of expertise, claiming some of the story’s territory for herself.
So she fashioned Rodger’s violence into an indictment of the movie industry’s domination by men and its prolific output of male fantasies in which the nerdy or schlubby guy gets the sexy girl. Rodger didn’t get the girl, so he got furious and got a gun. Did Hollywood egg him on? That’s what Hornaday more or less asked, and it was a question too far, the tenuous graft of entertainment-industry shortcomings onto a tragedy irreducible to tidy explanations.
But how plentiful such explanations were. Could Rodger’s psychic torment be traced to his biracial heritage? Or was white privilege his problem? Did the killing expose police incompetence, therapists’ blindness, undetected autism, detected autism, the impact of the book “The Secret” on an unsteady mind, or simply common misogyny in uncommon form?
I have to say that I'm not very sympathetic to the King of Queens theory, where seeing fictional guys land women much more attractive than they are is to blame for murderous misogyny. I agree that there are some eye-rollingly ludicrous examples on the screen both small and large, but drawing a line from there to Santa Barbara seems to be stretching things about as much as those who blamed video games and D&D for previous crimes (says the fiction writer who has also written for video games and D&D). Sane people know the difference between reality and fiction, and I'd like to think we don't have to approach every work of art with "how might a crazy person misinterpret this in relation to their own life and use it to justify violence" first in mind.
You'd think that sane journalists might also mention the word "gun" now and then, but you'd apparently be wrong.
Margaret Sullivan tries to address a concern everyone has—covering the murders without making a star out of the murderer.
The stone-faced young man stood on the sidewalk last week near Union Square holding a large, hand-lettered sign on a hot-pink piece of poster board. It read: “I deserve hot blonde women.” I wondered if this could be an ironic piece of feminist political commentary or if it was intended to seem hostile.
In any case, it was clearly inspired by the shooting near the University of California at Santa Barbara about a week before. The killer, Elliot Rodger, set out to target beautiful young women, he said, because they had rejected him sexually.
But it’s a far more extreme kind of “inspiration” that worries Ari Schulman, who thinks and writes about the effect of media coverage of mass shootings. After The Times posted both the 141-page written manifesto and a video statement issued by the California gunman last week, Mr. Schulman wrote to me. He made the case that publishing those statements — which he sees as a form of propaganda — perpetuates a culture in which violence is rewarded with notoriety.
“There’s an unspoken agreement that if you are frustrated and angry, that all you have to do to get your feelings broadcast is to kill a lot of people,” Mr. Schulman, the executive editor of The New Atlantis, a quarterly journal devoted to technology and society, told me in a later interview. He spoke of a “conscious copycat effect” that can be seen in the string of mass killings, from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Newtown, Conn.
The media, he says, “have been nearly perfect participants” in the “ritualistic response” that incentivizes these horrific episodes. It’s past time, he believes, to rethink that and to change it.
But changing this it also has it's issues, including the very important one of missing out on important public discussions. All those twitter posts, Facebook rambles, and DK comments in response to the events, the written tome, and the odious Youtube are part of a national conversation. Cutting off the information that fuels that discussion isn't the answer.
In this case, many would have been sadly deprived had not literally thousands of women been able to respond to the killer's "manifesto" with events from their own lives, and I'd like to think at least some percentage of men who had started down this ugly path had a mirror held up to their faces long enough to change their direction.
And for what it's worth, guy with pink sign, you don't "deserve" anyone. It doesn't matter how smart you are, or how rich you are, or how attractive you are. You don't deserve anyone. You can't earn anyone. You don't win anyone. If you are lucky, you find someone, and that person also finds you. But you still don't deserve them. Remember that.
Now, come inside so we can see what else people are talking about this morning...
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