Censorship, Justification, Youtube and Business Vs Individual Rights

6219961958_f51291fba0_oAlright, let’s do this as a blog, rather than a video as the internet is still playing up and it might be better to do this in this format.

Introduction

In the wake of the recent Youtube demonetisation scandal – a surprise to some, not to others – abrupt in its revelation and unexpected in its extent, a lot of my fellow sceptics, atheists and members of that broader community have reacted on two poles. One group, much like me, treats this as another example of creeping online censorship of social media. Another group seems to brush this off and to claim is isn’t censorship, disturbingly echoing many SJW arguments as they do so.

While some people in the first group may be overreacting, people in the second group are just flat out wrong. Some of this is down to not understanding the principle of free expression or the meaning of censorship. Some of it seems to be ideological, where free market, economic libertarianism seems to come into conflict with the principles of individual rights and freedoms and they seem unable to negotiate the clash between the two.

In large part I tend to blame the dominance of the American First Amendment over these kinds of discussions. It turns these arguments into legalistic and governmental ones, when the right to free expression is a universal human right, enshrined in but not deriving from documents like the US constitution, the United Nations declaration on human rights and many, many others.

The discussion and argument is far, far bigger than American law.

What is Censorship?

The Oxford English Dictionary is about as definitive a guide to the meaning of the English language as you can get, and defines censorship thus:

The suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.

In other words, anything that reduces or eliminates expression, on any basis – legitimate or otherwise – is censorship. Anything. The argument is usually not whether something is censorship, but whether said censorship is justified.

The ACLU has a noteworthy, modern understanding of censorship and describes it thus:

Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional. In contrast, when private individuals or groups organize boycotts against stores that sell magazines of which they disapprove, their actions are protected by the First Amendment, although they can become dangerous in the extreme. Private pressure groups, not the government, promulgated and enforced the infamous Hollywood blacklists during the McCarthy period.

Freedom of expression is, meanwhile, perhaps best expressed in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

To reiterate. Your right to free expression is that to hold and impart opinions without interference, through any media, regardless of frontiers. Clearly a great deal interferes with that, some justified, some not, but that’s the ideal. Anything that does interfere with that is censorship. That censorship can come from government but also from private groups, companies, individuals and even from oneself, either through free personal choice or under pressure and duress (it can be hard to disentangle the two).

When the government bans and prosecutes child pornography it is justified on the grounds of protection of children. When the government bans pornography created by and for consenting adults it is, arguably, not justified.

When a pressure group, such as those operated by former campaigner Mary Whitehouse tries to shut down ‘lewdness’ and ‘immoral content’ on television they’re largely unjustified, but are engaged in attempted censorship. When a pressure group has indisputable evidence that certain content can harm the development of children they may justifiably argue for censorship or constriction. Pressure groups on campus no-platforming speakers are engaged in censorship. Again, anything that suppresses or prevents speech is censorship. The threats of violence from Islamic extremists against cartoonists, causing them to self-censor – again, censorship.

All of this is censorship.

The only good justifications for censorship are under the harm principle:

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” – JS Mill, On Liberty.

Can we, then, say that what is going on at Youtube is censorship?

That it is a private company makes no difference here. Censorship does not require government involvement to be censorship. Youtube does censor certain content, but this has been deemed reasonable by most of the community (nudity etc is disallowed). I would disagree there too, but that’s a different argument. Youtube has not outright banned any additional content, so it’s not outright censorship, it has ‘merely’ removed monetisation on the basis of some rather opaque and vague criteria.

This loss of monetisation, which is tied to ‘controversial topics’, politics, news and other forms of content may not be outright censorship but it is ‘suppression’, refer back to the definition. Content that can’t make creators money will become less common, the livelihoods of people who produce Youtube content full time will be threatened. Certain forms of commentary and news coverage will be affected as will support organisations, charities, fiction of certain types, tutorials and more. ‘Controversial topics’ is particularly contentious, I’ve had perfectly lucid, explanatory videos on ‘Gamergate’ demonetised.

That people the sceptic/atheist/anti-SJW community have beef with have also been censored doesn’t make the problem less of an issue, it just means it’s affecting more people. That they’ve had their demonetisation reversed (Laci Green) while others have not does lend some weight to this being a political bias, or at least fear on Youtube’s part of bad publicity from some quarters and not others.

Whatever the specifics, yes it’s censorship as it is suppressing certain forms of expression.

Is it Justified?

It’s censorship, but since anything that suppresses or bans speech is censorship the question is whether it’s justified or not. So where’s the harm being done?

Ostensibly this censorship is being made at the behest of the advertisers, but why?

Youtube only benefits from more people using and watching their platform. It costs them very little to host any particular person’s content and the more there is and the more variety the more people are likely to watch. The more creators and the more content they put out and promote, the more to watch. It’s in Youtube’s interest to have the least amount of restriction possible.

Users do not have their experience improved by the censorship, they are harmed by it (less content, less entertainment). Some may say they’re harmed by seeing expression they don’t like, but the solution is simply not to watch it.

Creators are harmed directly by the censorship. Some might say they want it – there was a push against ‘roasting’ and other response videos recently, but again the solution is simply not to watch it.

Advertisers are supposedly the ones asking for this as it is ‘advertiser friendliness’ that is the excuse given. How could an advertiser be harmed here? The kinds of content being targeted are clearly popular and draw a lot of eyes, which is what the advertiser is paying for. This is not sponsorship, there is no direct link between the product and the content and while seeing adverts for Barbie showing next to ‘Uncle Anaconda’s Underage Trouser Power Hour’ might be amusing, nobody except the basest moron would associate the one with the other unless there was sponsorship. Advertisers already advertise around news programmes, edgy comedy shows and more on television. What’s the difference here, if there is any? None.

Nobody appears to gain from this and everybody is harmed – even the advertisers who end up with less exposure.

There’s no justification for it that holds up under scrutiny.

Are we then, those who protest, justified in seeking to exercise control over a privately owned media platform?

Youtube is not like an art gallery. It has – essentially – unlimited space to host content. A gallery could justify turning you away based on limited space or lack of talent or not fitting their remit. The cost/benefit is in favour of them. On Youtube however it costs them virtually nothing (per individual case) to host content and they gain. There’s not much of a defence there on economic or practical grounds.

Moral grounds? This becomes more tricky. If they don’t want certain kinds of content then to an extent that’s their prerogative. However, we live in interesting times. The public square is privately owned and the hard won freedoms we have when it comes to things like free expression, that protect us from the government, do not protect us – at least not in law – from private companies. This becomes an issue in the case of social media giants like Youtube, Twitter and Facebook because they now own the public square and their censorship has a massively deleterious effect.

There’s precedent for the state (acting as the will of the people) stepping in to protect people’s rights form private entities. Some of these are obvious – regulation on dumping waste, not being allowed to make false claims in advertising and so on, others are less obvious or more contentious. Is it right that we step in to protect a homosexual couple’s access to services for their weddings, or should we allow private businesses to be conducted according to their own conscience? What if they want to turn away blacks, or women? Is that OK?

This appears to be the sticking point for many, especially the economic libertarians, anarcho capitalists and so on. The abuse of power that comes in a wholly free market appears to be inevitable and this kind of censorship is an example of that – albeit a mild one. This is especially a problem when the company in question – such as Youtube – has such a de-facto monopoly.

This is where our argument and discussion should be occurring. Where individual and business rights collide, how monopoly status and the cheapness of digital storage interfaces with that.

Some Practical Solutions

1. First I suggest that anyone who runs into advertising on Youtube make a note of who is advertising and then contact them later. Express – politely – the issue with demonetisation and that blame is being placed on the advertisers. Tell them you prefer Youtube as a free speech platform and you do not want to support a company that suppresses free speech. If enough people do this to enough companies (explaining that advertising and content is divorced) then there may be some traction and a shift.

2. Give advertisers the freedom to advertise on ‘edgy’ content if they wish. Flag content as ‘limited monetisation’ if you wish, but let the advertisers choose if they want their adverts to run there or not, rather than simply demonetising. Many advertisers probably don’t care. Many would probably like to advertise next to very popular, controversial and topical content as it may fit their product profile better. Advertisers that don’t want to do so wouldn’t have to, advertisers that did would benefit, creators and viewers would continue to benefit from monetisation.

3. Allow Youtube Red to apply to the content you’re limiting. This would allow ‘edgy’ content to get money as if advertising were present, coming from the Red subscription. It would also encourage creators to encourage their followers to support Youtube Red, with a knock-on benefit for Youtube itself.

Conclusion

It is censorship. It’s not justifiable under the harm principle. Holding Youtube (and similar companies) to uphold free expression is a controversial and arguable point – an interesting discussion to have – but there were other ways to deal with this problem, and better ways than springing it on people.

People need to understand that censorship is more than governmental. That free speech is not limited to the US constitution. That the media landscape has changed and that rights and legislation need to catch up.

Pax.

Advertisements

The Kristi Winters Challenge!

Is Feminism Still Needed in The West?

No, because here at least its supposed goals have been achieved.

If you said ‘no’, please answer the following questions.
1. List all the nations you define as constituting ‘the west’.

The West has different definitions depending on context. So this is a deliberately contentious issue and attempt to muddy the waters by taking an informal set of argumentation and to try and turn it into a formal one. Given that one of the definitions of ‘the West’ is egalitarian, industrialised democracies with gender equality and that that definition would fulfil the criteria and render the rest of the discussion pointless, it seems a slightly unfair – and tautological – one to use.

Let’s use the following then.

The EU, North America, The Scandiwegian nations, Australia & New Zealand. You could expand this to include some South American states and some states in the Far East, but this is a middling ground that makes a reasonable amount of sense.

2. Identify the metrics you are using to to determine women’s equality and sources.

Can women participate in the political process? (Vote and hold office).
Is there anti-discrimination legislation in effect?

3. For each nation write the day women achieved equality on each metric, citing your sources.

This is a lot of countries to go through and is intended to be a tedious barrier. So I’ll meet you halfway.
Here’s the list of full suffrage dates: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_suffrage
In most cases right to vote also meant right to stand for office, women were electable before universal suffrage in many nations though so it’s an imperfect guide but I’m not inclined to go to that much effort on what’s a dishonest question.

Here’s a list of anti-discrimination legislation:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anti-discrimination_acts

With these three things in place (vote, hold office, can’t be discriminated against for merely being women, equal pay for equal work by law, etc) full equality of opportunity and representation is achieved. What you do with it is, of course, up to the individual.

If women have achieved equality in the west this should be
a) Easy and
b) Everyone should have the same answers.

It was, but expecting everyone to have the same answers when concepts of ‘the west’ and ‘equality’ vary is ludicrous.

Why Nazis Weren’t Socialist – And What Socialism Is

Panel-09There’s a persistent attempt to distance from Nazism and Fascism on the right wing of politics, by seeking to associate fascism – and particularly Nazism – with the left. Specifically Socialism. This despite the fact that in virtually every regard Fascism and particularly Nazism are diametrically opposed to everything Socialism and Communism stand for.

It’s important to start from a base of understanding what these terms mean. Many people don’t.

Socialism

Just to be difficult, Socialism has two definitions. One within the context of Marxism, one as its own ideology.

Marxian Socialism: A transitional stage between Capitalism and Communism where the means of production are taken into the control of the state as a steward for social ownership until Communism can be enacted

Standalone Socialism: A political outlook centred around the principles of equal opportunity, egalitarianism, equality before the law, equality in rights, the state in a limited role of administrator and guarantor of equality and the elimination of systems of control (such as inherited power, corporate monopoly etc).

Communism

A social and economic structure in which no particular person owns significantly more than any other and in which everything is held in the common weal. Communism eliminates the state, with everything being held in common ownership and via cooperation. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

Fascism

Fascism is notoriously hard to categorise having common themes but no common doctrine. Features include:

  • Nationalism.
  • Hostility to democracy, egalitarianism and enlightenment values (logic, reason, evidence, free expression and enquiry).
  • The cult of the leader.
  • Strong identity and identarian symbols.
  • Tendency for violence.

Nazism

A form of fascism presented as a nationalist answer to international socialism. Nazism centred around German nationalism, racism, the definition of an Aryan elite, expansionist violence, lack of division between the state and the personal, corporatism, hostility to the labour movement in all its forms and conspiracy theories about Jews.

So, is Nazism Socialist?

Despite having the term in its name, no. Consider the traits of fascism and Nazism and compare them to the trait of socialism.

Egalitarianism? The Nazis stratified people by allegiance to the party and by Aryan bloodlines. There was no equality for slavs, Jews, Gypsies, gays or many other people with whom they found themselves at odds.

Limited state? The Nazis saw no separation between the state and the individual, or the nation. All were one. The state was unlimited and absolute and was not the guarantor of equality, but inequality and favoured parties.

Eliminating systems of control? While the Nazis did somewhat move against the old established order in Germany they set up new systems of control. Their embrace of Corporatism saw vested interests and big players controlling Germany. They brought in vicious secret police organisations and set up Aryan and Party elites.

The only respect in which the Nazis could remotely be considered Socialist was in their provision of a strong welfare state but ideologically this was because they saw the nation is one entity, not because of a sense of fairness and egalitarianism.

Anyone calling the Nazis a Socialist party, just doesn’t know what words mean, furthermore, you can also see that supposed ‘Communist’ governments were anything but.

A ‘Talkorigins’ for #Gamergate

(This is a model for an ongoing post, if you have examples of claims against Gamergate, or want to make one that’s missing from here, I’ll work on adding it. Your own complete posts are also welcome to be added, follow the same format).

Origins

Claim GO001 – Gamergate Originated with the Harassment of Zoe Quinn

Abuse

Claim GA001 – Gamergate Published an Ebook fictionalising the Rape of Zoe Quinn
Claim GA002 – Gamergate is a Misogynistic Harassment Movement
Claim GA003 – Gamergate has Targeted Women for Harassment (Sarkeesian, Quinn, Wu)

Origins

GG001 – Gamergate Originated with the Harassment of Zoe Quinn
While ‘The Zoe Post'[1] by Eron Gjoni about his ex girlfriend Zoe Quinn uncovered some of the conflicts of interest and potential corruption which sparked off Gamergate, Gamergate itself didn’t come about until much later – sparked by Adam Baldwin’s use of it as a hashtag[2]. Gamergate, then, originated as a move away from ‘TheQuinnspiracy’ and ‘FiveGuys’ which were salacious, borderline abusive and prurient, while Gamergate fixated upon the ethics issue. Ironically for those who keep saying ‘change the tag’, Gamergate itself was a ‘change the tag’, though it made no difference to the smear tactics.

Quite apart from being untrue as the origin of Gamergate, this would – in any case – be a ‘genetic fallacy’ [3], rendering it invalid as an argument. One need only look at all the change Gamergate has managed to enact[4] and the problems it has catalogued[5] to see that.

TL;DR: ‘Quinnspiracy’ and ‘FiveGuys’ were – arguably – harassing of Quinn, or at least laughing at her expense. Gamergate came later and was explicitly concerned with issues of ethics and censorship.

[1] The Zoe Post
[2] Baldwin Tweet
[3] Genetic fallacy
[4] Gamergate Achievements
[5] Deepfreeze

Abuse

Claim GA001 – Gamergate Published an Ebook fictionalising the Rape of Zoe Quinn
No, it didn’t and – in fact – led the charge to get it taken down. As it happened the author came on to Kotaku in Action and explained at length why they did it, that it wasn’t a rape book and that they were nothing to do with Gamergate.

TL;DR – Nothing to do with Gamergate, according to the author, not a rape book either according to the author. Gamergate helped get it taken down [2].

[1] The author talking.
[2] Story admits Gamergate worked to remove it.

Claim GA002 – Gamergate is a Misogynistic Harassment Movement
While Gamergate has taken issue with corrupt women, it has also taken issue with corrupt men. While it has taken issue with poorly researched studies of games by women, it has also taken issue with poorly researched studies of games by men. The claims of misogyny require one to ignore all the men whose wrongdoings have been uncovered and catalogued by Gamergate[1]. Claims of misogyny and harassment have been a handy deflection, but the truth of the matter is that Gamergate cares about what people have done, not their genitals. It also seems unlikely that a misogynistic harassment movement would contain so many women[2] including feminists[3]. It also seems unlikely that a misogynistic harassment movement would give so much money to help women get into games development[4]. A feminist group helping Twitter support deal with harassment did a survey at one of the heights of Gamergate and found that only 0.66% of a very loosely defined Gamergate sample had anything to do with harassment. This is not statistically significant and much of this was down to trolls or multiple reports on single accounts[5].

TL;DR: Gamergate cares about what you do, not what genitals you have. It has supported women in gaming and is supported by leading, dissenting feminists. It contains many women. All very strange things if this accusation is true.

[1] Deepfreeze
[2] NotYourShield
[3] Christina Hoff Sommers
[4] The Fine Young Capitalists
[5] WAM report clears Gamergate

Claim GA003 – Gamergate has Targeted Women for Harassment (Sarkeesian, Quinn, Wu)
Sarkeesian and Quinn had been being trolled for some time prior to Gamergate[1]. As outspoken feminists who gratifyingly reacted to their critics, they were always favourite targets for trolls who are always looking for that reaction. Again, as you can see from the problem people listed on Deepfreeze[2] the people who have been causing problems, and thus have been targeted by Gamergate, are of both (all?) genders.

These figures have certainly been disagreed with and argued with, but not harassed – at least not any harassment with any link to Gamergate. For example, Sarkeesian’s ‘Week of Harassment’ story contained obvious trolls, things which weren’t harassment (disagreement, argument, objections) and virtually nothing had any link to Gamergate and that which did seemed to mostly be one-off use of the tag, coat-tailing.

TL;DR: Gamergate targets problematic people, regardless of genitals. These figures are perfect trolling targets but all sides have been targeted by trolls[4].

[1] Article on Sarkeesian and trolls from 2012, before Gamergate.
[2] Deepfreeze
[3] Anita’s Week of Abuse
[4] Gamergate Harassment

#WhiteGenocide is Utter Bullshit

rainbow_puke_hitler_by_naigora49-d31znyiOf late I’ve been wrangling with a few white supremacist loons on Twitter from the nonsense-hashtag #Whitegenocide, all thanks to my friend there @Seculawyer who seems to have been sparring with them for a while. Supposedly, according to these lunatics, we’re currently in the middle of some sort of ‘white genocide’. I mean, just take a look at their absurd website HERE.

In a moment of delicious irony they kept trying to guess my race, as a means to dismiss me based on pure racial stereotype, but couldn’t get it right. For the record, I’m Caucasian, at least as much as any mongrel Brit can claim to be anything.

Now, personally, I’m not aware of any Caucasian targeting death camps anywhere and somehow the wholesale slaughter of white people has escaped global attention in a world of satellite imagery, drone strikes and where – while challenged – western, white-dominated countries that would take exception to such mass slaughter still exist.

Oh, but that’s not the definition of ‘genocide’ that they mean. Never mind that the OED confirms that genocide is:

“The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group.”

No, they use a fallacy of redefinition, transparently using ‘genocide’ to yank on people’s emotions and fears, and instead what they mean is a legalistic definition, found in one of their ‘memes’, here:

CK1qIwcUYAAS3pm

As I say, the reason for doing this is transparent and obvious. They’re cashing in on the emotional appear and fearmongering effect of the word ‘genocide’ and then using this as a backtrack from that obvious hyperbole, despite it no longer meaning actual genocide.

Still, let’s play along.

Even if we go along with their shenanigans, none of this is happening either. All of these points are subsidiary to the destruction of a nation or ethnicity.

  • Is there any targeted killing of white people that would destroy them? No.
  • Is there any targeted bodily or mental harm that would destroy them? No.
  • Is anyone inflicting on white people conditions (famine, lack of medical care for example) that would destroy them? No.
  • Is anyone deliberately sterilising or separating white men and women, forcing abortions on whites only? No.
  • Is anyone taking away white children and giving them to people of other ethnicities to eradicate ‘whiteness’? No.

The one place you might have a case in the modern world might be the current despotism in Zimbabwe and the ethnic cleansing – not genocide – of white farmers there. Even then, this is more a result of propaganda and blaming, stirring up the mob, than explicit policy. It’s still bad and doesn’t get enough international attention, but genocide it ain’t.

So what does their ridiculous site offer up as examples of ‘white genocide’?

Well you can go and look for yourself, but this is where it all gets a bit more complicated and interesting.

While nothing they show is indicative of ‘white genocide’, much of it does come down to levels of hypocrisy over racism going on in the world and provocative and nonsensical statements around race and other issues of inequality. The febrile atmosphere around racial issues – most especially in the US – is feeding dangerously into these people’s delusions and their sense of being persecuted and wronged.

There is racism against whites, albeit not that powerful or widespread, and every time someone (like Bahar Mustapha) claims that they ‘can’t be racist against white people’ it fuels the paranoia of these nutters.

Every time special consideration is given to Islam within the school or legal systems, these idiots see justification for their racism (never mind that Islam isn’t a race).

When ‘diversity quotas’ and positive discrimination, both of which are indeed horribly racist, are excused or gain traction, genuine white supremacists feel validated.

It doesn’t matter that these people are fringe loons, they’ve reached a sort of parasitic alliance with their counterpart lunatics on the other side. When a social justice warrior does something insane related to race, genuine white supremacists get validation and feel vindicated. When white supremacists say or do something equally insane on their side, the SJW element can point at them as ‘part of the problem’ and to justify their own extremism.

It’s an arms race of lunacy and it’s no good for anyone. It also serves as a great example of why identity politics creates huge problems in a way genuine egalitarianism and secular, fair culture does not.

There’s likely more genetic difference between me and another Caucasian than there is between me and a member of another race on the basis of race, racial differences are minuscule and insignificant. It only has the power to create divisions where you regard it as important, and that is the dangerous area in white neo-nazi lunatics and Social Justice Warriors meet.

No Gods, No Masters (Or Mistresses)

A Left-Anarchist Critique of Modern Feminism

Marina Ginestà of the Juventudes Comunistas, aged 17, overlooking anarchist Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War - 21 July 1937I’ve become increasing more critical of modern feminism and more sensitised to the problems faced by men over the last three years or so. Prior to that time I would have called myself a feminist and progressive and, while my values haven’t changed, I no longer call myself either. As a result I am intimately familiar with how powerful cognitive bias and apophenia can be. Prior to my ‘revelatory’ experience I would have brushed off, ignored or not even noticed the million little ways in which men are mistreated, dismissed and misrepresented. Now I see it, though much of it is still – in my opinion – down to hypersensitivity, on both sides.

I have been following many of the ‘social justice’ issues that have been churning to the surface on social media since that period and trying to understand and debate the points with the people who consider themselves activists. There’s very little willingness to engage in debate or even talk about the issues. The preconceptions of these movements – most especially feminism – are treated as though they were holy scripture and to even question them is to be kafkatrapped into a position where every argument against the proposition is taken as evidence that it is true.

Having observed these culture clashes from some distance, most especially in Canada, I started to take more of an interest in the increasingly active Men’s Human Rights Movements, recently joining their site ‘A Voice for Men’ as an observer and interested party. Having watched pundits from the Men’s Rights Movement argue eloquently and factually for some time – the likes of Girl Writes What, Warren Farrell and Janice Fiamengo – I have had high hopes that here might be a counter-voice from which a genuinely egalitarian and humanist movement might emerge.

While there are hints of this within the movement, there are unfortunately also many of the same problems that one witnesses in feminism. A great deal is driven by – understandable – bitterness. Amongst those who genuinely believe in equality there are also a number of loud and vocal kooks. Just as it is easy, but wrong, to dismiss feminism via the form of radical, man-hating, malthusian it’s a cheap shot to dismiss those who are concerned about men and boys via the crazier, gold-hoarding, libertarian, ‘Jesus said women are to serve men’ types.

Unfortunately, in both instances, it does seem like the crazies are running the asylum. In the case of the MHRM that leads to a lot of grumbling and demonisation of ‘libtards’ while in feminism it leads to a lot of grumbling and demonisation of ‘wingnuts’. All the while, here I am, a left-anarchist concerned about the societal harm being done to men and boys and the overreach of feminism.

I believe it is more than possible to criticise modern feminism from a left-anarchist position and that doing so might be more productive to discussion than other approaches, as well as disarming the instant dismissal that comes with the undue associations with the crazier end of America’s right wing.

Defining Terms

When I speak of ‘left’ I’m speaking of the traditional concerns of democratic socialism. When I’m talking about anarchism, I mean it with reference to the political ideology, not ‘chaos’. When I speak of feminism I suppose I’m talking about the public feminism that’s driving the discourse. What Christina Hoff Sommers calls ‘Gender feminism’ and what I’ve also heard referred to as ‘NGO Feminism’, combined with the hashtag, Tumblr and university feminism that I call NuFem.

Turning to Scruton as a definitional source then, what we have (paraphrased) is:

Socialism:

  1. The premise of equality, stated in terms of equal opportunity, egalitarianism and that people have equal rights.
  2. The position of the state as administrator, and limited to that role. Acting as guarantor of rights and benefits and enforcing law.
  3. Eliminating or preventing the creation of systems of control. Typically this would be through wealth redistribution, dismantling hereditary power, special groups with special privileges etc.

Note that egalitarianism does not mean homogeneity. That is, Socialism does not advocate that all people are the same, but they should have as close to equal a chance in life as possible. Equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome, as it is sometimes phrased. In practical terms examples of this might include heavy investment in public education and medicine.

Anarchism

The belief that it is preferable to minimise or abolish government and for people to self govern. That people are essentially good and that systems of mutual aid can be emergent. That the state is exploitative or vulnerable to being exploited. That human beings are naturally cooperative but that this instinct is frustrated by coercion. That reforms ‘from above’ bear the imprint of the authority that initiates them. That social change must be wrought by revolutionary action.

Note that not all anarchists share all of the beliefs listed above and that many, myself included, believe that a true anarchist society is not possible without mastering the means of production or moving into a post-scarcity world.

Feminism

Since we’re not talking about equity feminism here, I think we can safely leave that out. Equity feminism would be the advocacy of equality between men and women and, in law that is virtually universal across western civilisation, though the same cannot necessarily be said of men.

When I am talking of gender feminism then, I mean (Scruton):

Feminism is the advocacy of the rights of women and of their social, political and economic equality with men. Originally a movement among the half-emancipated women of the educated classes it has become part of a wider women’s movement which is often activist and which somes bases its stance on the belief that society, as presently known in the west, enshrines a persistent sexism and moreover constantly frustrates the right of a woman to be a person and to control her own destiny

Refined by Christine Hoff Sommers definition of Gender Feminism which could be stated as:

In contrast to equity feminism, Sommers coined the term “Gender feminism” to describe what she contends is a gynocentric and misandric branch of feminism. Gender feminists typically criticize contemporary gender roles and aim to eliminate them altogether. Sommers argues that gender feminism characterizes most of the body of modern feminist theory, and is the prevailing ideology in academia. She argues that while the feminists she designates as gender feminists advocate preferential treatment and portray “all women as victims”, equity feminism provides a viable alternative form of feminism to those who object to elements of gender feminist ideology.

The Oxford English Dictionary would define feminism as:

The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes.

It’s important to dissect this a little as it is unclear – save from Hoff Sommers definition – where the objection might lie. This can perhaps most easily be explained by adding emphasis to the OED definition:

The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes.

The difference between the advocacy of rights and striving for equality is that advocacy of rights, a women’s movement, an activist group for women can argue for more than equal rights and for preferential treatment. This is no different to any other advocacy group and needn’t be sinister. Cancer charities will agitate for more money from government to support their research, Jewish groups will try to secure funding for Israel and – more sinister perhaps – companies will agitate for tax breaks and looser restrictions. That’s where it gets a bit muddy.

While not sinister there can be a dark side to this. If the cancer charity gets more money, maybe it comes away from HIV/AIDS research. If the Israel lobby is successful, maybe there’s less overseas aid for other countries. If the company secures special privileges then the tax shortfall has to be made elsewhere and deregulation can mean anything from toxic spills to bank collapses.

In the case of feminist activism this can be reflected in the demand for special privileges for women that take away from men, distract and detract from men’s issues and promote women ahead of men in areas of society, legal representation, academia, media presentation and many other areas in life.

Objections

What then, could possibly be the objections from a socialist or anarchist perspective on the feminist movement? Keep in mind that we’re talking about today’s visible, feminist movement. The one I called NuFem, the combination of mainstream NGO feminism and the hashtag activists of Tumblr and Twitter.

Socialist Objections

Equality

Equality before the law is already the case in the UK. Women are not excluded from any political office or any job. Employment legislation means they cannot be discriminated against on the basis of their sex and that they have a right to equal pay for equal work (this being the case since 1970). There are a few lagging areas, such as the military, but they are now phasing in female soldiers to the front line.

Which all sounds good in theory – and is – but in practice things are not so equal. Fewer women go for positions in politics and business, through their own choice. This creates a tension between the fact of equality before the law and its unsatisfactory (to feminists) reflection in the public sphere. This has lead to unequal, preferential treatment on the basis of gender. The introduction of quotas has also been confirmed under EU law, at least for non-executive boards of listed companies (40% women). This despite positive discrimination and quotas falling foul of various countries equality legislation (ironically enough). However, the failure of large companies to employ ethnic minorities, the disabled or ‘sufficient’ women could form grounds for a suit and so informal quotas do occur.

This is not equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome. It is a case of people getting positions because of their sex, not because they are the best or most qualified person for the job and means other, more talented individuals will be excluded, purely because they are male.

That’s homogeneity, not equality.

In the case of the military, as with the US military, British female soldiers will only go to the front lines if they volunteer, while men can simply be ordered there. Women are also, at this time, immune to any potential military draft in both countries, though this is more of an issue in the US. That’s not equality either, that’s preferential treatment for women.

Inequalities are also present in law, against men, in cases of alimony, divorce, child custody and child support payments. This is not only bias but is enshrined in law, in many countries and though it was overturned in the UK, thankfully, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it.

Feminism’s failure to argue for equality in cases of feminine advantage and male disadvantage and its unwillingness to lead from the front by disestablishing those advantages means that it offends Socialism’s basic principle of equal rights and opportunities.

The Role of the State

Socialism limits the role of the state to one of administrator and the guarantor of legal rights and benefits. It is responsible – in socialism – for the enforcement of the law in a fair and unbiased manner.

Feminism seeks to use the state as an enforcement arm of its own ideology, not of fair application of the law. While it does seek to change the law through agitation and protest, this results in the state no longer being the guarantor of universal, legal rights and benefits but an ideological police enforcing a singular point of view.

NGO feminism has become incredibly powerful within the public sphere, incontestable not because of fact or science but because it is able to leverage the perceived victim status of women into action and any opposition, on any basis, can be smeared with ‘misogyny’ and ‘sexism’ ending careers and causing damage to political parties. This is, perhaps, exemplified by the manner in which Caroline Criado-Perez was able to use a feminist front to alter the banknotes, replacing one of the greatest scientists the world has ever known with an author of romances. This was accomplished both through perceived unfairness, and by parsing any and all objections as trolling, further using her empowered victim status to push it through.

In the more private sphere, the speed of the internet, most notably Twitter, has lead to many panicked and poorly thought out decisions by private individuals and companies when faced with the near-daily Twitter storms that boil up around perceived prejudice or discrimination – which may or may not exist. It almost doesn’t matter if there’s any substance behind it, the speed and the negative publicity swiftly spirals out of control, even when it’s something ridiculous like #CancelColbert.

Feminism also expects the state to support independent women, when they do not work and to pursue their former partners and fathers of their children in order to demand money, take it directly from their wages or put them in jail. It expects the state to provide ‘safe spaces’ without dissent, while also seeking to invade spaces in order to dissent (reference Warren Farrell or Janice Fiamengo’s attempts to speak on University campuses in Canada or protests and counter-protests around pornography in the UK). Ideological ideas about sex work are promoted by feminists to the detriment and against the testimony of women working in that arena and NGO feminism is in bed with the UK Conservative coalition government in order to enforce the criminalisation of forms of sexuality and the censorship of the internet.

The state is being co-opted on ideological grounds and failing to act as the guarantor of rights to over half its citizens. This is not socialist.

Systems of Control

Socialism seeks to eliminate or prevent the creation of systems of control. Wealth might be redistributed through taxation, education and social investment. When it comes to hereditary power a socialist organisation would seek to remove that hereditary right and when it comes to special groupings, socialism would seek to ensure that they were equal with others in the eyes of the state.

This is not the case with NuFem.

NuFem wants to create, indeed is creating, systems of control and special privilege in every sphere of life. From moralising censorship of the internet and of media that offends mainstream feminist sensibilities (No More Page 3, Lose the Lads Mags etc, etc, etc) to the total domination of Gender and Women’s Studies without alternative points of view being taught, even to the point of extracurricular talks being disrupted and undermined by faculty – without penalty. An attempt to take this to court failed, not because it lacked merit, but because of the prevailing attitude and fear of backlash over ‘misogyny’.

Kirsty Ward’s documentary ‘Blurred Lines’ about a supposed rise in misogynistic and sexist culture was biased and one-sided in a way that would never pass if the topic were political, this on the BBC whose charter demands fairness and this is sadly typical of reporting on these subjects, a stance that rarely gets criticised at all, again because of the toxic and damaging nature of the way that dissent – however calm and rational – is treated.

Conclusion

Feminism has set itself up as more than merely an agent for equitable treatment for women, but as a gatekeeper to academia and the public sphere. It is a de facto censor, a group privileged by the state and which uses the state to enforce its will. It brooks little to no dissent and makes no attempt to seek true equality. It is a group that leverages perceived but no longer factual inequalities into a new position of power through social and media manipulation and the sheer power of accusations of misogyny and sexism to destroy opposition.

These are marks of totalitarianism and minority rule. Not a free and fair society such as socialism would attempt to create.

Anarchist Objections

Anarchism posits naturally emergent relationships and systems in which people can self govern and will naturally aid one another. It provides room for the maximum in personal liberty which isn’t at the expense of others (at least in its leftist form, which is where it differs from libertarianism or anarcho-capitalism).

NuFem assumes that people are bad, without investigating intentions or meaning it presumes to know what people think and how they feel. This is reflected in dogmas such as ‘objectification’ and the immediate presumption that some behaviours reflect misogyny – the hatred of women – when that’s not necessarily true. Feminism is, thus, at total odds with one of the basic tenets of Anarchism. One might argue that it is social conditioning that makes these men act in such a way and shift the blame onto society, but given the current state of gender-relations education and media campaigns, this seems 180 degrees from reality and, to add insult to injury, is calling on the state to educate or indoctrinate with acceptable behaviour.

Top down imposition of a particular social order runs counter to anarchism on such a fundamental level that such social engineering and thought policing is – or should be – completely unacceptable to most who call themselves feminists. Indeed, conventional wisdom would have it that by using the established order and top-down, hierarchical systems such as the police and government, NuFem – at least NGO feminism – should be resisted.

Hashtag activism is a little more anarchistic in that it’s attempting to use disruptive technology to overcome traditional relationships and to apply bottom up, rather than top down pressure (in the short term). However, in so doing it descends into mob rule. It is not the quality or correctness of an argument that carries the day in many cases, but rather the sheer volume of outrage and the perceived worthiness of their victim status. This is revolutionary, but more in the sense of La Terreur than Sametová Revoluce. Some may be willing to accept that, but to me it seems to merely be setting up a new authority, just as illegitimate as – say – the ‘moral authority’ of the Church.

Ultimately the goal of Anarchism would be – in the broadest sense – the maximisation of freedom and the minimisation of state interference, restriction and control over the freedoms of others. The tendency of NuFem to try and control, censor and to use mere offence rather than actual harm as a basis to do so, as well as seeking to enforce a subjective paradigm through existing state force seems – to me – to rule it out as a truly anarchistic ideology.

The accomplishments in terms of legal and societal equality (though it has gone further) seem to have fulfilled the original goals of anarcha-feminism while the puritanical, anti-sex work, anti-sex and anti-pornography stance of NuFem also appears to contradict the free love goals of the likes of Goldman, Emile Armand or de Moura.

While anarcha-feminism has also opposed traditional family and gender roles, NuFem has failed to challenge them in the form they exist that leads to inequality for men and failed to address inequality as it affects men throughout society. A necessary compliment to doing the same for women.

Conclusion

Anarchism is ultimately about the maximisation of freedom but relies on the consent and cooperation of all involved. How it deals with those who transgress is what is most telling about any particular form on anarchism and any particular anarchist.

NuFem’s presumption of intent and focus on emotional rather than actual harm, along with its willingness to be prescriptive and to use force to censor free expression – one of the most fundamental of human rights – makes it incompatible with anarchism in any meaningful way.

Summary

Criticism and opposition to feminism is often perceived as being rooted in the right wing and associated with the far right. It is often seen as the purview of religious conservatives, social conservatives and those who see a woman’s place as being barefoot and pregnant, standing at the stove.

I believe in a robust discussion that includes everyone, whether I agree with their point of view or not. However the lack of strong leftist voices related to men’s issues is something that very much limits the potential for progress and allows it to be stereotyped with the gold-hoarding, Cliven Bundy type of person. This is, of course, not to say that this kind of person does not have the right to political participation and to free express, just that if that is all there is, it is counterproductive.

I see leftist and anarchistic views as encouraging and guaranteeing the best possible chances for everyone and to be devoted to the concept of equality before the law and equality of opportunity. It is for these very reasons that I oppose NuFem because it is my understanding, from direct experience and professed ideology and claims, that it is not about equality or even what is best for women. It is another prescriptive, controlling and domineering political position which is not based on sound evidence or a desire for genuine freedom or equality. In many instances it seems to be directly trying to impinge upon and prevent fairness and equality for men, particularly as relates to equality in the courts.

The pursuit of equality and fairness is one thing, but NuFem is overstepping those bounds into thought policing, show trials and mob rule as well as abusing its ‘moral’ position to force potentially very dangerous and regressive changes via government.

Genuine equality and human rights is no longer a gendered issue and feminism is not concerned with men’s issues. Either we need a parallel activism that advocates for men’s rights and against the excesses of feminism (and vice versa) or we need a new, syncretic movement for genuine equality that deals with the facts as they genuinely are and with the interplay between the differences, rights, responsibilities and freedoms of both genders and society in general.

A New Culture of Misogyny?

Misandry-report

Sinfest. Used to be funny. This one’s just ironic.

My original piece on the BBC TV documentary ‘Blurred Lines’ was intended as a counter to the show, which was incredibly biased and one sided with only two, half-hearted opposing views being presented. This article is intended to be a more balanced examination of some of the issues presented in the show.

The central issue presented by the show is to claim that we’re in a new era of misogyny and sexism, made worse by the media, culture and – in particular – the internet.

To determine whether this is true or not, we first need to understand what is meant by ‘misogyny’ and ‘sexism’.

What is Misogyny?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines misogyny as:
Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

Feminism has its own definition – or definitions – of misogyny as it does with other terms. There doesn’t seem to be any particular, overall agreement on the term but it does seem to go beyond the commonly understood meaning from the OED.

Commonly referenced in online debates and arguments the Finally Feminism 101 blog describes misogyny more broadly as:

Misogyny is a… more personal and emotional prejudice, resulting in contempt, scorn and dismissiveness towards women who step outside the bounds sexism lays down as appropriate. Misogynistic anger openly displayed against women who challenge their sexist preconceptions is part of an intimidatory silencing tactics arsenal, and of course the perpetrators don’t display those tactics against women who stay within the notional boundaries – approval is the reward for behaving appropriately.

What is Sexism?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines sexism as:

Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.

Again, feminism has its own definition. Unlike misogyny’s feminist definition, the sexism definition is fairly consistent and is also found in arenas like racial discrimination. Within feminism, sexism is defined as:

Sexism is both discrimination based on gender and the attitudes, stereotypes, and the cultural elements that promote this discrimination. Given the historical and continued imbalance of power, where men as a class are privileged over women as a class (see male privilege), an important, but often overlooked, part of the term is that sexism is prejudice plus power. Thus feminists reject the notion that women can be sexist towards men because women lack the institutional power that men have.

This definition has come in for considerable criticism as it excludes sexism from women towards men, and has been used to excuse prejudice and bigotry towards men, but in this context that’s not especially relevant.

How can we examine this claim?

How can we hope to quantify something as subjective as misogyny or sexism? It’s a very challenging question to try and answer but we can make a few safe assumptions that might allow us to examine, at least, the truth of the claim that things are getting worse and – if they are – where the blame might possibly lie.

If misogyny has gotten worse, if sexism has gotten worse, we might well expect indicators stemming from that spread in various measures of gender equality, sex crime and similar concerns. We do have statistics on these factors that we can examine and, while methodologies have changed over time, some have remained the same for long periods of time.

So, are things Worse?

By any objective measure the situation for women has not gotten worse.

  • The World Economic Forum lists the United Kingdom as being 18th out of 136 countries in terms of gender equality, improving from a score of 0.7365 in 2006 to 0.7440 in 2013.
  • According to the British Crime Survey (chapter 4 Intimate personal violence and domestic abuse) sexual assault (against women) has dropped by around 1% since 2005 and domestic violence and stalking (against women) has dropped by 2.5% since 2005.
  • This is part of a longer term trend which has been noted across western countries, showing that sex crimes have nosedived since the 1990s. (The correlation of this to access to online pornography is well covered in Freakonomics and A Billion Wicked Thoughts).

Figure_1._Rape_and_sexual_assault_victimization_rates_among_females,_1995–2010

Conclusion

Whatever the case when it comes to the subjective experience of misogyny and sexism, the statistics simply don’t support a conclusion that things are getting worse for women. It would be my suspicion that rather than things getting worse we are seeing a higher degree of sensitivity and an ongoing clash of gender influenced behaviour and expectations as we adjust to a wired-up world.

A Fundamental Problem

The assumption of misogyny on the part of trolls, smack-talking online game players, singing sports teams and off-colour comedians is not a safe assumption. Expression is not, necessarily, an indicator of true values.

You can think of much of this, but especially the trolling and smack talking, as being akin to acting. The Swiss actor, Bruno Ganz, played Hitler, but nobody would make the immediate presumption that he was a Nazi simply because he played the part.

When it comes to trolls and smack-talking in online games the motivation is similar. In both instances the person is trying to get a rise. Amongst trolls the reaction and distress is what they are after while in online games they are seeking to make their opponent upset in order to gain advantage or to cause them to quit.

This has been known for some time and it isn’t to say that trolling isn’t problematic but, rather that thinking a troll is genuinely misogynistic or sexist and to take it seriously on that basis is to misdiagnose the problem. Trolls are, often, sadistic, psychopathic or sociopathic but that is no indicator of any views whatsoever.

We’ve had all this straight from the horse’s mouth before. Trolls are perfectly willing to explain why they do what they do and genuinely holding misogynistic or other nasty views doesn’t seem to rate mention.

Troll/Activist Synergy

Since trolling first emerged as a recognisible phenomenon on Usenet the received wisdom has been ‘Don’t feed the trolls’. The trolls want attention, want a reaction and the bigger the reaction the better, if you deny them that reaction they go away. That has been true and it has been the only way to deal with the problem and preserve the value of internet anonymity and security.

So what has changed? Why are the Criado-Perezs, Suey Parks and Anita Sarkeesian’s of this world suddenly playing up the trolling and treating it seriously?

Criado-Perez’s profile and cause was advanced by taking the trolling seriously, it got her a great deal of attention, media appearances, sympathy and social and political capital to spend on her activism. Same for Suey Park.

Sarkeesian made $160,000 off the back of it, along with awards and becoming the go-to spokeswoman for women in gaming despite being revealed as a fraud, a thief (more than once) and being linked to exploitative junk science (handwriting analysis) and pyramid schemes. Being able to point at trolls and act as though they were serious allows her to deflect attention from these problems and to ignore the wealth of, in depth, legitimate criticism of her analysis and positions, to block comments on her videos and even to ignore people asking where she’s spent the money.

Nor has the vehement reaction to Sarkeesian been unique and nor is it gendered. Much has been made of the cheap and nasty flash game someone made where you could slap Sarkeesian around and the abuse she had gotten, but those with a memory may remember another person who attacked the gaming culture, Jack Thompson, getting virtually identical treatment.

There’s at least one study that shows men suffer as many threats and as much abuse online (or more), but it’s telling that I had huge trouble finding it due to the way in which the Google search terms are completely flooded with the singular concern over the threats made towards women online. Ditch the Label also found the bullying was equal, not directed especially at women.

Why Might Men be Resentful?

I think the above, in which I’ve striven to support my assertions and to present a more balanced view than the previous article demonstrates that what is going on is not what is being assumed by activists are two different things. If we can properly identify what is going on without the pre-existing assumptions we may be able to figure out ways to cope with or address the issues as they actually are.

Is there any legitimacy to the claims that men – or at least many men – are resentful, angry or upset?

There, I think, there are some things to be considered, but the existing feminism dominated paradigm is too fixated on the idea that men are bad and that everything is their fault. The problems men face aren’t taken seriously and these kinds of anti-male accusations end up contributing to the problem rather than helping to solve anything.

If men are feeling disaffected and besieged, it does not mean that they’re afraid or angry because their supposed privilege and power is being eroded. It can be – and I think is – down to genuine inequality, unfairness and the loss of respect and rights without a commensurate reduction in responsibilities.

What we have at the moment needs to be replaced with a genuine, properly informed dialogue that takes in both sides.