I’m reading this article about a guy who killed his own father and am alarmed to see so much of myself in him. I get where his rage comes from. What I don’t understand at all is how he chose to channel that rage. I don’t understand what he did with it.
This guy – I’ll call him “L” because I don’t want anyone googling his name to land on this blog – was in his early 30s, unemployed, and living with his parents. It’s a story that’s become downright common, and for a while, it was my story.
I pretty much had to start my career over again after I was assaulted at work and subsequently fired last year. (Don’t fret – I’m on it. It’s a long process, but the responsible parties will pay for their crimes.) No one wanted to hire the girl who’d reported her most recent employer to every state and federal investigative body in existence. And who could blame them? So few of us are squeaky clean.
L’s dad might have been one of the few. He sounded wholesome as hell: married to the same woman for 40 years, nice to his neighbors, an outdoorsy retiree who liked his boat and a quiet lake… this guy is – was – the type of guy you hope lives next to your parents in their golden years.
According to L, though, his dad was a leftist and, therefore, a pedophile. Because all leftists are pedophiles in L’s mind. This dude freaked out and killed his dad – the man who kept him fed and clothed in spite of his son’s constant verbal abuse – after going down the rabbit hole of right wing conspiracy theories.
That’s how L channeled his rage. He created content promoting alt-right propaganda that he seemed to truly believe in. He probably didn’t start out that way, given that he supposedly dabbled in ideologies like Islam and Marxism prior to finding the alt-right. What appears to have happened was that the alt-right audience was the first one to give him any kind of attention or respect. Because he finally got the respect he felt he was entitled to, that audience and that culture became everything to him. These were the only people who thought he was worth anything. The rest of the world didn’t give a shit about L.
And I fucking get that – the part about the world not caring. It does sometimes feel like I have no future and no place in society. When someone validates my work, I am elated. But I don’t write and make art for validation. Maybe that’s the difference between me and people like L. I don’t feel that I’m entitled to any kind of attention or even that I deserve it.
That seems to be the key to alt-rightism. It’s people willing to invest in something they don’t believe in in exchange for validation. These aren’t just financial investments. L didn’t have any money. Unemployed, remember? So he invested the only thing he did have: his own mind.
All this guy did was make content. Some of the neighbors didn’t even know he existed because he was at his computer making videos and writing into the night. The world of alt-right conspiracy theories became the thing that defined him. It was all he knew.
Every time an alt-right celebrity gets into trouble for saying something outrageous and horrible, they all say the same thing: “I’m just trolling.” It’s like when you’re a kid in elementary school, and one of your classmates insults you, but then says, “Jeez! I was just kidding!” and looks at you like you’re being totally unreasonable. You know it’s they’re full of it, and everyone around you knows they’re full of it, but no one ever calls them out. No one says, “Kidding or not, what just came out of your mouth was disgusting, Breana. Also, you spell your own name wrong.”
“I don’t really believe the frogs are gay. It’s okay for me to say all black people are pedophiles because I don’t really believe it. This is a performance. I’m an actor. An artist, if you will. I know I do. Kill all Jews! I had my fingers crossed when I said it, so it’s okay.”
At one point, L literally wrote that making this content gave him a reason to live and that the alt-right narrative was the only one where he felt that he mattered. He wrote this to another well-known self-professed “troll” who often uses the “just kidding” defense after he’s directed his followers to criminally harass one individual or another.
So these guys are totally aware that people take them seriously when they’re “just trolling.” They know there are lonely, frustrated people who latch on to their conspiracy theories about white genocide because it’s the only time they feel relevant.
Has no one explained to these people that they shouldn’t need constant attention? They shouldn’t feel that they have to be included in every conversation? Has it never occurred to them to sit quietly and listen to what other people have to say?
If it hasn’t, then these people must live in a world where they’re the center of the universe and everyone else isn’t a real person with their own inner life. This is not a delusion we should feed. But alt-right trolls do. It’s an easy way to gain fame if not fortune.
Is there any way to reach these people? Not just the trolls but the people like L? Angry white men who ignore the real world outside in exchange for one manufactured so that everything is someone else’s fault? Was L always a monster? Could parents who seem so kind and good-hearted really create a creature vile enough to kill one of them?
As I said before, I get why this guy became despairing. I even get why he gave up on getting a job and resigned himself to a life of unemployment and poverty. If you’ve seen the job market lately, you get it, too.
But where on this path did he take the divergence that led him to stab his own father to death? Why did he go that way, while my own path led me to… this:
Surely, we can’t blame this all on the alt-right. There’s got to be some mental illness at work here.
Oh, wait, I am also mentally ill and have never once stabbed my father. I have only ever stabbed myself. By mistake. With a knitting needle. I don’t recommend it.
As far as I can tell, the only real differences between my background and L’s are that he is male and comes from a much wealthier family. He should really be doing better than I am. But he’s not. He’s in prison.
As per usual, I have no real, solid conclusion – only more questions. As much as I say I get it, I really don’t. How can someone live in a large home on a beautiful property with loving parents and friends who drop job opportunities in his lap (dude turned down a summer on an Alaskan fishing vessel) and still be such an awful waste of life?
How did he rationalize denouncing the entire black race while simultaneously adopting cultural elements – like listening to hip-hop and speaking African-American Vernacular English – strongly associated with Black Americans? How? I’m seriously asking.
Does it really all come down to cognitive dissonance?