The bodies in Santa Barbara were barely cold before feminist clicktivists were exploiting this horrendous mass murder to boost their campaign against sexist trolling and online misogyny. The revelation that the shooter, Elliot Rodger, was a visitor to those saddo-packed ‘men’s rights’ websites, and had produced a badly written 140-page screed about how much he hated women for showing no interest in him, was all that the victim-feminist lobby needed: within minutes it was saying that Rodger’s outpourings and actions confirm that we need to ‘stamp out misogyny’. He is no ‘mere glitch in the system’, they claimed, but rather the ‘product’ of a society that apparently hates women.
Let’s leave aside the fact that this kind of argument is indistinguishable from the blue-rinse, conservative insistence that violent movies make men into maniacs or that saucy novels churn out real-world rapists. Truly are radical feminists the heirs to the backward Mary Whitehouse view of human beings as the amoeba-like products of their cultural surrounds, in this case of sexist websites - a view which not only treats us all as easily brainwashed by movies and literature but, even worse, lessens actual killers’ and rapists’ responsibility for their actions by depicting them as simply the warped end products of big, bad culture. More pointedly, the reading of profound social meaning into losers’ and loners’ manifestos gives way too much credence to these individuals, overlooking the fact that more often than not they are simply grasping for a serious-sounding reason for their already existing desire to commit a crime and cause hurt.
Twitter is responding to Rodger’s shooting spree with the pro-woman hashtag #YesAllWomen, as if Rodger’s shooting was an attack on womankind itself rather than the action of one clearly disturbed individual. This response overlooks the general misanthropy of Rodger’s manifesto, which was more anti-human than anti-woman. ‘Humanity is a disgusting, wretched, depraved species’, said Rodger, echoing mainstream eco-miserabilism more than isolated men’s rights nonsense. Maybe we should fret over green websites that depict humanity as destructive rather than men’s rights websites that express fear and loathing of women? To the extent that there is anti-woman sentiment on the web today, it speaks to a broader alienated, anti-human sentiment, a view of all people as problematic, polluting, poisonous.