is associate editor of City Journal, where he writes on education and California politics. Previously, he served as managing editor of the Heartland Institute's School Reform News and the Claremont Review of Books. He is also a former editorial writer for Investor's Business Daily and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California. Reach him at
Boychuk writes a weekly column for the Sacramento Bee and Scripps-Howard News Service. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the New York Post, National Review Online, the Korea Times and newspapers across the United States.
Let's stop glorifying nations monsters
By BEN BOYCHUK
City Journal, Manhattan Institute
When will we finally learn the folly of ascribing simple political or public policy explanations to evil acts? We can no more resolve the problem of evil in a single newspaper column or act of Congress than the League of Nations could successfully outlaw war with a piece of paper in 1928.
The Isla Vista, Calif., killer had been in therapy more or less nonstop since he was 8 years old. Surely the nonjudgmental therapeutic environment fostered poisonous habits of the mind? The killer’s parents divorced when he was 7. Perhaps, then, he is just another castoff of a callous, no-fault divorce culture?
After the Newtown, Conn., massacre in 2012, colleague Joel Mathis and I called for more taxpayer funding of mental health services and perhaps new laws easing the commitment of dangerous people to mental institutions. Would that have helped here?
Seems unlikely. The killer’s parents reportedly knew he was trouble. The murderer’s mother was so alarmed by his YouTube videos that she called a mental health hotline. Santa Barbara police visited his apartment last month but for whatever reason concluded he was not an imminent threat to himself or anyone else.
Something is rotten online. The killer resented that he was a virgin. He immersed himself in Internet “pickup philosophy” forums. He wrote misogynist rants. But he didn’t merely hate women. His 141-page manifesto is a sad, sickening testament to his misanthropy. Perhaps we should pass a new law against hate.
Something is rotten in the media. Every time one of these crimes occurs, the media rush to publicize the killer’s name, his face, his rants. This animal’s manifesto is everywhere, exactly as he hoped.
Enough of this! We don’t need new laws; we need to shift the culture. Stop publicizing the names of spree killers. Don’t show their faces. Don’t repost their Facebook accounts and their insane screeds.
The rot runs deep. We shouldn’t glorify it more than we have to.