Thursday, May 29, 2014

How To Read Elliot Rodger's Manifesto: The Guns of Elliot Rodger

If You Want To Shoot Up A Police Station, There Is No Better Choice Than An AR-18
The Omnivore started with a simple question: "If Elliot Rodger had a year-long plan that involved mass gun-related carnage, why not buy an assault weapon--isn't that weapon of choice?" Instead of an AR-15, he purchased two Sig Sauer P226 pistols and one Glock 34. He bought them legally and, at least allegedly, practiced with them.
Stock Photos

The Omnivore considered several possibilities:

  • Perhaps Rodger felt that buying an assault weapon would give him away? After all, these are the guns that are the "face" of mass shootings today, are they not? Maybe he was afraid he'd come under extra scrutiny?
  • Much of his plan involved firing from inside a vehicle--for which an AR-15 would be impractical. Was that it?
  • Maybe he felt he was too small and weak to wield a larger gun? Did he choose smaller weapons because they would feel more comfortable to him?
  • How about practical reasons? Were these guns were the ones he first came into contact with? Were these guns the best possible choice for his operation?
The Omnivore then went to his manifesto and took a look.
  1. Rodger posted his plans and intentions pretty plainly on YouTube: he was not worried about government surveillance or operational security. Scratch that theory.
  2. He explicitly planned to exit his vehicle (his dad's SUV) and massacre a sorority house full of women. He would have had both hands free to use for a gun there.
  3. Although he considered himself small and weak, he did not mention this in his choice of gun. Also: he worked out, at least some, so objectively he could have handled an AR-15 easily (perhaps not in the Terminator stock-removed 1-hand, jungle-style magazine configuration James Cameron chose ...). Also, those guns are fairly large-frame weapons: if he was looking for a small hold-out style weapon or the lightest possible gun, those wouldn't be the choices.
  4. He did do research. He wanted two guns for a two-handed two-bullets to the head suicide plan. He wanted multiple reliable weapons as a jam would find him incarcerated ("unthinkable") and he wanted high-capacity magazines.
  5. Rodger lived with roommates: it is quite possible that he felt concealing an AR-15 was too difficult compared to easily hiding some handguns. Moving around the city with them would also be easier: the handguns could be concealed within relatively easy reach--not so the assault weapon.

So He Was Smart About His Gun Choice?

Objectively? Pretty smart. If he was dumb about anything it was his battle-plan. Hitting targets from a vehicle is difficult--from a moving vehicle, while driving, almost impossible (assuming he was right-handed, he would've been firing either across his body if controlling the car or turned in the seat almost completely). When The Omnivore first heard the attack described as a six-person dead drive by shooting, The Omnivore assumed it was high-volume fire into dense crowds.

Also: he failed to breach the door of the sorority house. An assault weapon round might not just "blow the door open" (destroy the lock in such a way that the door could then easily be opened) but a shotgun round probably would. If he was smart he would have carried a shotgun as well as the pistols.

On The Other Hand: The Omnivore's Analysis Of The Manifesto

Reading through his 137pg screed, The Omnivore did reach a conclusion about why he might've chosen the weapons he did for entirely other reasons than their raw effectiveness in his attack-plan. The Omnivore may not be qualified to make an actual psychological diagnosis--but The Omnivore does understand a lot about branding.

What was going on there? It's this: Rodger clearly saw himself as an antagonist in his own story and not as an insane mass murderer. In other words? The branding for assault weapon murder was all wrong for him: he wasn't a lone-gunman fighting against the Illuminati--he wasn't killing children for some kind of mass-murder 'high score' (although, yes, he was going to kill his little brother lest that brother surpass him in life)--he was exacting retribution.

The Manifesto Of Elliot Rodger

Let's start with the name: "My Twisted World -- The Story of Elliot Rodger" (By Elliot Rodger). This is the title of a screen-play, clearly. He writes his autobiography, starting with early childhood (the happy, innocent days) and then details his descent into agony as girls refuse him sex and the universe denies him money to which he is cosmically entitled. The document is a textbook example of narcissism and megalomania: he refers to himself as a 'divine ruler' (whose perfect world would find all women but a few starved to death in concentration camps while he watched from a high tower, enjoying their suffering--a select few remaining kept in secret labs for breeding). He feels he is destined to win the lottery spending hundreds of dollars on tickets only to have his hopes dashed unfairly (several times).

He expresses a completely literal entitlement to women and sex--especially good looking ones but never, even in his own manifesto, ever approaches one of them. When he sees someone he considers inferior with a woman he becomes enraged. His manifesto is consistent with his behavior online: although much of the material has been scrubbed ( is down and his posts at are gone) Google Image search returns several examples of his discourse:

So He Was A Narcissistic Megalomaniac?

Well, yes, clearly by his actions and discourse he was a narcissist (at least if The Omnivore has learned anything from reading The Last Psychiatrist) and, while The Omnivore doesn't have the credentials to diagnose that or megalomania, his manifesto certainly sounds like he cloaks himself in a protective wrapping of aggrandizement (The Omnivore is pretty sure that the low-self esteem and being convinced of one's entitlement to greatness go together rather than being contradictory!).

And yet ...

And yet ...

The writing is full of a vein of specific consciousness of his actions and role in his own story. Look at his word choices: He throws "tantrums" when he does not get his way. He "sulks" when he is slighted.  He calls his 'friend' weak for not being as enraged at the injustice of the world as he is--but he cries openly in front of his enemies and runs home, literally, to his mother when made fun of.

In other words, the 'script' he is writing knows that he is explicitly immature. It understands that he is taking the role of a Bond-villain. His laugh in his videos has a forced affect. He watches the Star Wars prequels (his mother is friends with George Lucas) and writes:
Mother took us to the premiere of Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith. As a huge Star Wars fan, this was a big day for me. Episode 3 would complete the whole Star Wars saga. It was the most anticipated movie. To be able to see it before everyone else made me feel special. I really liked the character Anakin Skywalker, and I was amazed to see his epic transformation into Darth Vader on the high quality big screen.
However he is does not, anywhere, note that he is becoming Darth Vader: that would be too much lampshading for his audience. On the other hand, look, it's not like he's being exactly cagey about it:

In the age of selfies he's allowed to look directly at the camera and break the 4th wall (he does, in fact, have a YouTube audience, after all) but he has to be explicit enough in his memoirs that the audience will keep up--while not giving the game away altogether. In other words, he really wants narration to show his descent into what he more or less understands is going to be read as 'actual evil.'

In the end, though, he's okay with that.


The Omnivore has two books on his shelf that have profoundly impacted his thinking about terrorist acts  (of which this is one in all but the political dimension). These are: Thinking Like a Terrorist--an ex-FBI agents look at world-wide terrorists and how they think and operate and Messages To The World: the annotated writings of Osama Bin Laden. These two books converge to a single point and it's this:

The terrorist must always have a manifesto--this manifesto must layout the same story over and over. The story is:

  1. "I / my people were wronged. "
  2. "I / we tried everything possible within the system (legally, morally) to make things right."
  3. "I / we have adopted a moral / religious code that we strictly adhere to."
  4. "Every reasonable measure completely failed so we are left with no other option than [ violence: acts of terror. ]"
The story of the Incel (the Involuntary Celibate) is the same--but usually without the terror--only with the adoption of an extreme, misogynistic philosophy:
  1. "I have had no luck (or the wrong kind) with women."
  2. "I have embarked on self-improvement, therapy, etc. to try to meet women."
  3. "I am a nice guy--exactly the kind that any rational woman would want."
  4. "Therefore women are irrational and deserving of my bitter scorn."
In each case, who are the writers trying to convince? If you said 'themselves' you're not right: they were convinced before they wrote the manifesto. If you said 'the reader' you're mostly not right: these arguments are never convincing, only internally consistent if you accept their precepts. The audience for their writing is their brotherhood. The writing is an affirmation--it is the creation of talking-points and argumentation that is to be used by members of their brotherhood to bond with each other and protect them from external judgment.

Osama Bin Laden knows that he's not going to convince serious, moderate Islamic scholars: he just has to be smart enough to make an argument that's internally consistent so it can stand up to outside attacks. When his followers adopt it, it becomes the cloak they'll wear to emotionally enable them when they commit murder.

Elliot Rodger is writing for his droogs on He's writing for the larger Incel community who already have the "emotional lock"--the deep feeling of being wronged--that "the key" (his story) will open. 
So his story is not that of a righteous man who slaughters women in a righteous fury: his word-choice knows better than that. His story is that of all men who feel hopelessly and unfairly rejected finally doing what others in his position dared not: taking action--getting revenge.

He knows revenge--hatred--is the dark-side: he's seen it in Star Wars laid out explicitly. He understands that his own arc--his own character arc--follows this path closely. That's fine because what he is trying to tell us is this: "When you wrong me (us) I (we) become the villain." 

He's taking on that role explicitly because it will make him a hero to his specific audience. They will say: "Yeah--that's so sad--but see what happens when you friendzone us one too many times?"

That's why he didn't choose a black uniform, a tactical vest, and an AR-15. He wanted to dress fabulous and use his name-brand gear (he explicitly calls out each name-brand piece of apparel he is wearing) when he goes on his mission.

He doesn't want the brand of a psychotic lone-gunman. He wants the brand of an upscale BMW, Hugo-Boss wearing gentleman who Broke Bad. He wants to be the cautionary tale--not the crazy one. 

That's how you read his manifesto.


  1. Sure. But even he must have known, at some level, that listening to Rage Against the Machine and doing pushups with a knife taped to your ankle won't make you a badass. That's a whole different brand than "alienated douchebag wannabe". I think Vin Diesel's "500 fights" speech from Knockaround Guys comes closer to how it's really done.

    The unpleasant truth is that there are no viable simplistic solutions here. Nothing I've seen proposed (or can think of) would have had any real chance of preventing this particular tragedy. And as the internal stresses produced by a failing society continue to increase, we can only expect more of the same as borderline personalities crumble under the strain.

    If the Government could be persuaded to provide a puppy for anybody who wants one, that could at least buy some time, I think. Absent that, mofos gonna wig, yo.

    -- Ω

    1. "Sure. But even he must have known, at some level, that listening to Rage Against the Machine and doing pushups with a knife taped to your ankle won't make you a badass."


      :: adjusts taped knife ::

      I'm gonna ask Ezra Klein what it would cost to give everyone who wants one a puppy: That *might* actually move the needle.

      Gawker has a different (stunning) suggestion: Mandate all guns be painted bright pink. That would 'work' for reasons that The Omnivore doesn't want to think about too closely.

      -The Omnivore

    2. He doesn't want to be a badass, though. If he were a badass who couldn't pull ass it would be *his* fault, not society's fault. He wanted to be the nice inoffensive guy who never got a shot and never would.

  2. Puppy, good idea.
    This all adds a new dimension to the charms of being a "hot chick".
    Back when we all led virtuous lives, got married in time, and were faithful, gosh, stuff like this never happened.