Coverage of Elliot Rodger stirs debate after Isla Vista rampage
Flowers placed at the I.V. Deli in Isla Vista on May 25, 2014, form a part of a makeshift memorial to victims of a shooting rampage.(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
At least one of the victims’ acquaintances has expressed anger over the intense focus on rampage suspect Elliot Rodger, saying it’s distracting from remembering his six victims.
“It makes me sick seeing those videos over and over again,” said Matt Moore, who went to high school with one of the victims, Christopher Michaels-Martinez. “By continuously showing the videos and stuff, you’re putting the limelight on him and not the people he killed.... I want to remember Chris.”
Added Marek Schmidt, a UC Santa Barbara student who knew victim James Hong: “I’d prefer the focus to be on the victims, not the shooter.”
Rodger, 22, left behind videos and writings that vividly describe his life, his anger and his plan to kill people in the college town.
Rodger’s “My Twisted World” presents his misogynistic views in the context of an intensely personal autobiography. He recounts blowing out the candles and wearing a wizard hat at his Disney-themed sixth birthday. He remembers seeing a naked woman for the first time in an AOL chat room at age 11. And he describes what it felt like when he began building an arsenal at 21.
Academics who study mass murder said the more coverage his screed gets, the more likely other troubled people might see acts of violence as a way to attract similar attention.
“Knowing that people will talk about you afterward is a very important component for these mass murderers,” said Ron Avi Astor, a professor of social work and education at USC. “It’s how they’ll be remembered, and it seems to be an external way their life will have meaning.”
Crime expert James Alan Fox said mass murderers typically leave writings as a form of justification.
“It’s very important [to them] that the world doesn’t view them as some nut that killed for no reason,” said Fox, who has written several books on mass shootings. “In their minds, they are good guys.”
On Tuesday, about 20,000 people attended an afternoon memorial at Harder Stadium, where UC President Janet Napolitano spoke: “We are grieving together today as a family.”
One of the most emotional moments in the service came when Michaels-Martinez’s father demanded stronger gun-control laws.
“Not one more!” Richard Martinez boomed to the crowd. “Too many people have died, and there should be not one more. How many more people are going to have to die in this situation before the problem gets solved?
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