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Might is Right: Inside the Gilroy shooter’s borrowed manifesto

By David Futrelle

Like the Christchurch shooter, like Elliot Rodger, like countless other mass killers, the shooter who took three young lives at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California yesterday seems to have left behind a manifesto.

But it’s not his manifesto; it’s borrowed from a pseudonymous 19th century paean to “survival of the fittest.” Before launching his assault at the food festival, alleged shooter Santino William Legan posted a message on his Instagram account urging everyone to “Read ‘Might Is Right’ by Ragnar Redbeard.”

The book in question, first published in 1890, is an over-the-top, sometimes comically so, explication of the simple, and simplistic, idea encapsulated in its title; it’s been in and out of print for more than a century and is now readily available on the internet for free. The prose is ponderous and purple — “Redbeard” specializes in the sort of bombastic rhetoric that has an irresistible allure for many on the far right — but the ideas are easy enough to understand. It’s basically Nietzsche for Dummies.

The victor gets the gold and the land every time. He, also, gets the fairest maidens, the glory tributes. And — why should it be otherwise? Why should the delights of life go to failures and cowards? Why should the spoils of battle belong to the unwarlike?That would be insanity, utterly unnatural and immoral.

Imagine that stretched out over, say, 180 pages, with heaping helpings of racism and antisemitism on the side, and you’ve got Might is Right. Alongside its glorification of the powerful, the book is filled with snide asides about the “simian disposition” of “the Negro” and regular rants about the “usurious Jew.” (Redbeard is also pretty virulently anti-Christian, but mainly because Jesus was a Jew who liked to talk about the meek inheriting the earth.)

Naturally, the book has become a favorite of many in the manosphere and (of course) on the alt-right. It’s gotten shoutouts everywhere from the MGTOW subreddit (where one commenter hailed it as “the most important book out there”) to Incels.co (where it was described as “the most blackpilled and inflamatory book ever”); you can find it being recommended both by the old-school racists of the Vanguard News Network and by the relatively newfangled reactionaries of the Red Pill and DarkEnlightenment subreddits, not to mention 4chan’s /pol/. Before his recent (alleged) conversion to Orthodox Christianity, our old friend fiend Roosh V wrote a largely appreciative “review” of it.

It’s not clear where Legan ran across the book; it could have been almost anywhere. A better question might be: what exactly is it about this 129-year-old book that would appeal to a 19-year-old like Legan? And the answer to that, I think, is relatively straightforward: if you strip away the purple prose and the sometimes archaic references, what Redbeard preaches isn’t that terribly different from the contemporary ideologies of the manosphere and the alt-right.

Nowhere is that clearer — to me at least — than in the final chapter, in which Redbeard takes on the so-called “woman question” and delivers answers that would not seem out of place in Reddit’s the Red Pill.

As he sees it, women are naturally attracted to the most macho of men, those who can both take and deliver a punch, quite literally, as

fighting is the method whereby the most fitted to propagate conclusively prove the fact. …

Women instinctively admire soldiers, athletes, kings, nobles, and fighting-men generally, above all other kinds of suitors — and rightly so.

Nothing so lowers a lover in a virile maiden’s estimation, than for him to be ‘whipped’ in a personal encounter with a rival. …

Young women have an instinctive detestation for the ‘good young man that died’ kind of adorer, and they positively abhor the pale coward … Strength, energy-of-character, ferocity, and courage, she admires in her possible husband, above all other qualities combined. Even to be carried-off by force, is not repugnant to her feelings, if the ‘bold bad man’ is in other respects acceptable.

She pines to be ‘wooed and won,’ … she likes to feel that she has been mastered, conquered, taken possession of—that the man who has stormed her heart is in all respects, a man among men.

Nature, in other words, is an unending battle of Alpha Chads vs obsequious Beta soyboys — and Chad always wins, even if (perhaps especially if) he skips past romance and resorts to brute force to win his fair lady.

Change a few words in Redbeard’s text and you basically have a post on the Red Pill subreddit. Everything new in Red Pill ideology is actually quite old. Indeed, Redbeard even refers to sexual “market value,” an idea that many modern pickup artists think they came up with.

It’s impossible to know — at least given the scant information we now have — what in particular about Rebeard’s book most appealed to Legan, or how exactly the book may have played a role in inspiring his killings.

If he was trying to become the Redbeardian “man among men” that women instinctively hunger for (allegedly), I’m not sure than gunning down a six-year-old is going to earn him the posthumous adoration he may have wanted. It seems more likely he was hoping to garner the admiration of incels and others who are impressed by mass murderers. He may have been less interested in Redbeard’s specific ideas than in the amoral almost-nihilism that permeates the book.

We don’t know. We may never know. An alienated young man read read a really shitty book he (almost certainly) found on the internet and liked it so much he decided to make it the “message” behind his mass shooting. Now three innocents are dead, and so is the shooter himself, gunned down by police shortly after starting his rampage, and the biggest clue we have right now as to his motives is a terrible book from more than a century ago. Ideas have consequences; very bad ideas have very bad consequences.

Send tips to dfutrelle at gmail dot com.

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Gaebolga
Gaebolga
1 year ago

@Pyxxxie

If gun control laws don’t work, why did the Gilroy fuckstain have to go to Nevada to get a gun? He could just as easily have gotten some from the Russian mafia, right?

…and in a similar vein, why do we even bother to have laws against murder, when it’s still going to happen anyway, right? Murder laws are obviously ineffective.

@Lainy

Weirdly enough, I got into an argument with some online dipshit after the Aurora movie theatre shooting back in 2012 who tried to claim that knives/swords were more dangerous and effective than guns (as a way of saying we shouldn’t regulate guns, of course).

He discovered that his arguments were both unpersuasive and easy to counter, but in fairness, he was a complete moron.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

And you pyxxxie just want to make it easier for assholes to kill as many people at they want. And you didn’t express skepticism you flat out said it doesn’t work despite evidence and that it doesn’t matter what anyone does because people will smuggle them so let’s not have any gun laws. Be the wild west for all you care right? Let’s shoot people in the street at noon and get away with it because it was duel. You fucking chicken shit. When you bring shit like that on a thread like this yeah I will call you names because it’s what you deserve.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

And sierously what is it with every troll that when I swear they suddenly like “that invalidates your argument little lady. Clearly your hysterical”. Is it because my username is female? Is that why pyxxie, yutz and bsts talk to me like this?

Violet the Vile, Moonbat Screech Junky
Violet the Vile, Moonbat Screech Junky
1 year ago

@Alan

Thanks, that was really interesting!

cubist
1 year ago

The “Some Asshole” Initiative was presented in The Non-Adventures of Wonderella.

Gaebolga
Gaebolga
1 year ago

Lainy wrote:

And sierously what is it with every troll that when I swear they suddenly like “that invalidates your argument little lady. Clearly your hysterical”. Is it because my username is female?

While your username may be a factor for some of the trolls, there’s also this weird belief that logic and emotion are somehow opposite ends of a spectrum, with the implication being that if someone gets upset or angry, they can’t make a logical argument.

Which is bullshit.

But hey, when has that ever gotten in the way of a troll?

Pyxxxie
Pyxxxie
1 year ago

I am not the one who even brought up gun control. Someone else did in order to make the case that my idea wouldn’t work despite the fact that it hasn’t been tried.

Getting pussy with me doesn’t convince me that you’re right and I’m wrong.

Pyxxxie
Pyxxxie
1 year ago

Actually, someone tried to argue my idea wouldn’t work despite having never been tried here in the US. And then resorted to the gun control argument.

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

@Pyxxxie
Not all ideas need to be tried to know they won’t work. And yes, we resumed our argument about gun control because that is how debate works.

@kupo, Lainy, Gaebolga
This isn’t the first time Pyxxxie has acted this way. I recall a while ago something similar happened. I’ll look for the thread later.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

Yeah, gun smuggling between countries happens. But it’s harder to obtain an illegal gun in a country with strict gun control laws than it is to drive to a gun show and drive back to the city with a trunk full of guns.

Do you really think there’s no difference between a gun crossing state lines and a gun crossing international borders?

I can’t even.

kupo
kupo
1 year ago

@Pyxxxie
Fuck off.

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

@naglfar

I don’t think pyxxxie has ever been here in good faith. Hell a little while ago they got all patronizing when I made a comment about being afraid of the world my kids will have to grow up in. Nothing directed at them or anyone but they had to try and make me feel small because I expressed a fear. Then when called out they went “sorry but maybe you shouldn’t call me names in other threads then what I said problematic or offensive bullshit”

Beyond Ocean
Beyond Ocean
1 year ago

The Russian mafia in particular is involved in gun smuggling and brought illegal firearms into western European countries.

Well shit. Pyxxxie just obliterated the gun control argument with only a single completely unbacked claim. It turns out every other teenager in Europe has a black market Russian gun.

So what other explanation could there be for that astronomical difference in gun violence between USA and the rest of the world?

Could it be the refusal to adopt the metric system?

/s

Lainy
Lainy
1 year ago

Could it be the refusal to adopt the metric system?

I personally think it’s our removal of pointless vowels from words. Like the word labor for example.

Gaebolga
Gaebolga
1 year ago

Lainy wrote:

I personally think it’s our removal of pointless vowels from words. Like the word labor for example.

Well, gun violence and mass shootings have increased dramatically since we got rid of the “e” at the end of every word….

Except at Ren Faires.

The prosecution rests!

Mabret the Virile Maiden
Mabret the Virile Maiden
1 year ago

Wherefore, I propoſe, that whereas in former daies were fewer gonnes than exiſt to day; whereas we haue left the right and beſte ſyſteme for writynge the Engliſh tongue, in favoure of final eſſes ſtrawed reckleſſlie through out all Texte; whereas this hath occurred togeather with dailie groſſe ſlaughter, lette vs return to that proper ſyſteme, even that Orthographie, of our natiue Tongue, (this propoſall beeynge writ in that verie ſyſtem,) that haplie God mighte iudge vs in Mercie, and not in Wrath, and that we maie putte a ſwifte Ende to our bloodie Deathes.

Mabret the Virile Maiden
Mabret the Virile Maiden
1 year ago

Alas, I miſſpelled mine appeale! “Favoure” ſhoulde bee “fauoure”!

Moon_custafer
Moon_custafer
1 year ago

Mabret wins today’s Internet. Also, where’d you manage to find those ſs?

Shadowplay
1 year ago

Mabret

Thank you. The laugh were much needed.

SadOldGuy
SadOldGuy
1 year ago

Don’t these “supermen” have times when they are vunerable to a successful attack by a “weakling”? Like when sleeping? Or eating? etc. How sad a life when you know no one will watch your back.

Mabret (née Laugher at Bigots)
Mabret (née Laugher at Bigots)
1 year ago

@Moon_custafer

I run Linux, and I have chosen one of the keys on my keyboard to be a “compose” key. The key sequence “compose f s” yields a long s.

Catalpa
Catalpa
1 year ago

@Pyxxxie

I can’t help but notice you didn’t respond to my post, you know, the one with hard numbers and statistics.

You say that people who want to murder will murder no matter what.

How do you explain the fact that the murder rate in the USA is 3 times that of Canada’s, 4 times that of the UK’s and 7 times that of Australia’s, which are all wealthy countries with much stricter gun control laws?

You say that they’ll just get guns on the black market.

Then why is the rate of gun violence in countries with stricter gun control laws exponentially lower than the rate of gun violence in the States? If the guns are available regardless of the laws, surely the laws should make no difference?

Rabid Rabbit
Rabid Rabbit
1 year ago

@Catalpa:

As I recall, Doonesbury‘s Mr. Dum-Dum argued it was because people in those countries are wimpier than Americans.

Someone upthread mentioned how most of the guns used in crimes in Mexico come from the States. I keep hoping the Mexican government will raise an eyebrow at Trump & co and say “OK, sure, we’ll stop sending migrants and drugs when you stop sending guns,” just so we can watch Republican heads explode.

Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
Rhuu - apparently an illiterati
1 year ago

I enjoyed the russian mafia argument, after it was pointed out how many gun crimes are commited in Canada (and apparently Mexico!) with American guns.

The rest of North America doesn’t need the Russians to cross oceans, we can just go to the states.

I mean, seriously!

I boggles my mind that anyone could actuallt think gun control doesn’t work, when it obviously does???? Like??????

tim gueguen
1 year ago

Gun smuggling from the US is still a major problem in Canada, but we’re also seeing more people assembling guns out of legally acquired and illegally made parts, and more people with gun licenses buying guns to sell illegally to others.
https://www.cbc.ca/news/national-gun-trafficking-straw-buying-smuggling-firearms-1.5126228

But what Pyxxxie is trying to do is use a variation on what I call the perfect law argument. People using such arguments claim that we shouldn’t bother with new gun control laws, because criminals will just ignore them. Of course this happens with all laws, so by that reasoning we shouldn’t bother with any new laws. You can’t create a law that someone of bad intent won’t break.

Crip Dyke
Crip Dyke
1 year ago

You can’t create a law that someone of bad intent won’t break.

???

No dumping biological waste on the surfaces of exoplanets without a permit.

Not that your actual point isn’t well taken, but this was one of the laws I drafted for a statutory interpretation and drafting class. I submit that even if my prof had submitted it to the provincial legislature and gotten it passed that we wouldn’t have any violators during the lifetime of British Columbia as a political jurisdiction.

Violet the Vile, Moonbat Screech Junky
Violet the Vile, Moonbat Screech Junky
1 year ago

@Mabret

Hahaha!

Damn I wish this site had a like button. I would like that so hard

Big Titty Demon
Big Titty Demon
1 year ago

@Mabret

That’s the hardest I’ve laughed on WHTM. Genius. <3

Citerior Motive
Citerior Motive
1 year ago

I would guess he assumed that ‘virile’ simply meant ‘youthful’, as that’s a sense in which it is frequently applied to men.

Hambeast
Hambeast
1 year ago

Actually, I rather like the idea of a virile maiden.

Cat Mara
Cat Mara
1 year ago

@Mabret: Ƿhy ‌ſtop at ðe lonȝ “‌ſ”, for‌ſooþ? It ƿere clear to all, in mine oƿn opinion, that nauȝht but ðe ba‌ſe‌ſt villainie hað attended ðe ‌ſpeakers of ðe Enȝlisc tunȝ ‌ſince ðis bu‌ſine‌ſs ƿiþ “th” for good “þorn” & “eð”, “double you” for “ƿynn” & “g” for “yoȝh”! Haue ðe burȝhers of Iceland, ƿho yet vse ðe‌ſe letters, ‌ſuffered ‌ſuch calamities? I think not!

Cat Mara
Cat Mara
1 year ago

@Citerior Motive: A bit like the way people think “nubile” means “hot” when all it really meant in Latin was “of marriagable age”…

Mabret the Virile Maiden
Mabret the Virile Maiden
1 year ago

@Cat Mara:

I applaude thee and curtſey to thee for thyne own greatere commitmente to the pureſt Forme of the Englyshe Tongue; howbeit I grieue ſorelie, that I can not purſue it ſo fullie, for ſith. 50. yeeres hath my Printere diſcarded his ſortes Wynne and Ethe, and ſith. 200. yeeres his Ioghes. By God his Grace, my Printer may haue Thornes hoarded awaie in ſome cloſette or Tronke. I ſhall ſpeake withe hym on the matter.

Cat Mara
Cat Mara
1 year ago

@Mabret: I fully intend to switch to runes for maximum linguistic purity, once I figure out how to load a standing stone into my laser printer…

Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
1 year ago

once I figure out how to load a standing stone into my laser printer…

Since Old English orthography was apparently quite variable, you could try scanning the runic inscription from several different Angles?

Pedantic Speaker
Pedantic Speaker
1 year ago

“It’s basically Nietzsche for Dummies.”
“Imagine that stretched out over, say, 180 pages, with heaping helpings of racism and antisemitism on the side, and you’ve got Might is Right. Alongside its glorification of the powerful, the book is filled with snide asides about the “simian disposition” of “the Negro” and regular rants about the “usurious Jew.” (Redbeard is also pretty virulently anti-Christian, but mainly because Jesus was a Jew who liked to talk about the meek inheriting the earth.)”
Please do not slander a dead man.
Nietzsche actually hated anti-semitism and ethnonationalism with a passion. It was his Nazi-supporting sister who was the anti-semite and “Aryan”-supremacist.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/7018535/Criminal-manipulation-of-Nietzsche-by-sister-to-make-him-look-anti-Semitic.html

Personally, I am also at least 80% sure that Nietzsche was not obsessed with martial prowess like Redbeard was, and was more in favour of artistry.

Cat Mara
Cat Mara
1 year ago

@Lumipuna: Verily, I see what thou didst there 😉.

I think it depends on which era one is talking about. Middle English was definitely a mess– the language was going through what is probably its most rapid change at that point, of which the Great Vowel Shift, whose effects are still seen in today’s spelling, was only a small part. Couple this with the language’s loss of prestige post-Conquest and dueling conventions depending on whether scribes were native- or Norman-taught (leading to things like though/ through/ enough), and the result was, as you say, variable (to say the least!). But Old English was a different matter: there were quite well-defined conventions then for writing the language and these represented the sounds of the language with a fidelity that hasn’t been seen in English since. The regional variations in spelling in the Old English corpus that we see most likely reflected actual local differences in pronunciation. I believe the consensus among linguists is that “Old English” was much more of a continuum of overlapping and mostly-but-not-quite-entirely mutually intelligible dialects than Modern English, to the point where, say, a Northumbrian would have had quite some difficulty understanding a Kentish speaker (and vice versa), much more so than, say, a US English and a UK English speaker today.

That’s enough language-nerding for one night (niȝt?) 😉

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
1 year ago

@ cat mara

That’s enough language-nerding for one night (niȝt?) 😉

Never! It ain’t over until someone recounts Caxton’s ‘egges’ vs ‘eyren’ story.

Feline
Feline
1 year ago

Never! It ain’t over until someone recounts Caxton’s ‘egges’ vs ‘eyren’ story.

Weird how I got that reference as I was reading it (being swedish, for those unaware). Just might be that I learned it here, though, since this is one of my avenues for learning oddities.

Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
1 year ago

There is no such thing as enough language nerding!!

Braniac113
Braniac113
1 year ago

“Theeereeee once was a hero named Ragnar the Red….” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU0M78oB0dA

Sorry, it’s the one thing that kept running through my mind every time I saw his name. Either someone at Bethesda went Deep Reference or it’s one of the funniest coincidences I’ve seen this week.

Especially as Ragnar’s braggadocio ends when his “ugly red head rolled around on the floor”.

Cat Mara
Cat Mara
1 year ago

Not language nerding, but historical/ genealogical nerding for a change: TIL that one of my distant relatives/ ancestors was apparently the first person in Ireland to be tortured on a rack! I’m sure he was thrilled to be afforded such an opportunity 🙄

Greebos left eye
Greebos left eye
1 year ago

Come for the misogyny, stay for the language nerdery. I knew there was a reason I kept coming back to this site despite the way it messes with my brain weasels.

Apropos of nothing: Northumbrians and Kentishmen still struggle to understand each other.

My internal language geek is jumping up and down shouting “Someone tell Caxton’s egges and eyren story”. While squealing loudly.

Also, Lumipuna: I groaned at that joke and yet it’s still making me giggle.

On the topic of the OP. I got nothing, except, it’s got to be a satire piece, surely no one can take that nonsense seriously, not even in 1896 can they?

Every mass shooting hurts, those poor people!