Yesterday, former Texas Congressman, Beto O’Rourke proudly announced that he raised over $6 million within 24 hours of annoucning his race for the Presidency, but it was not without some controvesy. His statement to Vanity Fair that he was “born to be in it” when talking about the Presidential race was off-putting to some and he had to apologize for that. His joke about his wife raising his three children “sometimes with [his] help” was also off-putting and he had to apologize for that. His short story about killing children for sport was more than off-putting.
This past Friday, reporter, Joseph Menn, revealed in a Reuters article that O’Rourke was a member of the hacker group, the Cult of the Dead Cow, as a teenager. Menn had been sitting on the story since 2017, but kept it secret till O’Rourke finished his Senate race because he had made a deal with relevant sources that he would. The group is most known for releasing a software called “Back Orifice 2000” which allowed users to break into Windows computers. The goal of the hack, according to the group’s founder, Kevin Wheeler, was to expose the weaknesses of the Windows system, but O’Rourke was a member of the group long before this hack ever happened. The only hacking he engaged in was to play modified games and work around paying long distance call fees. He did, however, engage with the group’s online forums which challenged social norms with provocative posts designed to “hack” the social structure and expose its weaknesses. “There’s just this profound value in being able to be apart from the system and look at it critically and have fun while you’re doing it,” O’Rourke told Menn. “I think of the Cult of the Dead Cow as a great example of that.”
The writers of the Cult of the Dead Cow were known to entertain fringe ideologies. For example, Curtis Yarvin, who has often been credited to giving new birth to the Alt-Right Movement online, wrote several post on the group’s site. In one, he descirbes a bizzare sexual encounter between two half-badger, half-human people. Yarvin is most known for his alleged contact with then White House cheif strategist, Steve Bannon, which he later denied. Under the name Mencius Moldbug, Yarvin wrote a blog denoucning democracy and defending authoritarian rule.
O’Rourke, too, explored fringe political theory when he wrote on the site under the name, “Pyschedelic Warlord.” In one post, he explains the value of a world without money. “Think, a free society with no high, middle, or low classification of it’s people,” he writes. “Think, no more money relate murders, suicides, divorces, or theft.” O’Rourke goes on to explain that anacharists might be good allies in the fight to rid the world of money. In another post, O’Rourke and a Jewish friend supposedly spark a debate with a Nazi preaching in the streets. The interaction is comical as the Nazi misuses Biblical names and stammers over his words. “We do not support Neo-Nazism in any way,” O’Rourke writes, “however, we also do not believe in censorship.” He then provides an address so readers could recieve a copy of the Aryan bible and Neo-Nazi information. “Feel free to write a friendly message, or send them a ‘special’ package,” he adds. “Surely they’d appreciate some ‘fan’ mail.”
O’Rourke, a former member of a punk band called Foss, also wrote more broadly about punk culture. In one post, he describes those he calls “Ultra Trendies”, people who engage with the punk/alternative lifestyle for appearances but know little about it. “Although an in-depth essay on these infiltrating trendies would probably be more beneficial and help you,” O’Rourke writes, “I will, as I did in my last trendy file, just give you pointers in spotting and maybe some help in killing them.” O’Rourke’s methods of killing the Ultra Trendies include telling the “Nazi Skins in your area that this certain Ultra Trendy has aids” and telling Ultra Trendies “that the new ‘punk’ thing to do is to play in the middle of the freeway.”
But O’Rourke’s most troubling post was a short story entitled, “Visions of the Last Crusade” which he wrote when he was 15. “Then one day, as I was driving home from work, I noticed two children crossing the street,” he writes. “They were happy, happy to be free from their troubles. I knew, however, that this happiness and sense of freedom were much too overwhelming for them. This happiness was mine by right. I had earned it in my dreams. As I neared the young ones, I put all my weight on my right foot, keeping the accelarator pedal on the floor until I heard the crashing of the two children on the hood and then the sharp cry of pain from one of the two. I was so fascinated for a moment, that when after I had stopped my vehicle, I just sat in a daze, sweet visions filling my head.” The protagonist refers to the murders as “acts of love” and goes on to commit more of them, though its unclear whether he actually killed anyone. After running over the two children, an old man taps on the protagonist’s car, “using his cane to awaken” him. Though the protagonist claims to kill 38 more people, he also says that he quit his job and is staying at his house in “an almost comatose state.” Thus, it is heavily implied that the protagonist had not actually killed anyone but is experiencing dreams or visions. The story could be a reference to the Crusades in which Christians waged war against Muslims, comparing Christian “acts of love” to the murder of individual freedom and happiness. Stories and essays written by members of the Cult of the Dead Cow were often bitterly anti-religious. Nonetheless, O’Rourke hasn’t tried to explain what went through his teenage mind. Regardless of meaning, the post is disturbing though not out of line with the rest of the content on the site. One post by another writer entitled “Slow Death” is exactly as it sounds; a detailed long description of a lengthy, tortuous and pointless death.
O’Rourke has apologized for his writings from that time. “Stuff I was part of as a teenager … not anything that I’m proud of today,” O’Rourke told reporters outside a meet-and-greet in Iowa Friday. “And I mean, that’s the long and short of it.”