I can’t stop watching the Nice Guy…

A video has done the rounds more than once (which I first witnessed courtesy of two friends who’ll go unnamed), showing the fear, rage, cognitive dissonance and self-pity that’s commonly on display around certain parts of the Internet.

But I’m a Nice Guy – Scott Benson

I’m not entirely sure why I like returning to this short clip, but I do know it’s not just because I don’t like misogyny, nor just because I’ve been exposed to some of the examples referred to in the animation. I love Benson’s visual style, which the retro audio matches perfectly. Though for those not familiar with the subjects raised,  it probably comes across as more surreal than it actually is (or conversely, not more surreal – the behaviour being criticised is pretty same surreal in its real-world incarnations). I’ll give you a few pointers on the references in the video…

***

The phenomena of the “Nice Guy” (capital “N” and “G”), is one where a guy holds the attitude that being nice to women, is universal currency paid in advance for certain services – usually sexual. When a woman holds out on sex, supposedly the guy is being exploited through an inherent disadvantage in sexual power. In reality, it’s often the case that the guy doesn’t have the social skills to talk to women about sex, which she may otherwise actually be willing to consent to, or that the attitude of sexual entitlement permeates their advances, thus making them too repulsive to fuck. In any case, these guys aren’t actually nice. The “Friend Zone”, is that place in some heterosexual dating scenarios prior to sex, where nothing moves forward on account of fears of intimacy, or the realisation by one party (usually the woman) that the other isn’t the kind of person they’d like to fuck. In a healthy world, this is either something a couple work together to overcome, or it’s cause for people to part from romantic engagements as friends. For the puerile man-child though, this is something women condemn men to, causing pain, and robbing guys of the fruits of their investment (see “Nice Guy” above). The “Red Pill”… Perhaps you’ve seen The Matrix movie… If you haven’t, think Dan Brown paranoia meets sci-fi “maybe we’re just brains in vats!” In The Matrix, Neo if offered a red or blue pill. If he takes the blue pill, he will return to his illusory world to live a mundane life, unaware of the conspiracy that lies behind… well, everything. If he takes the red pill however, he will see past the lies and become aware of how the world and indeed reality, is manipulated by a secret conspiracy. Naturally, Neo takes the red pill. In the world of Internet Men’s Rights “Activism”, “The Red Pill” is what you metaphorically take to see how the matriarchy is behind everything – conspiring to rob men of their self-respect, jobs, status, and entitlement to sex. And perhaps also rob them of their sperm. There’s a Reddit community called “The Red Pill”, which among other things, informs us that women not wanting to be raped are like girls having tantrums for a ponies. I think I’ll opt for the blue pill. Other, less obscure references are “RAPE HAHAHA!”, which pertains to various debates surrounding the use of references to rape in comedy and online culture, while “Give me what’s mine” is an obvious reference to some men’s sense of lost entitlement… *** If you’re healthy, and not some self-loathing individual who needs a therapist more than they need an online community (I mean this in all seriousness – see a GP if this is you), then in light of the above, the other references in the video should make sense. I’ll not go on. Please do enjoy the video. Frequently if possible. Scott Benson has done a nice job. ~ Bruce Update: Now it’s a T-Shirt, with 25% of the profits going to Planned Parenthood in the US.

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Easy gambit…

crazytroll Imagine you’re a part of an Internet clique, and some individual has called you a “bully”. Leave the substantive details of your past arguments, and even the particulars of your accuser’s case, to one side.

Just a little reflection shows there’s a way of demonstrating that you’re only engaging in a bit of ‘rough and tumble’ style political banter. A way that won’t be falsified.

You have to retort of course, in the first instance, that it is indeed banter you’re engaging in. Yet not to the extent that you’re merely pretending the gadfly; you’ll want to maintain that there’s a substantive critique underneath your ’bullying’ (not that you need to articulate it clearly).

“Rough and tumble”; “rhetorical flair”; “panache”; “pugilism’” and so on – the point is to illustrate that what’s being misinterpreted as “bullying” is in fact normal, at least in your circles, and preferably at large in public discourse. This shouldn’t be too hard (easy gambit!), given that it is in fact reasonable to expect some degree of emoting, satire, ridicule and questioning of character in any contentious matter of public debate.

Remember – you aren’t beyond the pale, or out of the norm, it’s that your accuser has unrealistic expectations. This is easy enough to state, and easy enough to follow through upon.

If the allegations against you don’t acknowledge your clique, it’s likely that they will be implicated, at least by inference. It’s safe to assume such a wide ranging smear even if it hasn’t been stated – it is after all, an example of high character to defend your friends’ honour.

Try this on for size…

‘You’re trying to marginalise our perspective from the public square by using false accusations!’

It also helps to counter-accuse your opponent of autocracy, of being like Pol Pot, and of whatever else gets the job done. Admittedly, this can sometimes be overdone – the job at this point is to position yourself as an open minded freedom fighter. You’re taking a stand for your people.

The full extent of your recriminations come later.

If all has gone well, by this point you’ve established that your people are being accused as well, if that wasn’t already clear. Now, it follows that if what they’re being accused of were true, then surely you wouldn’t want them to do it to you.

This is where you mock your opponent’s false-martyrdom by placing yourself in the role of potential victim.

‘Hey, my lot argue like this all the time. When someone makes a joke at my expense, I just ignore it and laugh, and then we all know that the joke’s finished. I don’t go and whine and make accusations about ‘bullying’ like you do. You need to ignore it and get thick skin like me.’

You need to follow through on claims like this by presenting a gambit with a largely pre-determined outcome – perhaps you could hold a contest for the best insult to your person, from one of your friends. Perhaps you can think of something similar.

When you’ve decided upon your gambit, be sure to trot out a self-deprecating example or two of ‘rough and tumble’ banter, showing just how light-hearted and open-minded you really are…

‘Maybe I’ll draw an MS-Paint picture of myself; it’ll have me being decapitated, with someone sticking a stainless steel cactus up my bum. Ha!’

Even if in fact you have thin skin, concerns you’ll suddenly be set upon by your friends are ill-founded. Banter sends the agreed upon signal; when you laugh, the joke’s over, so that’s the end – no more. With an act of self-deprecation, you give the signal to your clique to stop before the gambit has even begun.

Of course, nobody can prove this signalling, which means it can’t be counted against you. It’s not like there’s a formal code book of in-group social cues for your enemies to refer to.

In the absence of such proof, your display of an invitation to experience said “bullying” first-hand, shows not only that you consider it normal, but that you’re a role model, and a figure of political stamina. (This despite the fact that very few people, if any, are going to take you up on your offer.)

Moreover, you’ve shown that the spectre of supposed “bullying” does not in fact inhibit you from exercising your right to free expression. Now if that doesn’t show that the accusation levelled against you is fatuous, nothing will.

After you’ve exonerated yourself, all that remains is to capitalise on the gambit – to expose your accuser of being a tyrant and a fraud. Recriminations should abound.

‘Professional victim!’; ‘Anti-free-expression!’; ‘Political correctness gone mad!’; ‘Thingy-Nazi-Stasi’ or any number of other epithets and charges are in order, the doubling-down on any prior references to totalitarianism being a given. All that is left to do is bask in the appreciation of your fellow members of the oppressed, which likely involves the freedom fighting subscribers to YouTube and Reddit – the most oppressed of the oppressed.

~ Bruce

In Dawkins’ Honour?

Dawkins - photo by Marty Stone Over much of the past two years in political circles, a slew of polemics have been argued, over the online harassment directed at women. Even the list of more recent incidents spawning these debates is expansive; the harassment of feminist gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian; the viral video of Prime Minister Julia Gillard criticising Tony Abbott’s relationship with misogyny; the multiple waves online of chauvinist vitriol directed at amongst others, New Statesman columnist, Laurie Penny, and so it goes.

A heavy reliance on the Internet for communication leaves atheist and free-thought communities, especially in the US, potentially wide open to abusive interaction, whatever the disposition of their constituencies. One could go into great detail discussing the event that saw the crystallisation of the phenomena in secular circles online; “ElevatorGate” in 2011. However, I’ll try to be brief.

In 2011, atheist, sceptic and feminist blogger, Rebecca Watson, in the middle of a YouTube video post, pointed out that it wasn’t a good move for guys to introduce themselves at 4am, in an elevator, asking a woman to “…come to my hotel room for coffee?” Initially, this mild comment prompted a series of alleged and mostly unrelated grievances to be aired by Watson’s detractors.

Then Prof. Richard Dawkins entered the fray with his now infamous “Dear Muslima” commentary, sarcastically deriding Rebecca Watson’s supposed lack of perspective; Muslim women were being treated like dirt the world over, while Watson complained about guys in elevators. Imagine it as Dawkins’ take on “First World Problems”; very dry, at least a little truculent, and with a hint of unstated grievances.

What followed was an escalation in online abuse; “she’s too ugly to rape”; “I hope she gets raped so she knows what real abuse is”; “if I’m ever in an elevator with her, I’ll cop a feel”; “…Rebeccunt Twatson…”. And of course, there have been the ever-present images depicting feats Laurie Penny would likely describe as “sphincter stretchingly implausible”. This torrent of vitriol rapidly engulfed other targets, all while maintaining the same intensity of malice and irrationality.

Possibly the most sinister act amongst all of this, was an incident endured by Amy Roth in 2012.

The Slymepit”, an Internet cesspool of vex and loathing, dedicated to attacking Rebecca Watson and fellow travellers, was to temporarily play host to the publication of Amy Roth’s home address. Despite an allegedly public source for such personal information, you have to ask; what was the implied, suggested use for Roth’s home address, being posted at such a forum?

The individual posting Amy Roth’s home address, one Justin Vacula, coupled this act to a claim of “censorship” at Roth’s instigation, on account of her filing of a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) claim on a particular photo of hers, and only the photo, to be withdrawn from a post of his authoring. As of writing, Vacula’s description of the exchange, published at the Southern Poverty Law Centre listed hate site, A Voice For Men, fails to accurately describe all the relevant details (i.e. that the article was not in fact, “censored”).

But aside from the obvious, what has any of this got to do with Richard Dawkins?

To simply state that abuse has followed Dawkins’ “Dear Muslima” comments, ergo Dawkins’ responsibility, would be an instance of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy so loved by reactionaries. As far as I can ascertain, Dawkins has offered neither tacit, nor explicit endorsement of the mentioned abuse. Rather, from “ElevatorGate” onwards, it seems often to be a case of overzealous Dawkins fans appointing trolling duties to themselves.

Still, at a time when men are increasingly being called upon to decry misogyny, sexism and online abuse, Dawkins’ continuing silence on a phenomena situated so close to him seems difficult to defend. This silence, coupled with the abuse, and coupled with the behaviour of a number of enablers, at least to my addled mind, seems only to serve the wrecking of communities, intentionally or not.

In response to the outbreak of online abuse, and a series of incidents at events, a number of free-thought organisations in the US have made steps to implement harassment policies. It’s been no secret that Dawkins’ sentiments oppose these moves for mostly unarticulated reasons. Maybe it’s a case of bonobo ethology romantically adapted to Homo sapiens, or perhaps more likely, it’s that Dawkins objects on the grounds of identity politics.

However, such policies aren’t a reflection on the behaviour of the broader godless constituency – they prescribe courses of action for when things go wrong, as happens from time to time in all human communities. The existence of a harassment policy no more defames a community, than laws against murder condemn a society as being particularly murderous.

Last year I covered the Global Atheist Convention for Ophelia Benson’s Butterflies and Wheels, although at the time I left something out of my coverage; an incident where my eyes were flecked with the spittle (and possibly the mild ale) of an atheist academic, who ranted amongst other things, that he’d always oppose bullies.

Said academic, a self-confessed Dawkins fan, despite his supposed anti-bullying advocacy, has thus far failed to call the harassment of Rebecca Watson, Amy Roth and others for what it is. Yet what he has managed to decry are concerns over a campaign to fund Justin Vacula’s presence at this month’s “Women in Secularism 2”, held by The Centre For Inquiry in Washington D.C..

My spittle-spraying former acquaintance isn’t alone amongst intelligent, academic, Dawkins fans in adopting this double standard. Weirdly, there’s an attitude even amongst a small set of atheist academics, that somehow they’re doing Dawkins a favour. It’s as if they harbour fantasies that fame and book sales will rain down upon them, if only they enable Watson’s harassers.

It’s not like Dawkins hasn’t been pressed for more substantive contributions to this debate, or even with questions about his mere awareness of the existence of the torrents of abuse. I’ve sources who’ve done as much, with little success in the way of obtaining answers, and Dawkins has publicly squelched such lines of inquiry, such as during a Q&A session at the University of Miami in September of 2011.

I was able to discuss these concerns with Dr. R. Elisabeth Cornwell, Executive Director of the US branch of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. She was aware of the mentioned instances of harassment, expressing displeasure and dismay.

I raised the issue of serious chatter arising out of a polarised climate amongst organisers, that suggested that Dawkins was using his influence to have Rebecca Watson barred from events. Dr. Cornwell assured me this wasn’t the case.

Whichever way one decides to interpret these contrary claims, one thing is indisputable – there‘s a lack of trust within secular circles, born of online harassment during the past few years. This conflict is ostensibly being driven by an unknown number of self-appointed zealots, and their enablers, acting in Dawkins’ honour.

Whatever Dawkins’ intellectual or personal differences with Rebecca Watson et al., it wouldn’t undermine him to explicitly state that he doesn’t welcome the online abuse of his opponents. Dawkins may retort that this is in fact obvious, however this wouldn’t seem to hold for those who need to hear the message the most – a number of his more enthusiastic fans.

~ Bruce

(Photo Source: Marty Stone).