Do as I say (on Twitter). Not as I do.

men_vs_women_6The last few days have been an aggravating time on Twitter with a couple of hashtag wars on the following topics:

#INeedMasculinismBecause

and

#ThankAFeminist

Both of them have rubbed in the point that while there are reasonable people that call themselves feminist and reasonable people that call themselves Men’s Rights Activists the majority of noticeable and loud people on either side are a bunch of fucking clowns.

It’s my considered opinion that both men’s and women’s rights issues need to be replaced with human rights issues. Egalitarianism – equal treatment – rather than dividing it up by gender.

There are injustices and inequalities that women face. There are injustices and inequalities that men face. Both need to be tackled.

The hypocrisy displayed by the Twitter feminists is painful to see though and undermines the legitimacy and regard of the cause that they claim to be championing as well as scuppering the claim that feminism stands for equality, rather than purely women’s issues.

#INeedMasculinismBecause raised more than a few legitimate issues around problems and inequalities for men from military service and the draft to child custody and support, circumcision, cancer research, lack of reproductive choice and many others.

The whole thing was met with stereotyping, dismissal, mockery, the very things deemed unacceptable when directed against feminism but by people who – apparently – consider themselves progressive and egalitarian.

For example:

@Toffer #INeedMasculismBecause white privilege and middle class privilege are just not enough privileges for me. Really, I need more privilege.

Privilege is a ghastly, stupid and usually misapplied term but let’s play for a moment. Women and men (and people of all kinds) have different arenas in which they’re privileged and in which they’re underprivileged. Pointing out women’s exemption or privilege in certain areas wouldn’t be tolerated as a means to excuse their lack elsewhere, but apparently not vice versa.

@xiombarg #INeedMasculismBecause something one women did to me once that hurt my feelings is totally something all women do.

The idea that feminists are only feminists because they’re bitter man haters is not a stereotype that could or would be tolerated so why is the reverse perfectly fine?

@crushingbort #INeedMasculismBecause I took my annoyance at the wife always being smarter in sitcoms and fashioned it into an actual political philosophy

I doubt that people saying this think that negative portrayals of women in media are ‘harmless’ and should go unchallenged simply because there are worse things going on.
@a_girl_irl #INeedMasculismBecause i am a mentally ill child who wants everything to be as easy for him as it was for an antebellum plantation owner.
That has to be the narrowest avoidance of argumentum ad Hitlerum I’ve ever seen while, at the same time being equally offensive.
None of this is, of course, to say that anyone covered themselves with glory in the #ThankAFeminist tag but there is an important and fundamental difference in that that tag attracted a great deal of the typical, provocative trolling (and much handwringing about it) while the Men’s Rights tag attracted trolling from people who publicly and genuinely hold to progressive viewpoints yet can’t seem to process their own hypocrisy here.
It’s all rather sad.
#INeedEgalitarianismBecause
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I Knew the Discovery Channel Shooter

james-lee-and-signI’ve always been worried by crazies and fanatics. What really cemented for me that we should oppose and speak up against these kinds of ideas was my experience with James Lee, known as the Discovery Channel Shooter (even though he didn’t shoot anyone).

James was very active on tribe.net as was I for some time, some years ago. Primarily I was involved in the political and skeptical tribes but despite the presence of people like me, tribe.net was always pretty overrun with conspiracy theorists, religious nutters and other people deeply entrenched in ‘woo’.

James didn’t particularly stand out from the other crazies at the time but, looking back, I can see some warning signs that separated him from the other kooks and nutballs on the site. Things that might help others differentiate the genuinely dangerous or at-risk from the trolls, Poes and harmless crazies.

I often wish I’d put more effort into getting through to him, into debunking the nonsense he and others spread there. I see it now, still, all across social media and bullshit spreads much faster than truth or sober thinking. It’s made me treat so many different peculiarities and crazy ideas much more seriously – at least in terms of the harm they can do.

Here’s what – from memory – separated James from the others:

  1. James’ obsession was singular. While his concerns were environmentalist and extreme the object of his obsession was the Discovery Channel. This made little sense to anyone who talked to him. They weren’t ‘evil’ in his mindset, the problem that he had was that they weren’t doing enough to tackle and promote environmental concerns. He became utterly fixated on them to the exclusion of all others.
  2. James took his actions into ‘real life’. James wasn’t just a ranting voice on the internet. He tried to organise other people and got more desperate when nobody really followed his lead – despite having his believers and enablers on tribe.net and elsewhere. He picketed their building, he made the transition from shouting and ranting online (everywhere he could) to ‘doing something’.
  3. James wouldn’t engage. Anything beyond his obsession didn’t seem to exist for him. We would ignore feedback that went beyond the bounds of his beef with Discovery Channel and would angrily and emotionally react to anyone not in agreement with him on that singular focus. He did, however, pay attention to positive feedback which he did get from other crazy – if less crazy – people and peacemakers.

I don’t think we can afford to ignore or tease people like this online. I think they must be confronted with dissenting views and, if necessary, reported and dealt with legally or psychologically as happened with Dave Mabus. Their obsessions and peculiarities are amusing only so long as they don’t tip over the edge and encouraging or enabling them can do just that.

There aren’t ‘two sides’ of equal worth to every story and as skeptics we need to publicly oppose and debunk everything from homeopathy and anti-vax nonsense to religion and 9/11 conspiracies. They’re literally and figuratively poisoning political and social discussion and advancement and they’re leading to tragedies like James Lee.

His actions have been branded those of a terrorist. He was mentally ill. He needed help, he needed to be taken seriously, he needed someone to talk sense and get through to him. He didn’t deserve to be shot.