Sunday, May 25, 2014


We're learning that Elliot Rodger, the self-pitying 22-year-old who killed six people in Isla Vista, California, on Friday night, was steeped in "pickup artist" culture. Slate's Amanda Hess explains what that means, quoting the most famous of Rodger's YouTube videos:
Rodger calls himself the "perfect guy" and a "supreme gentleman" who's been overlooked by women who prefer "obnoxious brutes." Then he lays out his plans to "enter the hottest sorority house of [the University of California, Santa Barbara], and ... slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blonde slut I see inside there." To "all those girls I've desired so much," he says, "you will finally see that I am the superior one, the true alpha male."

Rodger's language is familiar to anyone who's spent time exploring the Pick-Up Artist or Men's Rights Activist communities. Rodger was a "Nice Guy," a man who feels he is entitled to sex based on positive personality traits known only to him.... He aspired to be an "Alpha," the most attractive, dominant man in his group, but felt he's been wrongly dismissed as an inferior "Beta." Pick-Up Artists, by the way, refer to women they would like to have sex with as their "targets."

Rodger was also allegedly a member of, a website for men who feel they've been tricked by the Pick-Up Artist pyramid scheme, which takes men's money and promises to teach them how to have sex with women. (And not just any woman, but one who scores at least a 7 on the PUA decimal rating scale of female attractiveness.)
It's not clear to me whether Rodger felt tricked by the pickup artist culture or just failed by it -- he clearly accepted its analysis of the nature of male-female relations wholeheartedly.

Pickup artist culture describes the way men and women relate to one another the way Fox News depicts the interaction of political forces in America. In each case, Both PUA culture and Fox News tell their followers that there's no place for compromise and negotiation, because the enemy (women for PUA, liberals and Democrats for Fox) are embodiments of pure evil who have all the power because they've rigged the game. In each case, the enemy can't be reasoned with -- it must be conquered. Both cultures attempt to persuade their followers that enlightenment makes ordinary people into superior beings, and the form the enlightenment takes is understanding that a state of war exists, a fact that seems self-evident, but the naive masses insist on denying it, presumably because they're under the enemy's sway.

Fox News and the rest of the angry right-wing media create a larger democratic culture in which the rest of us can't find negotiating partners because the followers of Fox feel they must conquer us or be conquered. The PUA culture is (I hope) less pervasive in the dating sphere (I'm married -- I don't know how bad it really is), but its followers can't be reasoned with, either.


PUA culture is creepy in other ways as well. The pseudo-scientific categorization of both men and women reminds me of the pitiless introduction of "efficiencies" engaged in by "turnaround artists" of the Bain Capital variety -- PUAs don't want to be sexually "inferior" and don't want to pursue the sexually "inferior," as they define the term, just as efficiency-minded takeover executives instantly want to jettison the parts of any company that don't generate significant profit. And yes, in PUA culture both genders are held to high "standards," as Amanda Hess notes:
When news of the shooting broke, PUA Hate members attempted to absolve themselves by critiquing Rodger's sex appeal ("Short lower third and gay midface, with zero brow ridge," one decided), ridiculing his mother's looks, and scrambling to assert authority among themselves. ("Only high-T guys should be allowed to give advice here. Nich, can you add that as a rule?" one poster said). Another poster suggested that Rodger was such a Beta that no one would care if he’d murdered people. "Nobody gives a shit about some socially deprived, narrow-clavicle twink with a delusional sense of self. He's a poser," he said.
Rodger himself took this sexual rank-ordering in explicitly racial (and racist) directions, despite his own mixed ancestry:
According to the SPLC [Southern Poverty Law Center], Rodgers posted comments [at PUA Hate] in January, beginning with "Saw a black guy sitting with 4 white girls," causing him to admit his frustration over white women socializing with minority men:
Today I drove through the area near my college and saw some things that were extremely rage-inducing.

I passed by this restaurant and I saw this black guy chilling with 4 hot white girls. He didn’t even look good.

Then later on in the day I was shopping at Trader Joe’s and saw an Indian guy with 2 above average White Girls!!!

What rage-inducing sights did you guys see today? Don’t you just hate seeing these things when you go out? It just makes you want to quit life.
... Rodgers also wrote that Asian men could never date white women, leading a commenter of Asian descent to post a picture of himself with a white woman.

Rodger dismissed the photos as fake, writing: "Full Asian men are disgustingly ugly and white girls would never go for you. You're just butthurt that you were born as an asian piece of shit, so you lash out by linking these fake pictures. You even admit that you wish you were half white. You'll never be half-white and you'll never fulfill your dream of marrying a white woman. I suggest you jump off a bridge."

Rodgers had previously noted, "My father is of British descent, and my mother is of Asian descent, so that makes me a Eurasian."
Rodger's love/hate relationship with PUA culture seems like Fox viewers' love/hate relationship with America. Rodgers wholeheartedly believed in the PUA ordering of the sexual universe -- except that his obvious "Alpha" status was being ignored by the gratuitously cruel world of women. Similarly, Fox News rightists love America -- but they hate so many things about America, particularly the Democrats, liberals, non-whites, gay people, feminists, "takers," and so on who (in their eyes) thrive in America while not recognizing the superior morality and patriotism of the right.

Ultimately, it seems that these people are lying to themselves about their deprivation. PUAs don't really want sex (much less love) and rightists don't want their idealized America. What they really seem to want is the war.


Aunt Snow said...

Well as it turned out, the guy actually killed more men than he did women, ironically.

It's the unfocused rage and the objectifying of other people regardless of identity that horrifies me.

Whether it's a clerical worker thinking he was fired unfairly, or a depressed or pyschotic kid who thinks no one loves him, for some reason these people think that the only thing that can assuage their pain is to obliterate other random unconnected people.

Victor said...

I'm so old and out of touch, I never even heard of PUA's!

Sounds like a great group of guys.

Ten Bears said...

"My father is of British descent, and my mother is of Asian descent, so that makes me a Eurasian."

No, it makes you a half breed. Like me. Like Obama.

I'm laughing, at the superiority.

No fear, just contempt.

aimai said...

I wrote this over at DailyKos but it bears repeating here. Before I copy and paste it I'd like to point out that it is not at all "ironic" that he killed a more men than women. PUA and MRAs see themselves as in direct competition with other men and injured and humiliated by other men during their pursuit of women. MRAs often pretend to a bit more solidarity with other men, but PUA's are only in solidarity with other PUAs. PUA hate, the site Steve is talking about, is specifically for a special subset of losers who feel that they were the marks for grifters who sucessfully sold them something that didn't work. They are like marks who want money and go to what they think of as an expert thief to learn how to get it. They can be very disappointed and angry with their con man teacher when they realize they've been had. But they don't stop wanting money and they know that the grifter/teacher/alpha male has access to it even if he didn't share his real tricks at getting it.

aimai said...

Here's my Kos point which is about what role race and racism played in this:

I've tried to stay out of these discussions because, as a woman and the mother of a college aged daughter, I do not feel that race is more of a factor here than gender. Its just not. Crazy and abusive and angry men, especially upper class or middle class men, are and always will be a danger to women. I'd argue that class and gender are bigger factors in these spree killings because upper class (likely but not inevitably white) males are so indulged by society that they can easily get to the point of mass killing without anyone stopping them while lower class (white and non white) males are often disabled by their lower class status from fully inflicting their misogyny on lots of women around them. They are usually forced into retail abuse just of women in their immiediate social circle. Where you see similar cases in other countries whiteness is not going to be a factor--there are mass murderers, spree killers, and torturers of women all over the world. In other countries and with majority non white elites you are going to find these young men come from their own local elites.

Having said that I think people here are missing an important racial component--this kid is Eurasian and identified as Eurasian. This is a very difficult social mix in the UK, where his father is from. I have an Asian friend who married into an upper class Scots family. They produced a son and daughter who look very like this kid. It can be highly problematic for the boys (not the girls) because of the misogyny and homophobia of the upper class in Britain which results in a beautiful, feminine looking boy (and eurasian reads as feminine) being considered not manly looking or acting enough (as he sees it) for his peers. While a "half asian" looking girl can get points for being exotic the half asian looking boy is often condemned by his white and black school mates as effeminate.

You can see from this kids writing that he experienced extreme anxiety, self loathing, and rage against all men of every race who appeared to him to be having sexual success with what he fantasized were "high status" white females. Its interesting that he was so fixated on white females given that he was living in a very ethnically mixed country and state and that his own mother was asian. There's a special kind of self loathing and rejection going on there, to my mind.

At any rate my point here is that although I have no problem talking about and recognizing white ressentiment and the propensity of white (or self identified white) youths to violence and to spree killings I don't think that is the only thing that is going on here. This kid is a more complex figure and many streams of hatred, misogyny, white resentment, eurasian self loathing, and upper class and male entitlement went into his actions.

White privilege, in the form of his parents upper class privilige, also protected him from being violated right into prison for presumably bad behavior earlier in his career. I'm not denying the effect of that kind of privilige preventing someone whose parents were important people from ending up in the school to prison pipeline before they can ever manage to start killing people.

Victor said...

My advice to this kid would have been, if you go to something like PUA's, then you're trying to hard.

But he had more issues than that.

If you read his "MANifesto" - and, I only read a tidbit on a blog - this kid had some pretty severe mental issues, and a superiority complex.

aimai said...

SteveM is right that the link between PUAs and Fox news is significant. Both cater to "grievance collectors"--people whose entire identity and day to day existence is defined by their conviction that someone else has taken something from them (respect, money, the country, privilige, women).

Geese Howard said...

He sounds to me like your garden variety losers. Ugly, awkward, and thought he was higher up the social ladder when he really was. When he tried to associate with people who were good looking he got refused and he snapped.

Some fuckers need to know their place. If you're ugly, you're ugly and you should associate with uglies. That's your lifes fate. Most handle it with grace, some freak out.

Couldn't care less, uglies gonna ugly.

Ten Bears said...

"Half-breed like me" isn't derogatory. It's me, as is my wont, trying to turn it back into their faces. We Metis may or may not choose to openly identify with with one of our ethnicity, as I and apparently Obama have, or dwell amongst the two (or three) as Outsiders dipping into the wealth while rejecting the poverty of both (as I actively do), but at our core we know there is only one race, the human race, and that the color of their skin, bend of their nose or kink of their hair in no way prevented our parents from breeding. All this race bullshit is just that, bullshit.

And if we don't pull our heads out of our asses pretty damn quick we may just not, as a species, the human species, survive at all.

That said, I have long argued that like a trapped rat in its death throes lashing out at everything within reach, including itself, the white "race" is a dying breed and on a collectively sub-conscious level knows it. Hence the rapid regression we've seen recently into the violent bigotry - religious, racial and homophobic - and misogyny, white resentment, self loathing, and upper class and male entitlement of a half century ago. The world is changing and in a world both warmer and wetter those with pink skin given to both cancerous lesions and excessive bleeding simply will not survive. Not to mention the fat asses, fat ankles, thighs, cheeks and jowls, the pot-bellies, flat feet, bad backs, balding palate, pale eyesight, persistent body odor and irrational dependencies upon adolescent fairy tales to explain away the world.

I have long jokes there are Neanderthals amongst us, and laughed uproariously when it came to light recently that archaeological research indicates Neanderthal was much more contemporaneous and were assimilated with the migrating caveman Cro-Magnon much more readily than previously thought. As Neanderthal is found predominantly in Northern Europe, it seems to me that our Aryan white supremacist friends suffer not from a cultural but genetic memory harkening to when their what were and still are thought to be inferior ancestors were overran and assimilated with the "superior" migrant Cro-Magnon.
Almost as funny as one group of humans whose entire ethinicty is predicated on their ancestors having bred with those who came from the sky.

Neither, in my book, are quite human.

No fear.

gocart mozart said...

Jim Hoft says Eliot Rogers was a leftist.
so I posted this in response:
"Facts" - I don't think that word means what you and Jim "dumbest guy on the internet" Hoft thinks it means.

gocart mozart said...

Sorry for the bad links. My bad.

Aunt Snow said...

I don't think the young man was ugly, his looks seemed pleasant to me. I imagine it was his manner that turned away possible friends.

And speaking of Neanderthal, my very own husband has an Occipital bun, which is a Neanderthal characteristic.

Regular GeoX said...

He sounds to me like your garden variety losers. Ugly, awkward, and thought he was higher up the social ladder when he really was. When he tried to associate with people who were good looking he got refused and he snapped.

Some fuckers need to know their place. If you're ugly, you're ugly and you should associate with uglies. That's your lifes fate. Most handle it with grace, some freak out.

Couldn't care less, uglies gonna ugly.

Huh. That looks like a comment that only a shithead would make. Shitheads like you are a big part of the reason things like this happen.

Thomas Milne said...

Maybe you shouldn't use all caps for your headline. It looks really weird when shared.

Joey Blau said...

One interesting thing in this is the concept that the rich good looking guys are getting all the hot girls... that society is prepping the women to desire one type of male.. an ultra-succesful alpha, over the remaining 90%.

Now this may have been true all the time, but with growing income inequality, and the worship of celebrities in the media, there seems to be a pent up rage, such as in this young man, which drives them crazy.

It is the weaker sons of privledge that can't handle it because the jump from top 20% to top 10% or 5% is so hard. And these kids have been drilled with what success means.. hot babes, loads of cash and a fancy car.

seems like all this guy had was a fancy car.. interesting that he also smashed it up.