Content note: misogyny, rape advocacy
The next post was going to be about who should pay for tertiary education in New Zealand, since that question has come up in the news in a couple of different ways. But then I heard that Roosh Valizadeh, of Return of Kings fame, is planning meet-ups of like-minded men in New Zealand, including here in Dunedin. To add insult to injury, theyre scheduled for 6 February, that is to say Waitangi Day, a day when New Zealanders remember that civilization is built on agreements and kept promises.
Its hard to tell how much of Rooshs platform he genuinely stands on, and how much is intended to make people angry so that he can feel important. The Kings have argued that women shouldnt be allowed to vote and that men should be allowed to rape them, as long as its on private property for some reason. They value women by their bodies and men, Roosh claims, by their capabilities; I strongly suspect that the male value scales are weighted so as to make Roosh himself the worlds greatest man.
I dont like Roosh or his ilk perhaps you can tell. I must confess the thought of his pathetic followers turning up at their meeting point only to be marched off to the police station in handcuffs is amusing. But is the power of the state justified in this instance? Its a rule too often forgotten on both sides of politics: before you grant the government a new power to interfere with people, imagine that power in the hands of your bitterest opponents.
Fine, lets imagine it. I dont want the police to be able to go around intimidating people for disagreeing with the government, something they have recently done. Of course, Roosh et al. dont just disagree with government policy; they want to perform illegal activities. (Rape is still illegal here, despite ominous precedents.) But theyre not actually gathering to commit rape, they just want to change the law and make it legal. Well, I want certain illegal things to become legal too cannabis and public nudity spring to mind and Id rather the police didnt harass me or others who get together to push for those changes. Rooshs political ideals call for major upheavals to societys power structures, but again, so do some of mine.
Are there any kinds of speech that should not be tolerated? Of course there are. Theres fraudulent speech, where you make a false statement for money or other gain; thats not relevant here. Theres slanderous speech, where you make a false statement that harms someone elses reputation. Theres threatening speech, including incitement to violence. And then theres hate speech, but thats controversial. Many self-styled free speech advocates make a lot more noise about protecting hate speech than, say, political protest. But OK, I admit, there is an argument to be had.
Hate speech does not of course refer to statements like I dont like Roosh or his ilk. Nor is it quite the same as offensive speech. As I use the term, hate speech, meaning the kind of speech I would be happy to see banned, is simply a form of the kinds of intolerable speech Ive already mentioned: slander (of a group, such as women) and incitement to violence (against a group, such as women, where violence includes rape). Well, there you go. Rooshs little cadre are outside the pale after all.
However, just because we would be within our rights to call the police on him doesnt make it a good strategy. Roosh wants to make a splash and be noticed. We dont want him bragging to his sympathizers Look how important we are! Were so threatening they felt the need to arrest us! which is pretty much what hes after to be holding these meet-ups in the first place. We dont need to play his game.
New Zealand social justice activists have bigger fish to fry. The present government, with its usual attitude to democracy, are hosting the signing of the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, also just in time for Waitangi Day. This weekend we need to make a big statement about who we are, what we aspire to, and how different that is from whats being foisted on us. That could certainly include a few sidelong dismissals of Rooshs little gatherings. We surely dont need to dignify them with more of a response than that.
Because Roosh, in the unlikely event that youre reading this you dont deserve any more of a response than that. Youre a sad little man who thinks bringing other people down will make himself bigger. Your odious philosophy, were there any chance of it being put into practice, would ruin mens lives as surely (though more subtly) as it would ruin womens. Im embarrassed to share a gender with you. You do not speak for me.
EDIT: About an hour after I posted this, Roosh cancelled the meet-ups.