A Social Media Biography of a Spree Killer, Part 1

We can’t stop the murders. We think about how they could have been prevented, but preventive surveillance is a multi-step process that requires a watcher who can assess a threat and take action to eliminate it. His mother and life coach understood Rodger to be a threat. They passed the information on. The life coach contacted Santa Barbara County Mental Health. They passed the information on. The police visited Rodger for a welfare check.

They assessed him in person. Maybe, they didn’t trust the video. They had the real Elliot Rodger right before their eyes.

[Rodger] did not show any signs of being, or make any statements indicating that he was, a danger to himself or others… He told the deputies that his mother was a “worry wart”.[6]

Video: a remixed, filtered representation of the actual.

For many digital natives, in-the-flesh and digital representations are both accurate fictions of a complex identity. You don’t decide between the two, but see both as part of a fragmented whole. They didn’t watch the videos. We watch them. In reverse chronology, we can see the murderous intent in his misogynist rants.

A Hybrid Identity

Elliot Rodger — amateur vlogger whose video “Life is so unfair” was viewed over 1.3 million times after he committed mass murder.

Peter Rodger, Elliot’s father — professional filmmaker who worked on the “Hunger Games” and produced “Oh My God,” a documentary that looks at our diverse views on God.

George Rodger, Elliot’s grandfather — professional photographer who gained prominence for his photographs of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, a Nazi concentration camp.

Elliot Rodger explains that his father “[hailed] from the prestigious Rodger Family” who “was once part of the wealthy upper classes before they lost their fortune in the Great Depression.”

He doesn’t elaborate on his mother’s history. He identified her by an abbreviated form of her first name– Chin, her ethnicity– Chinese, and her place of birth– Malaysia.

We tell our stories in fragments, posting pieces of ourselves for friends, acquaintances, an interested public. We perform ourselves with edits and tweaks. Our selective summaries posted and reposted into a recognizable digital representation.

Rodger erased migration and labor from his family story. He narrated his mother’s move to England “at a young age to work as a nurse,” but the political and economic context of her move remained invisible. His mother’s associations with “important individuals in the film industry” like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were more pertinent to his mother’s status than her family history.

I consider myself a sophisticated, polite gentleman, unlike most boys my age. My father is of British descent, and my mother is of Asian descent, so that makes me a Eurasian.[7]

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