A troubled young man who shot six U.C. Santa Barbara students and injured 13 bystanders shortly before killing himself has once again been highlighted in a negative media light because he allegdly had Asperger’s Syndrome.
Elliot Rodger was 22, and filled his Youtube page with strange and bizarre videos of his feelings towards women, especially those who had knocked his romantic advances back during his years in high school. He was never officially diagnosed with Asperger’s, although family members are quoted in some articles as saying that he was “on the spectrum”.
Alarmingly it’s the media portrayal of this appalling shooting which has the autism community realing. It’s headlines like :
Aspergers an unlikely cause for California Killers Violence
The Courier May 26, 2014
“While those on the autism spectrum may not come hardwired with the same levels of social understanding as people without the syndrome, and can be involved in some crime, there is no proven connection between the diagnosis and violent behaviour.
Just like anyone else, those with Asperger’s can have other mental health problems, which could lead to violent behaviour. In Lanza’s case, a final report on the shooting said he had significant mental health issues and Lanza’s father also said it wasn’t Asperger’s that led his son to mass murder.”
Santa Barbara Killer Began By Stabbing 3 in His Home
CBS May 24, which was quickly changed from “California Shooter had Aspergers, was seeing multiple therapists; family reported him to the police several weeks ago for violent Youtube videos.”
And the Daily Mail online, which reported that Rodgers was diagnosed with Asperger’s when indeed he was not.
Reactions to the reporting have been varied in the autism community, and met with the same discontent as I admittedly felt when I was reading through the mass media minefield of incorrect and unsubstantiated and I must say highly flawed reporting. It brings it home, in a big way that the media in general just does not understand the spectrum, and more frightening than that is happy to point the finger at it readily.
I found a collection of tweets here from the community, entitled “don’t you dare blame this on aspergers”, also a number of interesting articles, this one featured in the Inquisitor makes a fair point:
“If you meet somebody with Asperger’s, you’ve only met one person with Asperger’s. … Asperger’s is a blip on the far-reaching autism spectrum and no two cases are the same. Just as no ‘typical’ person deserves to be tar-brushed with the evil acts of another, Aspies don’t deserve the bad press they’re getting.”
And this article in Market Watch, which asks clinical psychiatrists and people with actual letters after their names, and years of experience with children with Asperger’s their opinion.
I am a journalist. I don’t claim to know everything, but having read a little about Rodger’s life, and the turbulent effect his parents split had on him when he was a child, his introverted manner, culminated by a deep rooted problem with mental health, I’m horrified that others in my profession have jumped on the bandwagon of blaming Asperger’s syndrome for an event which, with accumulative evidence had building for a long time.
In my honest opinion I cannot believe that others have jumped so readily to a conclusion which just isn’t viable, and am ashamed of both the ignorance, and arrogance of the media for publishing such propaganda.
Thank you for this post. I wrote an article about the recent attempts to link autism and mass murder, and another about this particular incident. I will post the links, if that’s OK. I am glad to see your post at the top of search engines right now. http://paulacdurbinwestbyautisticblog.blogspot.com/2014/05/elliot-rodger-autism-murder.html and, an analysis of why trying to link autism and horrific killings does not work: http://paulacdurbinwestbyautisticblog.blogspot.com/2014/05/washington-post-autism-mass-murder.html
Adam Lanza Jeffery dammer columbine massacre the aura movie theater shooting sandy hook all share the connection with Aspergers. When people view other members of society as objects it becomes easy to kill and massacre. A person with empathy would have a hard time killing so many people. We aspies don’t have remorse when it comes to these people that complicate our life’s. We just watch simple minded nt’s go through pain in these situations. This is just how we seek revenge on a un accepting society.
how about sociopaths? one of the DSMV criteria is lack of empathy…or even malign narcissism, and he had psychotic behavior…a sociopathic personality + schizophrenia could be a killer, the problem here is that he had meds and his parents didn’t follow the doctor’s recommendations.
What’s this ‘we aspies’? I’m wracked with guilt if I so much as interrupt someone while they are talking.
If you feel no remorse you are a psychopath, not an aspie.
Autism has nothing to do with being a mass murderer. While those on the spectrum definitely have trouble relating to others, the vast majority don’t resort to shooting their “enemies.” Especially those with Asperger’s Syndrome, since they are the most high-functioning. My brother is on the spectrum and he is perfectly capable of relating to the pain and emotions of others, even if he is awkward in socializing. There’s autism, and then there’s crazy. Two totally different ballgames.
Dear Ms. Ellis,
Your heart is in the right place, but it has the potential to compromise your journalistic integrity. I regret to inform you that Elliot Rodger DID, I repeat, DID IN FACT HAVE Asperger’s Syndrome. The following is an excerpt from a recent CNN article:
The divorce documents also confirmed that Elliot Rodger was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of Autism, when he was 7. “Elliot has special needs,” his mother said in a sworn statement. “He is a high functioning autistic child.”
I feel bad springing that on you like that, but I’m not sure there was any way to do it gently. If it’s any consolation, I admire your passion. However, please be extra careful in the matter you disseminate information in the future. The world desperately needs to be able to rely on journalists for the most accurate information possible. But this is something you can rectify. So be encouraged, and best wishes to you.
Ellwood Knight Owl
thank you so much for your comment. It did indeed prompt me to look at various sources to ascertain whether there was a diagnosis involved. Conflicting reports on this one, which concern me as some sources including CNN say he did and was actually diagnosed aged 7. Others including the Wired and the mother’s actual open letter to the American press stating that her son was “on the Spectrum” but undiagnosed.
This article was predominantly about the media representation of Asperger’s Syndrome linked to mass homicides and the utterly deplorable reaction of headlining a link without looking at the science.
Thanks so much for your comment though, it’s been taken on board and I will strive to keep my integrity intact.
The court documents only refer to the fact that the mother alleged Elliot had special needs and Aspergers. There was never an actual diagnosis. So please read the fine print and don’t believe everything you hear or read from one source? This is not a simple black and white issue where there was just one cause contributing to this tragedy. Did you read the entire manifesto? Before anyone forms any opinion, they should read it and do some more research. This is a brutally honest uncensored autobiography that sheds much light on the situation. This was a shy kid in transition trying desperately to fit in. His rage was due to a combination of his inherent personality makeup including an introverted yet narcissistic disposition (the latter partly fueled by his parents emphasis on materialism lacking spiritual substance), the victim of extreme bullying which led to increasing isolation, retreat to violent video games and inner conflict. He may have been more in the schizophrenic spectrum as he had delusions of grander especially toward the end. But this is a feature of narcissistic personality disorder as well. Maybe he had both schizophrenia and narcissism, which is what many believe Hitler had. In fact if you read the end of Rodgers manifesto, his ideal world which consists of quarantine women into concentration camps while he watches them die from his tower, is very similar to Hitlers world. We will never know for sure what this guy had.
I don’t think anybody is saying that “All people with Aspergers Syndrom are prone to violence”. I haven’t heard anybody say that so why are people getting so defensive? The reason some a SPECULATING Asperger’s in this case is because Elliot Rodger was socially awkward and not able to have normal socially appropriate relationships. THAT could possibly signal Asperger’s. I think this young man had a plethora of mental health issues and I think Narcissism was one huge problem. He felt ENTITLED to certain things in life and he felt that the world “owed” him the things he desired: classic narcissist. I think there was a lot going on here, and Major Depression was one problem. Depression can manifest into dark, ugly isolation and self-loathing, just like Roger had. The missing piece here is the violence and what ultimately sent him over the edge that way. Most depressed people aren’t violent yet he clearly was depressed. After reading his manifesto, I did see glimpses of empathy. He talked about saving his brother’s life. He talked about feeling badly for people when bad things happened. He talked about his love for his sibilings and grandmother. I think the parents should have taken this more seriously during his teen years. NOT blaming them at all, just saying it sounds like his father really didn’t participate much in his life and his mother “rescued” him. Sad all around
Yes, people should stop generalizing aspies since no two aspies are the same. I notice that many parents with children on the spectrum like to claim their children have asperger’s since it’s supposedly the best form of autism to have, with it being high functioning. However, this is a disadvantage to genuine aspies because the public will then tend to view aspies more negatively.
It is possible that he had Asperger’s syndrome . He was clearly having severe mental health difficulties as well . These gradually built up to overwhelm him . The Police interviewed him and he was polite and they clearly didn’t understand him to have criminal intentions. All of these factored into him having an extreme ‘meltdown’ . We have heard of well trained soldiers who suffer stress and who have gone on similar rampages . It is sad that weapons were so easily available . It’s tragic that so many people have lost their lives and families devastated . No one seems to be sure if he was diagnosed or if he was helped with the diagnosis . He drove a car in my country we have to inform the DVLC if we are diagnosed because it can effect our ability to drive safely . Had he crashed into a row of pedestrians waiting at a bus stop it would have been different . His actions were premeditated but was that premeditation a pure fantasy from a fantasist who was over taken by an extreme reaction to his difficulties and disabilities . A troubled young man who was clearly not responsible for his actions nor should he be called evil. A lethal combination that the majority of people diagnosed with Asperger’s
Avoid because they are aware of their difficulties and don’t find them selves in his situation . While I have Asperger’s syndrome myself I cannot speak on the behalf of others who may disagree with my analysis . A unique tragedy that may have been avoided but wasn’t ! Tragic for all involved.
Thank you SO much for this article. As a woman on the spectrum who does everything she possibly can to be a morally upright person, I have been extremely distressed about Aspergers being associated with such a wretched person. I have yet to read his manifesto, but I did see that video of him saying vile things about men, women, pretty much all of humanity. I did NOT see a fellow Aspie; I saw a malignant narcissist. And come on – how could he have bern in therapy for fourteen years and not received an AS diagnosis? It just doesn’t add up.
I think he was just plain narcissistic. A spoiled brat who was amazed women didn’t see his unbelievable brilliance. Can’t say I’m sorry he’s gone.
Once again, thank you for backing up us Aspies.
Thank you for connecting me to this article . I do have a diagnosis for Aspergers using the European diagnostic scale . The scale differs from the American one . I have wondered if my diagnosis was correct . I certainly don’t have narcissistic tendency . I sort to defend someone I thought was a fellow sufferer. I realise that this diagnosis is being subsumed by one for autism spectrum disorder . I don’t think I have autism especially after reading that article .
I’m on the spectrum and so is my brother. The fact that the media is pinning this on autism just sickens me. I do believe there was some mental illness involved with Elliot Rodger but I don’t think it’s just autism. It’s pretty clear he refused treatment and was a psychopath. This is why people with autism are being treated with disdain. The media gives us aspies a bad rep and we have to pay for the sins of others. I can empathize with the fact that he couldn’t be very social because I often mope over the fact that I’m not a neurotypical. I can’t change who I am no matter how hard I try and I accept that. I hate that aspergers and autism are always the so-called “link” between murders like this.
There’s a HUGE difference between obvious Aspergers and High Functioning Un-treated Aspergers. So it’s still possible that he did suffer somewhere on the scale between Aspergers. Especially when the “scale” is still under construction (so to speak) People with Aspbergers don’t have narcissistic tendencies they have a way of communicating that make others believe they are narcissistic. People from the mental health community don’t want to be blamed for his behavior anymore than people from the Aspergers or Autistic community. When really, it’s stupid to pass blame and judgement in the wake of a tragedy. Both Aspergers, Autistic and Mentally ill fear being the “towns peoples” Frankenstein. It is no more clear that he’s a psychopath, maligned narcissist or somone with Aspergers so stop throwing down pop-psychology terms as if you know what you are talking about. Because even if you studied any of these topics, you CAN NOT diagnose him because he’s not your dam client.
Just another note, Harper-Mercer had Aspberger’s as well. That makes the Sandy Hook, UCC and possible this guy all having the same? How is that not something to look in to?
Correlation is not causation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation