Down the rabbit hole: the twisted world of ‘alphas’ and ‘betas’

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Massacres have become a pretty staple American event, it seems. Coverage simply seems to lurch from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook and so many others. Now, it’s Santa Barbara’s turn. Each killer has their ‘quirks’ – Rodger came from a privileged, sheltered background, albeit one affected by his parents’ divorce. His 140 page ‘manifesto’, My Twisted Life, descends into racism as he seeks to assert his ‘aristocratic’ heritage and pedigree. In many respects, however, Rodger mirrored his grim predecessors: he felt ostracised and abandoned, suffered from some form of mental issues, and intended to die after exacting his revenge. What is disconcerting about this case in particular is not the scale of the violence – which, thankfully, was quite tame in comparison to earlier massacres. It is that the mind-set which drove Rodger to commit murder is little more than the extension of societal norms which are common in the Western world.

Let me clarify that there is a danger of trying to use Rodger’s digital footprints to construct a hypothetical identikit. His actions were the culmination of so many different factors, and whilst his misogyny played a massive role in driving him to commit his acts, social and mental issues were almost certainly equally important. In many ways, it is the aftermath which is more telling for society, and how men have screwed ourselves over.

PUA Hate’s (Pick-Up Artist Hate) popularity has exploded in recent days, just as it was coincidentally shut down. A site populated by ‘involuntary celibates’ or ‘incels’, it was a space for men who had been scammed by pick-up artists in their search for their god-given quota of sex. Rodger’s mentioned his use of it in his manifesto, though mocks other users for being too cowardly to act as he did. As other media outlets reported, the responses by some PUA Hate posters was delivered with arrogance equal to Rodger, and Victorian pseudo-science to boot. One user explained his failure to find a girlfriend with “Short lower third and gay midface, with zero brow ridge”. Yet there was limited condemnation from the community, and the deletion of the website show that it is the actions, not the motives, that PUA Haters objected to. Others went so far as to rationalise his actions with sad contempt: “This doesn’t surprise me. Being rejected and treated like trash by women for years is absolutely disastrous to a young man’s psyche…Society and all the girls that call guys like us “creeps” and get pumped and dumped by goodlooking males as we are left with nothing creates people like elliott. You are all responsible”.

PUA Hate was a site filled with ‘betas’, an archetype as wrong-footed and reductive as ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’. Naturally their opposites are the ‘alphas’ – that is, those who are getting ‘game’. The sort of men who feel that feminism is enslaving boys to a gynocentric world view, and that men are born to dominate women. Hub of misogyny and self-obsession Return of Kings posted a response to Rodger, claiming that for all of sorts of entirely ridiculous reasons, he was a ‘feminist’ murderer.

Despite this, alphas and betas are two sides of the same hideous phenomenon. At their cores, neither are willing to accept women as individuals with feelings or with volition. The methods are broadly opposition – the wheedling beta ‘nice guy’ versus brutish alpha predator – but it boils down to the same concept that women are there for men’s pleasure. The alpha feels they are a game to be worked on and manipulated for sex; the beta believes that by treating women as humans, they are entitled to sex. If you resent these labels being forced on men, let me point out that these aren’t feminist terms: they’re self-ascribed. Whilst we lads were busy laughing about how women are so clique-ish, we failed to notice that we had categorised ourselves into pre-scientific stereotypes.

Rodger, forever describing himself as a ‘magnificent gentleman’, bought into the beta dream. When that failed, he simply did what he’d done throughout his life: he threw a tantrum, only this time with bullets and a knife. It was no more Mr. Nice Guy – except, Mr. Nice Guy had never been nice at all. The Santa Barbara Incident has revealed the misogyny which runs rife in our communities, and the caricatures which uphold it. If we want to make the victims’ deaths more than just statistics, we must stop future generations from this tainted ideology. When men stop viewing themselves as ‘alphas’ or ‘betas’ and women as ‘game’, the world will be a far better place.

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