A grossly sensationalized, grossly sexualized popular "entertainment culture" is primarily responsible for what happened near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara recently. The defenders of the American "free market" will deny it.
In the free market, after all, virtually anything goes. The free market cannot be held responsible for the errant behavior of its patrons, no matter how heinous or offensive. Huge profits in free market ideology are a given. On the basis of that fact alone, its moral costs are scandalously neglected.
The truth is that rampant capitalism is sowing cynicism and corruption so consciously, so broadly, and so pervasively as to undermine the foundations of a safe, just, civil, and optimistic democratic people.
It goes without saying that the availability of lethal weapons is an integral part of this insidious process. The absolutist (and often paranoid) defenders of the Second Amendment will of course deny it. For the National Rifle Association, there's big money at stake. The 22-year-old who shot and slashed to death six students last weekend and then killed himself is the bastard offspring of a popular culture literally out of control.
"When will this insanity stop?," asked the tearful and outraged father of one of the victims of Elliot Rodger. Why did it happen? It happened, according to Richard Hernandez, because of "craven and irresponsible politicians in Washington, and the NRA.
Ninety percent of the American people favor stricter gun control measures - yet not even in the wake of the slaying of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December of 2012 was the Congress moved to act decisively. Such lack of political will to suppress the "gun culture," says former Connecticut Gov. Richard Blumenthal, "is . . . disgraceful."
What kind of people are we? To what degree is profoundly alienated and antisocial behavior among the young driven by the very nature of a coarse, insatiable, and often ruthless corporate culture? Follow the money. The "race to the bottom" by major elements of the entertainment industry and major media is apparent to any caring observer.
Imagine the disingenuousness of it. The major networks provide endlessly violent "content" in their programming and commercials - after which, their news divisions rush to cover the replications of such violence in the real world. Hypocrisy on an epic institutional scale. Of course mental health issues have arisen in the 22 mass homicides that have taken place in the nation since 2006. But to imagine that the mental health of the killers should be the sole focus of social, professional, and political action is an absurdity.
As in every instance of social conflict, context is determinate. Who or what is responsible for the social environment in which Elliot Rodger imagined himself in process of becoming "the ultimate alpha male"? Wouldn't his black BMW coupe - a gift from his mother, long divorced -have sufficed by way of symbolism? Who or what is responsible for the purblind, adolescent egocentricity that apparently underlay the killer's sense of entitlement in romantic and sexual terms?
"It's delusional," says FBI profiler Clint van Zandt. Who feeds these delusions? Isn't it obvious that the entertainment industry produces and markets and profits massively from products intended to stimulate male adolescent fantasy - the majority of them patently sexual and/or violent in nature? Their primary (primal?) market is American males between the ages of 15 and 32.
Who or what is responsible for the misogyny expressed in the killer's brand of what MSNBC talk show host Chris Hayes has termed "this caustic masculinity"? Hayes refers his audience to "the Men's Rights Movement," a nationally based, virulently anti-feminist social entity. One of his guests was Jessica Valenti, a columnist for The Guardian, who referred to such websites as PU Hate - from which she has received threatening messages.
It is clear from a national deluge of networking commentaries in the wake of "Santa Barbara" that tens of millions of American girls and young women have been raised in a cultural environment in which countless men and boys are inclined to regard them as "sex objects." Rape and harassment and physical abuse have been rife. Rape reports by female members of the armed forces have made national headlines for years.
What kind of people are we? Can any thoughtful citizen imagine that capitalism as usual will deliver more civilized values? Speak of delusion.
Nash is a writer and painter living in Williamsport.