Early last year, we published a cover story by Amanda Hess titled “Women Aren’t Welcome Here.” Hess wrote about the harassment of women, especially female journalists, online, deftly weaving her own experiences together with incisive reporting. I am proud to note that Hess and Pacific Standard won a National Magazine Award for the story in February.
The article was, lamentably, too prescient: In the months after it ran, hatred toward women online was on garish display. We had Gamergate. We watched states struggle with reining in the phenomenon of revenge porn. And in May, in Isla Vista—just 10 miles from this office—the most demolishing of events: 22-year-old Elliot Rodger set in motion a “Day of Retribution,” in part because of a deeply disoriented and tragic hatred of women. Rodger murdered six people, injured 14, and killed himself.
Back when we were working on Hess’ story, I kept thinking that there was important territory we weren’t covering. Hess had great ideas for reforms that might be applied to online spaces, but what were the psychological roots of the (often male) rage in the first place? Writing about Hess’ story in the New York Times, Ross Douthat suggested the solution lies in formulating a “more compelling vision of masculine goals, obligations and aspirations” and that “cleansing the Internet of the worst misogyny is ultimately a task for men.”
It turns out, Arthur Chu—whom you may know as the nerdy guy who people loved or hated as he racked up nearly $400,000 on Jeopardy! last year—is taking on that task.
In a profile of Chu, author Peter C. Baker writes that the killings in Isla Vista had a galvanizing effect on Chu, who read through the 141-page manifesto that Elliot Rodger had left behind. “Some of the boys in my class would grow up to be embraced by girls,” Rodger wrote, “while I would grow up to be rejected by them.” Later in the manifesto, he wrote that women were a “plague” and condemned them for being the “ones who deprived me of love and sex.”
Chu, writes Baker, found Rodger’s writings about his lonely childhood and rejection by women to be “terribly familiar,” and this prompted him to write an article “in which he insisted that, though Rodger was mentally ill, his attitudes toward women were common, especially among aggrieved male nerds.” Today, Chu—who occasionally cites Hess’ Pacific Standard piece in his speeches—is mobilizing a conversation to get at the roots of the anger and alienation that in Rodger’s extreme case turned deadly.
Other articles in this issue, too, get at the roots of problems. In her story on the problem with drug courts, Maia Szalavitz exposes the woeful and dangerous misunderstandings of addiction that are institutionalized in our justice system. In Five Studies, Tom Kecskemethy shows us how little we know about the fundamental drivers of human trafficking.
Finally, flip this issue of the magazine over and you’ll find our special report— expanded at PSmag.com—profiling 30 of the year’s most innovative thinkers in the social and behavioral sciences.
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