The UCSB Shooting

I was going to do a political post today, but it turns out that I have something to say about that nasty little wankstain whose name doesn’t deserve to be mentioned, who murdered those people.

People are saying it’s “because he had Asperger’s”. No. I’ve got Asperger’s. Number of people I’ve murdered — zero. And no, contra Septicisle it would not “account for his wholesale lack of empathy”. People with Asperger’s do not lack empathy — at least not to any greater extent than neurotypicals. This is a pernicious myth based on the idiot Simon Baron-Cohen idiotically using the word “empathy” in two contradictory ways in his laughably wrong research. See (that site’s down at the moment, but see, for example, here in the Wayback Machine), and note that the “cognitive empathy” which we apparently lack is actually an inability to read neurotypical body language and tone well just as neurotypicals have even more difficulty reading our body language and tone . Saying that people with Asperger’s have problems with empathy is like saying that someone from Sweden, who speaks Swedish perfectly well but can only speak English with a strong accent, has a “language problem” because someone from England who can’t speak Swedish at all has difficulty understanding her. It’s just wrong.

And that difficulty reading body language and tone a communication problem that goes both ways — does not mean that we have problems with what Baron-Cohen calls “affective empathy”, which is what everyone else just calls empathy. That emotional capacity — being happy in someone else’s happiness, being sad for someone else’s pain, and so forth — is, according to most recent studies, something people with Asperger’s have more of than neurotypicals.

So thanks, Simon Baron-Cohen, once again you’ve got people saying that my neurology, and that of millions of innocent, good, people, makes someone a killer. Thanks.

“It’s because he had mental health problems”. Again, no. I have mental health problems. No massacres.

Most perniciously of all, though, they’re saying he killed them “because he was a virgin who was turned down by women”.

No, no, a thousand times no.

It’s horribly embarrassing to admit it, even twelve years on, let alone say it in public, but when I turned twenty-four I was still a virgin, because I was physically unattractive and socially inept. I still to this day have psychological problems rooted in all the rejection I experienced.

And you know what? No mass murders. Because I knew the problem was with me.

I did (and I’m deeply ashamed of it) go through a bit of a “nice guy” phase in my late teens, but it would never have occurred to me in a million years to kill anyone, or write a 110,000 word rant about how all women are evil even then, let alone in my mid 20s.

So no, those things aren’t to blame. If they were, I’d have been a mass murderer too.

What is to blame is that wankstain being a vicious, hateful, misogynist. Rejection doesn’t turn you into one of them. But being one of them may well make people reject you.

So no, the girl who turned him down when he was twelve didn’t “make him” do it. Nor did any other woman. Not wanting to have sex with someone you find unattractive (for what seems very good reason in this case) does not turn them into a killer. Nor does having Asperger’s (if indeed he did). Nor having mental health problems.

None of those things are why he did it, and we know they aren’t why he did it, because they’re all things that have happened to many, many, other people, who don’t go around killing people. Luckily, we do know why he did it. He went to great lengths to tell us. It was because he believed the pernicious ideology of “Men’s Rights Activists” and “Pick-Up Artists”, the ideology that says that women are less than human and need to be dominated by “Alpha” men. The ideology that says that men are owed sex by women. The ideology that says that if you’ve been rejected, it’s not because of you, it’s because of her, and she must be punished. The ideology of whiny, angry, entitled men everywhere.

Funny how people with hateful right-libertarian-MRA ideologies are so big on personal responsibility right up to the point that it looks like one of them was personally responsible for something, eh?

(Election post tomorrow. This week should also see a post on Cerebus, a California Dreaming post, and reviews of the Magic Band and Rutles gigs I’m going to if they’re different enough from last year’s to merit new reviews).

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10 Responses to The UCSB Shooting

  1. septicisle says:

    Just to note I didn’t say Asperger’s would account for his wholesale lack of empathy, but that it “could”. I’m not going to pretend I have any great insight into autism, but I also didn’t begin to suggest autism was the or an explanation behind the murders, nor were any other mental health problems. If it came across that way, it wasn’t my intention.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Fair enough, but the “could” is still very wrong. As I say in the post, people with Asperger’s generally have rather more empathy (as the term is actually used in normal conversation), not less. But no, you didn’t say it was why he did it — it’s just your post was the closest to hand when I wanted to point to someone saying Asperger’s was a factor.

  2. Larry S. says:


    You are a damned brave soul to to post such personal information about yourself for your readers. Very cool, dude! That’s one of the many reasons this 54 year old fart loves reading your posts. I also think the person you were writing about in this post was a murderous creep, and that my country has a truly horrible problem with firearms and “campaign contributions” (i.e., legalized bribery by the N.R.A. and every other organization/person with substantial sums of money), but you already know this….

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Thanks. I normally avoid posting personal information of any kind (I didn’t even mention my wife’s first name for the first three years or so the blog ran, and I don’t think I’ve *ever* mentioned her surname), but in this case I couldn’t really avoid it given the subject…

      • Hollistic Tendancies says:

        Course you have, it’s Hickey isn’t it? Must be: we’re married.


        (I try not to mention it online either, at least not anywhere near my first name, just in case my parents work out how to Google one day.)

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          Yeah, that’s one reason I don’t (although my name would be a bit of a clue…)

  3. Richard says:

    I second and endorse every word of this post…and, speaking as a 52 year old, I second and endorse what Larry S. said above as well.

  4. it's all the same in the end says:

    isn’t the problem, really, that the reductive nature of the Internet and news media attempts to squeeze incredibly complex events and psychologies into sound-bites? Call me, ahem, crazy, but it seems impossible that the causative factors of seven people’s violent deaths are going to be contained in 140 characters. Or even 1500. Or even 15,000.

    Misogyny obviously played an outsized role in this, but could not the ease of access to guns and also existing mental health issues also have played their parts? It isn’t that any ONE thing is the problem but rather the alchemy soup of a person.

    It strikes me that you get near the real problem: the lack of self-reflection.

    I’m not talking about you Andrew, because you’re an enormously thoughtful commentator, but the rush to judgment on every possible thing, with human tragedies used as the pretext for people to trot out their hobby-horses has just started to make me so incredibly sick of people. I’m tired of all the opinions that the Internet fosters by people who are apparently incapable of even the smallest amount of contemplation and thought.

    and anyway shouldn’t the real outrage be about how the 1% has now gentrified the proletarian American art form of the senseless school massacre?

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Access to guns definitely also played a part, of course — the number of people who’ve gone on shooting sprees *without* a gun is pretty low, I would have thought. I’m far less sure about mental health issues playing a part — I think that’s too pat an answer, and my understanding is that in the general case mental health problems are more likely to make someone a victim of crime than a perpetrator.

      I think the rush to judgement *is* a huge factor (one reason I spent several days listening, rather than talking), but I think an even bigger factor is what we might call the “not *all* men” one — a desperate need to pathologise this man, to other him, so that we can say “I’m not like this, it’s those… other… people who do stuff like this.”

      Of course, my own blog post on the subject could easily be read as “Not ALL autistics” and “Not ALL men who were still virgins into their early twenties”, but I hope that isn’t what people take away from it…

      • Mike Taylor says:

        The difficulty here is that “mental health problems” is such a broad term that it encompasses everything from mild depression to the kind of vicious, hateful, misogyny that you rightly identify as one of the core causes. Surely that is a mental health problem?

        But as always, when such incidents are concerned, Tom Paxton is right on target.

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