South Asian American man wanted to kill women at UW in emulation of Elliot Rodger

FBI report of threats published by Keshav Bhide under the screen-name "Foss Dark", declaring his intent to engage in a mass shooting like Elliot Rodger.
FBI report of threats published by Keshav Bhide under the screen-name “Foss Dark”, declaring his intent to engage in a mass shooting and then kill himself, like Isla Vista shooter Elliot Rodger.

(H/T Jeff Yang (@originalspin))

Less than a month ago, Elliot Rodger stabbed to death his three Asian American housemates and then went on a shooting spree in the residential college town of Isla Vista, randomly targeting women and their boyfriends as alleged punishment for society’s emasculation of him. I wrote about how Rodger’s actions were symptomatic of society’s larger definition of masculinity; I coined the term “misogylinity” to describe hegemonic masculinity’s toxic and misguided assertion that men should pursue and covet a masculinity defined relative to the sexual commodification of women.  I further discussed how issues of masculinity are of particular interest to the Asian American community, where the racial pain arising from stereotypes of emasculation is explicitly political, and which has rationalized the pursuit — often uncritically, and sometimes outright problematically — of misogylinistic notions of manhood.

I concluded that while misogyny, masculinity and misogylinity is America’s problem at-large, it is Asian America’s problem, too. In some corners of Asian America, radical misogyny incubates virtually unchecked.

Yesterday, a 23-year-old South Asian American man by the name of Keshav Mukund Bhide was arrested and held on $150,001 bail after posting numerous online comments idolizing Isla Vista shooter Elliot Rodger through YouTube and Google+, the latter through his account name “Foss Dark”. Bhide is a student at the University of Washington.

Bhide posted several comments calling Rodger’s “Day of Retribution” “perfectly justified”, and threatening to follow in Rodger’s footsteps. On May 30, Bhide wrote a comment on his own sharing of a YouTube video, saying that he “would have done exactly the same shit” but that he “would have killed only women”.

In explanation for his misogyny, Bhide cited a trope that again is all-too-familiar within the Asian American community: he rationalized his anger against women for society’s rejection of men who are “short” and who have an “ugly face”.

Screen capture from Foss Dark's Google+ account, where he threatens to target women.
Screen capture from Foss Dark’s Google+ account, where he threatens to target women.

In his Google+ posts, Bhide repeatedly rants against society’s “heightism”, focusing on his perception that short men are denied sex appeal; this is a logic that is frequently used among Asian American men to articulate society’s sexual rejection of them. In a later comment he rationalizes Elliot Rodger’s homicidal spree killing as an expression of his short stature. In still another comment, Bhide says:

Nothing can compromise for a ugly face and short stature, i will execute the same thing. I have no option

Notably, the phrase “ugly face” was used by Elliot Rodger as code for his anti-Asian self-hatred. Rodger, who described himself as Eurasian, believed himself to be “beautiful” for his ability to pass as White. In his 140 page manifesto, Rodger denigrated his Asian American housemates — whom he would later stab to death — for their “ugly faces”, and tried to distance himself from aesthetic signifiers of his own Asian American-ness. Bhide’s invocation of this same term can only be interpreted as a deliberate reference to Rodger’s writing — particularly in the context of his overall praise of Rodger — except that Bhide believes himself to possess the “ugly face” that Rodger rejected.

Like Elliot Rodger, Keshav Bhide believed society owed him masculine and sexual success; unlike Elliot Rodger, Keshav Bhide likely blamed his height and his Asian-ness for his failure.

According to his Google+ account, Bhide — like Elliot Rodger — transferred that anger onto women. He posted videos of women (some of them feminists) discussing societal misogyny and rape culture in the wake of the Isla Vista shooting, and used misogynistic slurs to describe the women. He then expressed a desire to shoot and kill these women.

On June 9th, Bhide posted a comment to an online forum threatening to engage in a mass killing like Elliot Rodger. Claiming to be “the next Elliot Rodger”, he wrote:

‘I live in seattle and go to the UW, that’s all I’ll give you. I’ll make sure I kill only women, and many more than what Elliot accomplished [sic],’ he said.

Concerned onlookers notified the FBI, who tracked Bhide down by his IP address to an apartment building near the University of Washington campus. Bhide was arrested Saturday afternoon and charged with cyberstalking and felony harassment. It is possible that Bhide committed real-life threats against women at UW: on-campus sororities have reported in recent weeks disturbing anonymous phone calls by a man “looking for someone to shoot”, and one sorority found chalk outlines outside their house earlier this month. It is unclear right now whether Bhide is responsible for those acts.

Screen capture of Keshav Bhide's Google+ profile.
Screen capture of Keshav Bhide’s Google+ profile.

Let me be clear: I do not think misogyny is a characteristic trait of all or most Asian American men. I do not think that our community is alone guilty of the kind of homicidal misogyny expressed by Bhide and his idol, Elliot Rodger.

But it is also counter-factual, and increasingly irresponsible, for our community to ignore the demonstrable fact that this kind of misogyny also finds expression among Asian Americans, where it is shielded in part by larger political narratives over the real and viable pain Asian American men feel over emasculation stereotypes. It is increasingly immoral to sweep our community’s identification with misogyny and rape culture under the rug, because we are afraid that it will make our community look bad, or that this will somehow in turn further deprivilege Asian American men. We should be able to prioritize work that would end stereotypes that target and marginalize Asian American men, and find a way to do so without protecting misogynistic and patriarchal attitudes from within.

As I expressed in this podcast, I think we can all agree that institutional stereotypes of emasculation and asexualization can have real and damaging impacts on the psyche of Asian American men, and that those stereotypes must be proactively addressed and challenged. Yet, our community lacks a larger conversation about the strategies that we use in challenging emasculation, and how our current framing of this political issue might also reinforce radical misogyny at the fringes; this is the conversation we need to be having. We need to be talking about how all of us — Asian American men and women — may be complicit in reinforcing patriarchy, either through our explicit embrace of hegemonic masculinity and misogylinity, or implicitly through our silence regarding the same.

So long as we continue to assert that the lens through which we should both discuss and correct anti-Asian male stereotypes involves dating disparities and outmarriage, we continue to reinforce the notion that women are the gatekeepers that can unlock a masculine revolution for the Asian American man. This, in turn, reinforces the rage expressed by some Asian American men, like Bhide, at women for, in their estimation, refusing to unlock their figurative “gates”.

Keshav Bhide, I am not the gatekeeper for your masculinity; and, I do not deserve to be shot as retribution for society’s racist stereotyping of you.

Last month, I ended my post with a plea I feel compelled to reaffirm today: can’t we be doing better than all this? Can’t we find a better, more progressive masculinity? Can’t we finally take steps to reject a hegemonic masculinity that imprisons our Asian American brothers in the implicit assumption of asexuality, and that challenges them to redeem their own Asian American-ness through racial self-rejection and misogylinity? Can’t we finally take steps to reject an institutional patriarchy that would mistakenly cast women as privileged gatekeepers, which only justifies violence against our bodies when we wield that privilege “wrongly”?

Can’t we do something to prevent any more Elliot Rodgers from thinking they have the right to exact revenge against women for their own racial and gendered pain?

Can’t we finally do something — something — to end this vicious cycle of misogyny and hate?

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  • PC BS

    Notably, the phrase “ugly face” was used by Elliot Rodger as code for his anti-Asian self-hatred. Rodger, who described himself as Eurasian, believed himself to be “beautiful” for his ability to pass as White. In his 140 page manifesto, Rodger denigrated his Asian American housemates — whom he would later stab to death — for their “ugly faces”, and tried to distance himself from aesthetic signifiers of his own Asian American-ness. Bhide’s invocation of this same term can only be interpreted as a deliberate reference to Rodger’s writing — particularly in the context of his overall praise of Rodger – except that Bhide believes himself to possess the “ugly face” that Rodger rejected.

    Or he could just be using the term “ugly face.” The guy was South Asian. South Asians don’t look like East Asians and they don’t have the same stereotypes. It’s unlikely the guy identified himself racially with East Asians.

    You’re pulling at straws trying to connect this whole thing to (East) Asians. Too much political correctness makes you forget that people don’t actually put South and East Asians under the same group. Most people would probably consider a South Indian closer to Middle Eastern people than East Asians. If the guy had been an Arab would you have posted the same thing?

  • PC BS

    Bhide’s invocation of this same term can only be interpreted as a deliberate reference to Rodger’s writing

    What were you expecting him to say if he wanted to mention a face that was ugly? “Unattractive facade?” “Unphotogenic visage?”

  • @PC

    Or he could just be using the term “ugly face.”

    Often when MRA or PUA communities want to comment on this point, they use terms like “unattractive” (e.g. so-and-so isn’t attractive, or good-looking); “ugly face” is actually a bit on-the-nose and therefore significant in its choice given its use by Elliot Rodger. Rodger internalized a version of White supremacy that cast all non-Whites as “ugly”; this was the term he used repeatedly when referencing men of colour. I think it’s actually grasping at straws to say that Bhide’s use of the exact same phrase is pure coincidence, given that this was a man who clearly read Rodger’s manifesto, idolized him, and internalized his worldview.

    South Asians don’t look like East Asians and they don’t have the same stereotypes.

    Actually, they do experience the same stereotypes. Aasif Mandvi talks about it in the panel discussion linked in the post, and the comment I linked by Tenda Spencer discusses his experiences subjected to emasculation stereotypes as a biracial Indian American man. To argue that the stereotype is linked to mere phenotype, and not to larger Orientalist and colonialist histories that encompass both East and South Asia is, I think, an extremely narrow and inaccurate interpretation of how these stereotypes play out.

    Inclusion of South Asians in the Asian American diaspora has been established for upwards of four decades, PC. That’s not invalidated simply because you don’t think we all look alike.

  • Rebelwerewolf

    Given that Tenda wrote this:

    However, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that being half white, looking white puts me in a lot better position than my brother, who looks almost completely Chinese.

    I’m guessing he is not Indian.

  • Oops, you’re right. Tenda says he’s half-Chinese later in his comment. My bad. The point remains however that due to its roots in Asian colonialism and Orientalism, emasculation stereotypes extend to both East and South Asian men. Hence the excitement among South Asians when you had more masculine characters on TV like Sendhil Ramamurthy’s Dr. Mohinder Suresh on Heroes.

  • PC BS

    Often when MRA or PUA communities want to comment on this point, they use terms like “unattractive” (e.g. so-and-so isn’t attractive, or good-looking); “ugly face” is actually a bit on-the-nose and therefore significant in its choice given its use by Elliot Rodger. Rodger internalized a version of White supremacy that cast all non-Whites as “ugly”; this was the term he used repeatedly when referencing men of colour. I think it’s actually grasping at straws to say that Bhide’s use of the exact same phrase is pure coincidence, given that this was a man who clearly read Rodger’s manifesto, idolized him, and internalized his worldview.

    You’re making things up with no evidence.

    https://www.google.com/#q=site:bodybuilding.com+%22ugly+face%22
    https://www.google.com/#q=site:bodybuilding.com+%22unattractive+face%22

    A quick search of the term “ugly face” on a website about bodybuilding and appearances has over 3000 hits posted by different people all before anyone ever heard of the Isle Vista shooter. The same search for “unattractive face” has 123 hits.

    https://www.google.com/#q=site:http:%2F%2Fwww.pick-up-artist-forum.com%2F+%22ugly+face%22
    https://www.google.com/#q=site:http:%2F%2Fwww.pick-up-artist-forum.com%2F+%22unattractive+face%22

    A search of the phrase “ugly face” on the first pickup artist forum that shows up on Google has 529 hits. “Unattractive face” has 4 hits.

    The term “face” has to be included and not just “unattractive” because it’s common for these people to separate face and body since you can work out or lose weight for your body but can’t change your face without plastic surgery.

    There’s no reason to believe these aren’t representative. Nobody is tiptoeing around the term “ugly face” and there is no evidence that it is some dog whistle for fans of the Isle Vista shooter. “Ugly” is a common, two syllable word. Neither this guy or the Isle Vista shooter was exactly Shakespeare. You’re ignoring the fact that he probably used the term “ugly face” because it was a simple term to push your race theory.

    Nothing can compromise for a ugly face and short stature, i will execute the same thing. I have no option

    The guy confuses “compensate” with “compromise” and you think he’s putting obscure subtext in a YOUTUBE COMMENT? If he wanted to make this about race why wouldn’t he just mention race? If he sees being Indian as a disadvantage, why wouldn’t he say “ugly Indian face”? He already sees his “short stature” and “ugly face” as disadvantages, so why not add his race? The Isle Vista shooter mentioned race specifically when he wanted to comment on the “ugliness” of races. So if this guy wanted to make this some obscure reference to the Isle Vista shooter, why didn’t he mention race just as he did?

    Actually, they do experience the same stereotypes. Aasif Mandvi talks about it in the panel discussion linked in the post, and the comment I linked by Tenda Spencer discusses his experiences subjected to emasculation stereotypes as a biracial Indian American man. To argue that the stereotype is linked to mere phenotype, and not to larger Orientalist and colonialist histories that encompass both East and South Asia is, I think, an extremely narrow and inaccurate interpretation of how these stereotypes play out.

    You still haven’t given any evidence that this South Asian person identified in any way RACIALLY with EAST Asians. And yes, stereotypes are linked to phenotype. Arabs and South Asians are stereotyped in similar ways because they have similar physical features. That’s why you have things like people targeting Sikhs and Indians for 9/11. The average person on the street isn’t thinking “Indian, Persian, or Arab?” they’re thinking “Brown guy.” They aren’t thinking about census categories.

    East and South Asians may share SOME stereotypes, but the average person definitely sees them as separate groups. An East Asian is probably not going to be called a “terrorist,” but an Indian or an Arab might. Nobody is going to shout “konichiwa” at a South Asian, but they might to a non-Japanese East Asian. A lot of groups share stereotypes, but people still see them as different. Irish and Russians are both stereotyped for drunkenness, Chinese and Jews are stereotyped as being cheap. This doesn’t cause them to identify with each other ethnically.

    Inclusion of South Asians in the Asian American diaspora has been established for upwards of four decades, PC. That’s not invalidated simply because you don’t think we all look alike.

    They’re grouped together by politically correct Asian American activists, not by the general public. And they’re grouped together in this way because of vague census categories used in the US not because of public perception. In the UK they don’t even group East Asians with South Asians. They just call South Asians “Asians” and East Asians “Orientals.” South and East Asians work together in the US for political reasons, not because they share anything racially or ethnically. There is no reason for a South Asian outside of political activism to identify with East Asians and that is likely the case here. There is no reason to make this guy’s whining something about race besides him being South Asian. He complained about being short and having an ugly face. He could have easily mentioned race but he didn’t. White people complain about height (eg https://www.google.com/#q=site:bodybuilding.com+manlet) and having an ugly face (see above) too.

    I don’t usually comment, but I found this argument so pathetic in its blatant attempt to link something unrelated to race to push a race based narrative about the Asian community. Frankly, I find it kind of offensive and racist that the when a guy mentions height and ugliness, WITH NO MENTION OF RACE, the first thing you think is “he thinks that because of his race.” Especially when there are PLENTY of guys out there who are open about blaming their race for their dating problems without resorting to obscure dog whistles (random example: http://www.topix.com/forum/topstories/TE00FI902QC32OLR1). He was open about his height and face, but you think he was waiting for people to read through his subtext about race? YOU are projecting.

    It’s clear that you’re the only one making this about race, and you did this because you have an agenda to push to link this whole Isle Vista thing to Asians. You didn’t answer my question. If the guy had been an Arab or a Persian complaining about his height or his face (as many white and guys of other races do) instead of a South Asian, would you have posted the same thing, and would you have ASSUMED that this was about race or some problem in the “Asian community?”

  • SdKfzCenturion

    I admit my understanding of AAPI struggles is rather limited, but there doesn’t seem to be a very consistent framework for a re-imagined social code for men and more specifically one tailored to the realities of our individual cultures. I know this is going to come off as using the Taoist theory of a small country with few people like a cudgel, but hear me out.

    On my end the gate keeper perception is often reinforced by my participation as a Lyft driver taking people to the clubs of San Francisco. I have no idea how Lyft picks my passengers but there seems to be a lot more optimism among my AAW passengers and a lot more doom and gloom from the AAM side with regards to dating scene (the only common ground both groups seem to share is a heinous no tip policy). I am not privy to the thoughts of AAW but some of their conversations often spoke of dating within the framework of traditional gender dynamics. It is as you say there is a lot of angst and self doubt on the among my AAM passengers. Many of my AAM friends also have strong opinions on AAW with common threads being that AAW are seeking men with status with White men at the top and AA men at the bottom. Another common thread is also that AAW no matter how progressive they may seem never really want to pay for anything the most they will manage is the purse pump fake/wallet weave.

    My own sample size is small but I cannot say that I have any example of an AAW that I dated paying for anything. So within this small country with few people example I suppose a lot AAM are citing AAW desire to live the lavish life instead of the pay gap as the underlying reason for trend we see. Mind you this only is possible when the two groups do meet and if the online dating scene is indeed indicative of the larger picture there is mutual aversion to go with the mutual online hatred. Amy Tan may have written only two well known books, but the memory of how she created a celebrated career writing about evil AAM has not yet been forgiven or forgotten. In fact that trope seems to have made itself well embedded in the public consciousness in the US.

    Perhaps I need to participate more but it just seems to me that a lot more keys have been struck about the politics of dating (and not getting a date) than anything else. This doesn’t surprise me considering how much of the online discourse is dominated but 20-30s group, if the statistics on marriage are true then most of us are looking to be in romantic relationships of some sort. However given that many of us (well maybe just California) fall back into older models of courtship, unwittingly or deliberately, how can one operate while trying to fit in a radically new model of masculinity?

    I am still in the swirling melee/clusterfuck that is 21st century courtship in the US. I confess that I do experience some of the sentiment expressed by the Monster Elliot and the accused Bhide. Rejection sucks especially when you get the “your a great guy but not right for each other” text the day after the awkward subject comes up about dating more economically. I understand that the gentle rejection is a form of self preservation, but considering the timing of when all the fun went away at the moment money shows up is disheartening. I did feel rage when one ex who was self professed to be physically shy was feeling rather frisky with her new white paramour at my favorite breakfast which I introduced her to. For a while I did desire to maiming them both horribly with hot oil for desecrating my favorite hole in the wall, but I got over it and swore never again to bring a date to any of my favorite eateries. There have been more post rejection times since when I felt that AAW were a monolith, the great enemy, the hated turn-cloaks, and the vile collaborators of click bait empire of gawker-stan.

    These feelings of mutual hostility are created when stereotypes are reinforced, but as it is now there does’t seem to be a way to change social codes when everyone else seems to be conforming to the older code. I am not even sure if any attempt should be made hap-haphazardly that wouldn’t look like the kind of snake oil PUAs peddle. If every local AAW seems to want to follow the current model, should there be an expectation for AAM to adopt a new masculinity that doesn’t fit? At the end of the day I think few of us want to die alone so many of us fall back to model we are given and perform all the trappings of the flawed femininity and masculinity that goes with it. Hell I tried going on my own warpath (and tried to break away from traditional expectations) but I can’t escape the traditional dynamics of being interrogated about my job and education. I never made it to medical or law school, but now I hear praise for going into the Coast Guard and getting a union job, because they spared me from debt and paid well enough. Before then I was an abject failure by traditional standards, my Chinese was bad, my job was not prestigious, and I drove a milquetoast hybrid. I have not escaped being the one footing the bill when dating an AAW. I make crappy dating choices but I can’t ignore how disappointed I feel after transporting Asian Americans with their shifty attitudes and gross materialism.

    tl;dr: The traditional model still prevails and most people still adhere to it. Even if you did not when you like some one you will compromise some of your ideals for the sake of romantic expediency. It’s hard not to.

  • Junwei

    Keshav Mukund Bhide is an Indian national living on a student visa in the USA. I think, he is not the best testimony for your case if you consider the marriage rule of caste endogamy and the existence of online marriage market for Indian diasporas to enforce caste endogamy.

    “So long as we continue to assert that the lens through which we should both discuss and correct anti-Asian male stereotypes involves dating disparities and outmarriage, we continue to reinforce the notion that women are the gatekeepers that can unlock a masculine revolution for the Asian American man.”

    The interracial dating site of asian.nation.org – http://www.asian-nation.org/interracial.shtml – says that Indian/Indian American are the most endogamous group in Asian America. Further, Asian American of East Asian descent marry along lines of national origin – not along racial identity. Hierarchy among national origins count more than racial identity.

    “Can’t we finally do something — something — to end this vicious cycle of misogyny and hate?”

    Yes. I think you should start to advocate the naturalization of undocumented immigrants from Latin America. There are different very fluid systems of racial identities in Latin America. The influx of a large group of immigrants from Latin America has the potential to change the meaning of race.

    The white identity politics will try to coopt East Asian American and light-skinned Latin American as white people like they did it in the past with Eastern European, Irish and Italian folks to remain the largest voting bloc.

    Of course, you must sacrifice the black poor in the short term and black politician will mobilize racism against undocumented immigrants to protect their labour and housing market. But in the long term the fluid racial ideas in Latin America will make coalition building between People Of Colors easy.

    You simply need a new group who take your role of perpetual foreigner. I think the establishment of a new Asian American masculinity is outside of your power. The more Asian American get white collar jobs the more they will give up community concern for atomistic agendas. On the contrary, the rise of China as the main rival of the USA have the potential to bring back the yellow peril stereotypes. So I think it is the best to set a progressive agenda to uplift the status of undocumented Hispanic immigrants who already live and work among you and create a temporary inner enemy for white identity politics and get a future ally.

    Identity politics have severe limits if the group become white collar and all sub identities women, lesbian, gay, men break out of the alliance of an umbrella identity, because they get enough economic and cultural capital to advance there own agendas. Additionaly, it is not possible to socialize new immigrants into traditional identity politics if the cultural politics of their home countries get stronger with economic might and transnational cooperation build cooperate identity which rival racial identity politics. The high outmarriage rate of Asian American women diminish Asian American feminism ability to socialize a new political generation. Hapas are not reliable. Maybe only lesbian Asian American are the only reliable force left in a couple of years. That is not enough.

    I really doubt that such a heterogenous group like Asian American female can change anything. Not even the highly abled German Jewish women in Imperial Germany with their superior intelligence, economic, social and cultural capital got any chance against Aryan antisemitic sexism. And there intellectual legacy looked much better than Asian American women had produced until now.