Uncomplicated Evil

–Richard E. Vatz

     CNN had it first, I believe: “Based on what police have told them, the parents of 22-year-old Elliot Rodger believe he is the gunman who killed six people in a shooting rampage Friday night near the University of California, Santa Barbara, a family spokesman says.”

     Yet again we have a brutal, evil murderer: a 22 year-old in California who went on a killing rampage late Friday night, killing to date nine people, including his 3 roommates.  According to CBS News, the sheriff of Santa Barbara calls it “premeditated mass murder.”

     Exactly, although the Sheriff’s office later volunteered the meaningless mantra to the effect that Rodger was “disturbed” and “very disturbed.”  And, of course, we have the ritual psychobabble of psychologists like Robi Ludwig who opined on Fox that there was a “grandiosity” in the perpetrator and “early signs of schizophrenia” and that Rodger was “very angry.”  

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     Rodger’s  mother, pursuant to  his now already infamous videos filled with threats, contacted police, who interviewed him and found him a “perfectly polite, kind and wonderful human,” according to CBS Evening News tonight.  If that is accurate and complete, it reveals utter incompetence or diffidence in the police charged with investigating Rodger.  Let’s hope it is oversimplified.

     All of the major networks, CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC, showed videos of the odious Rodger’s self-obsessed anger over his claim that women did not find him attractive despite his self-described glorious looks.

     It never occurs to the networks that highly profiling such videos of murderers reinforces the motive of publicizing such atrocities for the perpetrators.  It is Cho and Virginia Tech all over again.

     NBC’s generally responsible Lester Holt asked incredulously what “led him to snap.”

     There may be no more meaningless terms in the English language than “snap” and its derivatives.

     The murderer Rodger methodically wrote and made videos on Youtube.  They were completely self-indulgent and threatening, surely evidence for a charge of assault and other crimes.

     We shall surely learn of his psychiatric diagnoses, but yet again there will be no solution proposed, partly because there is no way to stop the tiny number of people who would engage in mass murder and partly because as a society we do not wish to inconvenience people who make threats.  Maybe those who are singularly upset regarding the allegedly overly large number of people who are incarcerated in our society might take a step back and reassess the focus of their anger.

     Rodger’s videos (so far) reveal no departure from reality, no cognitive deficits and certainly no inability to control his own actions.

     Rodger was self-obsessively evil, pure and simple.  All such societies have such denizens.  They are hard to stop preemptively, but such measures can be used to good purpose.

Professor Vatz is an editor of Current Psychology and is a professor at Towson University.  He is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2013)

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