In June, a man named Thomas Ball took his own life – literally lighting himself ablaze – outside of a Keane, New Hampshire courthouse. He left behind a manifesto protesting his treatment by the family court.
But Ball wanted to do more than protest what he felt were injustices against men. He hoped to inspire other men to take the law into their own hands; in his words “we need to start burning down police stations and courthouses.”
He wasn’t speaking figuratively: he was talking about real violence.
[T]he dirty deeds are being carried out by our local police, prosecutors and judges. … Collaborators who are no different than the Vichy of France or the Quislings of Norway during the Second World War. … And they need to be held accountable. So burn them out. …
Ball went on to offer specific advice on how to construct the most effective Molotov cocktails to lob at courthouses and police stations.
Nor did he seem overly concerned that people would be killed:
There will be some casualties in this war. Some killed, some wounded, some captured. Some of them will be theirs. Some of the casualties will be ours. …
I only managed to get the main door of the Cheshire County Courthouse in Keene, NH. I would appreciate it if some of you boys would finish the job for me.
Ball has been treated as a martyr by many Men’s Right’s Activists online; his manifesto – including those parts that explicitly call for terrorism – has been reposted on a number of MRA sites.
Why am I bringing up Ball? This is why:
On Tuesday, an Arkansas man reportedly entered the office of the judge that had presided over his divorce and custody hearings, and opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle. Amazingly, no one died as a result of his rampage, aside from the gunman himself, James Ray Palmer, who was taken down by police in a gun battle outside the courthouse, according to news accounts. The judge, fortunately, was not there, and the gunman’s rifle apparently jammed. Before heading to the courthouse, authorities say, Palmer set his own home on fire with timed incendiary devices.
Was Palmer inspired directly by Ball’s manifesto? We don’t know. The judge in this case was by no means the first to be targeted by a man angry at the outcome of his divorce or custody case. Judges were receiving death threats – and in some cases actually being murdered – long before there was such a thing as the Men’s Rights movement online.
But talk of violence is common on Men’s Rights sites. Opponents of the Men’s Rights movement are denounced as “collaborators,” while others talk plainly about fighting a “war” against feminism. Angry Harry, a British MRA revered by many of his ideological compatriots on this side of the pond, has offered an explicit apologia for violence against family court judges.
Even if Palmer himself was not directly influenced by the MRM online—as of yet, we don’t know — it is only a matter of time until some unbalanced person steeped in the violent rhetoric of the MRM online decides to “finish the job” started by Thomas Ball. It is only a matter of time until those espousing such rhetoric have real blood on their hands.
If the MRM truly aspires to be a real civil rights movement, rather than a reactionary hate sect more redolent of the KKK than of MLK, moderate MRAs need to step up and speak out against the bullies and the would-be warriors. They need to stop canonizing violent-minded men like Ball. They need to make clear that violent rhetoric – not to mention specific threats or calls to terrorism – have no place in the movement.
Do I expect this to happen? No. I think instead we will get more excuses, more evasions, more apologias for violence — and more threatening talk.