There’s no evidence that Rodger had a mental illness that prompted this crime. None. There are more than 100 pages of documentation that he had a radicalized terrorist agenda that was conceived from and encouraged by his friends and peers on misogynist websites, after a lifetime of privilege that taught him that he was entitled to the things he wanted. What he wanted was women, and when he couldn’t figure out how to make that happen, he began to hate women for his own shortcomings, reframing his failures as theirs.
The assumption that Rodger had a mental illness which prompted his violence does two things: it absolves him of accountability for his long term, public campaign of graphic hatred toward women, and pretends that his sentiments were outré rather than entirely in line with the hundreds of men he engaged with on MRA fora and in YouTube comments. Rodger’s writings and ideas are notable for their volume and clarity, not their extremity.
Second: it invokes the ableist myth that mental illness is the primary cause of any violence we find too abhorrent or depersonalized to easily understand, especially when we fail or refuse to recognize the political agenda involved. It’s notable that perpetrators of mass killings who benefit from white privilege are almost immediately labeled mentally ill, even when their actions are clearly motivated by insidious bigotry. Rodger is no exception to this trend.
But not only is it untrue that mass shootings must be borne of mental illness, that false assumption and the immediate rush to rely upon it in almost every case creates enormous stigma against people with mental illnesses who are, in fact, exponentially more likely to be victims of violent crime than the perpetrators of it.
So no, I don’t think he had a mental illness because there is no evidence to support the assumption. And I categorically condemn the use of that assumption to backform an armchair diagnosis, because doing so is a harmful, ableist practice that makes the lives of people (like myself) living with actual, legitimately diagnosed mental illnesses, a nightmare.
I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.