The violent rage of the ‘nice guy’

The gunman committed his killing spree just hours after posting a chilling video online in which he spelled out his murderous plans for “retribution” because of rebuffs by female students at college.

Lamenting that he was still a virgin at 22, he declared, “I will kill every single blonde *** I see”, and blamed women for throwing themselves at “obnoxious brutes” but rejecting him, the “supreme gentleman”.

I find it hard not to connect America’s latest mass shooting to the much discussed Nice Guy Syndrome. Watch the killer’s final video if you want to see what I mean (massive trigger warning) – my point is not that ‘nice guys’ are incipient murderers but only that, at least in this case, the grievances cited by the killer are markedly those of the quintessential ‘nice guy’ e.g. “girls, all I’ve ever wanted was to love you and be loved by you … but you think I’m unworthy of you”. It scares the shit out of me how widespread this feeling, which in this case led this ‘nice guy’ towards murder, might be. 


  1. Wow. Nice guys are bad, mean guys are bad, I guess the only way to get to heaven is to get a sex change operation. Seriously, if you think this maniac represents the nice guys of the world, you’re the one who is psychotic. What this guy did was horrible. His twisted reasoning is insane. He should have been locked away in a mental hospital. I have always treated women with the utmost respect. I’ve had many girlfriends, and was married. By all accounts, I’m a nice guy. That’s why this post pisses me off. Go ahead and delete this comment now, since you’re obviously a coward.

  2. I think this is a bit unfair to use this guy as the basis for a discussion of “nice guys”. There’s often something passive-aggressive in the self-perception of “nice guy”, and it probably has sexual rejection as a big part of it. Still, given the unpredictably of sexual attraction, it’s kind of unavoidable that those who find themselves deemed unattractive and face lots of sexual rejection without knowing why will be somewhat scarred by it, initially at least. There’s probably a lot of young men who relate to what this guy said but that doesn’t mean they should be equated with him, or what he did.

    So, I would argue, “nice guys” shouldn’t be demonized. I suppose you’d disagree, but I think that’s what you’re doing here (despite the not-incipient-murderers caveat, the need for which is kind of revealing in itself).

    1. * “…relate to some of what he said…” is what I should have written.

      I meant the “I don’t know why you find me attractive” complaint and such, not, obviously, the threats.

  3. “There’s probably a lot of young men who relate to what this guy said but that doesn’t mean they should be equated with him, or what he did.”

    I’m explicitly *not* equating them (the expectation people would read me as doing this is why I included the caveat). I am however saying that this overlap, which you seemingly accept, can be examined and that doing so worries me greatly.

  4. Maybe it’s a generational or regional thing but “I’m a nice guy” was only ever used by creeps and losers and even to other guys, its usage signaled that you should move away.

    1. I think it’s less a term men use about themselves, but that is applied pejoratively, as in the linked article. Rodger doesn’t actually use the term in his video, though he does say he’s “a perfect guy”.

      1. “I’m a perfect guy, why won’t women recognise that and give me the affection which I deserve given how perfect I am?” – I’m saying (a) this sentiment is widespread (b) it’s obviously a causal factor in these murders (c) the combination of the first two points are scary.

        1. (c) is a rather meaningless appeal to emotion, in which you make sure you’re not explicitly saying anything, while implying that Elliot Rodger is representative of people who identify in any way with the attitude you describe.

          Let’s say you see a comment on the Lee Rigby murder. It notes that the killers were motivated by opposition to British foreign policy, specifically in muslim countries, which they identify as “our lands” . The comment says a) this attitude is widespread among muslims; b) it’s obviously a causal factor in this brutal murder; c) that’s scary. It totally refrains from differentiating between people who dislike British foreign policy and the murderers, pointing out the link and ending with the appeal to emotion. Would that be acceptable?

          (By the way, I enjoy and appreciate your blog, so I hope you don’t take this as an attack on you, but I do think there’s validity in my question.)

        2. I don’t think I am implying a representativeness! In fact I’ve repeatedly stated I don’t believe this. This may be an inaccurate statement about my own argument but the burden is on you to demonstrate this then rather than just asserting it.

          That is a powerful counter-argument though. I withdraw (c) and replace it with “this is a socially salient trend amenable to further discussion”….

          (no worries! I like debating. it’s also intellectually distancing me from how much that guy’s video disturbed me)

  5. Ok, but with the new c) your argument still doesn’t follow. Only a) is widespread enough to talk of a “socially salient trend”. B) is an apparently one-off event, the elevation of which into a “trend” is making Elliot Rodger representative without justification.

    (Is it possible your disturbance could actually be because of a submerged identification with the ‘nice guy’ figure? After all, murders in themselves are common, and even mass murders are relatively frequent in the US.)

    1. Not really, I think we’re talking at crossed purposes here. I’m saying that (a) is the trend, which given its causal role in (b) entails (c) i.e. making the trend socially salient. Or in other words: the fact the ‘nice guy’ mentality is widespread is important because of the causal role in played in this particular case.

      Put this another way: we can assume there are MANY things specific to the individual in question which can played a role in shaping this act. However there are also factors specific to his social setting and place within it (e.g. his capacity to acquire weapons). Likewise there are all sorts of social and cultural factors which likely factor into these acts.

      I’m positing one such factor, the mentality of the ‘nice guy’ – I may not be doing it convincingly or accurately but what bothers me about your line of argument is that you seem to be suggesting that any attempt to explain this case beyond factors pertaining to the individual is problematic. Do you think this? If your problem is with the fact that I’ve posited this in a 400 word blog post rather than an academic paper or that I included my own feelings in the original argument then fair enough. But I’m worried that you believe drawing out connections between these case and wider trends is inherently problematic (because it ‘demonises’ men as a whole, or at least the self-defined nice ones?) and that to me is an unsustainable position. It’s analogous, for instance, to the Tory government saying “this is criminality pure and simple” in response to the UK riots.

      Hmm no, not really, furthermore I’ve resisted suggesting that the defensiveness exhibited by you and Kip suggests an identification with the ‘nice guy’ even though that was the first thought that popped into my head when you posted last night. I didn’t refrain from saying this because I don’t believe it but because I think that pop-psychoanalysing someone you’re trying to have a debate with is just a bit rude really (tempting though).

      1. I do think drawing out connections between a case like this and wider trends is problematic, because of the extremity of the case, and the fact it will undoubtedly foster extremely high feelings. That doesn’t mean that it’s not also potentially useful, but it’s certainly a double-edged sword. It’s about how it’s approached; I still think a commitment to the individuality of all should be maintained, and thus representative/ symbolic figures should be chosen carefully or to whatever extent possible avoided (but we disagree on whether you did that, and we can just be pretty sure at this stage of the debate that we won’t agree, so I don’t want to prolong the argument and repeat myself).

        As to identification with the “nice guy” on my part I can’t rule that out, nor do I think there’s anything wrong with that (though obviously I don’t self-define as “nice”). I certainly wasn’t trying to get at you. Perhaps my explicit psychologizing was rude, but the fact that you were inwardly doing it yourself from the beginning of the debate is also instructive. There’s good reason to see personal psychology as constitutive of any given person’s political stance; that’s how I tend to approach it, at any rate, so I make no apology. Any holistic view of a given matter needs to take it into account.

        This post has been rather rambling, but I’ve made my point in earlier posts, and arguing rarely leads to agreement, and in this case certainly won’t. You’ve given me food for thought. (Perhaps I am a Tory?) So thanks.

        1. I really wasn’t saying you’re a Tory! Only suggesting that your argument has a structure which might prove less acceptable to you in a different setting… much as with your excellent critique of what I was saying earlier.

  6. This is not a question of if he was a ‘nice guy’ or not. This killing was underpinned by a culture of misogyny. He felt he was entitled to be desired by women, and when they didn’t desire him he was resentful. This is nothing new. The fact that he claims to be a gentleman in the same breath as he threatens to kill women for not wanting him serves to demonstrate how normalised such thinking is.

    1. That’s why I’m putting ‘nice guy’ in inverts commas – I agree entirely, I’m suggesting that the notion of the ‘nice guy’ is an important aspect of the contemporary culture of misogyny.

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