This is a long message I wrote to a persistent critic and assured well-wisher, who I describe to others as a "lol cow" - that is, someone you keep around to milk for the lols. He's quite story-worthy (that this would buoy his malnourished ego gives me passing shudder) and in simply describing his conversational style at a party, I once met several other victims of his forceful, non-consensual concern.
This was written after I attended an ANTIFA counter-rally for the legal hearing against that surprisingly-erudite overstuffed hotdog, Blair Cottrell. The response I received from the world at large is a post in its own right, but today's subject sent me a later message enquiring after my mental well-being and recommending I give - empathy, I guess? - a break. This was my response (my response to his whole oeuvre, not just his concerned suggestion that I shut the fuck up for my own mental health):
"And I will, for once, give you the courtesy of a sincere reply.
Since you have been good enough to inform me of what I don’t understand in the world, let me give you the bird’s eye summary. What you call “identity politics” here are really just the things that you have been lucky enough not to encounter in your day-to-day life. You’ve heard people talking about persecution of women, persecution of gays, persecution of religious groups in Western society, but looking around there’s really not that much evidence to it. And you’re a rational, sceptical guy, so if you could see that evidence you’d certainly be more inclined to believe what they said. You’re not blindly attached to your own worldview, after all.
And if you’re the rational one, then by definition those who are saying you’re wrong must be the irrational ones, right? And we know they are! The Regressive Left throws the word “Nazi” at whoever espouses beliefs they don’t agree with. Feminazis are constantly encroaching on free speech and entrenching women in positions of power over men. White Knights, well, they’re just beta males who think that “virtue signalling” will get them laid. The catchall term SJW refers to people who just want to pick fights and show their moral superiority over anyone who questions what they consider “progressive”.
It’s great to throw these terms at people, because it saves the bother of treating their views with any possible legitimacy. I’m not even being particularly facetious when I say that – it’s certainly an appealing trap to fall into, and once you have it’s terribly hard to get out because suddenly everyone critiquing you has become a blustery, over-emotional, snowflake cliché. So now, when you see me posting about counter-protests or the role of geek culture in online radicalisation, you see someone who’s playing straight into the SJW playbook with its insistence on deference to minorities and blaming of so-called “privileged” groups and movements.
At least with regard to overt feminism, I used to be a bit like you. We had legal equality, I thought, so why is there still such a fuss? Everyone knows feminists were man-haters who made preposterous token gestures like calling it the Monash Wom*n’s Office so that it wouldn’t say “men”. Where was the Men’s Society? Men had problems to, and were tremendously disadvantaged in areas like dating, yet all we heard was how men were privileged at best, rapists at worst. And you know what I did? I created a Monash Men’s Society (albeit unofficially) which was open to ALL genders, and we did stuff like go to Dark Zone – it was rad. I mention this because it’s infinitely more than the “nothing” most whiny MRAs on the internet would do for their belief (short of committing a mass shooting in a sorority house, of course).
And so, despite the patient and worthy women I have always been surrounded by, I stayed like this for a while. It wasn’t until I read a single blog post by some (female) atheist blogger that I finally “got” it, or at least started to. And it wasn’t like waking up from the solipsistic nonsense of the Red Pill, where you suddenly realise that the world has always been arrayed against you by a cabal of evil women and now it’s up to you to lead the fight against them by harassing strangers online. It didn’t let me pretend that my problems weren’t my own (in fact, it made me aware of many more problems I had, but as a rational person you’ll agree it’s always good to become aware of one’s biases). Instead, it just gave me understanding, which gave me empathy, which in turn gave me the ability to listen and to hear things about lives that weren’t my own, and experiences that I would never have. And once you reach that tipping point, it just sort of keeps going, probably forever. The floodgates of your worldview are broken – only a little at first, but perspective keeps pouring in and your self-certainty slowly breaks up. It’s quite exhilarating, actually, like suddenly seeing in the full spectrum of colour.
The blog post itself came from the now-defunct Blag Hag (its author having been hounded out of the public sphere by self-declared defenders of free speech). It was written in the wake of “Elevatorgate”, another tiresome piece of internet drama in which a different female atheist blogger wrote about feeling uncomfortable after being followed to her hotel room during an atheism conference. Many were outraged at what she had written, and I (at the time) felt a piece of that same outrage. Why was she, in expressing her discomfort, implying that this man was a possible rapist? Didn’t she know how hard it was for men to even approach a woman, and now it’s being met with accusations of intended sexual assault? The concept that Blag Hag introduced me was that of Schrödinger’s Rapist, and I quote: “When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.” You can read a summary of a different article about Schrödinger’s Rapist here (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2012/01/schrodingers-rapist-and-schrodingers-racist/) and don’t worry, it’s written by a man WHO LIKES NIETZSCHE.
Suddenly I was able to see such interactions from a different (in this case, female) perspective, and with that click a lot of other things they were saying started to make a lot of sense. I started to understand the motivations behind actions that had previously seemed to confirm stereotypes of feminism. It can be hard, because you no longer have the certainty that you are right and that ideological opponents just haven’t thought it through as much as you, because now you see that these “SJW groups” (i.e. minorities) have done a lot of thinking. They’re a lot smarter than you, not because each individual is somehow special, but because really smart individuals have thought, and shared, and built on one another, and you’re only now being exposed to that. It’s often better to just shut up and listen.
So that’s the story of my journey into empathy. It’s what motivates me to do the things I do – in fact, it motivates me to do a lot more than I actually do. Attending the rally on Monday, and writing about it subsequently, was an attempt to change that inaction. And so, with that segue, it’s time to talk about Nazis. The thing about Nazis is, as a movement they stood for racial and cultural purity, ethno-cultural vilification and strongly-defined gender roles. The other thing about Nazis is, no other historical group with similar ideologies is as widely studied or popularly understood – perhaps “Ustaše thugs” would be a perfectly accurate metaphor for the UPF, but practically no one will know what you are talking about. So when I use the term “Nazi” to refer to a specific person whose public statements are unreservedly supremacist, anti-Semitic and misogynist, I’m using it with this reasoning in mind. And it’s also a reminder of what’s happened in the past – the world is up in the air at the moment, with no idea where we’ll fall. I’d rather be hypervigilant for nothing than dismissive in the face of disaster.
Given that you were presumably moved to write by my appearance at an anti-UPF rally, it’s appropriate that you quote Sam Harris. I’ve liked Sam Harris for a long time –I enjoy his talks about neuroscience and free will, and I think some critics will quote him out of context. I’m also a staunch anti-theist who campaigned during the last Federal election for the most secular party in the running. Like Sam Harris, I am opposed to Islam, just as I am to all religions. But I was thinking the other day – what if Sam Harris was in Germany eighty years ago, and instead of Islam it was Judaism he was publicly speaking against. He could talk quite truthfully about its commands to genital mutilation, or its ingrained sexism, or any number of criticisms, and I’d agree with him. But in the context of the era a smart man like Sam Harris would have to know that he was inflaming tensions against an already-persecuted minority and providing rhetoric for those who would do much more actual harm than some snipped dicks or enforced modesty. In stoking the fire of anti-Islamic sentiment, modern-day Sam Harris is fuelling the persecution of real Americans, Australians, wherever just for being born into a particular culture – either deliberately or because he doesn’t care.
And of course, this is where the wail of “free speech” goes up. Aren’t I, by saying Sam Harris shouldn’t focus on making talking points about Islam that are in the mouths of white supremacists the next day, attempting to take away his right to free speech? How we do moan about this one inalienable right. It’s odd, isn’t it, that it’s never the right of the minority to speak or even just live without harassment, and it’s never the right of those bleeding hearts to say “don’t be racist” or “there is a worrying upswing in the amount of media time given to the views of white supremacists, given their still-relative scarcity”. No, it’s always the chap calling for genocide – whose remarks are uncritically parroted by the media, including being tweeted by a Channel 10 reporter on her personal page – who we must stand up to defend. One such champion of free speech/total stranger chastised me on my own Facebook page for going out and demonstrating against the stated beliefs of the UPF, since it made “people like [him] defend the right to congregate and speak for people such as Blair” (although he had the good grace to say it made him “uncomfortable as fuck” so it’s okay, I guess). You yourself, in response to my posting of some Tweets about links in the alt-right and geek culture, called them “completely IMMORAL, FASCIST and ultimately EVIL”.
I mean, realistically, if we are to take your “all free speech, all the time” belief (it is, after all, a fundamental basic human right) and apply it to the world, I guess things would be pretty nutty. Shit, I could just organise a group to follow someone around every second of the day, shouting whatever popped into our heads – they couldn’t do anything about it, it’s our free speech. But then we apply your long-implied “criticism stifles free speech” addendum, and now things have completely fallen apart because criticism is free speech but it also impedes speech and so we have a paradox where speech is completely free but it also isn’t. That’s only if we implement it non-hypocritically, of course; in reality, you all just scream about free speech whenever someone changes something to the benefit of a minority, or steps up to defend them.
And yet, there are other good ways of managing free speech. Much is said about the stifling totalitarianism of Article 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act here in Australia, but curiously never at the same time as the good-faith provisions in Article 18d – provisions that protect you if you can show that your reasoning wasn’t simply “to be a dick”. I can’t see when “being a dick” to someone for its own sake is ever useful, or worthwhile, and I’m sure most people can’t, which is why these critics have to dishonestly elide 18d from their polemic.
And so we come to the end of this meandering essay about the reasons I do the things I do, and why you have never once said a remotely-convincing argument in my presence. I thank you for your assuredly-sincere concern for my wellbeing, and sincerely assure you that I will take care of it without going the way of the “sealion without a cause”. I trust that as the well-thought and reasoned man you believe yourself to be, you have read all of this with a self-critical mind, and I reiterate that thought-terminating clichés and stereotypes are beneath one such as you."