Manifestos and Madmen

I keep reading articles about the latest in a long line of spree killers — not because he is, yet another, human monster, but because this one wrote a MANIFESTO explaining his intentions and world-view.

I used to associate manifestos with artists. The Italian Futurists, Die Brücke (the Bridge) and many other artistic movements published manifestos outlining their artistic ideals, aspirations and philosophies. Political manifestos were also part of my history studies. The platforms of U.S. political parties are manifestos, of a sort. Sometimes they are recycled campaign stump speeches complete with quotable sound bites, but others are virulent and angry rants (also rich with sound bites).

            The manifestos of individuals are different. They are personal documents, but, unlike a diary, they are written for an outside audience. They are public, or have a public intention. There’s a huge helping of narcissism in the mix — along with a cocktail of psychoses to make that certain kind of out-sized killer, one who seems to need to put it down on paper.

Who are these human monsters? The Unabomber is no doubt the best example in real life — that is until Elliot Rodger. The Unabomber sought to explain the necessity of his deadly plans. He needed people to know WHY he did what he did. It wasn’t enough to just do it. (Or to just rant about it in pre-blog-era letters to the editor.) Fiction is overloaded with these “clever killers” playing cat & mouse games with FBI agents. They are practically a cliché.

But what is it about this particular killer’s rant that is so fascinating? His misogyny, his racism, his sense of entitlement, his privileged background, his access to firearms & ammunition, his youth, his video rants, his virginity, his mental illness, his self-hatred, his violent obsessions…. Take your pick. His manifesto hits so many hot button issues; it’s hard to say how it fits into the general zeitgeist. I only know it does!

I keep going back to his absolute certainty that a tall, beautiful, blonde girlfriend was the key to his destiny. His conviction that all the other pieces of his life would fall into place if he were only successful with women — women straight out of Hollywood movie where the nerd prevails in the end. At 22 he determined that violence was his answer, because he didn’t live in a movie fantasy world.

There’s not much we can do to comfort the families of his victims. There’s nothing we can do to change him or his choices.  But maybe we can spot the next one, see the violence in his video rants, stop him before he stocks up on ammunition, or chip away at the strange dynamic that makes it easy to treat women as objects and not people? Maybe?

Manifestos and madmen are perfect together; and difficult for the rest of us.


  1. First thing that popped into my head when you said manifesto was Mein Kampf. I think Stalin as well had a manifesto. Oh how are times have changed, from the likes of Hitler who wanted Europe under his rule to now Children who just want a girlfriend.

    • Candy Korman

      Oh my… what an observation!
      The word MANIFESTO is so powerful. I get caught up in the Surrealists and the DADA-ists and the other art movements, but you’re right in reminding us all that political “strong men” all have manifestos. I have to wonder, if I should write one too. Not for me, but for one of my characters? It would be an exercise in behind inside the character’s head.

  2. I had to write a manifesto of sorts otherwise known as my philosophy of education before I got my teaching degree. I re-read it awhile back while sorting through papers. It was sooooo not the person I am today 😉

    • Candy Korman

      I’m sure that some people benefit from writing down their grand scheme, but somewhere along the line most intelligent people realize that there is no simple, single recipe for life and that things change all the time. The idea of having a new teacher write our philosophy of education before she’s received her degree strikes me as most peculiar. Teaching, like most skill sets, develop with time, energy and effort. You’d be a much more effective, compassionate and flexible teacher NOW than you were at the start. Maybe they should have teachers write their philosophies AFTER they’ve had time to ripen?