Men’s Rights Groups in a Panic Over Wild Murders

·9 min read
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty

Members of the so-called “men’s rights” movement want to get one thing straight: while a prominent member allegedly killed a judge’s son, seriously wounded her husband, and was implicated in the killing of another activist, it should not reflect badly on their community.

In fact, the most deranged strand of the insular crowd’s alternately panicked and dismissive reaction to a bizarre internal beef spilling out into spectacular murders was the idea that all the shootings were a conspiracy to make men’s rights activists look bad.

Roy Den Hollander, 72, is accused of targeting the family of a judge who was presiding over one of his many “anti-feminist” legal crusades. Den Hollander, who raged against U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in online screeds, allegedly visited Salas’ house Sunday evening, fatally shooting her son and leaving her husband in critical condition.

Den Hollander, who was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, is also being eyed in the recent killing of Marc Angelucci, a rival men’s rights crusader and vice-president of the group National Coalition for Men in California. As The Daily Beast first reported, Den Hollander was placed in the state at the time of Angelucci’s death, with the FBI later confirming he had been linked to the slaying.

The slew of shootings are the latest in a pattern of violence to emerge from the “manosphere,” a sprawling misogynist movement, and it would be a stretch to expect much actual soul-searching from Den Hollander’s fellow travelers. Still, conversations with observers of the misogynist community—and a trawl of its forums, videos, and publications—painted a picture of a subculture in turmoil.

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The day after the attack on Salas’ family, three prominent “men’s rights” activists (MRAs) uploaded a YouTube video “in anticipation of the shitstorm that will probably be coming our way.”

“Here comes the fake news, folks,” Paul Elam, a prominent MRA said in the Monday video. “It is on the way, they are setting the narrative now that AVFM [A Voice for Men] and the men’s rights movement is a violent movement.”

When Angelucci was gunned down on his doorstep earlier this month, some fans speculated that he’d been targeted by someone opposed to his ideology. So when Den Hollander emerged as the likely killer, MRAs had to pivot. Some held the conspiratorial line, arguing even more fiercely that Den Hollander wasn’t the killer. Others (like Elam, who claimed the conspiratorial group made MRAs look bad) said Den Hollander wasn’t a true MRA, so Angelucci’s blood was not on the movement’s hands.

Across the men’s rights internet, people worried that the murders would make their movement look bad. “This is a damn shame,” one Redditor wrote. “NCFM was making a difference and now this shit has blown up and is going to be used to tarnish men’s rights. Fuck this dude.”

Others turned to internal bickering. “STOP FUCKING MAKING EVERYTHING ABOUT WOMEN,” one men’s rights Redditor chastised another, who’d acknowledged that Den Hollander was a misogynist. “Female victimhood narratives are the worst.”

In more than 10,000 pages of PDFs uploaded to the internet, Den Hollander laid out a misogynistic worldview aligned with the men’s rights movement, which bills itself as a counterweight to feminism. Although the two overlap occasionally—many feminists agree with MRAs that male victims of sexual assault require more resources, or that military drafts pose civil rights issues—the men’s rights movement claims that men are more oppressed than women, or that women are their oppressors.

Den Hollander espoused many of those views in sexist writings about judges, in his crusades against “ladies’ nights” at bars and women’s studies programs, and in articles he pitched to the prominent men’s rights website AVFM.

Despite those ties, MRAs quickly took to damage control—seeking their distance from the accused killer.

Among MRAs’ disavowals were frequent nods to part of Den Hollander’s manifesto, where he described the movement as “wimps and whiners” who didn’t take their mission far enough. Still, Den Hollander’s activism was closely tied with some of the movement’s biggest names.

Elam, who declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment, was irate that the media had noted an essay Den Hollander penned for AVFM in 2010. The essay ended on a now-prophetic note:

“There is one remaining source of power in which men still have a near monopoly—firearms,” Den Hollander wrote in the essay, which claimed men were actually an oppressed population. “At some point, the men in this country will take the Declaration of Independence literally: ‘[W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new guards for their future security.’”

AVFM disavowed Den Hollander in a post this week, claiming that he was not an MRA. He had tried to pitch another essay to the site, AVFM claimed, but Elam said he rejected it as too violent, citing a line that stated “the best way to protect men’s rights is with a gun.”

Other MRA types also said Den Hollander had become a loose cannon. Although he was previously affiliated with the National Coalition For Men, he had come to odds with the group, and Angelucci in particular.

Den Hollander and Angelucci had filed similar lawsuits opposing the all-male draft. But Angelucci’s was more successful (a fact Den Hollander blamed on Salas). When Angelucci filed his lawsuit, Den Hollander became violent, the NCFM’s president, Harry Crouch told The New York Times.

“He threatened to come to California to kick my ass,” Crouch said. In his own writings, Den Hollander accused the NCFM of not going far enough in its mission.

But those recent interpersonal rifts stemmed from a shared ideology. As anti-MRA blog We Hunted The Mammoth reported, Elam previously heaped praise on Den Hollander.

“At the risk of digression, let me also say as much as I loathe the idea of anyone claiming authority on what a ‘real’ man is, if I had to venture a guess, it would be men like Hollander,” Elam wrote in a now-deleted AVFM post in 2011.

The MRA circles that Den Hollander frequented are just one portion of the “manosphere,” a misogynistic scene that also includes “incels” (men who aren’t having sex and are seethingly angry about it), “pickup artists,” male supremacists, and various unsorted sexists.

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“There are different loci of activism,” in the manosphere, Julia DeCook, a fellow at the Institute for Research on Male Supremacism, which studies men’s movements and misogyny, told The Daily Beast. “Incels don’t really advocate for much besides hurting women, or that they’re entitled to sex, whereas the men’s rights movement tries to advocate for things like father’s rights, anti male circumcision. But what binds them all together is their misogyny.”

Other men associated with the broader manosphere have been implicated in an array of killings in recent years. In 2014, Elliot Rodger killed six people and wounded 14 more in a mass shooting at University of California, Santa Barbara. Rodger, a 22-year-old who had tried and failed to attract women using “pickup artist” techniques, described himself as an “incel” and wrote a long manifesto detailing his desire to kill women as retribution.

In 2018, a Toronto man allegedly drove a van into a crowd, killing 10 and wounding 16 more. Shortly before the attack, he wrote a Facebook post praising Rodger and identifying as an incel. Later that year, another man who’d uploaded videos praising Rodger went on a shooting spree in a Florida yoga studio, killing two women and wounding more.

The AVFM post disavowing Den Hollander also sought to discredit the idea that some of those slayings were connected to the men’s rights movement.

Different segments of the manosphere offered their own spins on Den Hollander’s alleged killings—many of them conspiratorial. Comments on Elam’s video suggested Den Hollander had been used in a plot to besmirch their kind. Some of this set noted that Den Hollander was only accused of harming men, grounds for suspicion in the men’s movement.

“Even somebody who’s off their rocker who’s a men’s rights activist is not going to shoot a boy,” Tom Golden, an MRA, said in the video conversation with Elam. “They’re not going to shoot a girl, either, but something’s funky here.”

It was also suggested that the pattern of the killings somehow ruled out misogyny.

“What drives conspiracy theories is a feeling of helplessness and paranoia,” DeCook said. “For a lot of men in these movements, the conspiracy theory is that feminism is the reason they and other men are downtrodden in life. That’s a big conspiracy theory: that feminism is explicitly meant to demean, disempower, and humiliate men so that women can become the dominant gender.”

She added that the conspiracy theory takes an even grimmer turn in some racist circles, with anti-Semites claiming feminism is a Jewish plot to hurt men. Members of the incel community, which frequently intersects with overt white supremacy, parroted that conspiracy theory, accusing Jewish people of framing Den Hollander for murder to make men look bad.

Many of Den Hollander’s own writings were rich with conspiratorial thinking. In one passage, he appeared to acknowledge his own capacity for paranoia and anger.

“All my life I saw other people, even strangers in the street, as potential enemies with whom conflict seemed more likely than cooperation,” he wrote. “I understood that, except for my few friends, I didn’t like people because they scared me; and when someone is afraid, he hates others for causing him the humiliation and himself for allowing it.”

Then he blamed his mother for the way he turned out.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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