Since Friday's horrific attack near the University of California, Santa Barbara, the national focus has shifted (as it does with incomprehensible tragedies) from shock to blame with a wide array of contending narratives.
Perhaps most notably, in the wake of the discovery of shooting suspect Eliot Rodger's threatening YouTube video and misogynistic manifesto, an effort to confront the role of violence against women was harnessed by the Twitter hashtag #yesallwomen. Through words and images, both women and men (although primarily and thankfully the former) created a digital discourse about gender equality and violence prompted by Rodger's words. The initiative quickly went viral and international with tens of thousands of tweets.
Because even a 140 page misogynist manifesto by a mass murderer isn't enough to convince some people that sexism kills #YesAllWomen— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) May 25, 2014
"I have a boyfriend" is the easiest way to get a man to leave you alone. Because he respects another man more than you. #yesallwomen— Rylah (@JBRylah) May 25, 2014
Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them - Magaret Atwood #yesallwomen— Selin Kara (@Selintifada) May 25, 2014
They were also met, unfortunately, by a spate of tweets by men's rights activists. The Pick-Up Artist community, of which Rodger was a disgruntled former member, did themselves no favors and also chimed in.
The NRA also came under fire. Echoing the words of Richard Martinez, whose 20-year-old son died in the shooting and who blamed the assault on "craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA," Adam Gopnik dropped the hammer on the leaders of the Washington gun lobby:
Why did Christopher Michael-Martinez die? Because the N.R.A. and the politicians they intimidate enable people to get their hands on weapons and ammunition whose only purpose is to kill other people as quickly and as lethally as possible. How do we know that they are the ‘because’ in this? Because every other modern country has suffered from the same kinds of killings, from the same kinds of sick kids, and every other country has changed its laws to stop them from happening again, and in every other country it hasn’t happened again.
Comedian Albert Brooks took a similar tack:
Psychiatric care for years, stated clearly what he was going to do, and legally owned three guns. Thanks NRA.— Albert Brooks (@AlbertBrooks) May 25, 2014
But as it was documented, some in the commentariat pushed back, adding the failures and influences of the state, Hollywood, and the police to the discourse.
While the conversation continues, constructively or otherwise, families of the victims and the University of California, Santa Barbara community continue to mourn. The school has organized a memorial service to be held tomorrow.