Playing Wendy: Laurie Penny amongst the ‘Lost Boys’

nadyaphoto1I am an angry, disaffected, far leftist. I find, constantly, that my ire is not directed where it should be – to the Trumps and Brexiters of this world – but towards my own side.

You expect the right wing to be sociopathic, hypocritical cunts. That is, after all, their modus operandi. You do not, however, expect it of the left with its professed values of reason, tolerance and fairness.

And that’s why I end up railing against my own side so much. They have betrayed these values and continue to betray these values. They have developed an arrogance, an orthodoxy, a set of commandments and taboos. They have forsaken equality for a spectrum of special interest groups. They’ve forsaken fairness for special pleading. Principle is gone, science is gone, reason is gone. They won’t even bother to make their case any more.

It’s almost religious.

When they attack people like Trump I often find myself compelled, through my own principles of fairness to defend him. Principles I considered to be left-wing.

The constant misrepresentations, lies and – yes – ‘fake news’ represent a moral and ethical outrage to me.

They’re especially baffling when there’s so many good, legitimate reasons to be horrified by the international swing to the right. There are sp many good arguments to be made with factual bases to them, and they’re not being made.

Why lie instead?

There’s one manifestation of this collapse and betrayal of principle I take pretty personally though.

Laurie Penny.

***

It’s awkward and dispiriting every time I run into something that Laurie Penny has written.

If we weren’t ever friends we were once acquaintances (I’d discovered her via the writer Warren Ellis). It was possible – in the past – to have a discussion with her about one topic or another and, while it was clear we came from different traditions and perceptions of what ‘the left’ is, we could talk.

It’s also awkward because we’re now ‘friend of a friend’ to each other in ‘meatspace’.

From Laurie’s perspective it seemed, to her, that I slowly drifted to the right. My becoming interested in free expression issues, my engagement with men’s issues, my growing involvement in the skeptic community appeared – to her – to be someone becoming more reactionary and conservative.

But, in the immortal words of Hans Zarkov: “I haven’t changed.”

I’m the same libertine, skeptical, rationalist, far-left optimist but primary pragmatist I ever was.

Rather, the ‘left’ (I regard the scare quotes as unfortunately necessary) changed. It went from being the principled, funny, consistent, even-handed and rational voice to the mirror-universe version of everything it had once opposed.

Schoolmarmish, authoritarian, censorious, irrational, elitist, racist, sexist, prejudiced and otherwise insane.

My criticisms and issues with my own side, my attempts – however feeble and unsuccessful – to keep the ‘left’ on track and my warnings about what was going to happen were ignored. They made me a ‘Cassandra’ and Laurie, ultimately, fed up with being argued with and contradicted (especially after my critique of one of her books and the dismantling of a book by one of her feminist icons) cut me off. Secured her safe space against transgression with a block of an honest interlocutor.

(She also participated in the disgraceful failure of reporting on Cologne).

For a while, fairly recently, Laurie was doing her bargain-basement Hunter S Thompson bit and trailing around after the ill-fated Milo Yiannopoulos, ’embedded in his entourage’. After the Berkeley riots over his college tour she ended up being accused of being a ‘Nazi sympathiser’ for her writing and work around him.

I had hoped – against hope – that this would lead to a moment of awakening for her similar to the various ones I’d had.

That…

“These people have good intentions, but – by Klono’s iron hooves – they’re divorced from reality.”

…moment.

When I saw a new article, ‘On the Milo Bus With the Lost Boys of America’s New Right’ I was hopeful that we might see something of a revelatory article of realisation and self-relection – especially in the wake of the Traditional Conservative coup that sparked Milo’s downfall.

Alas, it was not to be.

While there are some insightful moments in the article, there are also some breathtaking absences of self awareness and missed opportunities. Another lapse in the integrity and fairness which I, perhaps unfairly, have high expectations of in others (as in myself).

***

This is a story about truth and consequences. It’s a story about who gets to be young and dumb, and who gets held accountable. It’s also a story about how the new right exploits young men — how it preys not on their bodies, but on their emotions, on their hurts and hopes and anger and anxiety, their desperate need to be part of a big ugly boys’ own adventure.

Almost right from the get-go Laurie demonstrates that she doesn’t understand what has happened or who Milo’s audience is. That a lot of them are on the libertarian end of the new authoritarian/libertarian divide and a lot of them are more properly on the liberal/left end of the spectrum. They’re just alienated by a left that has abandoned every principle for… some reason.

It’s not so much that the right has preyed upon these people, or their emotions, but that the left has abandoned a huge swathe of people, has become too insane to support in its current incarnation and that people like Milo – sincere or not – are at least saying some of the things that people want to hear. Traditionally left-wing things.

Freedom.

Fairness.

Equality.

Reason – or at least the appearance thereof.

As I write, Yiannopoulos, the fame-hungry right-wing provocateur and self-styled “most dangerous supervillain on the Internet,” is fighting off accusations of having once endorsed pedophilia. Former friends and supporters who long tolerated his outrage-mongering as childish fun are now dropping him like a red-hot turd: His book deal has been canceled, CPAC has disinvited him as a speaker, and today he resigned from his job at Breitbart.

The absolutely most important part of this summary of events is missing.

That these accusations are false.

If you don’t believe me, go and listen to the podcasts in their full, original form, with the context, cadence and tone intact.

The second most important thing about these events is also missing.

That these attacks did not come from the left, which has singularly failed to land a meaningful blow on Milo since his star became ascendant (and its not as if he’s not a target-rich environment).

They come from the right.

The traditionally conservative, anti-Trump, anti-libertarian wing of the American right. McMullen and the ‘Reagan Battalion’.

I’ve been following Yiannopoulos’ tour for months, and I can absolutely confirm that he means almost nothing he says, that he will say almost anything for attention, and that none of that matters to those who face violence and trauma as a result. Yiannopoulos has cashed in hard on the cowardice of American conservatives, exploited their complete allergy to irony. Now it’s payback time.

This passage is one of those unselfaware moments.

While I agree with the assessment of Milo’s character – I don’t like the guy and the difficulty of spelling his surname lends a false intimacy of most people using his first name – this is absolutely not the story of Milo.

The cowardice that Milo has cashed in on is that of the ‘left’. The unwillingness of the left to debate, to argue, to make a case. The way the ‘left’ has come to treat its viewpoints as holy writ and any skepticism or dissent as blasphemy. The way the ‘left’ has tried to silence and crush opposition and expression.

That cowardice is what has allowed Milo to bloom.

Not only has the left’s cowardice and authoritarianism caused it to quit the field of debate – and leave it open to the right – it has made Milo’s meta-message, that of freedom, scrutiny and debate – appealing to people on the liberal left, like me.

We ‘Voltarian’ cultural libertarians may despise much of what he has to say but we support his right to say it and that puts us at odds with the authoritarian wing.

That divide and fracture only increases when they start calling culturally libertarian leftists Nazis. They did that to you Laurie, but you didn’t tackle it. You displayed that same cowardice and failing.

Nobody has faced any violence because of Milo.

Plenty of people have faced violence because of the failings of the ‘left’. I don’t think Laurie – or people like her – are responsible for that any more than I agree with them that Milo’s mere words place anyone in danger, but there has been an abject failing to oppose that violence when it occurs.

Yiannopoulos should know full well the American tendency to take sick jokes seriously, and the reason he should know it full well is that it’s the entire reason his shtick works in America when it didn’t work in Britain. It’s the entire reason hordes of teenage fans follow him from speaking event to speaking event, hanging with desperate loyalty off every word that comes out of his face.

I criticised Laurie’s book, ‘Cybersexism’ because she didn’t seem to understand the internet, at all, despite claiming to have essentially grown up on it. All her conclusions seemed 180 degrees from reality to me. coloured by the dogmas she has bought into since, and this is no different.

Gamergate gave Milo a big rise in his profile. It’s also the reason I don’t like him.

It was clear to me from the get go he was both using Gamergate for personal gain and trying to sell right wing viewpoints to a younger, tech-savvy, libertarian demographic. He was, however – at least at the time – the only person willing to report fairly and accurately on the movement and beggars can’t be choosers, even when Gamergate itself was – and remains – primarily left-libertarian.

That, even though it has grown far beyond Gamergate, is the character of his audience. People steeped in irony. People, genuinely, raised on internet culture. People used to the freedom that the internet can provide. People who play with sick jokes and irony and manifestly do not take them seriously.

When people like you, Laurie, take it seriously you’re doing a disservice to yourself, your readers and to Milo’s ‘fans’ (across the political spectrum). When people honestly report, po-faced, that drinking milk in front of failed art installation ‘He Will Not Divide Us’ is a fascist act, all they’re doing is providing ‘lulz’ and showing how stupid they are.

Godfrey Elfwick couldn’t succeed without people’s dishonesty and ignorance.

People follow him, primarily for the free speech issue (which he’s absolutely right about) and for the fact he’ll broach and argue topics that are otherwise verboten (which he may or may not be right or wrong about to varying degrees).

His audience, however, knows not to take him too seriously.

Do you?

Or are those teenage trolls smarter, more savvy and better at parsing intent than you?

This time, it’s backfired. This time, an ugly joke about having been taught to give head by a Catholic priest fell flat, as did a selection of quotes from video debates where, in Miracle Boy’s own words on Facebook: “My own experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous. But I understand that my usual blend of British sarcasm, provocation and gallows humor might have come across as flippancy, a lack of care for other victims or, worse, ‘advocacy.’ I deeply regret that.” Yiannopoulos protests that, this time, he really didn’t mean it, that his words have been taken out of context, that child sex abuse is real, and that he understands that words have consequences for victims.

A joke that people got and understood in context. A joke which caused no problem for an entire year. A joke many of us heard, in context, when it was first made and which, while it had shocking effect in the moment, was contextually not to be taken seriously. A self-deprecating joke even, about his own victimhood.

He was taken out of context, he never said child abuse wasn’t real.

As to the apology I think that was insincere and out of character for him, and he probably shouldn’t have made it but there weren’t a lot of available choices in the moment.

This time, the same shtick fell flat as a burst tire on the freeway, and the pile-up is getting ugly. The reason it fell flat is that, for all that the American right likes to show off pet homosexuals to prove its modernity, it turns out that it still hates gays. Christian conservatives worldwide are still unconvinced that LGBT people deserve human rights, and the old false slurs — that gay men abuse children and ignore the age of consent — still hit home.

This passage, at least, is accurate and describes what is really going on.

This is a counter-coup against the more libertarian and socially progressive (believe it or not) wing of the current American right, by the traditional conservative right. They’ve already hemmed Trump in (aided and abetted, sadly, by the mainstream media channels) and now they’ve attempted to take out Milo.

I suspect Milo may prove to be more resilient given he has a pre-made social media platform waiting for him. We’ll see.

This attack upon him is, I believe, rooted in homophobia and the smearing attempts to link homosexuality with paedophilia or – sorry to get all ‘MRA’ here for a moment – the misandrist assumption that all men are paedophiles by default and treating them as such. Gays get this worse, but it does occur for all men and is enshrined in company policies etc, to little protest.

This attack did come from the Christian conservative wing. Trump doesn’t give a fig about gays, Milo represented a degree of progress – love him or hate him – on this issue that aspects of the Christian Right are still struggling with.

What has happened now is a counter blow and, to the shame of the left which had been trying to attack Milo for years, it came – successfully – from the right.

All the ‘left’ could do was bandwagon on it, at the abandonment of their supposed principles and progressivism. Doubling the shame in their opportunistic, revenge fuelled glee.

It is horribly ironic that of all the disgusting nonsense Yiannopoulos has said — about women, about Muslims, about transgender people, about immigrants — it is only now that the moderate right appears to have reached the limits of what it will tolerate in the name of free speech. The hypocrisy is clarion-clear: This was never, in fact, about free speech at all. It was about making it OK to say racist, sexist, transphobic, and xenophobic things, about tolerating the public expression of those views right up to the point where it becomes financially unwise to do so. Those suddenly dropping Yiannopoulos are making a business decision, not a moral one — and yes, even in Donald Trump’s America, there’s still a difference. If that difference devours Yiannopoulos and his minions, they will find few mourners.

And I think that would be a mistake. I think you should be mourning Laurie. I think you should have the integrity to be shouting much louder about what you and I have both noticed; that this is a homophobic attack upon a prominent gay man.

You may hate Milo for a lot of things but he does represent part of a step forward for the right, a more progressive right. The right may be morally and ethically bankrupt for only caring about the bottom line but you, and the ‘left’ as a whole are morally bankrupt for not applying their professed principles to an enemy.

That’s the test of a principle. How you apply it to people you don’t like.

Milo’s ability to talk about issues with feminism (not women), about Islamism, about the transgender issue, about the immigration issue is about free speech. Free expression absolutely includes being able to say ‘racist, sexist, transphobic and xenophobic things’ not that I would agree this is necessarily what he does, nor agree with a lot of what he says.

These are just things you don’t agree with or won’t countenance discussion on.

That you’re happy to silence someone like him for secular blasphemy while tte right is happy to silence someone like him for religious and financial blasphemy makes you as bad as each other. An illustration – again – of the new political divide between authoritarianism and libertarianism.

Yiannopoulos followed the path of least resistance until, suddenly, it resisted. Now he knows just what it is to have the Internet turn on you and take away your control of the narrative. Now the entire alt-right is realizing, in full view of a few million popcorn-munching online leftists, that they were never the new punk. They were never the suave and seductive blackshirts of the new American authoritarianism. They are, at best, the brownshirts, and they are becoming less useful to their benefactors by the day.

Except Milo isn’t alt-right, at least not as the definition has settled. The fascists have successfully, largely as a result of left-wing media hysteria, wrested control of the term. For a while though it was closer to representing something more like what Milo, Lauren Southern and Paul Joseph Watson were selling. A more libertarian right. The ‘Ron Paul’ legacy. A more progressive – in many ways – culturally libertarian and, dare I say it, progressive and intellectual (or at least pseudo-intellectual, points for effort) right. Certainly one I’d rather have as the opposition, since we can agree on a few points, rather than the authoritarian, Christian, corporatist, dominionist right.

Tactically alone, we should have been shoring up Milo and those like him for the sake of long term progress.

As things stand now?

Maybe the ‘alt-lite’ will end up becoming a part of the new, radical centre that’s emerging, as the authoritarian left and right both get increasingly bucked against by the small ‘l’ libertarians across the spectrum.

Rewind two weeks. It’s a wet night in Berkeley, California, and Yiannopoulos is running away from the left. He was scheduled to speak at the University of California–Berkeley, but the event has been shut down. It was shut down because thousands of anti-racist and anti-fascist protesters decided that there should be no platform for what they called white supremacy. They are marching to say that free speech does not extend to hate speech, that the First Amendment should not oblige institutions to invite professional trolls to spout an auto-generated word-salad of Internet bigotry just for fun, and that, if the institutions disagree, students and allies are entitled to throw fireworks and smash things until the trolls run away. Which is exactly what has happened.

Well this is sort of promising. This passage seems to betray a kind of confusion. You don’t want to defend Milo and his fans but at the same time you don’t appear to really want to condone the violence that occurred over mere speech.

I think you understand he’s not racist, not fascist and I think you feel – just a touch – of inward ‘cringe’ at the AntiFa and other idiots whose actions so spectacularly backfired.

Perhaps because it was in the aftermath of this event that you were personally attacked, and felt the absurdity of their sting yourself.

Five minutes after I arrive on campus, klaxons are blaring in the event space and the entire team on his “Dangerous Faggot Tour” has been obliged to make what might generously be termed a tactical retreat. Police in full riot gear are everywhere, and the whole place is evacuated because of the real possibility of everyone inside getting a serious — and arguably deserved — kicking. Whatever the rights and wrongs of punching fascists, if people of good faith and conscience are publicly debating whether or not you deserve a smack in the mouth, it’s probably time to have a think about your life.

And then you let me down again.

If people are trying to shut you up in such manifestly illiberal ways, maybe you’re onto something. Maybe people who are willing to toss aside their own principles so easily shouldn’t be listened to, and maybe when someone is trying to shut you up you have something worth listening to.

That’s why these actions aided Milo so much and, while he’s not a fascist, why historically and currently violence and hysteria has aided actual fascists.

Nobody who isn’t engaged in violence deserves a kicking.

This is a case where there isn’t an argument. There’s no ‘right or wrong’ about punching fascists for thought or speech crime.

It’s just wrong.

The team is mostly composed of young men. Extremely young men. The sort of young men who are very brave behind a computer screen and like to think of themselves as stalwart fighters for the all-American right to say whatever disgusting thing they please, but who are absolutely unequipped to deal with any suggestion of real-world consequences. I end up spending most of my time stuck in a hotel lobby, interviewing the people who follow Yiannopoulos around, doing his grunt work and getting into scrapes as if the whole thing were a holiday lark rather than a serious political project with real repercussions for real human beings.

There shouldn’t be consequences for free speech. That’s what makes it free. There shouldn’t be ‘real world consequences’ for mere speech, online or otherwise. Again, that’s what makes it free. This is why the internet is so liberating and so important.

This whole tour and event absolutely is more of a holiday lark. It’s not really a serious political project and it would have zero consequences if not for violent idiots beating people in the street and setting fires, whipped up on their own hype and hysteria.

You can’t have it both ways.

If it’s serious, debate and deal, address the ideas and don’t rely on outrage.

If it’s just trolling, then we all know – or should know – not to feed the troll.

Milo’s opposition has failed consistently to do either.

It is vital that we talk about who gets to be treated like a child, and what that means. All of the people on Yiannopoulos’ tour are over 18 and legally responsible for their actions. They are also young, terribly young, young in a way that only privileged young men really get to be young in America, where your race, sex, and class determine whether and if you ever get to be a stupid kid, or a kid at all. Mike Brown was also 18, the same age as the Yiannopoulos posse, when he was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014; newspaper reports described him as an adult, and insisted that the teenager was “no angel,” as if that justified what was done to him. Tamir Rice was just 12 years old when he was shot and killed in Cleveland for playing with a toy gun. The boys following Yiannopoulos are playing with a toy dictator, and they have faced no consequences as yet, even though it turns out that their plastic play-fascism is, in fact, fully loaded and ready for murder.

Milo isn’t a fascist or a dictator. His fans are not fascists. Many of them are still on the left, the Voltairian left. This is why he is able to talk with people like Dave Rubin and why his Maher appearance was successful, marked by the stark contrast between his interactions with Maher – a genuine liberal – and his panel of faux-left authoritarians who could only muster a ‘fuck you’.

In this passage you also demonstrate why Milo has gained a following and why much of that following, that disagrees with him so much of the time, is cheering him on.

You bring race and gender to the table. Telling people merely because they’re white or male that they have ‘privilege’.

Not only is this a semantic atrocity and deeply racist and sexist in itself, but it’s untrue. This is also unrelated to the point here, save that it’s you demonstrating why so many young people, not just whites, not just men, are so disaffected and pissed off with the snake oil you’re selling. Why there has been a reaction of ‘white’ and ‘male’ identity politics to the racist sexist identity politics of the pseudo-left.

There’s no fascism here, no threat from Milo or his fans. They’re just enthusiastically pointing out that the ID politics Emperor has no clothes. That’s a preferable reaction to the other potential one, a rise in genuine, actual white supremacism. A tulpa conjured into being where it barely existed by the paranoia and hyperbole of the ‘left’.

If the left would debate, fight, argue and reform then there would be no space for the right to move in, in their wake.

It’s your own absurdity and bigotry that creates the crisis.

As the evacuation gets going, the young men in Yiannopoulos’ gang seem scared. They’re right to be — these protesters aren’t playing, and there has already been real violence at these events. One week earlier, in Seattle, a Yiannopoulos fan shot an anti-fascist protester in the stomach. The victim is expected to survive. The impression that this is all an exciting adventure in pranking the left, a giddy game of harmless offense where nobody actually gets hurt, is not holding up so well.

You fail to note that the shooting was in self defence. At least that appears to be the case from witnesses and the reaction of the police.

The violence is not coming from Milo fans. To my shame and what should be yours, it is coming from people who supposedly share our political stance and philosophy. It’s our side that’s the thugs, the ‘brownshirts’. By resorting to violence our ‘side’ is aiding those they claim to oppose. Without their violence that’s exactly what it would be – harmless offence where nobody gets hurt.

For all the attempts the pseudo-left makes to equate words with violence, they’re simply not. Violence is violence, words are mere words, and it’s not Milo or those like him causing any actual violence.

The vehemence of the protests and the headline-baiting images of masked men setting fires and breaking glass represent a small win for Yiannopoulos: He gets to go on Fox News and play the victim. The rest of the crew are purely freaked out. One of the younger hangers-on has an anxiety disorder and had to fight down a panic attack that could have held up the swift retreat. Whatever anyone claims, it’s hard to shake off being run out of town by 3,000 people screaming that you’re a Nazi. It’s the sort of thing that gives everyone but the coldest sociopath at least a little pause, and most of this crew don’t have the gumption or street smarts to function outside of a Reddit forum. They’re not the flint-eyed skinheads that many anti-fascists are used to fighting. I’m not a brawler, but I’d wager that these kids could be knocked down with a well-aimed stack of explanatory pamphlets, thus resolving decades of debate about whether it’s better to punch or to reason with racists.

It was a huge win and it continues to resonate. He wasn’t playing the victim, as so many do, he really was one (as he is now). For someone so unwilling and incapable of skepticism when others play the victim, I suppose I should be pleased you finally find the gumption to be skeptical for once and I hope it is evenly applied in the future.

The fact is that he’s not a Nazi. You’ve been accused of Nazi apologia yourself. You know you’re not a Nazi, right Laurie? Yet a lot of people were screaming that at you. Are they right or just hysterical? Might that not be the case for others, so accused?

They’re not flint-eyed skinheads or brawlers, sure. They’re also not remotely fascists, so why should anyone expect them to be? Who created that dishonest impression in the eyes of AntiFa and the other protesters?

If Milo’s joke about blowing a priest is in bad taste, yours about punching people with different ideas (he and his fans aren’t racist either) is in much worse taste.

I was hustled in past the police barricades with three wide-eyed young event volunteers, to thunderous cries of “shame” from the crowd. They’d no reason to know that I wasn’t a volunteer myself. When the evacuation bell sounds in the stifling green room, the bravado rapidly dissolves into panic as the team heads through a maze of corridors to the car park. One look at what’s happening outside tells me that if I value my bodily integrity, I’d better go with them.

And yet you’re still making excuses for this mob. Did the accusations – both on site and since – scare you too much to do the right thing? Do you still have principles? Are you liberal – and in favour of free expression – or not? Do you honestly think violence is an acceptable response to mere words?

“I think a lot of people in this crew wouldn’t be part of the popular crowd without the Trump movement,” says one young man, who is Yiannopoulos’ voiceover artist. “I think that some of us are outcasts, some of us are kind of weird. It’s a motley crew.”

This is probably true and it’s why the moral bankruptcy of the ‘left’ over what has happened now with Milo outrages my principles so much. In many ways these people are, and could be, our allies. Their natural home should be more amongst the left, but the left has changed, lost its way.

The right was weak and there was space for them to be pushed, but now they’re biting back, that traditional right, and the left has forgotten what it’s about – leaving a vacuum.

These young men seem to have no conception of the consequences of allying yourself publicly with the far right, even before their hero gets accused of endorsing pedophilia in public. Yiannopoulos has been good to them. They’re having a great time. Over the course of a few hours, I find myself playing an awkward Wendy to these lackluster lost boys as I watch them wrestle with the moral challenge of actually goddamn growing up.

Here’s the ultimate irony. These feckless nerds and their ringleader, their Peter Pan, are the ones who pass for grown ups in this situation. They’re able to parse humour, to handle irony, to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations. They are the adults and the black-clad protesters setting fire to buildings, not to mention the nose-picking pixie in their midst (you’re more like Tink than Wendy, Laurie, to be honest) are toddlers throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get what they want. A romper-suited riot with all the finesse and nuance of a child being denied a packet of Haribo at the checkout in Tesco.

It is the left that needs to rediscover its maturity and capabilities. To make a commitment to its principles again. If these people are children, the Berkeley rioters are infants, but then so is most of the ‘left’ now.

I enjoy most respectful conversation, and these boys are scrupulously polite to me. They were polite to me a month earlier when I slept on their tour bus — right until a door closed between me and them, and they immediately started talking loudly, to each other, about the crass and anatomically implausible things they wanted to do to me. Intellectually, they must have known that I could hear them, but these kids grew up on the Internet, the world’s locker room, where if you can’t see a woman, she doesn’t really exist. The one grown man on the bus started yelling at them to go the hell to sleep — “there’s a girl back there!”—and they yelled back that they’d let me sleep if I let them “suck my titties.” It’s no surprise to hear that they’re still yearning for the teat, but these babies had best be careful where they go slobbering for the milk of human kindness. I’m just about dried up.

They were fucking with you. Treating you like one of them. ‘The bants’. You should be happy to be accepted and treated equally. Instead you vacillate between comprehension and praise… and damnation. Turning their acceptance of you into an insult.

This is What Equality Looks Like.

Being one of the boys.

These are not the scheming crypto-fascist masterminds I was led to expect. Seabass is 18 years old going on 12, Argentinian, and the sort of person who thinks that “Seabass” is a pretty cool fish to call yourself after if your mother named you Sebastian. His mother was worried about him palling around with Yiannopoulos “because he’s gay, and she always says how handsome I am” — but apparently calmed down after seeing how much Yiannopoulos has helped her son, fixing him up with connections and equipment to produce video and photos. Seabass is the one person who seems entirely unaffected by the full-on riot we’ve just run away from, but Seabass has had several root beers and two Magnums (the ice cream) and is on too much of a sugar bender to care about anything. I ask him how he sees his future. I’ve been asking this of everyone I meet in the Scream Room of Trumplandia. “I want to make a lot of money, get married,” he says, thoughtfully, “and then I want to kill God.”

Good for him, because much as I suspect religion led to his mother’s concerns, it has fuelled the scurrilous smear attacks on Milo.

Here’s the thing though, the thing you notice and should be trumpeting. These are not fascists.

You know it. I know it. They know it.

‘Fascist’ has just become another in a long line of meaningless attack labels and sadly it’s overuse is giving cover to genuine fascists as the word now causes suspicion of the accuser rather than outrage at the accused.

I suppose we should be thankful that ‘paedophile’ hasn’t yet lost its power to disgust (despite the best efforts of Salon and others). If this keeps up, that too will lose its ability to shock and motivate. I’ve already seen an uptick in it being used as a meaningless attack.

Most of them seem more than a little surprised that this has actually happened, that Trump is actually president. “I voted for him because I thought it was funny,” one of them tells me. “I don’t think that he can become a dictator like people say he can. We have too many checks and balances for that, and that’s why we have checks and balances. Right?” He picks at the label on his beer bottle.

This is likely true for a lot of people but, looking forward into the future, Trump may well be – painful as it is to admit – the better of the two prospects that were offered.

Trump is, at least, some sort of change and his artless, guileless method of governing is exposing the rotten guts of the American political machine to the public, much as Hilary’s breathtakingly corrupt campaign exposed the rotten guts of political campaigning and funding. Both could provide an opportunity for reform.

If we can moderate and take the edges off the inevitable left wing backlash to the current administration, if we can reform, update and make the left sane again this is a massive opportunity for both the USA – and the world – to make some genuine progress in the not-too-distant future.

And the kid’s right and, again, has shown a great deal more maturity and a better sense of perspective than most. Trump isn’t Hitler, you have checks and balances, the world isn’t ending. It’s just more difficult for people for a while. Could be easier if his more libertarian advisers and politicos got more support.

What they do, in fact, is have a long late-night fight about whether or not gay marriage will encourage the spread of AIDS, whether Britain is already overrun by Sharia Law (I assure them that it isn’t), and exactly how stupid the voting public has become.

Aside from the last one, can you imagine a band of left-wing activists having any similar, transgressive discussions? At all? Or is there an established orthodoxy, straying from which gets one burnt as a witch?

Whether there’s an answer to these or not (and IMO there is and I would tend to agree with you) just the fact that there is a discussion is an indication of relative maturity and healthy debate. One absent on the ‘left’.

“I’m pretty sure Milo has three times the brain capacity of Donald Trump,” says one young man who is aimlessly editing video of the protests. He still thinks right-wing voters were duped — in Britain and America both. “You’re giving the decision to do something that is so intricate and economically complex to an entirely uninformed, uneducated populace,” he opines. “The day after Brexit, the most Googled thing is ‘What is the European Union?’ I think that’s how Trump got, I would say 75 percent of people voting for him. He made a lot of promises, but the words he was saying — he was saying a lot, and not saying anything. I don’t think Trump knows what he’s doing.”

And this passage, a quote from a ‘spotty teen troll’ is more insightful and on point than much of what you’ve written yourself in the last couple of years Laurie.

Shocking, isn’t it?

Most of these young men are looking to build careers in media — as filmmakers, newscasters, producers. Yiannopoulos mentors them, gives them advice and equipment and support and connections. That’s what most of them are getting out of this deal, but many of them may now have to consider how the consequences of a known association with Trumpism might affect those careers after tomorrow, when the rush and rage of this tour is over and most of them have to go home and face their parents. These are not the “just following orders” kids. These are the “just making my career” kids. The two are functionally the same in the United States, but this still feels filthier.

Why though? There’s precious few opportunities these days so why shouldn’t they be ‘forgiven’ for taking the opportunities presented? Why should voting for Trump – a mainstream candidate for a mainstream party – be treated like voting for some KKK aligned militia leader?

You know these lads aren’t fascists, you seem to be being as sympathetic as you dare before swinging back to condemnation. Surely you recognise that the rhetoric and hate in and from the ‘left’ is out of hand here? Misapplied?

Trump’s terrible, but no more or less so than Dubya. Just more transparently terrible.

Slow down here, because this is important. However they may bluster online, the new right and the alt-right hate being called Nazis. They’ve all seen too many movies for it not to matter somewhere deep down where they tell themselves the story of their own heroism. In fact, ever since Inauguration Day, the alt-right has been in meltdown, splitting and splintering in cascading identity crises as only a formerly underground movement can when it attains power. Of course, it’s not my job as a reporter to give activists advice, but if it were, I’d say: No, they’re not all fascists, and not everyone reacts to being called one by changing their tune. But the strategic application of Nazi-shaming works. The real pity is that conservative hypocrisy seems to work faster.

It doesn’t work outside of the pseudo-left echo chamber, where it whips up black-bloc to the point where they’ll attack people for semi-comedic college tours. Elsewhere it has, indeed, lost its power.

Nobody, however, likes to be called something that they’re not. To my shame, again, it’s the ‘left’ that more closely resembles the Nazis these days. Deeply racist, deeply sexist, deeply elitist. Almost occult in the religious way they treat symbolism and ideological orthodoxy, and the first to reach for violence as a tool for political gain. Authoritarian, censorious, irrational.

The alt-right has been shaking down its meaning, but that’s not really the same thing as an identity crisis.

‘Nazi shaming’ has been a tactical disaster Nazi punching even more so. The sad fact of the matter is not that conservative hypocrisy works faster, but that it is the only thing that worked (much to the left’s quiet chagrin I think) and that it worked at all.

You may have noticed that, in this piece, I have not explicitly described Yiannopoulos or the movement that has made him famous as white supremacist, Neo-Nazi, fascist, or racist. The main reason for that is that it has been made explicitly clear to me that, were I to write such a thing, a libel suit the size of Mar-A-Lago would drop on me, and Yiannopoulos would use every trick in his surprisingly defensive playbook to prize out an apology, because that’s what friends are for. He’s done it to other reporters. He’s not the only one. In fact, a defining feature of the new-right populists is their ability to build a reputation as rhino-hided truth-sayers while flailing their hands in panic if anyone uses whatever words happen to hit them where it hurts.

I think you’ve given your own answer there. They style themselves as truth-sayers. Libel and slander must, necessarily, be untrue. If you can demonstrate that they are true, then they’re not libel and slander. If you are weaselling an accusation in this passage, you’re also admitting you can’t make the case.

The fact is that for all their obnoxiousness and as much as I disagree with Milo and his ilk they’re not Nazis, they’re not fascistic and they’re not racist, sexist or whatever other accusations you care to hurl at them. They’re really, when you get down to it, just the libertarian right, and their ‘crime’ is a mild blasphemy. Wanting to talk about things, to debate and discuss things the ‘left’ considers settled and orthodox.

That’s it.

So, for legal reasons, I must state that Milo Yiannopolous, possibly alone of all the smug white people in the world, is not a racist. For moral reasons, however, I must state that Yiannopoulos’ personal beliefs are irrelevant given that he’s built a career off peddling bigotry in public. What about sexism? “Sexism I don’t have the energy to wrestle with you over,” says Yiannopoulos, who, I can personally confirm, is the maple-cured bacon of misogynist piggery — oily and sweet and crass and, on a gut level, dreadful for your health.

‘Possibly of all the smug white people in the world…’ see, this is the kind of thing that gives people like Milo their power. You decry racism, but you are then massively, unapologetically racist in your assumption that all white people – except Milo – are racists. A child can see through such hypocrisy.

Disagreement isn’t bigotry. Rejection of ideological feminism’s overreach isn’t misogyny. It is hard to have the energy to debate that with someone who thinks rejection of an unsafe ideological house of cards equates to hatred of a gender.

He questions, he probes, he challenges – usefully if not sincerely – but that doesn’t make him a bigot and that accusation is as spurious and self-defeating as the accusations of Nazism or, indeed, paedophilia.

It seems perfunctory to point out the hypocrisy of building a movement and a career on the back of insulting people — Muslims, migrants, women, people of color — while nursing a hair-trigger sensitivity to any personal attack you haven’t pre-approved. That hypocrisy, though, does not appear self-evident to anyone within this movement, because a fundamental tenet of far-right pro-trolling is that it’s only other people’s feelings that are frivolous. Their own feelings, by contrast, including the capacity to feel shame when they’re held accountable for their actions, are so momentous that infringing them is tantamount to censure, practically fascism in and of itself. These are men, in short, who have founded an entire movement on the basis of refusing to handle their emotions like adults.

This is the part that prompted me to this lengthy reply, because the desperate lack of self-awareness in the last sentence is almost physically shocking.

I was ‘triggered’, if you will.

Laurie, you’re on the ‘side’ of people who want to turn entire campuses into safe spaces. Who retreat to a childhood of Play-Doh and colouring books at the slightest hint of a different point of view. Who throw destructive, public tantrums because someone else gets to have a ‘sweetie’ (in the form of a speech).

Milo and his followers may dress up their discussion in crass humour and /pol irony, but at least they’re having the discussion.

Are they insulting Muslims or discussing Islam? If people as calm, measured and intelligent as Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Majid Nawaz will get called racists and hatemongers for having far more careful discussions about the topic, why not just have the discussion without regard for that hypersensitivity?

Are they insulting migrants or discussing the problems around immigration? There are problems. There are discussions to be had, are there not?

Are they insulting women or discussing the overreach and dangers of the worst end of ideological feminism? Again, we have more scholarly people addressing these issues in a more moderate way, but they get treated just as badly. So why even try to be politic?

Are they insulting people of colour or underlining issues that both political wings know exist but posit different solutions for? Are they looking at statistics and trying to glean the truth or propagandising? What about their opponents? Should we not be concerned about the black supremacy in BLM or the craziness of their demands?

If they’re truth warriors and speaking a truth that they feel they can back up, that’s very different to the accusations tossed at them which you seem, at times, to acknowledge aren’t true.

Has refusing to have these discussions and defend or modify our positions done any good or has our dogmatic adherence to unmovable writ allowed the right to move free and unopposed in these debates? To present their concepts and interpretations unchallenged and without alternatives?

Who, really, allowed Brexit and Trump to happen? The lying right or the arrogant, elitist left – unwilling to even countenance debate.

I believe the left, the genuine left, has better answers to all these issues, or is capable of compromise and revision, but the pseudo-left dominating the (lack of) discourse does not and won’t even try.

For all his faults and his insincerity, Milo is at least having the conversations and making a case. We should do the same.

Many of them don’t agree with what Yiannopoulos says, let alone what Trump says. They agree with the way he says it, because their life experience does not extend beyond interpreting being criticized as censorship. Yiannopoulos’ brand is all about “fuck your feelings.” But the kids following him around are nothing but feelings. I have empathy for fragility. What frightens me most is the feeling that the only way to deal with the new right is to treat them as monsters, when it is precisely their idiot humanity — precisely the fact that they are fundamentally decent kids who have done fundamentally despicable things — that makes them dangerous.

They’re not dangerous. They’re hopeful. They hold and retain many of the ideals the left has forgotten. Free expression, tolerance, trying to use facts to come to conclusions. That’s what they agree with, that’s what I agree with. That even horrendous speech should be free. That there should be a free and open marketplace of ideas and that even people I disagree with, even people I hate, have basic and fundamental human rights – such as speech.

They have feelings, yes, but they’re not led by their feelings in the majority, unlike their opposition. They’re angry at an authoritarian and interfering world, and they have every right to be.

The way to deal with them is not to treat them as monsters, because they’re not, but we – on the left – have become monsters. Everything we used to rail against. The right has its own monsters, which are stirring again and have tried to gobble up Milo as one of their first acts. The small ‘l’ libertarian left and right are caught between two insane monsters with nowhere to go.

They haven’t done despicable things. They’ve done the right thing. Our side, Laurie, has done despicable things. Betrayed its principles. Betrayed its foundational philosophy and identity. The authoritarian right? They’ve always been monsters. That part doesn’t surprise or shame me.

Over the course of these hours, the boys start telling me how they got lost. I hear stories of strict religious parents, sexual misadventures, a feeling of drifting in a world which has not offered them a clear way to be heroes. A desperate longing for something to belong to, for adventure and friends and enemies to fight. It would be adorable if it weren’t fundamentally chilling. They are wedded to a political analysis that might as well be written in fuzzy felt. “I’m not sure how you can be a feminist and want more refugees,” one of them tells me, “because of the ways they treat women.”

And you’ll hear similar stories amongst the bored middle class protesters LARPing at being Che Guevarra before they crawl on home to have their mistress peg them with a black rubber cock.

At least Milo’s entourage aren’t hurting anyone or breaking anything. At least their scope exists beyond a miseducated upper middle class of genuine privilege. At least they’re real people.

That analysis isn’t fuzzy felt, it’s cogent and it’s something we need an answer for (or would, if I considered myself feminist). If you are concerned for women’s rights how can you not experience a moment of pause about importing people from some of the most genuinely patriarchal and misogynistic cultures on Earth? The answer might be ‘they can live a more liberated life here’ but you also have to account for incidents like Cologne, which you so famously dropped the ball on Laurie.

You offer no answer to his question. Do you have one?

It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for them. That “almost” is important. There are many uses for empathy. To point out that the people who join this far-right movement are damaged and hurt is not to minimize the hurt and damage they themselves are doing. On the contrary: the pain is the point. Stripped down to its essentials, the new far right is an ideological vacuum calcified in a carapace of pain. Hurt people hurt people. That’s nothing new. These hurt people are hurting other people deliberately, in order to up-cycle their uncomfortable emotions, reselling the pain they can’t bear to look at as a noble political crusade.

They’re not hurting anyone though. All they’re hurting is feelings and ‘fuck your feelings’ or ‘reals over feels’ is a perfectly valid, indeed absolutely key, principle. What matters is what’s true, not what feels nice.

They’re not far right but they are hurt and ignored and as Trump’s election has demonstrated, as Brexit has demonstrated, you have to address the concerns of these people in a democracy or it comes back to bite you on the arse – and not in a good way.

The ‘left’s’ racism and sexism, it’s retreat into orthodoxy created new victims of genuine prejudice and hatred, left to rot for not having the right ID politics designation. We forgot that class and wealth cuts across all these meaningless identities and we allowed ID politics to deepen divisions and leave many people, deserving of help, behind. Now we’re experiencing a backlash.

Yes, there’s a vacuum we left for the right to fill. That’s on us. You’re perpetuating it.

I don’t believe that Yiannopoulos endorses pedophilia. I do believe that he exploits vulnerable young men. Not in a sexual way. Not in an illegal way. Yiannopoulos exploits vulnerable young men in the same way that every wing-nut right-wing shock-jock from the president down has been exploiting them for years: by whipping up the fear and frustration of angry young men and boys who would rather burn down the world than learn to live in it like adults, by directing that affectless rage in service to their own fame and power. This is the sort of exploitation the entire conservative sphere is entirely comfortable with. What happens to these kids now that the game has changed?

What happens is that they end up ripping apart the authoritarians on both sides of the spectrum unless one side or the other finally learns and absorbs the lessons around these seismic political shifts. Whether the old prejudices of the right wing or the new prejudices of the left wing are the first to crumble determines the future.

At least you admit he’s not a paedophile or a paedophilia apologist. Credit where it’s due, unlike that greasy little cervical smear Owen Jones, you didn’t bandwagon. Maybe I still like you a little because of it.

You still don’t understand the people you’re talking about though. You’re projecting, from the ‘left’ when you talk about children burning down the world. That’s the protesters. Not the people following Milo’s career. They only look like it, because they have a sense of humour. To me, however, that’s a sign of relative maturity.

Whether or not these kids deserve a second chance matters far less than whether the rest of us can afford not to give them one. There are millions of them, after all, and not all of them have the strength of character to recognize their wrongdoing and make amends. They are, however, coming to see their mistake. Some part of them believed that this was a game that would end when Trump became president. That was the big boss, the ultimate defeat of liberal social justice snowflakery. But guess what? You don’t get to check out at this level and quit the game and go back and cuddle your cat. Politics is a whole different kind of game, and the stakes are real, and there are no non-player characters.

It’s not down to you to give them a second chance, it’s whether they give us on the left (or ‘left’) a second chance. This arrogance, this belief that it’s down to your, our, largesse is what will scupper us and another thing that has contributed to our losses. Until we deal with that and kill it, we’ll continue to lose.

They haven’t done anything wrong. There’s nothing for them to make amends for. We have and we have to make amends.

Trump wasn’t the ‘final boss’ because the regressive left has responded to Trump not with introspection and adjustment for the most part (Justice Democrats being a visible exception) but by doubling down and entrenching in the existing mistakes.

Politics is a different game and we on the left are reaping what a fixation on morally, ethically and scientifically bankrupt ID politics has sown.

It’s not up to these kids to fix things. It’s up to us to fix things and win them back.

If Yiannopoulos is as screwed as he seems, the left has little to celebrate in the manner of the defeat; he has been brought down, after all, by the one weapon we don’t want to give power to. He has been brought down not by reasoned liberal argument, nor by moral victory over his cod theories, nor by anti-fascist agitation. He has been brought down by conservative moral outrage. Specifically, by conservative moral outrage over gay male sexuality. I can think of nobody on Earth who more richly deserves to be humbled and held accountable. I just wanted my team to be the ones to do it.

And you didn’t, because you couldn’t.

You didn’t bring him down by reasoned liberal argument because you didn’t try, and you had none.

You didn’t counter his theories for the same reason.

Anti-Fascism was never going to work when the fascists only exist in your tortured imaginations and your childish desires to fight a moral battle as pertinent as WWII, when there isn’t one like it left to fight.

He was brought down by conservative homophobia and the establishment seeking to nip this secular, libertine, libertarian version of conservatism in the bud, by their dishonesty.

The right thing to do would have been to have stuck up for and supported Milo, to have firmly established ourselves on the moral high ground. Yet the closest we seem to have come on any large scale level is your milquetoast equivocation on the matter.

It seems demonising a homosexual man as a paedophile, with no evidence, is perfectly acceptable so long as that gay man is conservative. Conservatism won’t protect you from right wing hypocrisy and homosexuality won’t protect you from left wing hypocrisy.

He deserved a comeuppance, sure, but for something meaningfully wrong he actually did -like his failure to deliver on various projects, his dodgy business dealings or the few times he’s absolutely and confirmably wrong in every regard, as with his supposed transgender statistic on Maher.

The ‘left’ couldn’t make their untrue smears stick, the right did. That has to sting, but it’s not right to lie about someone to bring them down, whatever political wing you’re on.

Today, absolutely nobody, from his publishers to his former tour promoter, is defending Yiannopoulos’ right to consequence-free speech. This is not liberalism winning the day. This is the victorious far right purging the brownshirts.

These aren’t brownshirts, this is a counter-revolution of the traditional conservative right. It traces back to a virtually admitted hit piece published by the ‘Reagan Battalion’ with links to a fringe anti-Trump presidential candidate and Democratic anti-trump groups. This isn’t conspiracy theory like the ‘the right wing paid for the protests at Berkeley’ thing, it’s out of their own mouths.

I, however, at least do defend his rights. Me. Someone who doesn’t like the guy in the least. I at least have the comfort of standing on unwavering, universalist principle.

Professional trolling is a perilous profession in a country where people take your bullshit seriously. The best thing Yiannopoulos could possibly do now is go and live quietly somewhere he can have a think about the damage he’s done — and he will be allowed to do that if he wants, because those are the sort of consequences personable white men face in America today, when and if they ever get over themselves.

Laurie, when you’re continually calling someone a racist, sexist bigot you should probably stop being a shameless racist, sexist bigot yourself constantly.

There is a big question here though. You’re not stupid. Most people, at least in editorial positions in media, aren’t stupid. So tell me… why is anyone taking him seriously? Isn’t that dishonest? Doesn’t it make you look idiotic when the proverbial 14 year old troll on the internet is better able to parse English in context than a supposed media professional? Is it about the clicks? Isn’t that just as morally and ethically bankrupt as your earlier statement about the right being led by money?

Where’s the integrity? Where’s the intelligence?

Where’s the honesty?

As of today, Milo Yiannopolous no longer has the luxury of that choice. His fall from grace has collapsed not just the cult of personality he built around the emptiness inside himself, but also the entire edifice of conservative self-deception around Free Speech. They can take down Yiannopoulos, and they must, but they can’t do it without proving to the entire world that this was never about the First Amendment — it was about plausible deniability for weaponized prejudice, and that alibi has just vanished.

It hasn’t collapsed his support. He could, instantly, have a very lucrative career on new media. Indeed he seems to be about to launch his own efforts and he’ll probably be very successful in doing so. A hatchet job by the establishment and by old media will only cement him as a folk hero for the internet and for left and right libertarians everywhere.

A status he honestly doesn’t deserve, but for all his faults and issues he does underline and expose fractures and problems in society and in the establishment – both sides of the aisle.

The conservatives may have been self-deceiving, but Milo’s followership wasn’t. They mean it. That will save him.

It wasn’t about weaponised prejudice either. Again, regardless of Milo’s intent or sincerity it was always about reasserting and securing free expression. Even for difficult and taboo topics. The lesson to be learned is that, at least in that aspect, they are entirely right.

The truth is that the new right never had any interest in principles of freedom. The truth is that Yiannopoulos was always a weak joke under a bad bleach job. The truth is that Peter Pan was never a folk hero, but a malevolent man-child whose parable remains racist to the core. What will his Lost Boys do now they have outlived their usefulness? Somebody might offer them a teat to run back to, but it won’t be me. I’m done. That whining noise you can hear is a string symphony of the world’s tiniest violins. I think they’re playing Wagner.

The new right did. The old right didn’t. The new pseudo-left was so blinded by ideological hatred they couldn’t see Milo et al’s rise as a twisted kind of progress, just an enemy. Well the old familiar enemy is back at the tiller now – and that’s not an improvement.

You won’t offer them anything because you forgot how to be left wing, you forgot how to be liberal, you couldn’t see that – at least in part – these ‘trolls’ are upholding the principles we let slide. We have to reach out, we have to reform, we have to get them on side if we want to win and to make progress.

Ironically, for all you rail against ‘bigotry’ throughout your piece, it’s your bigotry that won’t allow you to do the right thing, even for tactical reasons.

I do not like Milo. I think he is a shallow, narcissistic, terrible person.

He exploited Gamergate to his own ends. He has been terrible on things like the ‘privilege scholarship’, a bad joke that could make a genuinely positive change for some people that desperately need it. He has left a string of discarded and disgruntled volunteers and business partners behind him who are worth talking to about how he actually is – or can be – a bad person.

This paedo thing however? Bullshit. As are the overwhelming majority of it unintentionally ironic accusations of bigotry you have tossed at him.

He’s an arsehole, but a useful arsehole. The ‘kids’ around him are not bad people, not Nazis, they’re people whose natural home should be on the left. The left I remember anyway. The left that cared about equality, not ID categories. The left that attacked social issues regardless of race, gender, sexuality or status. The left that was rooted in science, in 13557130_544070502462556_200033014_nlogic, reason, evidence, debate, understanding. The left that was able to shift and moderate and adapt. The left that cared about and protected freedoms, even for people it disagreed with.

If Milo is a monster, he’s a monster of our creation from our negligence, from our bigotry, from our ideological missteps, from leaving a vacuum for the right to fill.

And he’s right about free speech.

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Phat Pipes: Critique of Cybersexism by @PennyRed

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Myself and Laurie Penny share a fairly conterminous experience of the internet, but a very different viewpoint. Here I try to address the main thrusts of the book and to give my alternative experiences.

This is For Everyone

My life with the internet starts a little earlier than Laurie Penny’s. I started up visiting BBS boards and playing Avalon over dial-up with a modem about the size of five, stacked, iPads. Via those early BBS systems it was sometimes possible to get email and to access ‘the internet’ though we never really understood what that meant until the real thing became available to everyone.

This was back when phone calls cost a lot more money, there was no broadband and using the modem would tie up the line. It was a far cry from the Neuromancer fantasies that beckoned the early pioneers (I was a NetGoth) but in the MUD virtual realities and the thrill of text-talking to strangers (this was even before mobile texting took off) there were flickerings of what was to come.

I’d used to escape into books, films and role-playing games. Those were my VR and the internet came in as an extension of that. Adopting different ‘fictionsuits’, avatars and handles came easily to us in a way that the current generation of ‘let it all hang out’ social media junkies can’t really understand. The avatar/alias culture only really still thrives amongst us oldies, roleplaying, trans and troll communities. The loss of the old guard in the Google NymWars pretty much put paid to that old culture and represents the victory of FaceBookism where your offline and online identities become the same.

Like Laurie, we swallowed the idea that the internet was a freeing medium. An opportunity to mix and meet and share information. To form communities that weren’t linked by petty geography and for a while it was glorious. You would get to know people via their mind and their writing, not the superficial realities of ‘meatspace’ and it didn’t matter. It was a consequence free, free-mingling ‘wild west’ utopia with a natural gatekeeper in the form of the technological capability needed to get online.

‘No girls on the internet’ was almost true back in the day and thus the origin of many internet proverbs, besides that one. ‘Tits or GTFO’ for example was a demand for proof. Why was this? Nerd culture – early adopters – was, and remains, stubbornly male. Tech culture even more so. Computers weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now and consoles didn’t hook up to the internet. Schools weren’t linked up either and so by a process of simple demographics access was limited to the relatively well off, technically minded and nerdy.

For many, men, women and all points in between this was rather freeing. You couldn’t genuinely know what or who anyone was and that meant people were largely treated the same, based on the ‘content of their character’ rather than the ‘configuration of their meat sack’. Not that this meant people weren’t still arseholes, but it gave cover to early adopters, especially women, that some benefited from.

I have the same, or more, degree of experience of the internet as Ms Penny has, yet my conclusions – despite coming from the same root – are very different.

ngYfSh2_No Girls on the Internet

Ms Penny suggests that the idea that the internet was for everyone was somehow untrue. That it was really for boys. This statement is both true and untrue. The internet was – and is – for everyone but by the nature of its genesis and the groups that were interested in it it became a male dominated space by simple virtue of emergence. The majority of users were men and so the spaces that developed – usenet, email lists and so forth – were ‘male’ spaces.

This was not a deliberate or exclusionary measure by any means and in the early days the few women you did encounter were generally given kudos for getting online. They’d proved their worth and their chops simply by the fact that they had managed to get online and access a community. As internet access broadened this began to change, both in terms of people able to prove yourself and in the need to even do so in the first place.

Where Laurie presumes – given her background – that this is down to misogyny or hatred of women, or a desire to exclude them, I have a different hypothesis which we’ll call This is What Equality Looks Like, TWELL for sake of typing ease.

One of Germaine Greer’s best known phrases is: “Women have very little idea of how much men hate them.”

Which is catchy, but a little uncharitable, especially if you’ve ever had the misfortune to overhear women on a night out complaining about their husbands and boyfriends with equal, if not more, viciousness than men do about their wives and girlfriends.

However, I think Germaine’s commentary is germane to TWELL, with a subtle twist.

“Women have very little idea of how horrible men are to each other.”

The presence of a woman in a social context tends to lead men to be considerate, toned down and to consider her feelings and upset. Language is often softened, opinions remain unexpressed and people make more of an effort to be pleasant – until they know where the boundaries are.

Why? Well, we can argue about natural proclivites and culture, but upsetting people in person is generally frowned upon and men and women are solicitous of each other more (generally speaking) in a meatspace environment.

Online the context is different, consequence free and gender truly doesn’t matter. Men – and women – no longer moderate their behaviour in the same way that they do in person. This doesn’t seem to have been much of a shock for men (again we can have arguments about culture, upbringing and nature here) but it does seem to have been a shock for women.

Stripped of the usual societal cushioning women are often afforded, the female of the species seems to have recoiled in horror from the kind of nasty – if not always serious – behaviour that men and boys have been putting up with since the first days of kindergarten.

TWELL is not intended as a flip response, but to underline that the difference here is in reaction, not content.

I think my first social online experiences were with Usenet and email lists, but like Laurie I migrated to Livejournal and some other abortive social networks in the following years. I primarily used Livejournal for RPG material and blogging about the LARP group I was a part of. It was a vital communication tool back then for both purposes and much more connected and hooked up than having your own website was. This was also my first real introduction to ‘internet drama’ and this was a direct consequence of more ‘normal’ people using it. This was the first clue that the defences were down and the barbarians were at the gate.

It wasn’t the ‘internet people’ that were the problem. It was the normal people.

If I describe Livejournal as being the prototype for the excesses of Social Justice Tumblr, many of you reading will shudder in horror and know what I mean. Let’s just say that in former insular, echo chamber cliques it began the radicalisation of internet activism that would reach its – hopeful – peak of awfulness this year with Suey Park and #CancelColbert, with it’s spectacular, po-faced, failure to understand satire.

Here, again, is where my experience begins to diverge from that of Ms Penny. She describes an online world of routine misogyny and hatred as being exclusionary, while I – for my sins – experienced no less amount of hate, challenge, vitriol and bile, just not what one might characterise as ‘misogyny’.

I am not convinced misogyny is even the right word. Misogyny is an irrational hatred of women and disagreeing with, arguing with or trolling women doesn’t seem – to me – to fit the bill. We both seem to have been subjected to hatred, and I’ve seen much of the disgraceful and horrible abuse Ms Penny gets, but I see little difference in the scale or nastiness of that hatred between us. Just our reactions. So it goes for all these pseudo-controveries throughout the last ten years or so of the internet. What is striking to me as an internet hate veteran, every time, is the difference in reaction.

Tits_or_gtfoPictures or it Didn’t Happen

The selfie culture isn’t something I really understand and I get the sense that despite more experimentation than me in this arena, Laurie and I share a degree of incomprehension about the total lack of privacy embraced by Generation Y. I occasionally participate in things like #NoPantsFriday and have succumbed to using my actual image as an avatar but to do either, to have ‘pictures of me on the internet’ still feels rather uncomfortable and somewhat silly.

This is old fashioned of me, I know.

At the same time I don’t think anyone should be shamed by photos, or indeed old posts and blogs that people like to drag out. People mature and change, their views alter or become more nuanced, they do silly things. Whether it’s Laurie’s boobs, my cock or some lightweight covered in vomit on his eighteenth birthday with a knob drawn on his forehead we should be able to laugh it off as indiscretion, accept that everyone does it and move on.

The trouble is, we don’t live in a world that has adapted to this yet. The people in power are forty and over. The generation below that, including people like me and Laurie are still somewhat uncomfortable with letting it all hang out, even with libertine political views and even the Millenials aren’t all sold on the idea of living a scandal free public life. One need only look at the difference between Belle Knox’s resilience and Alyssa Funke’s suicide to see that even the younger adult generation is struggling to adapt to the Mutual Surveillence Society we find ourselves in.

While I’m sure there’s some truth to what Laurie says about the minority of men online who harass women doing so out of hatred, I don’t think it is as true as is stated. Time and again I see reports of harassment of women online and go looking into it only to find many more bad-taste jokes and incidences of trolling than I do genuine abuse.

A case in point being Caroline Criado-Perez whose high profile campaign to replace Darwin with Jane Austen on British bank notes gave her a position of public awareness which, inevitably, drew the trolls. She received a lot of – apparent – hatred, a lot of trolling and, also, a great deal of genuine criticism and advice. To which she reacted – universally – poorly.

It’s important here to both define what a troll is and to introduce a new concept in trolling which has only recently emerged.

As originally used on Usenet, and perhaps etymologically connected to ‘trawl’ was to make the kind of comment or post that many, many people would react to and post on. One that would provoke arguments and chaos. You could almost ‘score points’ by how many replies it got or how many extra threads it spawned. The more controversial or ridiculous the statement, the ‘better’ it usually was as a troll. Hardy perennials of the art were posting religious nonsense in an atheist forum, Satanist nonsense in a religious forum, or mentioning abortion anywhere.

To an extent much has remained the same. Trolling is still about scoring a reaction. It is now a little more nasty though. It is about upsetting people, provoking a ‘rage quit’, or creating an enormous fuss – the bigger the better. This is why the advice on trolls has always been ‘don’t feed the troll’ and why it remains the best advice. Reporting, complaining, let alone writing huge media articles on the topic is the very opposite of this advice and will only excite the troll.

In an unguarded moment I compared this to ‘grinding your rapist’ and while the analogy is crude, its force serves to convey the point. By paying attention to the troll, by getting upset, you are giving them exactly what they want. So why would anyone even dream of doing it?

In the case of Criado-Perez we need to consider a new concept. That of the synergistic or symbiotic troll. Why would someone give a troll what they want in terms of media exposure, public melt-downs and notoriety? Perhaps because doing so also gives the victim something they want. If your ideology is centred around the idea that the world is male oriented and horrible to women then playing up to trolling, taking it seriously and presenting it as a genuine problem and an example of cultural misogyny both reinforces your belief and helps contribute to a moral panic in which ‘something must be done’.

I don’t know if Criado-Perez and others are doing it deliberately, but the consequences stemming from it certainly seem to be deliberate and, strangely for feminist concerns, seem to run concurrent to conservative politics and legislation.

The vast majority of abuse online seems, to me, to be insincere trolling. Though there are exceptions using this to claim an overall culture of misogyny and woman hating – when it happens to everyone regardless of gender – seems disingenuous at best. Studies presented by Ditch the Label and Know the Net have both suggested that men receive equal abuse to that of women online, perhaps more, and that 19 year old men are the peak target of online abuse and bullying.

We need to grasp that trolling is an internet problem, not a gendered problem and that it’s a hard one to tackle while preserving a free internet.

Where myself and Laurie perhaps agree is in that the culture of shame and sin needs to change. There should be no more Alyssa Funke’s and while part of that must come in attempts to change the broader culture it is still worth reminding people to be cautious and teaching them internet survival skills and that there’s support available if they do get ‘outed’. Lest we get swept up too much in thinking this is a uniquely female problem though, we should remember that boys have been similarly shamed, particularly those of alternative sexuality and that under stress it is men who are far more likely to complete a suicide attempt. Girls are also pressuring boys for pictures, the stereotype that it is only boys or the sad reality of the unsolicited cock pic should not get in the way of us remembering that all are vulnerable.

Laurie loses me again when she gets into discussion about women being used to surveillance of their behaviour. Certainly, as man and boy I feel and felt the pressure of being watched for behaviour very keenly. Where it is more, but not exclusively, authoritarian when imposed on girls it does still exist for boys where it is more, but not exclusively, mutual.

Girls might be mean, but boys are cruel and one’s adolescence is one long attempt to fit in, to never give a hint that you’re not a regular heterosexual, rough and tumble, football loving lad. Boys also succumb to the system, constrained and held, especially in education where many end up drugged so that they’re compliant and less boisterous. There’s also huge pressure to demonstrate one’s sexuality by losing ones virginity. Something which I think we’ve all been reminded recently can cause a psychotic break and a lack of feeling of self worth.

As such it is, again, disingenuous I think, to compare our increasing surveillance society with feminist interpretations of social pressure and culture. Men have felt it in a similar but different way. Outrage at CCTV, NSA surveillance etc comes from a concern over privacy, rather than public reaction, and political ramifications. If surveillance were more of a concern for women, one wouldn’t expect to see higher approval of CCTV and other surveillence measures by women than men.

Business surveillance, presenting the right image and ‘behaving oneself’ outside of work is not a uniquely feminine issue either. This also happens with men and it’s also completely unfair. An unguarded comment over a beer down the pub would not, in the past, have been picked up and formed grounds for dismissal. The internet is both instant – like a conversation – and eternal – like a book. As a result every little indiscretion is available in eternity, even if intended to be private and so we’re forced to endure any number of pointless or insincere apologies and to see people get fired as PR stunts to appease the howling mob.

aldpost1It’s for Your Own Good

In talking about online sex I think we must return back to the beginning of Ms Penny’s book and the idea that we can be anyone or anything online. Sex drives technology and always has but this is especially true of the internet. The moment there were chatrooms and email people were trading erotic stories and engaging in cybersex. ‘Tits or GTFO’ and ‘There’s no girls on the internet’ were, in part, calls to prove one’s gender status as a prelude to cybersex. So strong is the male prohibition against homosexuality that even in an entirely fantasised encounter it is desirable that ones partner at least be of the opposite sex. Meanwhile, other people WERE playing opposite gender roles, genderbending and even pretending to be things other than human.

All sex takes place, ultimately, in the mind.

To see Laurie’s view on pornography, which I hope is still in flux, is somewhat depressing. Someone who is intimately familiar with artists, comic book creators and writers of fiction would – I would have hoped – have had a better understanding of the divide between reality and fantasy. While she, at least, is not blaming pornography for misogyny, she is blaming misogyny for pornography. It is true that a great deal of pornography is rough, violent or ‘degrading’ but given that some 40% of women admit to enjoying rape fantasies (note – fantasies, not actual rape) is it really any surprise? It’s also notable that female use of pornography is slowly approaching parity with that of men and that best-selling book 50 Shades of Grey is an enormously problematic bundle of abuse masquerading as BDSM that has set that entire community’s teeth on edge. It has sold primarily to women.

One can blame this on internalised misogyny or some such I am sure, but again this seems to be disingenuous and kink-shaming, as well as ignoring that divide between reality and fantasy. What turns one on, one might not necessarily want in real life. Increasingly, also, one must recognise that pornography is consensual and a great deal is being produced by amateurs as piracy renders conventional production non-viable.

We do have a problem when it comes to pornography and censorship. As Laurie rightly points out, concern over pornography has been co-opted by governments seeking to control the internet as a whole (mingled with ‘blasphemy’ concerns in some other countries and political concerns in others). This is where we find strange bedfellows like mainstream feminism in bed with the UK’s coalition government and in favour of criminalisation of ‘extreme’ porn and the imposition of a compulsory filter.

Like trolling, this isn’t an especially soluble problem. If we want a free internet with all the benefits it brings, we have to maintain anonymity and relatively unconstrained content.

Sex and romance and everything else can, indeed, be online. I met my wife online as have many other people I know. We know, from leaked logs intended to embarrass people that a hell of a lot of human beings are typing obscenities to each other, writing explicit love letters and masturbating wildly to each other’s pictures. Sex is ultimately in the mind and so is love. It’s possible to fall for someone a world away, whom you have never met and as borders tighten that’s going to lead to a lot more tragedy.

odd_skirt_viralA Woman’s Opinion is the Short Skirt of the Internet

Yes, Ms Penny and many other opinionated people on the internet get hate messages, such as she has related in her book and online. Yes, many of these are graphic, sexual and/or violent. You know who else gets hate, threats and horrible messages online?

Everyone.

This is something I have a great deal of experience of and while my experience, like Larie’s, is anecdotal I’ll refer you to the reference I made earlier that men suffer equal or greater abuse and cyberbullying.

Personally I have been threatened with beheading, that my wife would be raped, I have petitions organised to try and prevent me being able to work – I have been cost work. I have been called every kind of bigot under the sun without justification.

There’s some differences though. I haven’t taken it as seriously. I have not presented it as a problem for my entire gender. The people attacking me have included trolls, but also ‘true believers’ who weren’t hiding behind anonymity. People who consider themselves to be ‘social justice’ activists and aren’t at all ashamed of what they say and do. It’s also true that far less of these threats have been sexual, though many of them have been violent.

The concern with the abuse of women online and the great seriousness with which it is taken is erasing the online harassment and bullying of men. Men are also erasing it by not taking it as seriously as women do (though this may be a healthier approach, all things considered). Men are also erasing their own negative experiences by brushing them off or not talking about them, ceding the public debate to concern over the abuse of women in the public sphere, which has only allowed this toxic and incorrect concept of a misogynistic online reality to emerge when it is truly a universal problem.

Anyone expressing an opinion on anything in the online sphere can expect to get abuse for it.

Where there is a difference is in the nature of the abuse.

As a woman Laurie is more likely to get abuse of a sexual nature while I am more likely to get violent abuse or to have my sexuality questioned.

Why is this?

I humbly submit that the reason women get targeted with this kind of abuse, especially women, is because it is a fairly reliable bet that they will be upset by it or rise to it, while threats of violence or aspersions about my sex partner preference are more likely to get a rise out of me, because I’m male.

Trolls will go after whatever they think will get you going. Those who troll religious forums will ‘blaspheme’ or try to outrage their morals, trolls who troll computer forums might get into PC Vs Apple, trolls who target homosexuals will use homosexual slurs. Your status as a woman is only important in that it highlights some obvious ways to cause upset.

Trolls rarely, if ever, mean what they say.

Terminology Ms Penny uses starts to lose me at this point. Misogyny is being used in a way other than I understand the term (pathological hatred of women), ‘gender violence online’ strikes me as an oxymoron, since violence can’t be done to you online. Structural sexism is over with equality laws, leaving only individuals and their increasingly outdated views.

She characterises these things as a ‘backlash against misogyny’ yet many of the complaints seem as petty as those found on sexismbusters while others seem valid but outside the framing of a misogynistic society. This backlash via things like Everyday Sexism or – more recently – the #YesAllWomen tag do not appear as a backlash, but rather a lashing out at all men, an outpouring of misandry against crimes that are unrecognisable and for which the overwhelming majority of men are not responsible.

#YesAllWomen is differentiated from trolling by sincerity. The sheer hatred found on #YesAllWomen (and #KillAllMan) hits home precisely because it is sincere as much as it seems invalid, stemming from a victim mentality and a paranoia of men which simply does not seem justified. It seems like a whole generation of women is growing up unjustifiably terrified of, and hateful towards, all men.

I had to stop following the tag as it began to trigger my depression, but I doubt things have improved in the interim.

Penny goes on here to talk about Anita Sarkeesian, a common mistake of late which I had hoped Laurie would not fall into. Sarkeesian has been exposed as a fraud with links to shifty practices like pyramid schemes and handwriting analysis, she has failed to produce the material she said she would and seems to have essentially soaked up the money and called it a day.

Sarkeesian attacked gaming, as has so often been done, by trying to bleed fantasy and reality together. Studies in the 80s on RPG players demonstrated that gamers have no problem differentiating between the two and there’s little reason to think things are any different when it comes to computer games. Nor has Sarkeesian’s treatment been any different to any that of other shallow, narcissitic critics of gaming. Jack Thompson was widely ridiculed for his attempts to link games with violent acts and, like Sarkeesian, had games made about him where he could be mutilated and otherwise disposed of.

The difference then? Sarkeesian’s a woman who has been subjected to exactly the same treatment as a man. TWELL.

Perez is covered next, but I believe I’ve addressed that instance above, a case of symbiotic trolling.

Ms Penny rightly bemoans governmental censorship but fails to grasp the implications of private censorship and social censure. For the internet to be free we need to accept that people are going to say and do things, hold opinions, have fantasies that we personally do not like. If you cede the moral high ground and accept censorship and the erosion of anonymity you not only remove the trolls but you also remove the capacity for political dissidents to communicate safely, for protests to organise, for people in violent relationships to seek help and so it goes on.

At the time of writing more and more worrying instances of private censorship are coming to light. Blacklisting of erotica on Amazon – vital to self-published authors, Paypal and other online money transfer groups holding or confiscating money belonging to perfectly legal adult performers. Credit card processors doing the same. The internet, increasingly, is at the mercy of a very few choke points, especially if what you’re doing involves money and people are too quick to tightly define censorship as a governmental activity in order to excuse this.

The concerns of feminist groups over ‘cybersexism’ and pornography are empowering and making politically acceptable the kind of broad brush censorship that Laurie herself bemoans.

There is no hypocrisy here. Trolling and abuse can’t make you stay offline, the choice is yours. Censorship and restriction via private and governmental action, however, can. When protests alter EULAs or policies they harm everyone. When you censor a nipple, you block pictures of breast feeding.

On the internet we have an option we do not have in real life. We can erase abusers from our existence by using ‘block’ or ‘ignore’. Again, don’t feed the trolls is the best advice. The abusive messages you get? Well, TWELL.

Laurie repeats Ally Fogg’s analogy of a woman on a soap box in a public square being shouted down by 5,000 angry people yelling abuse, but this analogy doesn’t only break down under close examination, as all analogies do, but right at the start.

Online your soapbox speech cannot be interrupted or drowned out. Everyone can hear you. The abuse can be ignored. They can’t force you, shove you, drown you out, you can ignore them but they retain their right to object and their ability to do so. In real life you can end up with stifling activities to ‘no platform’ people, but on the internet – even with DDOS attacks – this never sticks for long. You can’t end a recorded talk by pulling a fire alarm or chanting, you can’t turn the water cannons on a forum, you can’t tear-gas a chatroom.

Freedom of speech absolutely does include the right to criticise, call out and oppose others. You can’t silence anyone and the abuse is ultimately petty, pointless and harmless if you block and ignore it – especially in the case of trolls. Comparing the online situation to almost any real life situation is invalid from the get go.

Anyone can speak online. EVEN straight white males, though you’d be forgiven for thinking they were the exception sometimes.

Dts_news_bill_gates_wikipediaAnd the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth

This section of the book is, perhaps, the most important and the one where some understanding from, rather than towards, the online feminist is required. Laurie believes geeks are sexy, and I agree wholeheartedly and without reservation.

The nerdy boyfriend mentioned in this section could easily be me (without the jedi robe, but with the comics and the glow in the dark dice) and while I’d put it differently ‘Some people are just butthurt that girls get to come into our special club’ is a valid and meaningful observation.

The universal, rooted, geek experience of my and Laurie’s misspent youth no longer really exists for the current generation, where everyone plays computer games, where there are cosplay shows on TV and where the ‘tribe’ is large enough to look out for itself. Geeks today genuinely do have it easy and I’m envious of them and I hope they never have to go through the same hellish childhood experiences me and Ms Penny seem to have shared.

There were no nerd girls at my rural school and the small number of geeks that there were, were universally looked down on. There were a couple of goth/metal girls with a bit of crossover with the nerd squad, but they held themselves apart, even from us. There were nerdy girls elsewhere of course, there always have been, but they’ve been fewer and further between. Nerd culture used to be utterly dominated by men – completely unintentionally – and it still is, even though there’s been a seismic shift since then.

‘Geek misogyny’ is a term I am extremely hostile to. Geek culture is extremely vulnerable to political interference precisely because it is so accepting and so willing to please and accomodate anyone who wants to join in, up to a point. The problems with female ‘intrusion’ into geek spaces is twofold.

  1. Girl-related ‘PTSD’.
  2. Geek loyalty/fandom.

The older generations of geeks suffered immensely at the hands of dominant school/college/uni cultures. Especially – being predominantly male – at the hands of women. Endless rejections, total lack of romantic success, being outcast. Rightly or wrongly they associate that pain with women as a whole and want to be sure they’re safe and aren’t going to be ridiculed and treated like shit again. Hence the hazing.

Is this OK or rational? No. It is, however, understandable and deserving of empathy.

An analogy in the feminist sphere might be the argument over whether transwomen should be allowed access to feminist spaces and what sort of gate-keeping might be required.

When it comes to geek loyalty, geeks are fiercely loyal to their passions, whatever they might be. In previous years accommodating geek girls was less of a ‘problem’ because they seemed to be into what was on offer, passionate about the same things. Now barely a day goes by without some controversy related to a nerdy TV show, game, comic or similar and people wanting to change everything.

To a nerd this can be hugely confusing. Why would you even get into a hobby if you hate everything about it and want to change it all?

There’s also the fact that nerd culture has been under constant attack by fear-mongers and moral panics since forever. From Seduction of the Innocent to Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons to the Heavy Metal trials and Jack Thompson, there’s a context to the attacks on hobbies, a history. In this narrative the attacks from the Anita Sarkeesians of this world are just the latest in a long line of hateful attacks on hobbies and to be resisted with the same scorn and strength as before.

This whole argument would be completely avoidable if those who want to see something different and changed set about doing it themselves rather than trying to force people to alter what they love. That’s where the resistance comes in.

Understanding that many of these places have been ‘male safe spaces’ is important to understanding why the intrusion is unwelcome in many quarters. Just as women need their spaces men need theirs, but men will be condemned for creating those spaces while women will be celebrated. It’s a contradiction predicated upon the idea that somehow only men can be exclusionary and only male presence can be unwelcome. This is why mens clubs are being forced to open their doors to women while women are permitted to close men out of their gyms and other places, to ‘protect’ them.

Why are there less women working in information technology despite massive efforts to get women into STEM fields? That’s a puzzler given the investment in promotion and the fact that women are, generally, doing better in education than men and have been for some time. Ms Penny seems keen to pin the blame upon sexism but some of the problems she states are economic and practical, relating to the control factors that have virtually eliminated the pay gap myth of late. The demands of the job are the demands of the job and if that is less suitable for a woman who wants a child and/or wants to be the primary caregiver to that child then this isn’t sexism so much as biology and choices. Again, the best way to prove them wrong is to do it yourself, just as it is with comics etc and women like Cindy Gallop or Nica Noelle show how that might turn into success. ‘More things!’ more than ‘Change things!’

Paradoxically, greater gender equality might well be the reason less women are going in for these fields. Norway is one of the most gender equal countries on Earth yet as its equality has increased, so ‘gendered’ work has become more gendered, not less. It seems that when ‘women’s work’ is as valued as men’s women choose those lines of work even more.

I am glad Laurie seems to accept and understand the ‘origin story’ of the pained male geek and shows some empathy, but we need more, not less, of that and to stop talking past each other. ‘Fake geek girls’ need to understand why they are placed under suspicion and geek men need to understand why that suspicion is hurtful – and they will if it’s explained sensitively and related to their own experience, rather than as a way to further judge and bully them.

Ms Penny quotes David Wong on Crackd talking about how so much of what men do is for the sake of women, or impressing women. In particular:

“You’re all we think about and that gives you power over us. And we resent you for it.”

He’s speaking generally, on a societal level and he’s not wrong. At all. This breaks down at the individual level but female hypergamy is a great deal of what drives status and power seeking in men. It’s the biology stupid.

Criticising the tolerance that geek circles have for people of many different stripes has long struck me as… silly. Geek circles were places that were open to anyone regardless of race, gender, politics, creed etc and tolerated and accepted people with behavioural and socialisation issues. In gaming circles I’ve seen tabletop RPGs help people on the autism spectrum come out of their shell and that acceptance and patience was a definite virtue there.

Accepting people with opposing or ‘nasty’ views also serves a valuable purpose, it exposes them (and you) to alternative points of view and in a world plagued by polemical ‘news’ and the fracturing of people into insular echo-chamber social groups that normalise extreme points of view, this mixing is even more important.

A call to ‘clean house’ is potentially very dangerous in that it will both further isolate people with dangerous points of view and remove their exposure to contrary arguments.

The shaming going on at conventions via ‘free bars of soap’, the infamous Magic Tournament buttcrack shots and more recently Posthuman Studios banning ‘MRAs’ from being fans of their games is not a good development.

Dismissing neuroscience, genetic, behavioural and psychological differences between the sexes (as overall demographics) out of hand seems, to me, to be on dangerous ground. The politicisation of the field means we may be unable to find out the true scale of gender differences until some point in the far future but that doesn’t mean that they do not exist. Indeed humans would be virtually unique if our sexes were truly that identical. That’s not to say that one gender is superior to the other, but rather that our behavioural cues and adaptations might well be as variant as our upper body strength or body fat distribution.

Science should never be discarded on political grounds. It’s as unsafe as climate change denial or creationism. If evolutionary psychology and sexual dimorphism is to be debunked, let it be with good science, not with bad ideology.

Watch_Dogs_box_artThe New Cyborgs

Ms Penny sketches out a conversation she had with some Pirate Party members in Iceland about feminism and gender politics. It sounds like a good discussion, though with a slightly ‘matronising’ aspect (What they ‘think’ patriarchy means etc) but the meat of it comes when one of the men there questions the validity of claimed experience of gendered violence.

The discussion – as described – has many of the same pitfalls and problems that I’ve had in trying to get to grips with the feminist paradigmal lens. While I accept that I don’t necessarily have all the information and am constantly seeking that information (geek impulse to ‘fix things’) it seems virtually impossible and there’s almost no reciprocal effort from the other ‘side’. The parochial and insular language used by feminism doesn’t help things, nor does the presumption of ignorance that one is constantly labelled with. It seems inconceivable to many that one might examine the information and come to a different conclusion.

Many of the concepts and ideas in feminism – and more broadly in social justice – have the air of dogma. Patriarchy seems patently absurd to claim in the west in anything approaching its broadly understood definitions. ‘Misogyny’ seems to have a very different meaning in feminist circles. ‘Privilege’ is no use whatsoever in the discussion of anything and another abuse of terminology and so it goes on through ‘rape culture’ and all the rest.

The existence of cybervigilantism that Ms Penny underlines here, the likes of Anonymous etc, sharply underlines the points that I have made earlier about the insincerity of trolls. You can bet that those who hunt down animal abusers, child pornographers or those that have bullied the likes of Amanda Todd into suicide also contain amongst their number trolls and the kinds of people that spam Goatse into people’s Twitter timelines. Is that a contradiction? No. They know that one is sincere and the other not and they’re outraged by genuine arseholes, just as they always have been.

Conclusion

While a good summary of ‘where we are now’ the work betrays Ms Penny’s presuppositions about society and the world, or rather feminism’s presuppositions. The interpretation is, therefore, slanted and really only half the story. Well, perhaps 65% of the story as there’s some empathy and understanding here and there of the male experience of cyberspace.

So what’s the answer to the genuine and universal problems underlying all this? I’m not sure, but I have a few ideas.

  • Feminism needs to butt out: Trolling is not a gendered issue, abuse is not a gendered issue, it is just that the male suffering is comparitively invisible. Coming into spaces and trying to destroy or overturn them will only be read as abuse and authoritarianism itself and resisted. The unique history of the internet and the nerdosphere needs to be understood – along with TWELL.
  • Equitable Whining: Either women need to ‘man up’ or men need to ‘girl down’. Taking the problems less seriously seems to be a viable coping/survivial strategy but, as things stand, men’s issues are not known or understood and when they are raised are treated like a laughing stock.
  • Empathy: As a result of the above strands, both ‘sides’ need to make an effort to listen to each other. EG: When women engage in #YesAllWoman they need to listen as to why men reject and object and understand it, not just reject it, especially not as ‘not all men’.
  • Internet Skills: We need to teach people to cope with the internet, from selfies to permanence of commentary to identifying and ignoring trolls and abuse.
  • Cultural Change: Some of us are living in the 21st century and some in the 19th. Shaming culture and holding people accountable for flip comments needs to end. Society needs to be more forgiving and to come to understand the dangers of mutual surveillance.

 

#BlurredLines – Blurred Indeed

labyrinth (1)

Take Sarah’s advice on dealing with trolls.

Kirsty Wark presented a show called Blurred Lines – referencing the song – on the BBC, one just as awful and biased as the one about porn hosted by Jameela Jamil and retreading much of the same, tired, old ground as that did.

You might still be able to find it on iPlayer but the central thesis, presented at the start of the program is the question whether there’s a:

New culture in which men feel they have the freedom, and the right, to speak about, write about and portray women in a derogatory – even abusive – way.

I don’t know that it’s new exactly, but yes. People have the freedom and right to speak about, write about and portray other people in a derogatory and even abusive way. Within certain legal bounds varying by state and constitution.

The immediate presumption is that any of this must be down to misogyny and sexism. Misogyny is the hatred of women and it does not follow that enjoying a crude joke at the expense of women, or even trolling come to that, means that a person actually hates women. Sexism is prejudice on the basis of gender. Women seeming to expect different, special or protected treatment would be sexism, but against men in the form of positive discrimination for women.

This isn’t, of course, to say that there isn’t genuine misogyny and sexism out there, rather that the problem appears to be being misdiagnosed.

Wark starts out, after the introduction, by admitting that women are now equal in the eyes of the law and admitting that many think that that’s a case of ‘job done’ so far as feminism is concerned. I would be inclined to agree and to promote an egalitarian and humanistic outlook based on achieving equality for all in a similar fashion in as many arenas as possible. Others think differently and want to try and force changes in other spheres while leaving other problems, arguably now higher in priority, unattended.

Underneath it all is the telling, socially conservative concept that sex is bad. That the liberated libertine is somehow not in control of their own desires and can’t really like what it is that they say they like. She talks of a backlash against feminism when what I see is a backlash against the libertine strides made in the 80s and 90s.

An example is made of an event in Stirling on a bus, a university sports team singing a rather saucy song, as sports teams have been wont to do since the dawn of time. Nothing special about it, other than it was recorded and presented as somehow being unusual and bad. Drunk sports fans and teams on public transport are a problem to everyone, not just women, because it’s annoying and loud but drunk people will act like arseholes. It can’t even be that intimidating since they were confronted about it and recorded. Drunk people of either sex can be intimidating and annoying, but there’s usually no more to it than that. It seems to be another example of overreaction, an overreaction that is being encouraged, expected, even demanded.

‘Lad culture’ is portrayed as a backlash to the power-suited women and ‘new men’ of the late eighties while I think those of us at the time just saw it as a breath of fresh air and an allowance to look at pretty girls and have a drink without feeling guilty all the time. The Loaded editor made a good point that women were celebrated. Even if it was for their looks, that can hardly be called misogyny and – as he pointed out – it’s what sold. He did concede that the women were like objects, to sell the magazine, which he probably shouldn’t have but the point that everyone seems to miss, even though Rene Magritte got it right, is that “Ceci n’est pas une femme.”

He further goes on to make a point that I consistently find compelling in these arguments. That people are – on the whole – intelligent and savvy enough to tell the difference between something said in humour, irony or contextual harmlessness and those which are not. The other side, patronisingly (or is that matronisingly?) seems to think that the only ones able to view such material unaffected are themselves.

That is, in a large way, what has rendered sexist commentary humorous in that it is now so socially unacceptable that it is almost only ever uttered in the form of a joke. This is not something that should be fought since it’s humour at the expense of sexism and that undermines its power. Trolling is another story, there it’s to get a rise.

Perhaps feeling trapped he backed away from supporting MacFarlane’s boobs song at the Oscars and some near-the-knuckle T-shirts, but I would consider even those to be fine, at least the one’s shown. T shirts can’t really hurt you.

That section segued into one about comedy and differences in sense of humour between men and women. Offence comedians like Frankie Boyle base their whole oeuvre on outrageously over the top abusiveness that you simply can’t take seriously – unless you’re an idiot. The silly-string/pepper spray/rape joke by some American comedian was less funny, but that was more to do with delivery and timing than the joke itself.

The comedian she interviews makes another solid point. ‘Why do you think women are a sacred cow?’ he asks, and then goes on ‘I think it’s about equality’. There he has it absolutely right. What has changed is not that women are being abused per se, but that they are being treated equally – that is with exactly the same contempt, hostility and verbal rough-housing that men have always subjected each other to. Equality needn’t necessarily be all rainbows and glitter.

Then we get into trolling, politician’s gaffes and journalistic spats. This is a bit of an unfair conflation I think, though perhaps journalistic link-bait comes closest to trolling. The examples given are too much of a mish mash to address at length, ranging from Cameron’s ‘calm down dear’ to a UKIP member’s anachronistic use of the word ‘slut’.

A psychologist is then wheeled out, telling us things we already knew but with a different spin on it. The idea – as with all moral panics – is that media, jokes etc somehow brainwash people. What he actually found was that people who were already sexist were drawn to and empowered by it while those who were not sexist were essentially unaffected. Where this differs is in trying to blame the behaviour of the already prejudiced group on the environment around them, rather than the men themselves. What we’ve found in other, similar studies is that having an outlet can reduce or delay bad behaviours. EG: Most men who consume ‘violent’ pornography are no more likely to commit rape, those men who are more likely to rape anyway may find their desires blunted or delayed by access to that porn.

The documentary then moves on to the internet, with reference to abuse thrown at Mary Beard, Criado-Perez and – surprise surprise – Anita Sarkeesian.

Wark only monitored the abuse towards women, specifically those appearing on Question Time and not the abuse hurled towards the men. Studies have shown that the volume of threats is comparable, what’s different is the type of abuse. Women tend to get abuse over their looks and get sexual threats or derision, men tend to get threats of violence and abuse over other qualities – arguably more relevant – like intelligence.

Can this be said to show misogyny or sexism? Not really. It’s a matter of utility. What hits home? What is more effective and insulting? Trolls go for the soft target, angry people attack because of ideas. For whatever reason women are more vulnerable to insults and disrespect in general and to sexual threats and derision in particular.

Why is a threat to rape one person (female) treated more seriously than a threat to decapitate another (male)? There’s no reason why the rape – objectively less terrible than being killed – should be thought worse other than the ‘privileged’ position in which he hold women and the peculiar sensitivity we have towards sex.

If someone is insulting your looks, it’s irrelevant to the point your making. Why pay it any attention whatsoever? Is this the difference? Women aren’t used to it, aren’t brought up in an environment where they’re used to it? Is the answer for men to soften down or for women to toughen up?

And why, why, why, why are you taking trolling seriously?

Criado-Perez is essentially a troll, a legitimately unhinged fringe feminist who sees it as a victory to have knocked Darwin (a legitimate world-shaping genius) off the fiver, for Jane Austen a tedious writer of dreary romance novels. She flew off the handle at some irrelevant trolling, lumped legitimate criticism of her in with it so she could ignore it and ended up prosecuting a campaign that put two harmless, stereotypical, basement-dwelling trolls in jail for a whopping eight weeks at huge expense. Her example is also being used to tighten up restrictions on the internet. None of this is any victory for British citizens or human beings at all, let alone feminism. One need only look at her feed to see her pulling the same tactics, such as her over-the-top reaction to Sarah Pinborough.

It might be that threats to rape and murder are illegal, but if they’re spurious, what then? If I steal the last biscuit and my wife threatens to kill me, it’s a spurious threat and a joke. Trolls might not be joking per se (they’re trying to get a reaction) but otherwise how is that any different? Why take these ‘threats’ seriously?

I think the answer is that it serves their purpose to take them seriously. It gets them sympathy currency to spend and creates an atmosphere of ‘something must be done’ that helps them push their agenda. Ironically, it perpetuates the ‘woman as victim’ trope, but as one from which power can be derived.

She talks to Rod Liddle, who gives the only real, sensible countering voice in the whole documentary. As he points out, abuse is universal and it can be disregarded. He rattles off some of the insults and threats he gets every day (I could do much the same) and asks the pertinent question.

Why would it be any worse for a woman to get these threats?

It’s rhetorical of course. It isn’t any worse. It’s simply reacted to more and treated as worse.

As he says: “If there’s one thing to take from this, it’s that you must not take the internet seriously.”

After that the documentary tries to shore up the idea that internet speech matters by showing how it spreads and circulates from article to commentariat to social media and back. She thinks she’s tracking abuse, but what she’s actually tracking is a trend, or meme. An item catches someone’s attention, they talk about it, social media talks about it and then the media – may – talk about the reaction. All perfectly normal and not at all sinister. The linguist’s bias is obvious the moment she starts talking about objectification. We desperately need neutral research in all these areas.

Wark returns to talk to Liddle after this analysis and again, he knocks it out of the park.

“As soon as we feel this self-censorship coming on, ‘oh my god if I write this will people take it the wrong way’. It’s incredibly damaging and limiting to freedom of speech. That’s no way for a journalist to behave.”

Wark then goes to talk to Laurie Penny about whether the internet is amplifying sexism that was there or whether it’s something new. Now, I don’t know what internet Laurie Penny grew up on but it bears little resemblance to the one I knew.

I have excellent internet hipster credentials, having first logged into BBSs and MUDs on a creaking modem and my Atari ST. I’ve been plugged in as much as possible since then. The early internet was very welcoming, very open, didn’t treat anyone too badly and while it was predominantly male that was because the kinds of skills and tech knowledge needed was, at the time, predominantly a male field and sufficiently technical to keep normal people offline.

The ‘bad shit’ only really started to happen once the internet became ubiquitous, that is, the attitudes they are criticising only became noticeable once ordinary people started using the internet in larger numbers.

Again though, there’s the immediate presumption that all these people sharing jokes – in whatever bad taste – or accessing pornography necessarily hate women and that this represents sexism and misogyny that genuinely exists.

Laurie is right when she talks about the early internet as a utopian space, but that is a source of a great deal of the resistance to those who came into those spaces demanding that its utopian rules – especially about free expression – be curtailed. By and large that was, and has continued to be, feminists, the politically correct, members of various minorities who wanted to police speech which, of course, only prompted a larger and more visceral reaction. Laurie misattributes this to prejudice and hatred because despite knowing the lingo she doesn’t seem to be able to empathise with those who were being impinged upon.

This is where talk of ‘male space’ becomes important, because the internet as a whole was a male space and now, on or offline, there is no safe male space, while there are safe female spaces. It’s like the loss of working men’s pubs. Men would go there, bitch harmlessly about the missus, sink a few pints and go home and it wouldn’t mean a thing. Now there’s nowhere to hide, in either the virtual or physical world and that, along with being told women want equality, means they’re running into things and – mistakenly – taking them seriously.

Laurie paints nerd/geek culture as misogynistic, but it never has been. Distrustful of women yes, but this is not the same as being misogynistic. Women who entered the space and earned their chops were and always have been treated fine but nerds and geeks were often traumatised by and therefore suspicious of women. This is much less the case in the upcoming generations where general nerdery is much more acceptable, even sexy, but for now it endures – and with good reason. It’s just not misogyny, they don’t hate women, they’re wary.

Note that this doesn’t make such behaviour rational or acceptable, any more than the behaviour of some men makes some women’s fear of men as a whole gender legitimate or acceptable. It does make both instances understandable though.

Many of these nerdy, geeky spaces were male spaces, now they’re not, this likely wouldn’t be a problem so much if there weren’t so many attempts to police, control and change/ruin those spaces. Many women coming into those spaces are seeking to add and diversify, but to control and erase. Make more art, don’t tell other people what to do.

There’s a bog standard critique of Grand Theft Auto, which fails to note the humour, parody and satire or the fact that it deliberately stirs up controversy to get sales and interest. Why do people make Youtube videos of their prostitute killing in GTA? Precisely because its a stereotype and because people overreact to it. It’s a deliberate cliché.

How women are treated when playing online is another tired old trope. The answer is, yet again, the same as men. Which is what most women profess to want. People trash talk each other, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, they just go for whatever is going to get a reaction and throw you off your game. Don’t react, don’t let it affect you and it won’t happen.

Then, for the love of the fuck, professional victim Anita Sarkeesian pops up. She’s a fraud, a scam artist, a liar and people have worked this out since day one. She’s also obvious troll bait and has the same synergistic relationship with trolls that Criado-Perez has. She simply cannot be trusted, she’s using a whipped up situation in order to profit from it. Again, she conflates genuine critique with trolling but at least seems to understand that, to trolls, it’s a game of prestige, though she still makes the mistake of taking it seriously. She also claims it’s the hatred of women, rather than hatred of her specifically.

Sarkeesian has no business being taken seriously by the media, or the computer games industry. And yet…

The documentary wraps up with an exploration of why men might feel the way they allegedly feel, starting from Greer’s quote about women having no idea just how much men hate them. A grandiose statement that still has no real evidence behind it. Men love women, men make huge sacrifices for women, men want women to be happy to the point where they put their own needs behind those of women and that has – arguably – been taken advantage of and led to something of a reversal in the social positions of the sexes.

Greer victim blames men while simultaneously pointing out that men have no spaces of their own any more. She thinks it’s due to men being toppled from their imaginary perch at the top when it seems to me more than women are not only occupying mens spaces and leaving them none, but that they are also demanding that those spaces all be changed to accommodate women in every regard. The same issues facing gaming in other words, demanding others change what they love, rather than adding what they love. It’s like the difference between cultural assimilation, cultural ghettoisations and cultural conflict you can see in various racial and religious demographics in UK cities.

It’s not ‘female success’ as claimed in the documentary, that is giving men an identity crisis. It’s societal failing of men.

What it is to be a man today is an important question and some of what the man they interview next about that says is accurate. There’s little in the way of traditional male employment, offices are feminised, men are failing in education while women continue to get all the help. Men feel surplus to requirements, unneeded as fathers, partners, husbands or as participatory in society at all. Simultaneously the modern feminists blame them for everything and tell them they’re dominant in a society that affords them no such dominance and very few opportunities in the case of the majority.

Women can do anything and are constantly told and helped into doing anything. There’s been no similar examination of manhood and solutions, sadly including those that this lecturer presents, tend to concentrate on eliminating manhood entirely, rather than examining it and redefining it.

And then we end with some kink shaming and blaming of violent porn, that we’ve gone over before and exposed as bullshit.

We need strong, countering, level headed, intelligent voices and they’re simply not being represented in opposition to this moral panic.

Feminism & Socialism: An Open Letter to Laurie Penny

solidarityDear Laurie,

We had a bit of a spat over on Twitter about the fallout from the Socialist Worker’s Party rape scandal. Not over the rape or the scandal itself per se (which is pretty obviously beyond the pale) but over Feminism and Socialism and the interface between the two. We also fell out over your proposal as to the examination and discussion of Feminism as a whole and the possibility of a space in which men could ask questions without being shot down.

My only comment on the SWP scandal itself would be that I do not find it that surprising that things turned out as they did. When a small(ish) ideological group rejects the society it finds itself in it cannot remain ideologically pure while calling to the society at large for help with its problems. When something like a rape – or other crime – occurs they will look to deal with it internally. The problem with that is that in a small group everyone is interconnected to a much stronger degree than in a larger society and it’s far easier for bias and political concerns to override the necessity for justice. We see this even in our national judicial system, let alone in small fringe groups. It is disappointing – but almost inevitable – that things turned out as they did.

Moving beyond the SWP to more general terms there was something you said about the join between Feminism and Socialism that I wanted to comment on but felt I could not because of the inevitable backlash whenever a man comments on Feminism.

I’ve decided to stick my head over the parapet anyway because I’m an idiot, clearly.

You said:

@Pennyred: Socialism without feminism isn’t socialism that’s worth having. We must fight sexism within the left, whatever the cost. #SWPconf

@Pennyred: Feminism without socialism has internal logic, but limited usefulness. Socialism without feminism makes no sense whatsoever.

 Such statements are a problem for me because Socialism (non-Marxist) is predicated upon the premise of equal opportunity, egalitarianism and equal rights for all human beings regardless of gender, race, wealth, class and so forth. In fact it is committed to redistribution and evening of rights and privileges as much as it is material wealth.

Feminism, for all its pretensions to the contrary, does not seem to fit this definition. Feminism is specifically concerned with the rights of women, not with the rights and equality of all human beings. It seems obvious, to me, that this is at odds with the stated aims and goals of Socialism.

Why?

Well, consider this diagram. (fig 1).

fig1

Feminism is concerned with:

A: Areas in which women have less advantage than men.

B: Areas in which men have more advantage than women.

Feminism is not concerned with:

C: Areas in which women have more advantage than men.

D: Areas in which men have less advantage than women.

If Feminism were to achieve its goals completely it would result in a society where women had all of the advantages and none of the disadvantages and men had none of the advantages and all of the disadvantages. This would not be egalitarian. (fig 2).

fig2

Now, of course, many will claim that this is a misrepresentation of Feminism and that feminism is:

@c_richardson_nz: And feminism isn’t about absolute right and absolute wrong, it’s about accepting difference & being inclusive.

To which I answered “*Bitter Lol*”, and very nearly answered “Is it fuck.”

Whether you like it or not the Feminism that I encounter every day is not inclusive or accepting of difference.

The Feminism I encounter every day is arrogant, condescending, interfering, censorious, po-faced and unwilling to brook any question or examination. It brushes off any query or disagreement by calling it ‘derailing‘, it seeks no common ground and dismisses any and all concerns about arenas in which men suffer from inequality and disadvantage. It even dismisses and ignores science on ideological grounds, something I’m far more used to finding amongst creationists and deem to be just as unacceptable on grounds of ideology as religion.

It both amused and irritated me that the typical angry-white/right-male seems to have tapped into my disagreement with you.

I am not angry at Feminism because I am some right wing conservative and Feminism is all lefty-pinko liberal nonsense. I am angry at Feminism because I am a nonsensical lefty-pinko liberal and I find Feminism to be archly conservative, censorious and closed-minded.

  • If Feminism wants to stifle creativity.
  • If Feminism scoffs at and ignores the inequalities facing men.
  • If Feminism is anti-sex and anti-pornography (despite people like my friend Nica Noelle).
  • If Feminism is anti-Science (see earlier link).

Then I want nothing to do with it.

Show me an egalitarian Feminism and I’m all over it. Show me a Feminism that fights just as hard to remove female privilege as male privilege and to help men to equality where they are at a disadvantage and I’ll shout it from the rooftops.

Where’s male reproductive autonomy for example?

At the moment, at least in this country, a woman has all the agency when it comes to the choice to have a child or not. A man has no choice, no voice, no say in this whatsoever.

Obviously we don’t want men to be able to force their partners to carry a baby to term.
Obviously we don’t want me to be able to force their partners to have an abortion.
What if the conception is an accident, the result of a one-time thing and the man absolutely doesn’t want a child though?

At the moment he’s out of luck. He’s now on the hook for life to a child he never wanted and a woman he may want nothing to do with.

Where are men’s reproductive rights?

Why is circumcision laughed off as a non-issue?

Where are the woman clamouring to shoulder their load of the dangerous and shitty jobs that men overwhelmingly perform?

Why aren’t women eligible for the draft?

In the US women can now choose to opt for frontline combat duty as an opportunity, something that men in a similar position do not get the same degree of choice over:
“No general, actually I’d rather work in supplies than go over the top if it’s all the same to you.”

Why will all the above meet with eye-rolling and dismissal or even worse, the patronising and insulting phrases: “Patriarchy hurts men too” or “Men need Feminism”.

Why would such a thing be called Feminism though? By privileging the concerns and issues of one subdivision of humanity, Feminism is absolutely not Socialist.

You talked about wanting to set up a forum in which men could come and ask about Feminism without being shot down or summarily dismissed. Yet a few tweets later you said this to me:

@PennyRed: I don’t think we have anything more to discuss here. You seem very angry at feminism in general.

This is a dismissal and provides us with no progress. You show no interest in the reasons I might be (legitimately) angry at Feminism but expect me to listen to why women are angry at ‘patriarchy’. You just want to shut down the discussion and escape because I am pissed off. This doesn’t get us any progress. You gain no understanding of my point of view and you have absolutely no chance of convincing me of your point of view without having engagement with mine.

I’ve intimated above, in vague terms, why I’m angry at Feminism (or at least the Feminism that I encounter day to day). Some of those reasons are personal (I’ll spare you the details), some are related to my work (writing and game design), others are even broader (internet culture, anonymity, free expression, art, scientific method and debate in the public arena).

If you’re seeking to set up such a forum and yet within a very short time are shutting me down because I’m angry then that project isn’t going to get very far – or at least not serve any useful purpose. Limiting such a forum to simply asking questions is somewhat patronising and assumes that the other party just needs educating before they will agree with you. It’s actually possible to be fully aware of what the other side thinks and believes and still to disagree with it – and that’s not always due to pigheadedness or unwillingness to learn.

For this idea to serve any useful purpose it needs to go further than that and to allow a forum in which Feminist ideas can be challenged, examined, torn apart and put back together without being an echo chamber. Yes, it would need to be moderated and, almost certainly, that moderation would be used to hit legitimate arguments and challenges over the head as well as trolling and shit-stirring, but it’s still got to be worth a try.

If it’s just a soapbox though, it’s worthless.

If you think I’m being unfair or combative above then point it out, but I can only go on my empirical experiences. If the attitudes and actions I talk about aren’t Feminism, then you need to get that message to the Feminists who are representing you or to more vigorously assert your own definition.

I find myself agreeing with you a lot of the time, but not when it comes to these topics.

If you can’t convince me, an educated, left-liberal socialist who would have called himself Feminist up until a couple of years ago, then what hope do you have of getting through to people who actually oppose you? An inter-gender consensus on equal rights for both genders has much more potential for positive change than the division that Feminism or Men’s Rights engenders (no pun intended).

Pax,

Grim