Roy Den Hollander's profile as an educated white man blinded the media to the danger of his extreme views.
Crime scene tape surrounds the home of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, Monday, July 20, in North Brunswick, New Jersey. A gunman posing as a delivery person shot and killed Salas' 20-year-old son and wounded her husband Sunday evening at their New Jersey home before fleeing, according to judiciary officials.
Crime scene tape surrounds the home of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, Monday, July 20, in North Brunswick, New Jersey. A gunman posing as a delivery person shot and killed Salas' 20-year-old son and wounded her husband Sunday evening at their New Jersey home before fleeing, according to judiciary officials.

Like any good lawyer, Roy Den Hollander knew exactly how to play the media. In 2007, he filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of “ladies’ nights” — promotional events at bars where women get free or reduced admission — claiming that men were being discriminated against on the basis of sex. Predictably, the lawsuit resulted in a slew of news coverage, providing ample space for the lawyer to share his sexist musings about women.

“What I think will happen,” he told The New Yorker, “is that clubs will reduce the price for guys and increase it for girls. Every guy will have ten or fifteen more dollars in his pocket, which the girls will then manipulate into getting more drinks out of him. If they drink more, they’ll have more fun, and so will us guys. And then when she wakes up in the morning she’ll be able to do what she always does: blame the man.”

Den Hollander repeated the gimmick the following year, filing another lawsuit that called parts of the Violence Against Women Act unconstitutional. And then again, with a lawsuit challenging women’s studies courses at universities, which he claimed “treat guys as if they’re sources of evil in the world and the women are victims.”

The media coverage surrounding Den Hollander’s various legal quests, in outlets ranging from the Los Angeles Times to the Colbert Report, took a tone of gentle mocking. He was given a platform to espouse his extreme ideology because he was positioned, in many of the stories, as the butt of the joke.

No one is laughing now.

Police believe Den Hollander shot the son and husband of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas at her home in New Jersey on July 19. Salas had presided over yet another one of Den Hollander’s lawsuits; this time he was challenging the male-only military draft. Her son, 20-year-old Daniel Anderl, died and his father, Mark Anderl, was injured. Den Hollander is also the prime suspect in the killing of Marc Angelucci, 52, a men’s rights lawyer who was shot a week earlier in California. The 72-year-old Den Hollander died by suicide last week. Officials found the name and photo of another female judge in his car.

Looking back, it is hard to imagine that Den Hollander would have been given as much airtime as he received over the years if not for his physical presentation: A white man with advanced degrees with an ability to speak with confidence and flair.

His status gave him cover, and the media bought it.

“Thanks to a trilogy of anti-Feminist cases I brought, I’ve already had my 15 seconds of fame,” he wrote in a lengthy document posted to his website in 2019. “I’m satisfied. The trick now is to get a footnote in history.”

Den Hollander, over the years, left plenty of evidence for his hatred of women. As early as 2006, he was blogging about women as evil “Feminazis” and had posted revenge porn online of his estranged wife, who accused him of domestic violence, according to divorce filings.

His website includes hundreds of pages of writings where he detailed his misogyny, describing women as manipulative, superficial and weak, and blaming them for a litany of ills, including war, pollution, child abuse and male unemployment. In a 2019 document that lays out his twisted worldview, he also hinted at his future plans. “Things begin to change when individual men start taking out those specific persons responsible for destroying their lives before committing suicide,” he wrote.

Today, Den Hollander’s writings are seen as clear examples of violent misogynistic extremism. But much news coverage of Den Hollander occurred in 2007 and 2008, before many in the mainstream media were as familiar with this particular strain of hate or what it was capable of inspiring. This was before Elliot Rodger or Alek Minassian went on their murderous rampages, radicalized by their hatred of women; before the terms “toxic masculinity” or “incel” were household names. This was before many people understood that misogynistic behavior is often present before acts of extreme violence.

Some individuals did see the danger in Den Hollander’s words at the time. His ex-wife’s divorce attorney filed a disciplinary complaint against him in 2003, and in 2007, another lawyer wrote a letter warning the New York state court system that he was dangerous after reading his blog. The media did not investigate or explore these angles. Instead, they gave him a microphone to share his views, viewing him largely as a harmless crank in a suit.

Megan Carpentier, a NBC editor who wrote about Den Hollander for Jezebel in 2008, chalks up the lighthearted news coverage to his status as a white man with advanced degrees. Due to prevailing media bias around class and race, he was perceived as legitimate while spouting egregious statements about half the human race.

“Our culture places a really high value on physical attractiveness and a certain kind of intellect and ability to express oneself verbally,” she said. “So, when you have someone that speaks with a certain kind of accent and fits a general kind of attractiveness standard, we take them more seriously and we don’t think they’re going to commit a violent crime.”

That’s how you get news stories about a dapper neo-Nazi, she added, referencing a profile of Richard Spencer that was widely criticized for glamorizing white supremacy.

“I think a lot of people looked at him and they saw themselves,” Carpentier said. “They saw a guy with an MBA, they saw a guy with a law degree, they saw someone who was educated, well traveled, spoke another language, and they didn’t see someone who was going to dress up like a FedEx employee and shoot someone.”

The media also wasn’t primed to recognize the dangerousness of his rhetoric because violence against women is so normalized, said Soraya Chemaly, feminist activist and author of “Rage Becomes Her.”

“The problem is that societal norms weren’t actually being violated when he said some of the things that he was saying; societal norms were being confirmed,” she said. For many years, she said, feminist activists and writers who were targeted by him sounded the alarm about his potential for danger, but they were considered outside of the norm, not him.

These days, there is slightly more public understanding of misogyny and the danger it poses, Chemaly said, but the media is still poorly equipped to cover it without trivializing it.

“What does it really take to have the media stop questioning whether this is serious?” she asked. “I’m exhausted.”