Fear and the Single Man
There's a reason why sex sells, and that's because it has a primal appeal to all of us. Many other things sell for exactly the same reason: comfort, ownership, and stability are all pieces of the life everyone wants, consciously or otherwise. Even the most adventurous of us want to have a base level we can return to, though what that level is varies from person to person and experience to experience - I like taking risks (starting my own business, for instance) but could only convince myself to do so because I have a fantastically stable home life and brilliant Partner-in-Crime to take those risks with. Peer pressure is based on exactly those comforts - having friends who accept you, being part of a community with at least one shared value (Canucks fans HOLLA!) to communicate with, that sort of thing.
Fear also sells very well, but that fear is of one of having your stability taken from you: friends who no longer accept you; your home or comforts taken away; suddenly living among people who don't share your values. What looks like fear is actually selling stability: essentially blandness, predictability, and normality.
Even hierarchical commercials showing some incredibly conceited asshole at the so-called top of the social food chain isn't selling wealth or attainment so much as selling stability: if you're at the top, you get comfort. Even if you can't tolerate your family enough to look at them, at least they're there, right?
What many people miss is that the messages are not necessarily aimed at, or received by, who you think. For instance, do you actually think that anyone who lives in that asshole's house drives a Cadillac? Or one that can afford to buy their wife a car as a surprise gift would get her a Volkswagen Jetta and expect her to be happy about it? No, of course not. The idea is to give people who would drive a Cadillac or Volkswagen the idea that it's what people already at that level of comfort - much higher than the actual target audience - would do. The message is aspirational: people who have 'succeeded' do this, so if you do this it means you too have succeeded.
Sell the idea first, then your target will want the product.
This is the basis of the NRAs advertising, and has been for years, including this season's spectacularly fearsome and explicit commercial released a month ago. It's got the usual fearmongering boilerplate that's to be expected ("Bad people are doing bad things! And NO ONE PAYS!!!") but the more interesting paragraph (to me) is the second:
So... how exactly are guns going to help with that?
The aren't, of course, as anyone sane would acknowledge. But the meaning is implicit: guns could help with that. Guns can help save you from those evil people who are holding you back. Your success is being kept from you by a secret - or not-so-secret - cabal of "hypocrites, chameleons, bullies, and yes men".
If you aren't familiar with the term "entitlement", this is it in its purest form. The idea that you are owed 'success', and if you don't have it then something is wrong with the world around you: someone, somewhere, is keeping you down. The problem is NOT you, and (more importantly) there is NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT, so you'd better get a gun.
Where is we find Santa Barbara shooter/stabber/psycho Elliot Rogers and the so-called Pick Up Artist community.
I don't say "psycho" lightly, here: he had serious mental problems, and one of the issues was he was a psychopath: he had a history of anti-social and amoral behaviour as well as acting out violently, combined (as is easily seen in his rambling, poorly-thought-out manifesto) with a self-justified hatred of women. These are not normal or acceptable behaviours, and bending definitions to avoid saying a word isn't doing anyone any favours. He had been seeing therapists since he was nine years old, and had a visit by police who were sent to him by his mother after she was disturbed by a video he had posted on line only weeks before his rampage.
Rogers was so far up his own ass that he could have given his polyps names. He fell into one of the most common traps of teenage boys the world over: he thought he was a nice guy, and that combined with his horniness meant he should have had sex with whatever girl he wanted. He was polite, and kind, and sweet, and all that sort of crap so why didn't girls liiiiiiike him?
(Okay, I'm just going to stop there because it's WAY too familiar for so many of us. What I wrote in 2008 in reply to one commenter still applies today, so if you want to see my own version of "suck it up, buttercup" it's back there.)
So if this is standard nerd-fare through adolescence (and has been for... well, ever as far as I can tell), why talk about those oh-so-studly guys in the Pick Up Artist crowd? He's obviously not one of them, or he'd be way more successful with the ladies, amirite?
Sure, in much the same way owning a gun makes you a superhero. In exactly the same way, in fact: both groups rely heavily on fear of inadequacy to convince others to pay them.
In the Pick Up Artist World(tm), the guys who actually have women interested in them are horrible: they treat women badly, never care about them, are all fabulously wealthy meatheads who don't actually deserve women. They insist that these are the only guys women are ever attracted to, and they are the Alpha Males. Any guy who doesn't get women because they're nice (and yes, it's because they are 'nice') are Beta Males.
Stop laughing! They're serious!
In any case, the folks who target young men with these insecurities (insecurities which they fully encourage to foster and grow) then promise a 'cure' by selling them magical rituals to help overcome their own Beta-ness and, more importantly, get revenge on women who turned them down in the first place by having sex with skanks.
Think I'm kidding about that last bit? I'm paraphrasing slightly, but not by as much as I'd like to: women are regularly referenced as 'targets', 'marks', 'scores'... anything other than actual humans. Plus, of course, they are all lumped together as a single homogeneous mass: 'typical women' is a very common refrain, though occasionally spiced up with the term 'American' or 'Western' thrown in the middle. That alone should give you a clue where this inevitably is heading:
Women in nations with strong human rights are far worse (to the PUAs) than ones in nations that limit those rights.
This lack of self-awareness runs spectacularly deep: any woman who has had sex is essentially worthless except as a fuck-toy, while at the same time the objective of these self-same Pick Up Artists and their acolytes is to have sex with as many women as they can. Highest score wins, boys! Yes, it's the ages-old Madonna/Whore complex back for the latest generation of men who refuse to read history. Want an encapsulating quote? Here you go!
Until you give men like Rodger a way to have sex, either by encouraging him to learn game, seek out a Thai wife, or engage in legalized prostitution—three things that the American media and cultural elite venomously attack, it’s inevitable for another massacre to occur. Even game itself, as useful as it is on a individual level, is a band-aid fix upon a culture which has stopped rewarding nice guys while encouraging female whoring to benefit only the top 10% of alpha males, all in the name of societal progress.
Hope you didn't think I was kidding. Apparently it's not occurred to this spectacular idiot that there may be something wrong with "Give us sex or we'll kill you" as a working social philosophy.
Rogers references the language of the Pick Up Artist crowd repeatedly in his rants (video and written), and it's clearly something he believed, and those rants are filled with his fear and anger at being considered a lesser person by exactly those people who created the language and social structure he was referencing. Any guesses who else encourages this style of thinking? A big ol' hint can be had in his own words:
After I picked up the handgun, I brought it back to my room and felt a new sense of power. I was now armed. Who's the alpha male now, bitches? I thought to myself, regarding all of the girls who've looked down on me in the past.
Yeah. Any guesses what group has fought hard to avoid or nullify any regulation that would have prevented that gun from getting into Rodger's hands? Hint: it's the same one who believes "Everyone should have guns" is better than "Some people shouldn't have guns".
No cheating, now!