As the Superbowl drew near earlier this month, another event was drumming up a lot of media attention. It came to pass that immense powers of the Internet were used to intimidate Roosh V (Daryush Valizadeh) into cancelling his talks and meetings in the interest of the safety and privacy of his patrons.
I’d like to thank you for making it this far. You’ve read past the headline, which is a lot more than those touting that Roosh is a “violent, rape-advocating misogynist” can say for themselves.
Let me first say that while I disagree with Roosh, I oppose the threats of violence made in an effort to have him cancel his meetings. It is ironic that while it is claimed Roosh promulgates violence towards women, and even advocates rape, there exists a silent acceptance of threats of violence made against him and his patrons.
Savoy Howe, owner and head coach of Toronto Newsgirls Boxing Club, made her position on this matter explicitly clear, and was quoted by the Huffington Post, saying, “We would show up wearing boxing gloves and take it from there,” and was said to be receiving support from many other women. While Howe does herself the service of claiming to not be inciting violence—make of her quote what you will—it is clear that her opposition to Roosh falls within the general public consensus.
Roosh V is a self-published pick-up artist and self-appointed leader of the neo-masculinist movement, which blends traditional conservative values (gender roles, male providers, value of chastity, and so on and so on) with a modern “red pill” understanding of the world. The red pill, an obvious reference to The Matrix film franchise, is a popular term in the domain of the internet known as the “manosphere”, the collective of MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way), the MHRM (Men’s Human Rights Movement), and the PUA (Pick-Up Artists). The red pill serves as a metaphor for what the manosphere describes as an understanding of the true nature of women and men, claiming especially that men are treated as simple utilities by society and that one must become aware of this in order to break free of servitude.
Belonging to these movements or holding these concepts in and of themselves isn’t enough to get you branded a violent rape-advocate. Cue “How to Stop Rape” (published Feb 16, 2015 on his blog). What begins as a tongue-in-cheek jab at third wave feminism quickly takes a dark turn at the phrase, “Make rape legal if done on private property.” From this point on, the reader is asked to ponder whether permitting legal rape on private property may reduce the incidence of “criminal” rape. While intended as satire, the response has been anything but appreciating. Through this extraordinary thought experiment, Roosh condemned himself to be misrepresented by those who took the piece at face value.
It’s easy to see why some might jump to label Roosh pro-rape, as that is the understanding one may reach without reading the piece oneself. As previously stated, “How to Stop Rape” is written as a hyperbolic thought experiment, a jab at those feminists who claim that women cannot be held responsible for their sexual actions while under the influence of intoxicating agents—as promulgated in such ideological advertisement pieces as the anti-rape poster from Coastal Carolina University. The text of the poster read:
“Jake was Drunk. Josie was drunk. Jake and Josie hooked up. Josie could not consent. The next day Jake was charged with rape. A woman who is intoxicated cannot give her legal consent for sex, so proceeding under these circumstances is a crime.”
While it can certainly be said that there exists a distinct difference between mass public disapproval of an idea and outright (government) censorship, the line becomes hazy when we consider the tactics being used. With reciprocal threats of doxing, as well as threats of violence from Roosh’s opponents, defamation is almost the least of his worries at this point. While the right to express these opinions and thoughts ought to all be protected through freedom of expression, we must ask ourselves if perhaps our overzealous tweets of outrage are doing more harm than good to public discourse. After all, the law is only concerned when criminal activity becomes involved, but social media is much younger, and its power over discussion appears to be much greater.
In his blog post, Roosh initially mocks the concept that a woman can lack agency in the bedroom while under the influence, yet be treated as a culpable agent if she were to drive under the influence. In both cases, an intoxicated woman’s agency seems to lie solely with the nature of the act committed.
“I learned that if a man and a woman both drink at a party and have sex, she was in all likelihood raped since she could not give full legal consent. This made me confused because a woman who drinks and has sex is not responsible for her actions, but if that same woman gets into a car and drives it into someone else, causing a loss of life, she would be prosecuted and sent to jail. I couldn’t find an explanation for this inconsistency,” reads the post.
The tone of the piece dramatically changes at the pivotal moment when Roosh boldly writes, “Make rape legal if done on private property. I propose that we make the violent taking of a woman not punishable by law when done off public grounds.”
The readers almost immediately ask themselves, “Is he serious? Who says that?” All of which are answered when his tongue-in-cheek remarks intensify with the absurdity of the proposition. In using this tool, Roosh stands in direct opposition to the feminist theory of Rape Culture. The thesis of his piece is that women are not being treated as equals to men, but rather as friends of the court, and that we should be “empowering women to make adult decisions about their bodies” when making the conscious decision to intoxicate themselves.
This is how Roosh garnered his title as a rape-apologist, a label graciously spewed by those who feed on manufactured outrage. Those like Jim Watson, the mayor of Ottawa, who tweeted to Roosh: “@ReturnofKings Your pro-rape, misogynistic, homophobic garbage is not welcome in Ottawa. #its2016 #TurnAwayReturnOfKings”. Or claims as admitting that he wouldn’t be surprised if one day an American fan of his might commit a mass shooting implies that Roosh believes his followers to be violent radicals (reported on by We Hunted the Mammoth). It all makes you wonder if anyone still understands what constitutes defamation.
So why am I choosing to play the devil’s advocate pro bono for Roosh V? It’s certainly atypical for controversial people to receive support from their adversaries, especially when the general consensus stands in such stark opposition to them. Why not join the mob defaming him on social media while simultaneously giving his websites more traffic than usual? While I don’t agree with his message, I can appreciate Roosh’s ability to sew hyperbolic opinions into thought experiments alongside jabs at those who trivialize rape. Most importantly perhaps, I argue that it is both immoral and loathsomely lazy to bully people out of platforms they have been invited to speak on, or have orchestrated for their own members to congregate.
Roosh V is a businessman wishing to organize events for consumers of his material. He is just as entitled to express his ideas and opinions as I am to show up and suggest they’re trash, for a variety of reasons. When the mob denies him the ability to express himself, they are violating his freedom of expression as a human being—and condemning him of wrongthink. It’s 2016, after all, as is the favourite quote of those vehement supporters of Trudeau. Social media hate-mobs spring up as often as daisies whenever a story of alleged bigotry surfaces. However, regardless of political alignment, I argue it is wrong to shame these discussions and dissenting opinions into hiding.
By advocating no-platforming Change.org petitions, one is simultaneously advocating for their own censor by the powers that be—as the tools you use to silence your enemies will be those used to silence you. With these petitions, the court of public opinion becomes a tyrannical mob gang which abuses mass media to regiment acceptable thought. Worse, these social media coups act as a means to preemptively shut down discussions, requiring minimal time investment, or an “inconveniencing” protest. These illiberal progressives often lack the gall to protest such meetups in person, opting instead to threaten violence and shame their opponents! What is perhaps the most disheartening is the role the mainstream media have played in these events: blasting Roosh and his fandom as a violent, misogynist rape-gang, making it necessary for Return of Kings to issue an official set of Attendance Guidelines for their International Meetup that was scheduled for February 6. I strongly encourage anyone with a genuine interest in understanding all sides of this controversy to do the legwork and read up, regardless of how unsavoury the content may be.
Furthermore, the doublethink displayed by those who oppose violence against women while simultaneously wishing violence on their opponents is truly a sight to behold. It is, in my opinion, abhorrently loathsome to sit behind a keyboard and spew such vitriol. Vanished is the respect for one’s fellow. In its stead stands a set of terms of agreement one must submit to in order to garner social acceptance. While I support every person’s right to say what they will, be it in agreement with me or not, I would hope that our society may instead grow fond of vigorous debate. It is far more enjoyable, respectful, and fair to all parties than the outright burying of dissenting opinions under heaps of hate.
With that, I conclude my tirade against those who would see us live under such an Orwellian system; where our desire to share and express our thoughts with our fellow Homo sapiens is in and of itself, an act of rebellion.
Chemical & Physical Sciences