Two mass murders of strangers (or near-strangers), three men, two very different outcomes. When the Tsarnaev brothers detonated bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, three young people were killed: Lingzu Lu, an only child from China; Martin Richard, an adorable eight-year-old; and Krystle Campbell, a UMass Boston grad with a lovely smile. Carlos Arredondo saved Jeff Bauman’s life, and many other people ran towards the bombs to help save lives. Three days later, Officer Sean Collier was shot and killed; Officer Dic Donohue was on death’s door.
Bostonians all know who the four dead are, know their stories, and mourn with their families. We were repulsed when Rolling Stone put the younger Tsarnaev brother on the cover in Jim Morrison pose: the tragedy was not to be about glorifying murderers, but about those who died, those who lost limbs or hearing, and those who lost loved ones.
That could not be more diametrically opposed to what has happened after the Santa Barbara tragedy. Many people did not even know the gender of the six dead [four men, two women]; few news outlets have bothered to post the victims’ names and brief bios. (However, you can find that here – thank you, NY Daily News.) All of the victims are childless, between the ages of 19 and 22 and attended UC Santa Barbara. Some media outlets have even counted the gunman, Elliot Rodger, as among those “killed” in the rampage, as if he were also a victim.
It is not only the inaccurate “killed” that paints Rodger as a victim: writers and commenters rallied around their new standard-bearer, a young man who wrote a hundred-fifty page manifesto about how his ill treatment at the hands of women made him want revenge upon hot sorority girls. In response to my comment that the gunman’s romantic problem was that he was too psycho for women to want to sleep with, one commenter said, “Couldnt [sic] one of you bitches give him a piece? Do all of you have to be completely controlled by your programming that dictates you must love douchebags for your own safety?”
This disgusting response, and many others like it, implies that Elliot Rodger is not morally responsible for the crime that viciously ended the promising lives of six young people – that moral responsibility also lies at the feet of hot women who “friend-zoned” a murderer.
Complementing the idea that the murderer is not wholly responsible for his crime is the #YesAllWomen trope, which implies that the killer’s victims aren’t really victims, as completely uninvolved non-victims are the real victims. According to the self-absorbed twitter hashtag, the four men who died (i.e. two for every woman who were killed) don’t really count. However, “all women” are victims of the “misogynistic culture” that prompted Rodger to kill – it was normal misogyny, not moral aberration or psychosis, that caused this tragedy. Ergo, slain George Chen is just a statistic and cute girls in Minnesota who are told by men to “smile more!” are the real victims of the Santa Barbara murders.
Newsflash, twittering honeys: if you are not dead, were not in danger of getting dead, know someone who died, or live in the general vicinity of the dead people, you aren’t a victim of this mass murder. Get over yourselves and ask yourself how it must feel to be a mother arranging a funeral for her dead child, who hears privileged, ponytailed twenty-something three time zones away talk about how they are tough survivors of this tragedy.
In the criminal justice system, the person sitting on a table on one side of the courtroom would be Elliot Rodger; at the other table sits the state, representing the people and speaking on behalf of the dead and the wounded. There is no room for pick-up artists, sorority girls who chose other men, or Rodger’s sister and her boyfriend at the former table; the attorneys on the latter side do not represent the petty grievances that many women have against other men. That legal system represents the foundations of civilised society, wherein the person responsible for committing murder is the person who wielded the knife, and the victims of that murder are the dead people and their families. This narcissistic, self-absorbed response to the tragedy – to blame everyone else, or to cloak oneself in the mantle of the victim – only serve to drive us towards chaos and anarchy.