Since Saturday, it has been quietly appalling to read and watch the media coverage of the ‘Virgin Killer’ tragedy.
For a start, the name gives even less dignity to Elliot Rodger’s six victims.
Certain UK and US newspapers in particular have shamelessly raked through every mucky aspect of this massacre and its perpetrator’s history with no sense of decorum.
From reprinting the killer’s so-called manifesto, to providing links to his YouTube channel (which is, nonsensically, still available to view). Every aspect of good journalism has been sacrificed on the altar of sensationalism.
Perhaps the worst aspect of this case has been the media’s short-sighted and uncaring decision to name the girl included in Rodger’s tirade. This is a girl who was barely a teenager when she unknowingly slighted him, and he subsequently developed a fixation on her and girls who looked like her. This incidence should not be leading to accusations. The girl was unfortunate enough to have attracted the attentions of a stalker. Why is the paper naming (and by association shaming) an innocent party? Instead, the media has thrown her to the wolves. From now on she will be prey to the rantings of every tech-savvy misogynist on the internet.
Not content to ruin a girl’s life over an incident that may or may not have happened during her early adolescence, the papers have also felt the need to run pictures (perhaps gleaned from social media pages) of her in bikinis/ bunny ears in an effort not just to cast misplaced blame but also just to get those all-important ‘bikini body’ shots (underage in this case) of an attractive female.
Since media coverage of serial killers began, there has been a tacit understanding that the air of publicity should be denied to the guilty party. After all, what good does it do to try and let the insane try and justify the unjustifiable? It is rather like keeping a rabid dog alive in the hope that he will stop biting.
Instead, the media has positively encouraged the public to read the misogyny, misanthropy and dangerously narcissistic delusions of a mentally ill killer. And the results are worrying. Young girls with Hybristophilia are apparently releasing sympathetic YouTube videos lamenting Rodger’s fate and fawning over how ‘cute’ he was.
Message boards all over the world are debating the reasons not just for Rodger’s deplorable acts, but for his mindset. For as many who are repulsed by this story, there are just as many comments detailing adolescent rejection from people who recognise that particular kind of loneliness (even if they don’t agree with Rodger), deluded diatribes from the ‘Pick Up Artist Community’, and a number of posts proclaiming support of Rodger’s manifesto.
When did the tide turn with media coverage of killers? TV interviews and documentaries have not helped. It seems that if the killer has an ability to articulate their ‘victimhood’ (an aspect of narcissistic personality disorder) or some level of aesthetic attractiveness then the media is prepared to give them a platform. It happened with Ted Bundy and it is happening here. Hollywood even made two documentaries on Aileen Wuornos before the inevitable feature film.
If one good thing has come out of this misplaced media frenzy, it is the #YesAllWomen campaign on Twitter. It details the incidences of women not feeling safe around particular men, and the reasons that sexual harassment is unacceptable in our age. It has also gathered a lot of support from men. The message that all women should have dignity in their dealings with the opposite gender is admirable. If it can change one misogynist’s view of women, or prevent one rape or assault, then we should all be glad.
But Elliot Rodger’s unexpected legacy would doubtless be lost on him.
P.S. Long time, no see – my fault entirely. So sorry.