For years, men on Internet message boards have been sharing revenge fantasies targeting the women who’ve rejected them. But what is motivating their repeated references to a violent “Beta Uprising, ” and how dangerous are the guys who chat online about it?
ON OCTOBER 1, 2015, in a scene that has become depressingly familiar, 26-year-old Christopher Harper-Mercer walked into Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, and opened fire, killing nine people and injuring nine more. Like George Sodini, who killed three women and himself in an L.A. Fitness Center in Pennsylvania; like Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people and injured 17 others at Virginia Tech; and like Elliot Rodger, who killed 6 people and injured 14 others in Isla Vista, California; a large part of Harper-Mercer’s motivation was his toxic anger at women because of his lack of success with them.
Harper-Mercer was a virgin at 26, and not happy about it. According to police reports, his “manifesto” (which was not released to the public) contained complaints about how unfair it was that he didn’t have a girlfriend. And, like many of these other killers, his frustrations played out online—in blogs and on misogynist forums—before he ever took action.
In the hours prior to the shooting, a man believed to be Harper-Mercer posted a message on the anonymous bulletin-board site 4chan.org’s /r9k/ forum—the name stands for Robot 9000, and posters are often referred to as “Robots” stating—“Some of you guys are alright, don’t go to school tomorrow if you live in the north-west. Happening thread will be posted tomorrow morning. So long space robots.”
The very first response to the message was, “Is beta uprising finally going down? You might want to chillax and not alert police.” Other commenters assumed it was a hoax. But when word of the violence hit the news, commenters in the forum cheered the shooter on as one of their own. Some declared, “OP [original poster] DELIVERED!” while others noted that the massacre might not have “had to happen” if only “OP” had been luckier in love. “This post proves the mindset behind these shooters, ” one user wrote. “If only he had been con-soled or had a GF then maybe he wouldn’t have went off the deep end like this and many lives would have been saved. Instead of making fun of the betas or calling them creepy nerds, we should have saved them. My heart goes out to the victims but our shooter here as this thread here shows was a victim too.” Another poster wrote Harper-Mercer a poetic ode: “society failed him/it’s not his fault/don’t blame him/he was the hero we deserved.”
The Internet-culture tracking website KnowYourMeme.com traces the earliest use of the term “beta uprising” to a 2011 post on a men’s rights blog called Fight For Justice. However, it has since picked up steam and become a popular phrase used on misogynist message boards like 4chan’s /r9k/ and Sluthate.com. “Beta uprising” refers to a kind of revolution that will supposedly take place when all the unloved
“beta” males realize that they’ve been kept down too long by feminists and alpha males, and rise up against them in order to create a glorious utopian society in which they all get girlfriends. For most of them, it’s just an inside joke—albeit a sick one.
4Chan’s /r9k/ board started out as an experiment—it was originally a message board in which software prevented users from repeatedly posting the same image, in the hopes of fostering creativity and originality. That didn’t work out so well, and the board was later deleted. When it was brought back, it became a home for “green text stories”—anecdotal stories, written in green text, told in a few short sentences.
As is the case with all 4chan boards, the line between trolling and sincerity on /r9k/ isn’t exactly clear. One former 4chan user (who, unsurprisingly, wishes to remain anonymous) told me that the biggest mistake people make about 4chan is taking it seriously. “Sure, most of the posters on /r9k/ have definite issues with women and socializing in general, ” he says, “but for the vast majority of them, this is all talk, and the ‘beta uprising’ stuff is just a joke. They’re not actually going to go out and kill anyone.”
The “greentext” stories /r9k/ users post vary, but not by much—popular themes include depression, creeping out women, what they are masturbating to, and, of course, how easy things are for women, whom they hate and deeply resent for not sleeping with them. They express anger towards “normies, ” aka people with functional personal and professional lives; “Chad Thundercocks, ” a stand-in for the sort of alpha male/normie men who have lots of self-confidence and are popular with the ladies; and “Stacies, ” the sort of shallow “normie” ladies who prefer “Chad Thundercock” and pass right over beta males like themselves. Particularly angry posts are often decorated with a picture of “Angry Pepe”—a variation on the “Pepe the Frog” character from the comic book series Boy’s Club—that has become something of a 4chan mascot.
They blame feminism—and its encouragement of women to work outside the home, embrace sexual freedom, and reject patriarchial beauty standards—for their lack of access to young, thin, submissive, virgin-supermodel wives
The other message board where talk of a “beta uprising” is most active is SlutHate. com—which changed its name from PUA-Hate.com after one of its active posters, Elliot Rodger, went on a killing spree in 2014 in Isla Vista, California. Prior to his rampage—in which 22-year-old Rodger stabbed three men to death in his apartment, shot three female students outside a sorority house (killing two), then killed a male student inside a deli before speeding through Isla Vista shooting and wounding several pedestrians and striking several others with his car before committing suicide—Rodger published his manifesto and uploaded a video to YouTube explicitly stating that he was motivated to kill people due to his lack of success with women.
Although the original intent of PUAHate was to be a message board for men burned by the advice of so-called “Pick Up Artists, ” (aka PUAs), it had a reputation as one of the most misogynist sites on the Internet, even before Rodger’s spree. Today, many posters in the forum consider him a hero, and use a picture of him as an avatar. They credit him for bringing the issue of “involuntary celibacy” and what it can do to a man to light. Others lament the fact that he killed his roommates rather than 200 sorority girls. That, they say, would have really taught those women a lesson for not sleeping with men like them.