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Might is Right

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Cover of the 14 Words Press edition of Might is Right. Sadly, this is one of the more competent illustrations.
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One cannot help imagining Ragnar Redbeard as a wild-eyed red-head bedecked with Viking headgear typing madly, while laughing lustily, swigging from an over-sized beer stein and ripping off pieces of raw meat with his teeth. On the other hand, he may well have been a hen-pecked, frustrated Walter Mitty type.
—Donna Kossy[1]

Might is Right is an 1896 book written by a mysterious individual who called himself Ragnar Redbeard. It is a lengthy rant endorsing an uncompromising form of social Darwinism.

Redbeard argues that "Socialism, Christianism, Democracism, Equalityism, are really the whining yelpings of base-bred mongrel-multitudes". Commenting on Jesus' command to "do unto others as you would have others do to you", he scoffs that "No baser precept ever fell from the lips of a feeble Jew". Elsewhere Redbeard rewrites the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the Iron-handed, the unfit shall flee before them. Cursed are the Haters of Battle, subjugation is their portion".

Race[edit]

Although remembered chiefly as a sort of proto-Ayn Rand tract, Might is Right is also a white supremacist screed, a result of its belligerence mingling with contemporary views on race. Redbeard is dismissive of the notion of racial equality: "What white father for example, would encourage the marriage of a hulking thick skulled Negro with his beautiful and accomplished daughter?", he asks. "Would he enthusiastically 'give her away' to the matrimonial embraces of a Chinaman, a Coolie or the leper-hugs of a polluted 'mean white'?"

He goes on to argue that "You have only to look at some men, to know that they belong to an inferior breed. Take the Negro for example. His narrow cranial development, his prognathous jaw, his projecting lips, his wide nasal aperture, his simian disposition, his want of forethought, originality, and mental capacity: are all peculiarities strictly inferior." He adds that "Similar language may be applied to the Chinaman, the Coolie, the Kanaka, the Jew, and to the rotten-boned city degenerates of Anglo- Saxondom: rich and poor. Vile indeed are the inhabitants of those noxious cattle kraals: London, Liverpool, New York, Chicago, New Orleans".

This has made the book popular with modern white supremacists. In 1999 14 Word Press issued an "Exclusive Millennial Wotansvolk Edition", boasting a preface by Katja Lane (wife of white nationalist David Lane) and hilariously wonky illustrations of muscly barbarians by Ron McVan; presumably intended to portray Aryan ubermenschen, they actually looked more like grotesquely deformed freaks.

Influence on Satanism[edit]

The book appealed to Anton LaVey, who pinched large chunks of it for his Satanic Bible. Redbeard's memorable statement that "I gaze into the glassy eye of your fearsome Jehovah, and pluck him by the beard — I uplift a broad-axe and split open his worm-eaten skull", for example, is copied word-for-word by LaVey, as was the passage "Can the torn and bloody victim ‘love’ the blood-splashed jaws that rend it limb from limb? Are we not all predatory animals by instinct? If humans ceased wholly from preying upon each other, could they continue to exist?".[2] Indeed, The Satanic Bible can be seen as a sort of Might is Right Lite, with the anti-Semitic, racist, and proto-fascistic elements removed (LaVey having come from a Jewish background) and replaced with mysticism.

Authorship[edit]

The most commonly claimed authors are Arthur Desmond or Jack London, both socialists, albeit each with a strong individualist streak. LaVey and Katja Lane both believed London was substantially involved, if not the author of the entire book; the latter based her judgment on London's distinctive grammar and punctuation.[3][4] However, Jack London scholar Rodger Jacobs said, "the notion is as ludicrous as suggesting that the author of 'White Fang' was a cross-dressing hermaphrodite who buried his sexual shame in manly exploits".[3] London was born in 1876, so he would have had to write it in his teens (even accepting a later publication date of 1896; an earlier one of 1890 is sometimes advanced[5]), although some of it reads like the product of a teenage mind.

S. E. Parker suggested Desmond's authorship, on the basis of his red hair and beard and his published poetry.[6] The Australian Dictionary of Biography mentions Desmond's "reputed" authorship, noting that he was active in Australia in 1893-4 but may have arrived in the USA around 1895; the ADB in general shows a high level of uncertainty about Desmond's movements, actions, and even real name.[7]

Whether written by Desmond or London, it's hard to reconcile their socialism with the book's contents, unless Might is Right was meant to be a satire of Social Darwinism, in the same vein as Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal. As the 14 Word Press release indicates, Poe's Law definitely applies here.

References[edit]

  1. Strange Creations: Aberrant Ideas of Human Origins from Ancient Astronauts to Aquatic Apes, p. 154
  2. http://www.dpjs.co.uk/criticism/smulo.html
  3. 3.0 3.1 RUNNING WITH THE WOLVES: JACK LONDON, THE CULT OF MASCULINITY, AND "MIGHT IS RIGHT", Rodger Jacobs, Jack London Online Collection, Sonoma U
  4. "Foreward" (sic) by Anton LaVey, to Might is Right, pub. Shane Bugbee (2003)
  5. Talk: Might Is Right, Wikipedia, accessed 25 Feb 2016
  6. "Might is Right", Wikipedia
  7. "Desmond, Arthur", Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1981