Anarcho-Primitivism at the Columbine RPG forum

The few known hints that Adam Lanza left behind about his motive in the Sandy Hook shooting are all rooted in anarcho-primitivist philosophy; he linked to John Zerzan’s essays in his last post (in which he linked mass violence with anxiety and alienation) and he called Zerzan’s radio show to explain his interpretation of the Travis the Chimp incident.

It hasn’t been clear, though, exactly how Lanza stumbled across anarcho-primitivism; given the lack of attention the other forum users paid to his postings about Travis the Chimp (Smiggles several times contributes replies to the thread, despite there not having been a reply from anyone else, so he was essentially talking to himself) and similar topics (his post on trans-humanism) I had assumed that anarcho-primitivism was a subject that he brought to the forum, and it simply didn’t catch on as a topic of discussion.

I’ve discovered that this is not the case. Reviewing the Web Archive of the first instance of the forum, Super Columbine Massacre RPG! Discussion, it can be seen that Anarcho-primitivism was discussed on the forum in 2008, three years before Lanza was doing the same (the tone of the conversation I’ll be quoting here suggests that this is not the first time it has been brought up, either.)

Lanza didn’t even register until a year after the thread in question, so it should be noted, then, that he confirmed that he was already reading the forum as of late 2006, in the thread How did you find this forum?”:


Thus, while Smiggles was not around to contribute to this conversation, we can be pretty much certain that the read the thread. And after reading it, the content of the thread leaves no real doubt.

The conversation that introduces the topic of anarcho-primitivism (or at least the earliest one that I could find) was the thread Columbine, Fight Club and the copycats, posted on 25th December 2008. In the initial post, the forum user Sabratha compares “copycat” killers such as Pekka Auvinen to the dumb followers of Project Mayhem in the book Fight Club.

I just feel like making a rant.

Remember that day when you heard about the first shooting in Finland when it was Auvinen?

I do. I remember getting mad, then sad, then astonished when I found out it was someone I’ve seen on youtube.
I remember his movies, him in his “Humanity is overrated” shirt, him shooting in the forest like Eric, him making pseudo-darwinistic rants like Eric did, his name in the news when he was dying in the hospital after he shot himself. Just like Eric.

I remember the day Saari made his shooting, I remember seeing him on TV, in his backwards black cap like Eric, shooting his gun then pointing at the camera. I remember hearing his name on the news as he was dying in the hospital from a delf-inflicted shot in the head. Just like Eric.

Somewhere, inside something there is a whole ton of misunderstanding, pain, fanaticism. The more I know about the perpetrators of the last few shootings, the more I realize that they are like the blind worshippers of Cassie Bernal and Rachel Scott.

TV gave them their saints, the internet provided them with their relics, the media gave them their blessing.

The copycats didn’t understand what columbine was about and didn’t see al thelies and myths the media made and they didn’t see the faults in Erics reasoning and his writing.

Its like fight club. The 10 year anniversary of columbine is approaching and I have a dreadfull feeling that somewhere out there is a group of people who are mindlessly chanting a name over and over and its not “Robert Paulson”.

I can hear them:

“His name was Eric Harris, his name was Eric Harris, his name was Eric Harris…”

Sabratha, recall, is the user who was involved in the making of the film Bullet Time that suggested aspiring shooters join the forum (I’ve covered it in detail here). Adam had a particular liking for this film, and he consistently referred to it as “Sabratha’s Bullet Time” – the film and the forum user were closely linked for Adam, and so it follows that he had a particular respect for Sabratha. He would have been reading Sabratha’s posts.

The first reply to this thread is from the user columbin – this user is the owner of the forum, and the creator of the game the forum is named after: Super Columbine Massacre RPG. In his post, he quotes directly from Fight Club, a passage where the cult-leader-like character Tyler Durden describes a sort of post-apocalyptic hunter-gatherer society, and columbin suggests that it as a desirable existence:

That’s a really interesting comparison. In the Fight Club analogy, we should think about how to prevent the mindless adherence to Project Mayhem by space monkeys. Despite this, Tyler’s vision is a promising one:

In the world I see – you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You’ll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You’ll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you’ll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway.

Nonetheless, I think this would be a pretty great world to have. In fact, it may be an inevitable world to have by the 22nd century.

The next day, the user NamelessMuse replies critically to columbin’s post, and this is where anarcho-primitivism is specifically brought up (although the previous post essentially was advocating it in all but name, and NamelessMuse is expressing doubt about its merits):

I disagree Columbin and I don’t find Tyler’s description to be great at all.

While major social change is inevitable for better or worse it is never a permanant thing. If we achieved your ideal world it would not last.

I don’t understand the love for anacho primitvism. Part of the philosohpy is that modern society alienates individuals Which it does but I don’t see how dying in some cold forest is somehow better.

Some may say that our consumption based lifestyle is a bad thing and leads to shallow pleasure but how would living day to day like the unibomber be any better? I like security in my life as well as medicine and the internet. Such a lifestyle would not lead to a deeper spiritual happiness but rather simple reward based happiness. That sounds even more shallow.

Secondly anarcho primitivists who wish to activley cause the world to be thrown into a state of chaos are selfish assholes because who gave them the right to decide we need a revolution?

They are talking about killing millions of people and there is no way around that. The earth cannot support the level of people it has now if we all reverted back to a hunter gatherer lifestyle. The agriculture revolution I would argue is a great thing. I know you disagree.

Anarcho primitivists also seem to cherry pick what they consider modern. Why not just choose regular anarchism? “Modern” is a social construct of little real meaning anyway. I like things like medicine tampons and video games.

What would happen to the arts in such a world?

Exchange one extreme for the other Material based consumerism vs. minimalist survivalism. They both fucking suck.

Its not the lifestyle you need to worry about its human nature that is the problem.

Again, it’s apparent that this topic came up on the forum before, so this is probably not the specific thread where Adam first learned about the subject of anarcho-primitivism. The point is that this is another instance where Adam Lanza derived his personality and his motives from his study of mass murder, rather than a philosophy that he studied separately and then connected to his obsession.


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11 Responses to Anarcho-Primitivism at the Columbine RPG forum

  1. Lalala says:

    Poor Zerzan, he was also in contact several times with the unibomber, who was also a primitivist.

    I don’t think primitivism inspires these kind of things though, as some have suggested. I see the connection between people like Lanza and primitivism as coming fundamentally from a really dark place:

    Mass murderers of this nature feel wronged by society, or even outside of society, for reasons specific to them (Lanza having a rather severe case of autism among other disorders certainly couldn’t have helped). After seeing themselves outside of society for so long, it’s not a far leap from this point to seeing society as something sick, something flawed that needs to be entirely scrapped altogether, if it’s that capable of alienating people, of ruining them and turning them into something unrecognizable as human, as Lanza clearly saw not only himself, but most other people in one way or the other. It’s a pretty apolitical belief for these sort of people, they differ greatly from radical revolutionary leftists or the far-right, since they don’t want to replace the old way with something new. No, they want everything burned to the ground, which is ultimately why they end up snapping and killing many, I think. That is to say, they don’t truly find the ideas of primitivism appealing (Come on, a neat freak germaphobe like Lanza living in the wild with chimps?), their professed belief in primitivism is all about the mass destruction of the earth and most people on it which would inevitably have to take place to bring about this primitive society. It’s nothing more than an extension, a justification of their mass murder fantasies. They see it as self immolation, burning in the flames with the rest of civilization as everyone they know and ever could know dies with them, something scaled down, though still displayed by their heinous acts of murder

    As for his targets, well, he either targeted young children due to the fact that he saw the cycle of the civilization he hated so much being propped up by the indoctrination of each new generation, and believed he was committing some sort of revolutionary act by targeting kids, or perhaps he was a murderous pedophile. One of his online handles was “pedobear”, after all, and the official report did mention he had files upon files dealing with the subject of pedophile right’s and many other pedophile related subjects, among a short clip of someone shooting a child in a mock video. Perhaps he obtained some sort of sick gratification out of his dark deed, or perhaps he himself was molested as a child, and it wasn’t enough to kill himself after years of mental torment, but he had to kill the scared, victimized child in his head, which equated to killing actual children at the school he loved as a child.

    What are your thoughts, Coleman?

    • Reed Coleman says:

      I mostly agree, except for the issue of why Lanza chose the target he did (my explanation for his choice is much too long to condense here, but I don’t think you’re “way off” either.) I certainly agree that the philosophies these guys latch onto should not be lazily confused with their motives. As you point out, it’s to be expected that desperate, alienated young men will latch on to whatever seems to validate them and demonize society, and that fact doesn’t say much of anything about the actual merits of these philosophies, only that they are fringe in our society.

      What they want is an absence of what is, because they hate everything they see. Their beliefs don’t follow logically from that perception so much as just fit it. In their alienation they feel weak, and develop and exaggerated concept of strength, then try to re-create themselves to fit that vision, but their perception is already so damaged that they become something else in the process of looking inward. They convince themselves they are revolutionaries, because they want to commit mass murder without BEING a mass murderer in their own eyes. They can’t let go of the rage or persecution, or else they wouldn’t be able to go through with it.

      Of course, that’s generalizing quite a bit about a diverse group of very disturbed people. Many of them are truly insane, but I just don’t think accounts for how this recurs so consistently. And, that assumes one accepts that insanity is a cause rather than a symptom of problems in society. Adam Lanza sure didn’t.

      Side note: Last summer, when the frustrated virgin kid went on a rampage in California, I tuned in to Anarchy Radio curious what John Zerzan would have to say about the latest mass shooter. He (or it might have been a caller to the show, don’t recall) pointed out that the media was branding the killer as some kind of deviant, attacking Western society from the outside, when this was actually the opposite of the truth: Elliot Roger was a sort of exaggerated over-socialized being, murderously obsessed with sex-as-commodity and material wealth in order to prove himself as a worthwhile person. He was aspiring to a reality-TV version of reality, and people died because he failed to meet it. I thought that was a more insightful argument in favor of Zerzan’s philosophy than anything to be found in Lanza’s life.

      Side note 2: the “postal” clip is almost certainly this, from the 2007 (really crappy) shock-comedy film Postal:

  2. Lalala says:

    Indeed, it is likely much easier to accept the title “revolutionary” than it is “mass murderer”, I would say that this, in the minds of people like this, washes away much of the guilt (if Lanza was even capable of remorse. He has such lengthy psychological issues, I’m not so sure he was in touch with emotions as we are).

    After all, Harris and Klebold both saw what they were doing as somewhat political, hoping that they would kick off a “revolution of the dispossessed”, which disturbingly enough gives credence to Lanza’s characterization of mass murder as a “revolutionary act” of sorts.

    Though I can’t help but wonder what triggered his massacre, if anything. We know good and well that the Columbine massacre and the Norwegian attacks, among many others, were meticulously planned out for months, but it seems to be as if Lanza’s attack was a result of a sudden snap one day, seemingly at random, as if the world around him was too much to bare anymore, almost as if he was emulating his kindred spirit, Travis the chimp.

    If you don’t mind I would so love to hear your theories as to why this happened, why he chose the target he did. I’ve pondered on it a great deal and can’t see any other motive aside from those I previously mentioned. The SBB post about children being the foot soldiers of civilization’s indoctrination machine (paraphrasing of course), his weird post about children being.. drowned in a river of semen (which was followed by another SBB member referencing the fact that Smiggles regularly referred to children in a sexual manner, which I assume he erased all traces of), the huge amounts of pedophilic material on his hard drive.. It’s a strange turn of events, making Lanza one of the most enigmatic mass murderers of all time, perhaps.

    Of course, ultimately I think I would have to place blame upon his mother. Everything I’ve read strongly implies that Nancy was very quick to give in to Adam’s many demands, introduced him to guns and gun culture at a very young age, and left him to his own devices for the most part, rather than earnestly trying to work with her clearly troubled son.

    • Reed Coleman says:

      Nancy was in deep denial about her son’s problems. Not so much that he was troubled, but the way in which he was. She probably thought she had just a depressed son with OCD and aspergers, not knowing he was full-blown psychopath or something similarly dangerous. Her indulging Adam’s peculiarities and firearms obsession often reminds me of this poster for a lost “cat”:

      Adam definitely planned ahead of time. You can see that at least in the timeline of gun purchases; he shopped for them, asked him mom (apparently) to buy them, then ordered accessories months later, tweaking their performance. I’m guessing he was practicing in his room, and at the range, specifically for Sandy Hook.

      But that’s not to say that he chose Dec 14th ahead of time. Whatever “bump on the head” scenario happened before his mom left for New Hampshire on the 12th may have been what made him decide on “ASAP” as when to do it. Who knows.

      As for how he chose his target, I think you’d have to study his entire life, and I’m currently writing a book that does exactly that. In the meantime I would just point to the distinction between the motive one starts with and the one that they find the most useful; as I think we were in agreement on, this was a crime in search of a motive, rather than vice-versa. He wanted to do it and was going to find a justification one way or another, like I believe many of these shooters do. That isn’t to say they do it for *no reason*, just that human beings often aren’t aware of where their thought process started by the time it ends, and the more heinous the crime, the more twists and turns would be necessary for it to be seen as rational (unless you’re dealing with a completely irrational mind, but I don’t think Adam was quite that, as sick as he was.)

      • GG says:

        Another “bumped head” scenario: in the process of drilling or practicing for the shooting, he banged his head on a weapon, or ran into a door or wall accidentally. No evidence to support, but he does seem like the type to “practice” in some way.

  3. Pingback: Columbine forum members had recommended physically destroying hard drives | Sandy Hook Lighthouse

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  5. Karpinovic says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever properly expressed my gratitude after so much time has passed, Mr. Coleman. Your blog is amazing!

  6. Pingback: SURVIVALISTS BLOG | Anarcho-Primitivism at the Columbine RPG forum | Sandy Hook …

  7. Nathan says:

    It must hurt to decide you are superior to everyone else, but then every day be reminded what a loser you are by all the things you have never accomplished and you know you never will accomplish. It must also hurt to condemn society as harshly as you can when it’s so obvious to yourself and everyone else that you don’t understand even the simplest things about society.

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