Religious Violence Isn’t a Mental Illness, and Neither Is Misogyny

In the wake of the mass shooting in California last month, committed by a killer who left a long, misogynist manifesto vowing to punish women for not dating him, many pundits and commenters have strained to blame something other than sexism for his rampage. The most common claim is that the shooter, Elliot Rodger, was mentally ill, that the illness was the real cause of his killing, and the misogyny is just what his disturbed mind happened to latch onto as an excuse; if not for that, it would have happened anyway, just with a different justification. Disappointingly, even some atheists are making this argument.

For an atheist to disregard Rodger’s own explanation of his actions is a gross double standard. After all, we’ve often made the point that extreme religious ideology inspires violence in the real world. But this same logic would lead us to conclude that we have no right to criticize the bloody passages in the Bible, the Qur’an and other religious texts, because they never cause anyone to commit violence; that’s only an excuse seized upon by people who would have been violent anyway.

I’m not claiming the UCSB shooter was an emotionally healthy or stable individual. But by the legal standard of responsibility – does the person understand what they’re doing, and can they tell the difference between right and wrong? – there can be no question about his guilt.

In my essay “A Ghost in the Machine“, I wrote about a person suffering from Capgras syndrome (a rare, strange disorder in which the victim becomes convinced that friends or loved ones have been replaced by impostors) who killed his father because he believed he was a robot duplicate. That‘s an example of killing caused by mental illness.

But this kind of disconnect from reality didn’t occur with Rodger. His rhetoric was narcissistic and grandiose, but he wasn’t in the throes of delusion. He knew what he was doing, why he was doing it and what consequences it would have. He planned his rampage in detail and bluffed police officers when they came to his door at one point. That premeditation ought to convince us that he was of sound mind, just as the planning and premeditation of the 9/11 hijackers should convince us that they weren’t seized by a sudden delusion, but planned to commit violence in awareness of the consequences.

It’s also relevant whether a person belongs to a community that praises, condones or supports violent acts. Most of us take our cues from our surroundings, and a steady diet of extremist, violent rhetoric can’t help but weaken moral norms. It makes violence seem justified and legitimate, and paves the way for a person leaning in that direction to do something they might otherwise not have.

For example, the Christian terrorist Eric Rudolph drew support from a racist, militantly religious community. When he went on the run, he was regarded as a folk hero by some in the town where he absconded. Local businesses sold T-shirts and mugs that read “Run Rudolph Run”, and a local restaurant put up a sign reading “Pray for Eric Rudolph”. The Anti-Defamation League noted that extremist bulletin boards praised him as a hero.

This same pattern played out with Rodger. He belonged to a misogynist community, PUAhate, whose members frequently posted violence-condoning messages (like one who claimed he purposely drove his car into a wall in a rage). In the months leading up to his rampage, he himself posted a series of increasingly explicit threats, under his real name, yet this didn’t seem to attract any serious concern. What’s even more nauseating is that, after his death, many of the same posters praised and idolized him, or made threats to follow in his footsteps. Sure, this may only be adolescent bravado, but then again, the same thing could have been said about Rodger’s postings until he followed through.

The MRA/PUA community has a long history of cheering on violence. For example, one of the most prominent sites, Paul Elam’s A Voice for Men, has posted a “satire” about beating women and called for “inflicting enough pain on the agents of hate, in public view” until their demands are met. He’s written an essay titled “When is it OK to Punch Your Wife?”, and hosted a terrorist manifesto, by an MRA who committed suicide, urging others to firebomb police stations and courthouses.

And just as violent religious rhetoric begets real-world violence, this kind of hate can’t help but leak out and influence the way that men treat women. Rodger’s rampage was an unusually horrible example, but it’s far from unique. On average, 12 murder-suicides happen in the U.S. each week, and according to the journalist Soraya Chemaly, “women are 85% of those killed, and men 95% of those killing”. We can also add the many stories collected on this site, of men who lash out violently when they’re rejected or dumped. Are all those men mentally ill?

If a religious terrorist left a 100-page manifesto arguing that sin can’t be tolerated and the earth must be cleansed of infidels, and if he belonged to a community that routinely posted threats of violence, cheered on his threats, and valorized him after his death, you can be sure that the atheist community wouldn’t respond by talking about the urgent need to improve mental health services. We’d have no trouble at all putting the blame where it belonged. Now we need to build on this sound principle, and recognize that there are other ideologies besides religion that are equally driven by rage and hate, equally violent, equally bent on dehumanizing the other. Then we need to ask ourselves what we’re going to do about it.

Image credit: Shutterstock

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • J-D

    Misogyny is a serious problem, and more needs to be done about it.

    The Elliot Rodger case has drawn attention to that fact.

    If, now, in the hypothetical extreme, new evidence emerged that showed that misogyny had nothing at all to do with Elliot Rodger’s actions, that wouldn’t change the fact that misogyny is a serious problem and more needs to be done about it.

    A systematic investigation of the Elliot Rodger case in order to discover exactly what factors played what role in causing what developments at each stage might be interesting from some points of view, but from other points of view it’s beside the point.

    It is also the case that mental illness is a serious problem, and more needs to be done about it.

    Those two facts, the one about misogyny and the one about mental illness, don’t contradict each other. Both are serious problems (different kinds of problem, obviously, but both problems) and more needs to be done about both, and both of those things are true independently of the Elliot Rodger case.

  • Margaret Whitestone

    It’s easy to blame mental illness. The persons mentally ill. It’s an isolated case nobody could have predicted or prevented.

    Accepting that it’s part if a systemic, toxic ideology is much harder. It calls upon us to look at how we see and treat each othet, and demands we make changes.

  • GCT

    So, all the 9/11 hijackers were mentally ill?

    Killing random people in a murder rampage is not a symptom, a definition, or a logically necessary outcome of misogyny.

    It’s not a symptom, definition, or logically necessary outcome of mental illness either.

    There are millions of misogynists. Virtually zero of them will go on a murder rampage for any reason.

    Obviously, some of them do (as evidenced by the examples that Adam has brought up).

  • Alex SL

    I think you are defining mental illness a tad too narrowly if you only accept delusions as severe as that Capgras case. Surely there is a continuum instead of a yes/no switch.

    It also looks as if a lot of people are currently shouting at each other whether it was misogyny or insanity, with the implication being that if the first is accepted it will completely distract from the need to improve mental health care and that if the second is accepted it will completely distract from the need to fight misogyny. Why are people so notoriously unable to analyse events in terms of more than one factor? Why is everybody who says, wait, I think it is more complicated, automatically the enemy?

    From what I read the shooter was clearly not “an emotionally healthy or stable individual”, which is just a kinder way of saying that he was at least somewhat mentally ill. He was also clearly a huge misogynist. To put it in the simplest possible terms: there is not necessarily a contradiction between these two insights. The first may have made him a murderer, the second has most likely informed his choice of victims.

    Saying that it has to be one or the other is just as silly as saying that a war must have been started either because of jingoism or because of economic interests, but it could never possibly have been a combination of the two.

  • L.Long

    Yes these killers are mentally different then a peaceful loving person. But the term ‘mentally ill’ is a catch all phrase used and pushed by high priced lawyers to get people off. There is only ONE type that counts for anything…Does he/she know the difference in legal and illegal actions? If you ask is it OK to beat your wife? & he says sure gawd says its OK! He may be an Ahole who believes BS, but he aint anymore mentally ill than any other religious or dogmatic dimwit. I have heard many times religious dimwits state lets kill them all gawd can sort them out.
    Yes the killer is a state of mind but that state can be made worse by teaching violence is OK with gawd, and can be reduced by teach love and acceptance.

  • Azkyroth

    Killing random people in a murder rampage is, de facto mental illness. By definition.

    This is just plain not fucking true. Do some research, starting with what “mental illness” actually MEANS.

  • Azkyroth

    I think you are defining mental illness a tad too narrowly if you only accept delusions as severe as that Capgras case. Surely there is a continuum instead of a yes/no switch.

    This is a willful misreading.

    It also looks as if a lot of people are currently shouting at each other whether it was misogyny or insanity, with the implication being that if the first is accepted it will completely distract from the need to improve mental health care

    This is incorrect. The people who are desperately, flailingly trying to pin his crime on “MENTAL ILLNESS” are not concerned with improving mental healthcare but are engaging in motivated reasoning based on a desire to “Other” the killer, to declare him to be fundamentally, qualitatively, and intrinsically unlike “normal people” in general and themselves in particular. The implication is that his rampage was essentially an “act of god,” the equivalent of a natural disaster, and there was no way to predict or prevent it – and certainly we as a society and individuals shouldn’t feel any sense of responsibility for tolerating and even nurturing an environment that created his mindset or feel like we need to do anything to change it. See mister “BY DEFINITION” and “MISOGYNISTS AREN’T VIOLENT” above.

  • GCBill

    I think the key issue is this: one can be mentally ill, and yet still remain culpable for his or her actions. I take it that’s what you mean when you say “He knew what he was doing, why he was doing it and what consequences it would have.”

    Ultimately, mental illness likely played a causal role in what he was doing. However, “mental illness” broadly construed is neither a necessary or sufficient condition for mass murder. So we’re right to look for other explanatory factors, which in this case includes misogyny.

  • Azkyroth

    Ultimately, mental illness likely played a causal role in what he was doing.

    Do you have a non-circular argument for this?

  • Alex SL

    It may just be a problem that some of us are always assuming the worst of those not sharing their opinion to 100%. When I read J.T. Eberhard’s take, for example, I at least am not getting the impression that there is a lot of flailing and smearing involved.

    And here you’re fucking doing it

    Logic 101: When somebody writes “item X is most likely a member of class A” that does not mean or imply “all or most members of class A are in all or most characteristics exactly the same as item X”. This is not rocket science or anything.

    In the specific example here, somebody calling Rodger insane because even before he went on a rampage he behaved in a way that no sane person would be expected to behave does not mean or imply that all or even any significant number of insane people would behave in the same way as Rodger.

    You know, if I state that for all we know Stalin was most likely an atheist I am not trying to smear all atheists as potential mass murderers either. In that case I would even expect you to “get” it.

    It might be helpful to contemplate these few sentences the next time before jumping on somebody for supposedly othering all people with mental issues. Maybe in some cases you will find that they do, but in other cases analysing the logic of their sentences may show that they actually don’t.

    Also, note again that I completely agree that misogyny was what made that guy tick, and that sexism, racism and a variety of other unpleasant isms should be combated. The point is simply that it is not a contradiction to say that in addition to his misogyny he had antisocial … issues … that go beyond your run-of-the-mill misogynist.

  • Wilson Whiting

    I think that there is a legitimate and poorly spelled out difference between mental illness and ideological insanity.

    Many people seem confused about the two, I’m unsure about the exact definition that differentiates the two.

    There are, I’m sure, people who are mentally ill and turn themselves in for treatment if they hear, for example, voices urging murder. And then there are others who do not perceive voices urging murder as wrong to listen to.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Yes, exactly! That’s just the point I was driving at.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Killing random people in a murder rampage is, de facto mental illness.

    If that were the case, all mass murderers would be sentenced to mental health treatment rather than prison. This obviously doesn’t happen in reality.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    I’d rephrase your comment as follows: the reason this story angers and distresses garden-variety misogynists is that the killer made his motives so clear that their standard distracting and derailing tactics aren’t working to change the subject.

  • GCBill

    I do, although it’s certainly not a “proof,” and it hinges on a loose concept of “cause.”

    But first, I should clarify what I mean by “mental illness.” I am using the phrase in a way that is roughly synonymous with the DSM-V definition of “mental disorder:”

    A mental disorder is a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning. Mental disorders are usually associated with significant distress or disability in social, occupational, or other important activities. An expectable or culturally approved response to a common stressor or loss, such as the death of a loved one, is not a mental disorder. Socially deviant behavior (e.g., political, religious, or sexual) and conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are not mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict results from a dysfunction in the individual, as described above.

    Rodger’s final actions certainly meet the threshold for “clinically significant disturbance.” From the videos he made prior to the shooting, we know that he experienced “significant distress” and “disability” in his social life; he was frustrated over his inability to form and maintain romantic relationships. His response to these frustrations was certainly not “expectable or culturally approved.” His conflict was with “society” in some sense; however, it arose as a result of his social issues, so I think the final condition is fulfilled as well. This doesn’t prove he was mentally ill, but it does play a part in a larger circumstantial case.

    We know that Elliot Rodger had been seeing a therapist for some time before turning to violence. We know that the supposed autism spectrum diagnosis was false. However, autism in particular is not associated with violent crime, so this is not particularly surprising. However, that does not rule out the presence of other mental health issues. The fact that Rodger was involved with therapy is also not proof that he was mentally ill. However, in conjunction with the fulfillment of the broad definition of “mental disorder,” it suggests mental illness as a possibility.

    Now, a word on mental illness and violence. The vast majority of mentally ill people will never kill anyone. However, that does not mean that all else being equal, people with certain mental illnesses will be equally as likely to commit murder as anyone else. The particular influence on violent tendencies will obviously vary from illness to illness. As it turns out, there does appear to be a link between murder-suicide and depression, often absent antidepressant treatment. However, these studies mostly utilize spousal or breakup-related incidents. This is the closest thing I could find for comparison, since the Rodger case isn’t exactly the archetypical murder-suicide. However, the incidents described bear resemblance in that they are often inspired by failure of normal human romantic relationships.

    I suspect that Rodger may have suffered from or been suffering from clinical depression. I don’t know this, but I can construct a circumstantial case:
    1) Rodger expressed perpetual frustration from which he saw no healthy escape – something which could certainly serve as the cause of a depressive episode.
    2) Rodger had a history of psychotherapy, which suggests he had been or was suffering from some type of mental health issue related to his social dysfunction.
    3) There is a well-documented association between depression and murder-suicide cases that in some ways resemble the Rodger case.

    Now even if this is all correct, this doesn’t mean his depression was “to blame” for his actions. I assume there are depressed, sexually-frustrated sexists who refrain from violence, and there are also violent people who are none of those things. Human behavior is simply too complex for a counterfactual definition of causation to work in our explanations for action. However, if this particular risk factor was present, it is reasonable to suggest that it influenced the unfolding of his plan in some way or another. Depression (if present) would have fed into Rodger’s hopeless view of his situation, In turn, his view would have influenced him to take actions that would seem ridiculous to someone who had hope of forming normal relationships.

    This influential pattern between a persistent mental state and behavior is what I mean by “causal role.” I do not mean to suggest that he would not have done anything bad were he not depressed, or that depression alone is likely the sole cause of his actions. Nor do I mean to suggest that depressed people (or mentally ill people in general) are always more violent, or even that they’ll be predisposed toward violence independent of violence and illness type. I simply think that depression was likely part of the background conditions for this particular act of violence, as suggested by Rodger’s personal history and the murder-suicide literature.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    It is also the case that mental illness is a serious problem, and more needs to be done about it.

    While this point is true in general, I don’t think it’s especially relevant in this instance. Doubtless, there are cases where violence or tragedy occurred because someone with a mental health problem slipped through the cracks, and it’s fair to talk about improving the system in response to those.

    But this isn’t one of those cases. The killer’s family was wealthy and privileged; he had access to medication, to therapy, and none of it helped. It’s unlikely that any improvement of the mental health system would have averted this rampage. That being the case, I think it’s fair for the conversation to focus on a different area where more can be done: raising awareness of the toxic ideology of misogyny and how it poisons men’s minds.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    It also looks as if a lot of people are currently shouting at each other whether it was misogyny or insanity, with the implication being that if the first is accepted it will completely distract from the need to improve mental health care and that if the second is accepted it will completely distract from the need to fight misogyny.

    The issue, as I said to J-D above, is that it’s not clear what could have been done to improve mental health care in this case. The killer was from a wealthy family and had access to medication and therapy; it didn’t help.

    Conversely, it’s quite clear that many of the people shouting about insanity – not all, but many – do want to talk about that subject exclusively, and dismiss the role of misogyny. There’s an intense discomfort with the idea of sexism that doesn’t seem to arise when a hate crime is perpetrated by, say, a white supremacist or an anti-Semite. We recognize the moral responsibility of those ideologies in the violence they provoke, but in cases like this, far too many people shy away from talking about the cultural background that contributes.

  • Azkyroth

    It may just be a problem that some of us are always assuming the worst of those not sharing their opinion to 100%.

    1) Thank the nonexistent gods there aren’t any strangers around offering you candy.
    2) Pattern recognition and context awareness are not “assuming the worst.” You are ironically committing exactly what you’re accusing me of by implying that this is some paranoid-cynical thing I’ve just made up out of nowhere rather than a well-documented behavior pattern.

    I have not read JT Eberhard’s take, for instance, but given his documented poo-pooing of entrenched sexism and subtler forms of misogyny (and racism), and history of willful misreading of his critics and those who advocate different positions, I’m not optimistic.

    Logic 101: When somebody writes “item X is most likely a member of class A” that does not mean or imply “all or most members of class A are in all or most characteristics exactly the same as item X”. This is not rocket science or anything.

    Logic 001: most people aren’t logical. That the casual association of mental illness with violence in popular culture and the media contributes to stigma and thus to poor outcomes for actual mentally ill people is extensively documented. Whether one thing follows from another in a syllogistic sense is beside the point when we are discussing the attitudes of people who rate a product more favorably when they see a conventionally attractive person using it in a commercial.

  • Omnicrom

    The problem is that the killer is separate from the bog standard den of foulness that is the Men’s Rights Movement only by the fact he went on a killing spree, and his manifesto is separate from the sort of stuff posted every day in volume on MRA websites only by volume. Extreme narcissism, violent revenge fantasies, solipsism, and a willful separation from reality are all rampant in the sort of websites and communities that he took inspiration from. The website We Hunted The Mammoth is a long-running expose of the subculture this man immersed himself in, the only thing separate is that this person did more than shout, he shot.

  • Omnicrom

    I think the most relevant point to be made about the rush to dismiss Elliot Rodger as just crazy is that if he had given any other motivation it would not be the lead story.

    If Elliot Rodger had opened fire in a Synagogue and left behind a hundred page screed ripped from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion he’d be called an Anti-Semite. If Elliot Rodgers had opened fire in a Mosque and left behind a hundred page screed about the creeping terror of Sharia Law he’d be an Islamophobe. If Elliot Rodgers had shot up a Black neighborhood and left behind a hundred page screed about those [N-word]s he’d be a racist. Elliot Rodger opens fire in a sorority house and leaves behind a hundred page screed full of ranting, violent misogyny? He’s not a misogynist, he’s mentally ill.

    I’m sure in any of the hypothetical alternate universes there would still be people who’d call him mentally ill, but the leading headline wouldn’t be “Crazy man kills people”, it would be “Bigoted Racist kills people”. It’s only when the crime seems to be motivated by Misogyny, the oldest and most accepted prejudice, that people rush to deny that Elliot Rodger could possibly be motivated by a societal prejudice.

  • Azkyroth

    True colors, huh.

  • Azkyroth

    The other issue is that there’s about as much evidence that the “BUT TEH CRAY CRAY!” trolls really want to improve mental health care, rather than Othering the killer and embracing the status quo, as there is that the MRAs who bring up “but women usually get custody of the kids!” actually want to improve family relations for fathers.

  • Azkyroth

    The word you want is “equivocating,” not “confused.”

  • Azkyroth

    You can be delusional without having an actual neurological dysfunction of the type that the term “mental illness” actually refers to. See, anyone who believes Faux News.

  • Jennifer Burdoo

    Ah, but the 9/11 hijackers *were* deluded: They honestly thought they wouldn’t really die when they flew into a skyscraper. That was what made their attack possible, as Richard Dawkins put it. You can negotiate with conventional hijackers, who presumably want to escape with their lives, but you can’t stop an attacker who doesn’t believe that death is the end. The problem is that this looks (I don’t say “is”) very much like insanity.
    The problem with the 9/11 hijackers wasn’t that they were irrational. If they had been completely irrational, they could not have carried out the attacks. It was that they were rational enough (despite their religious irrationality) to plan and conduct an attack on an unprecedented scale. They compartmentalized, yet at the same time allowed irrationality to serve as the motivation for a thoroughly rational plan. Rodger seems to have been the same. If he was insane, it was only in the sense that he believed something that was demonstrably false. The attack that his beliefs motivated, on the other hand, was deliberate and considered.

  • J-D

    I don’t know whether any improvement of the mental health system would have been useful in dealing with _this_ case; but nothing can be done now about _this_ case. ‘How do we deal with _this_ case?’ strikes me as the wrong question to be asking.

  • Alex SL

    most people aren’t logical…

    If that is your approach to the issue then it is just impossible to have a rational, measured discussion of any topic whatsoever. If somebody argued that climate change was happening because we had a few hot summer days you would have to defend their bad argument because you’d be afraid that denialists would otherwise consider its rejection as a point in their favor.

    I was kind of hoping that in the parts of the blogosphere that I am frequenting the standards would be a bit higher.

  • J-D

    Having observed above that it is correct to say that mental illness is a serious problem and that more needs to be done about it, I add further that it is _not_ correct to use a mental health diagnosis of Elliot Rodger (accurate or not) as a justification for saying that misogyny should not be under discussion.

  • GCT

    Suicide bombings happen quite often. IED attacks. Abortion clinic bombings. Etc. You’re going to go on record to say that all of those people are mentally ill? You’re also going to say that their ideologies weren’t the causative factor, but their mental illness was?

  • GCT

    The reason it has to have been misogyny and nothing else is because otherwise it dilutes the feminist narrative.

    So, yeah, it must be the feminists’ fault that he went on misogynistic rants and then sought to kill a bunch of women.

    An event like this where the madman checks the right boxes for hatred against women specifically and explicitly is too rare to share with the people pushing the issues of mental healthcare, anti-bullying or sexual education/information.

    If you were at all familiar with the statistics you’d note that violence against women isn’t that rare. But, continue to try and sweep it all under the rug.

    Clearly what would have prevented this from happening are public service announcements with obvious platitudes like “women are people too”…

    Except it’s not obvious to a great many men.

    …perhaps more puritanical media…

    What are you even talking about here?

    …and/or some censorship.

    No one is pushing for censorship, except the defacto censorship that happens when women are hounded, harassed, threatened, and violently attacked to the extent that they no longer wish to speak up.

  • Elizabeth

    Killing random people in a murder rampage is, de facto mental illness.

    Oh, really? Then can you find it in the DSM for me? It’s been a few years, but I do not remember the “killing random people in a murder rampage” from my abnormal psychology class.

  • 8DX

    Even just looking at the context and the details of Eliot Rodgers motivation we can see that it wasn’t mental illness that made him kill. He didn’t have some condition where he would be prone to bouts of violence or under delusions that would require him to kill women.

    His main problem seemed to be a lack of real-life education and a culture that fed into his insecurities. Even the most introverted of us all usually figure out solipsism is wrong and that our preferred gender is just the same as us.

  • Martin Penwald

    Mental illness cover a very wide spectrum of symptoms. But what was his ? I’ve heard that Rodger had Asperger’s syndrom, and it doesn’t seem that Asperger’s is related to violent behaviour.
    I find very dishonnest to keep mentionning his mental issues and dismissing his misogyny.

  • Azkyroth

    If that is your approach to the issue then it is just impossible to have a rational, measured discussion of any topic whatsoever. If somebody argued that climate change was happening because we had a few hot summer days you would have to defend their bad argument because you’d be afraid that denialists would otherwise consider its rejection as a point in their favor.

    Wrong. Read it again.

    I was kind of hoping that in the parts of the blogosphere that I am frequenting the standards would be a bit higher.

    Heh.

    Perhaps if you weren’t frequenting them they would be.

  • Azkyroth

    Hmm. Maybe so.

  • Azkyroth

    It isn’t. Also, whether he was ever diagnosed with it is in question.

  • Martin Penwald

    Ok, thanks. Journalists doing a poor job, here.

  • Azkyroth

    Of course. The non-neurotypical are Acceptable Targets, whereas misogyny must be protected at all costs.

  • Azkyroth

    You’re going on record as saying a mentally competent person makes those type of decisions?

    Yes, mentally competent people make these kinds of decisions when enmeshed in ideologies that dehumanize an enemy Other and promote the use of violence to resolve imagined wrongs committed by the Other. “Garbage in, garbage out” applies to brains just like any other kind of computer, as you’ve amply demonstrated.

    I’m going on record as stating that their ideologies WERE their mental illness.

    This is not what mental illness means, you ignorant, irresponsible bigot.

  • Azkyroth

    I’m beginning to think

    If so, it’d be about time, but I see no evidence of it.

    you have some baggage associated with the term “mental illness”.

    Of course there’s baggage associated with the term “mental illness.” Using “mentally ill” as a synonym for “not a nice person” dehumanizes and harms people who actually have genuine disorders of neurological functioning, not just bad ideas. Haven’t you read a single other comment in this thread? No, of course you haven’t.

  • Azkyroth

    There seems to be a comment missing here, that certainly wasn’t any more “personal” than the one it responded to.

  • Incogneato

    Golly, if Jeff See has declared, on record no less, that ideologies are mental illnesses, I guess that’s that. Hopefully the APA will be rushing out a DSM-VI to correct the previous and clearly incorrect definition.

  • J-D

    I’m struggling to see the relevance of the remark that half of US is on anti-depressants. Even if that’s true, what does it show? That half of the US is mentally ill? That seems unlikely to me–unlikely in the extreme–but even if (implausibly) it is true that half of the US is mentally ill, that still leaves half that isn’t, or at any rate might not be.

    Do you perhaps mean that it’s very easy for people to be considered mentally ill? Perhaps that’s so, but perhaps the reason is that people are _too_ easily designated as mentally ill.

    I’m sorry, I’m just not following you.

  • Alex SL

    Ye gods Askyroth, can’t you have a discussion without jumping to conclusions and freely insulting people? Would you talk like that IRL when you are not hiding behind a pseudonym? Do you think that this behavior will convince people sitting on the fence of your position?

    Yes, the antidepressants are irrelevant to the point under discussion but Roger Lambert did not use mentally ill as a synonym for not a nice person. That just isn’t there in what he wrote.

  • Azkyroth

    Ye gods Askyroth [sic], can’t you have a discussion without jumping to conclusions

    By “jumping to conclusions” you mean engaging in pattern-recognition and context rather than approaching each argument as if it existed in a vacuum. Technically, I suppose I am privileged enough to discuss social justice issues while ignoring context and the non-trivial impacts on real people. I care about too many people who aren’t, though.

    and freely insulting people?

    I note that not only did you deliberately misspell my name and sneer about “higher standards” above, but you have neglected to chide the person who attempted to “refute” my position by implying that I’m mentally ill and motivated by an irrational personal interest. Is there a reason for that which you’d care to articulate?

    Would you talk like that IRL when you are not hiding behind a pseudonym?

    If necessary. Being simultaneously smug and wrong should be uncomfortable.

    Do you think that this behavior will convince people sitting on the fence of your position?

    *yawn*

    Yes, the antidepressants are irrelevant to the point under discussion but Roger Lambert did not use mentally ill as a synonym for not a nice person. That just isn’t there in what he wrote.

    Fascinating. You actually don’t believe in context at all.

    So, if I were to point out that this sort of dismissive pseudo-spockian approach to parsing social justice issues annoys a lot of people who are affected in real, tangible ways by them, some of whom are under the age of 18 and thus legally “children,” and that the dictionary definition of “molest” is “to bother or annoy,” would you not object to being labeled a “child” “molestor” since parsing it as an insult requires reference to context and viewing the sentence outside of a vacuum? Or is this a one-way kinda thing?

  • Azkyroth

    Why do people feel the need to, upon locating an article that specifically refutes Position A, write comments which simply restate position A and don’t engage with the refutation at all?

  • J-D

    ‘Was Elliot Rodger a good example of the destruction misogyny causes?’ is one question and ‘Is this a good opportunity to talk about the destruction misogyny causes?’ is another. The answer to the second question is ‘Yes’ regardless of how you answer the first question. I can’t see why the first question should be regarded as more important than the second.

  • Jeff See

    My replies aren’t showing, (at least yet, ty Disqus). Either way, thanks for your momentous contribution to the topic at hand.

    I was maintaining the vernacular of the discussion I was involved in with GCT, hence the ‘record’ part. But, good show.

  • Alex SL

    you mean engaging in pattern-recognition and context

    No, I mean putting words into other people’s mouths as you have just done to me.

    I did not deliberately misspell your “name”, I made a mistake – sorry for that. Nobody has implied that you are mentally ill, but yes, “baggage” implies that you are being irrational about this, and looking at your aggressive behavior I cannot help but concur.

    we ought to have enough respect for people not to coddle the recalcitrantly inexcusably wrong to spare their fee-fees

    …which, for you, appears to include everybody who does not completely and immediately agree with you.

    concern troll

    It must be neat to be able to immediately put everything you read into a box that allows you to exclude it from consideration.

    “child” “molestor”

    Apples, oranges. The analogy would work if he had called all mentally ill people “murderers”, which nobody here has.

    I think this has gone on long enough now. Feel free to have the last word, this is my final comment on this thread.

  • Omnicrom

    Could you source the “he had a history” bit? Because I’ve heard that a couple of times but never got a decent source claiming that Elliot Rodger was in treatment for a mental illness, or that he had this problem before he started to frequent the Manosphere.

    Additional it’s unhelpful to dismiss the Men’s Rights Movement with “They’re all crazy”, for exactly the same reasons that it’s unhelpful to dismiss Rodger as “He’s just crazy”. MRAs are a very vocal minority, they aren’t huge in numbers but their actions and catchphrases and dog whistles cast a pall on many communities around the internet. It’s unhelpful just to say “Oh they’re all crazy” because doing that prevents you from understanding how their anger is part of a broader cultural rot. The MRA movement represents the most vulgar, fringe representation on misogyny in Western culture, but they do represent a real and unfortunate cultural trend. Saying “They’re crazy” blinds you to realizing this trend, how broad and deeply rooted in our culture it is, and how truly problematic sexism really is.

    When you call a person crazy you are saying that their behavior is inexplicable, unfounded, and unaccountable. The trouble is that the MRA movement’s behavior is troublingly explicable. They are fringe, not freaks. Elliot Rodger’s peers act like they act as a reactionary response to trends of feminism, equality, and an end to their privilege, the anger and bile they show is wrong and ugly and hateful but not crazy. Their hatred is borne not out of a mental disorder, but of a privileged, cruel, and repulsive sanity. To assume they act irrationally is to put on blinkers and be unable to see the root cause of the problem.

  • Azkyroth

    How is “a wrong decision forged from their religiosity” a medical condition?

  • GCT

    tl;dr version of the above: all religious people are infected by some sort of disease that causes mental illness.

    Not only is the condescending, belittling, and insulting to religious people, it’s all those things to those who actually are mentally ill. It’s also highly ignorant about how diseases work, what mental illness is, and quite a few other things.

  • GCT

    This helps how? I’m sure you have friends who are female too.

  • Science Avenger

    They aren’t insane, they are angry mostly. I was when I was an MRA, but lifestyle changes and a good dose of science brought me around. Yet I doubt any psychiatrist would rate my mental health as any more (or less) healthy now than it ever was.
    MRA’s are victims of a cult, not mental illness. They are deluded, not insane.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    Michael Ian Black posted a tweet the other day that really sums this up:

    “Seattle shooting. Here’s the rules:

    1. Muslim shooter = terrorist
    2. White shooter = mental illness
    3. Black shooter = culture of violence.”

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    The argument “I’m not as sexist as the most sexist person I know” is not something that I think most people would consider a compelling defense.

  • Azkyroth

    But does he let them use his bathroom?

  • Crimson

    It wasn’t an attempt at a defense, I subscribe to the idea that we’re all responsible for our own selves and our actions as individuals. I’m also not a moral relativist, so I’m not using context as an excuse either. I don’t even entertain the notion that the narrow slice of the world we witness in the form of personal experience is valid as a sole basis for one’s worldview, so I wasn’t expecting my one anecdote to sway anyone in any particular direction. It was merely something that’s been on my mind a lot lately that I felt like sharing.

  • GCT

    So, you aren’t defending your misogynistic rant about the “feminist narrative” and how it’s about censorship and puritanism?

  • Crimson

    Correct. You call it a misogynistic rant, I would describe it as disagreeing with the idea that only one factor was to blame for what happened. The guy hated women, no reasonable person is arguing that point.
    Stopping people from hating sounds like thought police, I don’t see that as a reasonable or even desirable goal. The best you can do is teach people how to think critically, make sure they have access to information and healthcare (which includes mental health) and hope they reach the right conclusions on their own.
    Pushing to change a “culture of violence” is futile as long as there’s a demand for it. Just my opinion.

  • GCT

    You call it a misogynistic rant, I would describe it as disagreeing with the idea that only one factor was to blame for what happened.

    Oh, is that what that was? Claiming that feminists are wedded to some dogma due to having to fit some narrative and claiming that they call for censorship and puritanism is just a simple disagreement about what factor was to blame? Yeah, right.

    The guy hated women, no reasonable person is arguing that point.

    And, apparently he only targeted women to kill women because he was mentally ill. Nope, his hatred of women had nothing at all to do with it, because hatred of women is pretty routine. Move along, nothing to see here.

    Stopping people from hating sounds like thought police, I don’t see that as a reasonable or even desirable goal.

    Ah, so fighting against racism is the same as thought police too, or is that only reserved for misogyny?

    Pushing to change a “culture of violence” is futile as long as there’s a demand for it. Just my opinion.

    Because it hasn’t made strides in other areas like civil rights for blacks, gays, etc. What a fucking stupid opinion.

  • Science Avenger

    I subscribe to the idea that we’re all responsible for our own selves and our actions as individuals.

    So you ignore all the social science and prescribe to a Ghost-in-the-machine theory of will. Good to know.

    I’m also not a moral relativist, so I’m not using context as an excuse either.

    So facts don’t matter to you. Even better to know.

    With premises like that, its no wonder you think working for social change is pointless. Is history just a giant random walk to you?

  • J-D

    Some societies are more violent while others are less violent. History shows examples of societies changing both in the direction of more violence and in the direction of less violence. I don’t know what all the factors are that influence the level of violence in a society, and perhaps I don’t know any, but I see no justification for the conclusion that those factors are beyond the scope of influence of human action.

    In _1984_, Winston Smith thinks that the Thought Police can’t get inside your head and change how you feel, then finds that he’s wrong and that they can. But that’s a fantasy. Talking about stopping people from hating doesn’t have to mean anything like the Thought Police. Some time in the last year I saw a video on YouTube where the presenter talked about her experience receiving hate-filled comments on an earlier video of hers. When she succeeded in establishing communications with one commenter, she discussed his problems with him and his attitude changed. I don’t suggest this is a panacea (and neither did she) but throwing up your hands and saying ‘nothing can be done’ is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • GCT

    You mention civil rights. That was the point of those movements, legal rights and protection for people who were treated as less than people.

    It’s also the point of feminism – equality.

    It wasn’t about getting racists and homophobes to start thinking happy thoughts.

    That’s also what it’s about – to reduce racism and homophobia by changing attitudes. I don’t see what’s so bad about that.

    Unless you live in one of the places where that still applies to women I don’t see it as as a valid comparison.

    We live in a place where women still make less money than men, where women are harassed, threatened, raped, and killed for speaking up or just daring to be female, where women are discouraged and/or hounded out of certain fields of study, etc. How is it not a valid comparison?

    Owning, raping, killing, assaulting women is illegal where this event took place.

    Yet threats generally go unnoticed and unheeded. When a woman is raped, she ends up being put on trial, first by a police force that is usually less than welcoming and second by the court system that allows the defense to try and discredit the assault by dredging up her past, as if it’s relevant. Besides you can’t do those things to blacks or gays either, but last I looked no one was arguing that racism or homophobia were just fine and dandy.

  • guest

    Because they are in denial after all, and want to remain so.

  • guest2

    Rodger was mentally disordered, but was not mentally ill.

    Mental illness, in the psychiatric and legal sense, is psychosis, characterized chiefly by disturbed, delusional, and often incoherent thinking that puts one out of touch with reality and makes him (or her) unable to function effectively in it.

    Rodger did not have mental illness. There is no evidence of it in his life or writings and video recordings.

    He did suffer from mild autism, however, which is a disorder (but *not* a mental illness) and personality disorder, which would fall under psychopathy and narcissism category and is commonly known as malignant narcissism. It is always a potentially deadly combination. But, again, *not* a mental illness.

    So, Rodger was mentally unhealthy, but he was not mentally ill. He functioned independently relatively well, and his thought processes, though fueled by aggrieved entitlement and hatred, were coherent.

    We do have to start talking, however, about misogyny, as well as generalized hatred of any other group of people, as symptoms of mental disturbance (*not* mental illness, though).

    Misogyny is almost always (I put the “almost” qualifier there because there may be some exceptions I’ve not encountered) associated with severe character disturbances, namely psychopathic and narcissistic personality disorders, arguably the two most destructive form of human pathology; both of which, sadly, have been championed in this society as a mark of successful adjustment.


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