On Friday evening in the residential neighbourhood of Isla Vista in Santa Barbara, California, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger stabbed his three young Asian American housemates – George Chen, 19 , Weihan “David” Wang, 20, and Chen Yuan “James” Hong, 20 – to death while they slept. Rodger then drove his luxury BMW coupe to the Alpha Phi sorority where he opened fire with two legally purchased handguns on three female passersby; two – Katherine Cooper, 22 and Veronica Weiss, 19 – were killed, while a third is recovering in hospital. Rodger proceeded to the nearby I.V. Deli Mart and fired randomly into the store, killing Christopher Michael-Martinez, 20. He then drove through the streets of Isla Vista, shooting randomly at pedestrians and striking two cyclists with his car; by the end of the night, he had wounded 13. A brief firefight ensued between him and sheriff deputies, which ended when Rodger crashed his car into another vehicle. Rodger was found dead in the drivers’ seat of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
I have over the last four days stayed silent on the UCSB shooting as I tried to parse my own thoughts on Friday’s violent attack. I watched some of the YouTube videos and read Rodger’s manifesto.
In the end, I couldn’t shake the same chilling reaction I felt when I first read about Friday night’s violence: I had seen Elliot Rodger’s brand of radical hatred before. I had seen it within the comments section of my own site for a decade. I had seen it from members of my own community.
Artist David Choe is a local Los Angeles-area celebrity, who made his name as the artist who painted a mural for the small office of a little-known start-up called Facebook and who was paid by the man who hired him (Mark Zuckberg) in company stock; when the company went public in 2012, Choe became instantly independently wealthy with an estimated net worth of over $200 million dollars. Choe, who has collaborated frequently with Asian American magazine Giant Robot, also painted a portrait of newly-elected President Barack Obama that was chosen to hang in the White House.
Beyond his artwork, Choe also has aspirations of being a celebrity personality (i.e. “a person famous for being famous”): between 2007-2010, Choe co-hosted a web series called “Thumbs Up!” which followed his adventures hitchhiking across the country, and currently Choe co-hosts a podcast (available in both audio and video) called DVDASA with porn star Asa Akira, which is basically a poor man’s Asian American version of the Howard Stern Show.