Inquiring minds want to know, and nothing frustrates the modern mind like tragedy that defies rational explanation. Nothing complicates communication like social media, with its speed and insatiable appetite for more information, and demanding it now. "Experts" with prejudice posing as insight rush to public forums with the quickness of a hummingbird's wing and offer the content of a hot-air balloon.
In the aftermath of the massacre of six students just off the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara, an orgy of censure and condemnation overflowed all kinds of media, blaming sexism, misogyny, movies, television and video games. Like everyone with access to the YouTube video of Elliott Rodger, I watched with fear and loathing as he described rejection and failure in his pursuit of the affections of young women. He thought himself a narrator out of a Nabokov novel, but he had no insights into self, only into psychopathic obsessions.
All he could show was the flat monotone of a pathetically creepy guy whose distorted perceptions had turned him into a cold and calculating monster. Here was a young man who had snapped, having hidden violent fantasies and urges under a mask of troubled shyness, whose determination to exact revenge on the world for every slight that fed his misfiring brain, is exposed, too late, with blood-curdling clarity. The eeriness is more disturbing by the theatrical touches -- the picturesque palm trees, the glistening lip gloss, the exquisite natural light that illuminates the dreadfully dark message.
Frustration invites feminist cliche, like critic Ann Hornaday blaming mass entertainment "controlled by white men." "How many men," she asks in The Washington Post, "raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies, in which the shluby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, 'it's not fair'?" The short answer is plenty, and they don't become mass murderers.
Nor should young women blame a "culture of misogyny" on the campus, as many do. Men have been aggressive since Adam fled the Garden of Eden with Eve, but not many men kill women in pursuit of affection and sex. Enforcing tighter rules on drinking and riotous behavior of both men and women, encouraging both sexes to behave themselves, is a good thing to do. But turning back the clock is impossible, and no feminist remedy would have prevented massacres at Blacksburg, Newtown, Aurora and the other places whose very names are etched on the national conscience.
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