TRIGGER WARNING FOR LANGUAGE DESCRIBING VIOLENT SEXUAL ASSAULT
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
In Mala Fide is an online magazine dedicated to publishing heretical and unpopular ideas. Ideas that polite society considers “racist,” “misogynistic,” “homophobic,” “bigoted” or other slurs used to shut down critical thinking and maintain the web of delusions that keep our world broken and dying […] In short, we’re the scary people your parents, friends and college professors warned you about.
My reaction to that paragraph was a huge, resounding, impassioned yawn. If you’ve spent as much time as I have in the internet cesspool that is the right-wing blogosphere (and I hope for your sake that you haven’t), then you will know that fearless modern heretics devoting their lives to exposing the lies of the politically correct elite are a dime a dozen. Given that the market for unreflective bigotry is so saturated, the modern ignorant bigots have to go to great lengths to draw attention to themselves. The writer of the above manifesto apparently realizes this, and understands the importance of taking the initiative over the multitude of competing internet tough guys. Upon finding a blog post and a twitter hash tag calling out the misogynist attacks to which female bloggers are frequently subjected, he therefore decided his best attention-seeking strategy would be to tell women to kill themselves. After spending a few hours providing some excellent evidence of exactly the kind of bullshit that the hashtag was originally intended to draw attention to, he retired to write a blog post about it:
“Yeah, there might actually be someone out there who wants to see Sady Doyle raped with a chainsaw. But far more likely, the person who sent that comment just wanted to wind her up and get her mad. When pissing off someone halfway across the world can be done anonymously and from the comfort of your own home, it’s not shocking that some people would do it just for the chuckles. And when you overreact to their comments to the point of creating a whole hashtag to give them publicity, you’re doing EXACTLY what they want, encouraging them to up the ante. Not that I expect a bunch of wilting violets who are ‘afraid of their own in-box[es]’ to grasp all this.”
Do we really have to go over this? Does anybody intelligent enough to figure out how to use a computer really need to be told that death threats are not funny? That it’s not nice to go on a public forum and tell people to kill themselves? Anonymity is a handy way of seeing a person’s true colours: sure you can get away with sociopathic language when nobody can find you, but that doesn’t change the fact that writing such things, even if only ‘for giggles’ makes you a bad person.
So why do they do this? A commenter provides a pretty plausible reason:
“Yes they wanted to piss you off and it worked. The fact that you care and others don’t means you lose.
The best part about whiny stupid femicunts is how seriously they take themselves and how pathetic they are when the world stops caring about their stupid period cycle rants. We on the other side love to watch this, real reality TV at its best. Keep up the effort to change the world while you know nothing of how it works, what it is, or what motivates it. Please! Endless lulz will be lost if you ever get a clue.”
You lose? What exactly does the pissed off person lose? I wasn’t aware that we were in a game of “who can make the other most angry”. This is just another version of the old self-recognized, unrepentant asshole trope. Like the anti-political correctness schtick, it has been done to death, but that doesn’t mean that the assholes in question don’t have a bit of a point. When you call somebody an asshole and they reply with “sure, what of it?” then that is really the end of the conversation. If somebody has decided to live their life with no regard for the anybody else around them then the best you can do is tell all your friends to avoid them, and hope that their disregard for others does not bring about some kind of physical harm. Nobody can be persuaded to be good.
There is, however, an inconsistency with this approach. Ferdinand Bardamu, you see, one of them elusive “real men” that men’s rights activists so frequently whine about. Once you’ve gotten over the inevitable shock from this completely unexpected revelation, I’ll remind you that I’m really not such a fan of traditional masculinity. Let’s leave that aside for a second and examine the consequences of this belief on Bardamu’s twitter rampage. Traditional masculinity, like all other social roles, is a cultural trope. Today it is primarily preserved in pop culture characters such as James Bond and Fonzie. So what would these paragons of masculinity, these men of men among men, think of Bardamu’s trolling antics?
There is no reason to think that there would be the slightest overlap between ‘real men’ and trolls. Would James Bond have spent his off-time on a computer making anonymous rape jokes? Would Fonzie have ended an argument with a woman by making fun of her appearance? Would King Leonidas have paused on his way to Thermoplae to catcall a few passing Thebans? No, no, and no. Real men would presumably have better things to do.
Does that mean that such unacceptable behaviour is a feminine trait? Certainly not-the online feminist community has reacted to misogynist threats with admirable restraints. What Bardamu’s trolling most resembles is the discourse of the playground. The only thing, aside from internet anonymity, that makes such mudslinging even remotely permissible, is very young age. Young children can be forgiven for making crude and perhaps violent jokes about each others’ genitalia, but this is expected to stop quite abruptly somewhere around the onset of puberty. Bardamu’s misogyny is not masculine, in either a traditional or more enlightened sense. It is certainly not feminine. There is only one word that can be used to describe it: infantile.
So if you are reading this and you have ever made an anonymous rape joke, gendered insult or threat directed at a woman on the internet, know this: you would be correct when you inevitably say that I cannot stop you. But you also don’t get to keep acting like that while also lamenting the death of real men. By slinging mud from behind your curtain of anonymity, you are contributing to the demasculation you observe far more than I, with my condemnations of the Clint Eastwood archetype, ever could. Internet trolling is the domain of boys, not men. If you are ready to grow up and embrace real masculinity, then you could start by emulating one of the few traditionally masculine qualities that is salvageable: responsibility. Take the time to examine the effect your actions have on others, and be willing to undergo the hardship of changing your behaviour in accordance with that examination. Then maybe we can talk about what it means to be a man.