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With courthouse violence on the rise, Men’s Rights activists continue to lionize the author of a terrorist manifesto urging men to burn down courthouses

Poster at a memorial for Tom Ball, an MRA who advocated burning down courthouses and police stations.
Poster at a memorial event for Tom Ball, an MRA who advocated burning down courthouses and police stations.

EDIT 6/15/13: Tom Ball’s manifesto is no longer posted on A Voice for Men, though it isn’t clear if this is a website glitch or a change in policy on AVFM’s part;  no announcement about taking it down has been made.

EDITED TO ADD: In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, it seems even more important to reinterate that influential Men’s Rights website A Voice for Men continues to host, in its “activism” section no less, a terrorist manifesto literally calling for the firebombing of courthouses and police stations. Until and unless that manifesto is removed, and A Voice for Men apologizes for hosting it, I will be linking to this post every time I mention A Voice for Men.

There has been another courthouse shooting. On Monday morning, the father of a man due in court for a child support hearing pulled out a semiautomatic handgun and shot his son’s ex wife and a friend of hers as they entered the lobby of the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington Delaware. After an exchange of gunfire with police that left two officers wounded, 68-year old Thomas Matusiewicz took his own life. The two women Matusiewcz shot were pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.

His son, David Matusiewcz, had earlier served time – an astonishingly short amount of time – for kidnapping his three girls and hiding out with them in Nicaragua for a year and a half. More details on the case here, here, and here; further news coverage here.

Unfortunately, despite increased security, violence in and around courthouses has been on the increase. There have been numerous courthouse shootings and other violent attacks across the country in recent months, from Texas to New York to Washington state. Sometimes the victims are family members; other times they’re prosecutors or judges.

A recent report published by the National Center for State Courts notes that

We live in a time when threats against judges and acts of violence in courthouses and courtrooms are occurring throughout the country with greater frequency than ever before. …  Individuals and groups have committed acts of violence in courthouses, often attempts to murder judicial officials, escape from custody, and disrupt or delay proceedings. Moreover, courthouses, which represent the ideals of democracy in American society, have become symbolic targets for antigovernment extremists and terrorists (domestic and international). …

In addition to shootings, bombings, and arson attacks, there have been knifings, assaults, failed bombing attempts, suicides, bomb plots, murder-for-hire conspiracies, and much more

While shootings tend to get the most media coverage, the report notes that “arson attacks, through the use of improvised incendiary devices, have increased in number and frequency.”

That’s why it’s so worrisome that A Voice for Men, the leading Men’s Rights site outside of Reddit’s Men’s Rights subreddit, continues to host a terrorist manifesto urging Men’s Rights activists to literally burn down courthouses and police stations, even if doing so means that people are killed.

The manifesto, which I have written about several times previously, was written by a troubled man (and an admitted child abuser) named Tom Ball, who burned himself to death on the steps of a courthouse in New Hampshire in hopes that his death would inspire a wave of arson against courthouses and police stations. Dictionary.com defines terrorism as “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.” And that is precisely what Ball’s manifesto advocates.

Here’s some of what he wrote, taken directly from the manifesto posted on AVFM. (I’ve put some of the more egregious passages in bold text.)

So boys, we need to start burning down police stations and courthouses. … the dirty deeds are being carried out by our local police, prosecutors and judges. These are the people we pay good money to protect us and our families. And what do we get for our tax money? Collaborators who are no different than the Vichy of France or the Quislings of Norway during the Second World War. All because they go along to get along. They are an embarrassment, the whole lot of them. And they need to be held accountable. So burn them out. …

You need to flatten them, like Wile E. Coyote. They need to be taught never to replace the rule of law. BURN-THEM-OUT!

Most of the police stations built in New England over the last 20 years are stone or brick. Fortunately, the roofs are still wood. The advantage of fire on the roof is that it is above the sprinklers. But even the sprinklers going off work to our advantage. There is no way they can work in a building with six inches of water. And I am certain we will disrupt their momentum once they start working out of a FEMA

At this point Ball’s manifesto is interrupted mid-sentence by  an “editor’s note” from the folks at AVFM:

Several paragraphs in this copy of Mr Ball’s original letter have been omitted. The omitted paragraphs contained detailed instructions on the manufacture and use of simple incendiary devices.

Yes, that’s right; Ball’s original manifesto included specific instructions for constructing effective Molotov cocktails, a pretty clear indication that there was nothing figurative about his calls to “burn them out,” and that Ball literally hoped that his death, and his manifesto, would encourage a wave of arson. Indeed, that it would be the start of a literal war of Men’s Rights Activists against the US government.

Ball made clear that this war, like all wars, would mean death for some people:

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. They harmed my children. The place is evil. So take it out.

AVFM doesn’t have this manifesto up as a historical curiousity. AVFM posts and comments have portrayed Ball as an Men’s Rights martyr, and the manifesto is listed in AVFM’s “activism” section. Apparently throwing Molotov cocktails through courthouse windows is a form of “activism.”

Now, the official stance of the AVFM crowd is that they don’t support such violence – that they’re just predicting that more of it will occur.

Site founder Paul Elam has written:

Thomas Ball represents a tragic, dysfunctional reaction to chronic, systemic abuse. There are many possible reactions. Some even worse than his. And while we cannot, must not, condone violence, we had better learn to expect it as long as an ideological war against men is allowed to make a battlefield in our justice system and within the heart of our own families.

Then why, Paul, do you feature his manifesto in your “activism” section, alongside a link to AVFM’s “Judicial Accountability Committee?” Why do you continue to lionize the man and treat him as a martyr?

In another post, Elam further explicated his most peculiar brand of “pacifism.” (Emphasis added.)

I am a pacifist. I do not advocate violence.  But I tell you this. The day I see one of these absolutely incredulous excuses for a judge dragged out of his courtroom into the street, beaten mercilessly, doused with gasoline and set afire by a father who just won’t take another moment of injustice, I will be the first to put on the pages of this website that what happened was a minor tragedy that pales by far in comparison to the systematic brutality and thuggery inflicted daily on American fathers by those courts and their police henchmen.

It would not even so much be a tragedy as the chickens coming home to roost. And it is certainly less of an indecency than the suicide of Tom Ball.

This is from a man who evidently considers himself some kind of 21st century Gandhi.

AVFM is not the only Men’s Rights site to lionize Ball; he’s been hailed by numerous MRAs, and his manifesto (in its entirely, including the Molotov cocktail portions) has been reposted all over the internet. Indeed, some MRAS have constructed an elaborate site memorializing him and his alleged heroism. A year after his death, Men’s Rights activists organized a “memorial” protest. He’s even been remembered in song.

Helen “Dr. Helen” Smith, a Men’s Rights advocate and sometime writer for the right wing PJMedia site, said this about his manifesto. (Emphasis added.)

His statement is not the ramblings of a madman, it is the mission of a warrior in some sense. He was fighting for his rights and for yours, if you are male. He was trying to bring some urgency to the male plight in this country, one that no one appreciates or cares about until they are engaged in the battle of the courts.

You can find more discussion and lionization of Ball by MRAs, Fathers’ Rights Activists and others here, here, here, here, here and here. A few minutes with Google will turn up numerous other examples.

Why do I continue to hammer on about Ball’s manifesto? Because so many in the Men’s Rights movement are motivated primarily by anger and hatred — of women, of feminists, and of those, like judges and police officers) that they see as feminist “quislings.” Because so many in the Men’s Rights movement – like the prolific writers and videomakers associated with AVFM – stoke this anger and hatred every chance they get.

It seems almost inevitable that at some point some especially angry and unbalanced Men’s Rights Activist will resort to violence – as MRAs like Elam have “predicted” again and again. (Indeed, we’re probably lucky that Ball did not choose to “take out” others before taking his own life.) This violence may well be directed against a judge or prosecutor or some other official seen as a feminist or feminist “collaborator.” When and if this violence occurs, no doubt the folks at AVFM will officially “lament” it – and then come up with elaborate explanations as to why it’s all really the fault of feminists. Indeed, in the posts of his I quoted above, Elam has already written what are in essence apologias for this violence, even before it has happened.

If the Men’s Rights movement wants to be seen as anything other than a hate group, MRAs need to stop lionizing the author of a terrorist manifesto, and they need to start criticizing those in their movement who make excuses for the violence that they so often warn us is inevitable.

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princessbonbon
8 years ago

I do not like Gov. Brewer here in AZ but her continuing veto of the guns in courtroom bills has been a good thing.

Because it is so easy for something like that shooting to happen at a court where parents are in bitter custody disputes or even just a cranky ex-boyfriend who is mad his girlfriend asked for an order of protection because “I was in love.”

cloudiah
8 years ago

I was actually surprised that the Delaware story was not pounced on by MRAs. I guess because a variation on that same sad story happens so frequently that this one passed right by them. 0_0

cloudiah
8 years ago

they need to start criticizing those in their movement who make excuses for the violence that they so often warn us is inevitable.

That won’t happen because there are too many MRAs who want there to be violence and fantasize about punishing feminists.

The violent rhetoric in the MRM isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

You know, when I think of various radicals and their groups that militarized (the Students for a Democratic Society, Black Panthers, Emma Goldman), all of the violence caused conflict within the ranks. People didn’t just overwhelmingly run with it. There were arguments, debates… and the SDS, at least, declined with the violence.

Podkayne
8 years ago

Jesus, those kids. Jesus, all their kids.

Kim
Kim
8 years ago

You need to flatten them, like Wile E. Coyote. They need to be taught never to replace the rule of law. BURN-THEM-OUT!

I do not get this bit at all… he thinks they (women? feminists? judges?) are replacing the rule of law (with what?) and the appropriate reaction is to ignore the law entirely? Like that’ll teach “them” to be more lawful?

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

What do you mean “someday”? Ball was an MRA. They didn’t just appropriate him afterwards, he was one of them.

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

I’m sure PaulE has a rage boner over this new shooting as we speak, it seems to be his default state. Pacifist, my ass.

Tulgey Logger
Tulgey Logger
8 years ago

Reason #8517847 we call the MRM an “Abuser’s Lobby”: they are so blinded by their cause that they accept Thomas Ball’s rationalizations for his abusive behavior and champion him as a martyr—all for justifiably losing custody and for owing 3,000 dollars (over ten freaking years) in child support.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Also, although his racism dominated the media coverage, Breivik was at the very least influenced by MRA ideas too. This is not a someday kind of thing – MRA ideology is already influencing people towards violence.

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

Kim: Ball and most MRAs think that feminists run the courts and the government. We are SO BUSY.

princessbonbon
8 years ago

@Kim, they think they know what the law is and therefore if the judges are not adhering to what they think the law is, the judges are not obeying the law and apparently the appropriate solution is to execute the judge rather than the somewhat more obvious solution of “ask the judicial commission to order some education of the judge.”

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

“They need to be taught never to replace the rule of law.”

Say the men who think “law” means “Committing rape and murder are my rights as a man.”

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

That is a unique interpretation of the term “rule of law”. As is, the law says that if you abuse your kids then the kids can be removed from your custody. Judges who deny custody to parents who’ve, say, smacked their toddler so hard that she bled are enforcing the rule of law. It’s just that the laws don’t say what MRAs think that they should.

aworldanonymous
8 years ago

This is where MRAs start to get scary, like it’s fun and all to laugh at their ineptitude as a movement but holy shit, they can get violent, and when they do, you get stuff like this. I can only hope somehow there will be a way to reduce incidents like this but I don’t know.

Deoridhe
8 years ago

Those poor families and those poor, poor children. I am just horrified by this – so horrified and saddened and just… those poor families. Those poor children. I can’t even imagine.

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

Not hard to see where the brute of a father learned his ideas, is it? Like father like son in this case. And how caring both father and grandfather were about those children. No, it’s all about ownership and punishment of women. It’s ownership of children, too, of course – I wonder if they’re being punished too, or are just things, objects to be taken away from the misbehaving woman? These men never seem to have any time for their children until they’re the custody-dispute pawns.

Kim
Kim
8 years ago

I wonder if the grandfather thought that his son would get custody of the kids if he killed their mother. I wonder if he will. That would be such a bad precedent.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Do we have anyone who specializes in family law? Hopefully there’s someone else in the family who custody can go to so the choice isn’t between dad the kidnapper and foster care.

princessbonbon
8 years ago

If the mother had a will with directions on who would get custody, that person otherwise I could see it easily being her parents if still living or a sibling.

nerdypants
nerdypants
8 years ago

I wonder if the grandfather thought that his son would get custody of the kids if he killed their mother.

I was just thinking that. The elder told others that he was convinced that his ex-daughter in law was abusing the children and taking drugs. The grandmother of the children helped the father kidnap the kids. It sounds like their final effort to get the children off the mother and in the custody of the father. I wonder if that would be even permitted given the kidnapping?

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

I really hate the way “on drugs” is used as a catchall to mean “unfit parent”. There’s a big difference between someone who smokes weed occasionally and someone who has a serious heroin habit, in terms of their ability to be responsible for a child.

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

Not least when it comes from a family that apparently thinks kidnapping and murder are just fine dandy.

Amused
8 years ago

Shorter Elam: “I don’t have the guts to commit an act of terrorism in the name of my ideology, but I’d love it if someone else did.”

Kiwi girl
Kiwi girl
8 years ago

I’m Not A Lawyer, but if an MRA did commit this type of act after visiting AVfM, wouldn’t Elam be able to be (at least) conspiracy? Given the AVfM penchant for supporting i- if not outright advocating – terrorism, surely they would already be monitored by law enforcement? Domestic sabotage, which I thought this type of act would fall under (both the assassination of judicial officials and firebombing courts), appears to fall under the auspices of the Homeland Security Act 2002.

Shaenon
8 years ago

According to the USA Today article, the kidnapping happened when kids’ dad picked the girls up, claiming they were going to Disney World, then told them their mother had committed suicide. That’s…I’m just sitting here boiling with rage at the thought of an adult telling children a lie that callous and cruel. That’s beyond being an unfit parent. That’s evil.

Oh, and in addition to the kidnapping stuff, he also forged his wife’s name to get a $249,000 loan. So a class act all around.

Peter
8 years ago

This is more or less what I pointed to when the post-Newtown talk moved from blaming guns to blaming mental health, en route to blaming the news media, then (briefly) entertainment media. I believe, currently, Newtown is being blamed on Jane Addison, 26, or Prudence, IN.

To wit, we have an issue with real, actual violence, and the extraordinary lengths to which we’re willing to go to excuse open threats of violence from economically comfortable white men. Every aspect of American culture is currently dealing with some variant of the idea that certain people are entitled to get what they want, and it’s unfortunate but reasonable that they engage in terrorism to get it.

Related, for reasons that might not be apparent, because they might not actually exist. But I find it instructive to the mindset. (Oh, if there happen to be any neo-Confederate feminists on the site: sorry if you feel I’m painting you with too broad a brush, but seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you? You must get in extremely confusing political arguments.)

pecunium
8 years ago

The grandmother apparently believes the mother had planned (from their birth) to sell them as, “white babies” to someone in Central America, or a pedophile(for $50,000 each).

At least this is the story she told when her son was caught trying to kidnap them (and, so it seems, take them to Central America).

pecunium
8 years ago

Kiwi Girl: No. More than the NY Times would be. Elam would have to engage in direct communication, and directly advocate something, with someone who took a concrete action to further the conspiracy.

Kiwi girl
Kiwi girl
8 years ago

pecunium: if the action was limited to enabling the two people to meet via his site, is there a charge that could be laid?

BritterSweet
BritterSweet
8 years ago

Horrible. This is just so horrible…

I wonder if this will ever be brought to the public attention, especially since the SPLC already labeled the MRM a hate group.

katz
8 years ago

Poor kids 🙁

Tulgey Logger
Tulgey Logger
8 years ago

I wonder if this will ever be brought to the public attention, especially since the SPLC already labeled the MRM a hate group.

Not really. They just called it out in their Intelligence Report.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_organizations_designated_by_the_Southern_Poverty_Law_Center_as_hate_groups

Serjeant Grumbles
8 years ago

Cats like cheese:comment image

Argenti Aertheri
Argenti Aertheri
8 years ago

For all I’ve seen on this, it’s like the media outlets insist on trying to play to “both sides” like there’s a goddamned side to “he killed his ex daughter in law and a friend over child support” (yeah, it wasn’t a custody hearing, the hearing was over unpaid child support // slavery // holy shit is this an MRM talking point)

Tulgey Logger
Tulgey Logger
8 years ago

Transmission to: All Cats
Subject: I like you

Text:

I like you.

End Transmission.

I like cats.

cloudiah
8 years ago

Fuck off, Grumbles. Do you even read the original post? A man killed two women and left three kids without a fit parent. You asshat. You are not our friend, no matter how many cat pictures you post. Go away.

And yeah, I wish this was the first time we’ve encountered this kind of violence. Do not click on this if you are triggered by stories of family violence. (This is a particularly horrible instance.)

How terrible is this world that I think, at least this man didn’t actually murder his granddaughters, only his daughter-in-law and her friend/neighbor.

This is the world that AVfM is building. It ain’t anything new; they just want to make it acceptable.

I am sad.

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

Not even a comment, not even an “Oh god I need brain bleach” from Grumbles – he even manages to make posting pictures of cats a non sequitur.

Piss off, you’re really not welcome here. Nobody likes you. What kind of jackass has to hang out in a place they know they’re not wanted? It’s not like there aren’t a million other internet sites you could go to.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

It takes special talent to make this group of people respond negatively to kitty pictures.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Maybe he just can’t think of anyplace else to talk to people about cats? In which case, here you go, a present.

http://www.catster.com/

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

It takes special talent to make this group of people respond negatively to kitty pictures.

Even Lord High Admiral Sir Montgomery Marmaduke Creighton-Pell didn’t manage that. We just laughed at him even more.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

You need to flatten them, like Wile E. Coyote.

…ineptly and in such a way that they’ll appear in 2D briefly and then pop back up with a “sproing” sound and get their own back in some zany slapstick manner?

BritterSweet
BritterSweet
8 years ago

I hope I’m at least talented enough to make all these kitten-lovers like big dogs too.

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

We love big dogs too, Brittersweet! Big, small, we love all sorts of animals here. 🙂

That St Bernard is gorgeous.

lowquacks
lowquacks
8 years ago

Actually, Wile E. Coyote’s probably more competent than the MR “movement”. Something tells me The Spearhead or /r/mr or AVFM would find a picture of a smiling woman in the ACME catalogue, decide it’s evidence of misandry, whine about it on blogs for a few years, decide to order a rocket from there anyway, hear it’s out of stock and has been for months, blame the feminist cultural marxist conspiracy, and go back to angry blogging.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

My favorite of the giant breeds – Newfies! They love kids.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Link.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

They’re amazingly patient with babies – this one doesn’t even belong to the same family as the baby.

For extra cute, Newfie gets a kitten.

The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

OMG Harry is enormous! He’s like a bear with a tail.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

Having a Newfie is like having a bear that doesn’t want to eat you, and that can rescue you if you’re drowning.

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