If twentieth-century history teaches us anything, it’s that political religions spell trouble. Soviet Communism, Italian Fascism, and Nazism aren’t just called “political religions” by scholars today. In all three cases, observers at the time recognized and worried about the movements’ religious natures. Those natures were no accident; Mussolini, for instance, called his ideology “not only a faith, but a religion that is conquering the laboring masses of the Italian people.”
One reason that observers saw the great totalitarianisms as religious was that each had its idol: Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany, and Lenin in Russia, followed by Stalin. Take Grigory Zinoviev’s description of Lenin: “He is really the chosen one of millions. He is the leader by the Grace of God. He is the authentic figure of a leader such as is born once in 500 years.” Stalin’s cult of personality was far more developed and sometimes explicitly idolatrous, as in the poem that addressed the despot as “O Thou mighty one, chief of the peoples, Who callest man to life, Who awakest the earth to fruitfulness.” And in Italy, writes the historian Michael Burleigh, “intellectual sycophants and propagandists characterised [Mussolini] as a prodigy of genius in terms that would not have embarrassed Stalin: messiah, saviour, man of destiny, latterday Caesar, Napoleon, and so forth.”
To point out these words’ uncomfortable similarity to the journalists’ praises of Obama is not to equate the throngs who bowed down to totalitarian dictators with even the most worshipful Obamaphiles. But the manner of worship is related, as perhaps it must be in any human society that chooses to adore a human being. The widespread renaming of villages, schools, and factories after Stalin, for example, finds its modern-day democratic parallel in a rash of schools that have already rechristened themselves after Obama, to say nothing of the hundreds of young sentimentalists who informally adopted the candidate’s middle name during the presidential race. Even the Obama campaign’s ubiquitous logo — the letter O framing a rising sun — would not have surprised the scholar Eric Voegelin. In The Political Religions (1938), Voegelin traced rulers who employed the image of the sun — a symbol of “the radiation of power along a hierarchy of rulers and offices that ranges from God at the top down to the subject at the bottom” — from the pharaoh Akhenaton to Louis XIV and eventually to Hitler.
Benjamin A. Plotinsky, “The Varieties of Liberal Enthusiasm: The Left’s political zealotry increasingly resembles religious experience”, City Journal, 2010-02-20.
August 17, 2015
July 24, 2015
Matt Ridley on the danger to all scientific fields when one field is willing to subordinate fact to political expediency:
For much of my life I have been a science writer. That means I eavesdrop on what’s going on in laboratories so I can tell interesting stories. It’s analogous to the way art critics write about art, but with a difference: we “science critics” rarely criticise. If we think a scientific paper is dumb, we just ignore it. There’s too much good stuff coming out of science to waste time knocking the bad stuff.
Sure, we occasionally take a swipe at pseudoscience — homeopathy, astrology, claims that genetically modified food causes cancer, and so on. But the great thing about science is that it’s self-correcting. The good drives out the bad, because experiments get replicated and hypotheses put to the test. So a really bad idea cannot survive long in science.
Or so I used to think. Now, thanks largely to climate science, I have changed my mind. It turns out bad ideas can persist in science for decades, and surrounded by myrmidons of furious defenders they can turn into intolerant dogmas.
This should have been obvious to me. Lysenkoism, a pseudo-biological theory that plants (and people) could be trained to change their heritable natures, helped starve millions and yet persisted for decades in the Soviet Union, reaching its zenith under Nikita Khrushchev. The theory that dietary fat causes obesity and heart disease, based on a couple of terrible studies in the 1950s, became unchallenged orthodoxy and is only now fading slowly.
What these two ideas have in common is that they had political support, which enabled them to monopolise debate. Scientists are just as prone as anybody else to “confirmation bias”, the tendency we all have to seek evidence that supports our favoured hypothesis and dismiss evidence that contradicts it—as if we were counsel for the defence. It’s tosh that scientists always try to disprove their own theories, as they sometimes claim, and nor should they. But they do try to disprove each other’s. Science has always been decentralised, so Professor Smith challenges Professor Jones’s claims, and that’s what keeps science honest.
What went wrong with Lysenko and dietary fat was that in each case a monopoly was established. Lysenko’s opponents were imprisoned or killed. Nina Teicholz’s book The Big Fat Surprise shows in devastating detail how opponents of Ancel Keys’s dietary fat hypothesis were starved of grants and frozen out of the debate by an intolerant consensus backed by vested interests, echoed and amplified by a docile press.
July 19, 2015
Theodore Dalrymple discusses the changing opinions about Germany within the European Union, but especially in France:
There seems to be growing anti-German feeling in France, at least if what I read is anything to go by (which it might not be, of course). For example, a book with the title Bismarck Herring (The German Poison) is on sale everywhere. It is not by an unknown person, but rather by a very well-known left-wing French politician, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
You don’t have to go far in it to discover a tone of sheer hatred. The Germans, according to him, have returned to their old arrogant ways (which, of course, they never really lost); the price of their industrial and financial success is a land of oppressed, impoverished, and fat workers who don’t want any children; their industry spreads pollution all over Europe; and, unlike the French, who purified themselves of collaborationist industrialists after the war, the Germans just went on as if nothing had happened. At the end of the book, Mélenchon says that France (and presumably only France) has the wherewithal to liberate Europe from German imperialism. In a chapter headed “Spitting Out the Poison,” he mentions that, unlike Germany, France still has considerable military capacity. The obvious implication, I am afraid, is that France could, and perhaps should, use it to occupy the Ruhr again if Germany does not change its wicked ways.
Is it not strange that such thoughts should occur to a deputy of the European Parliament? After all, the most commonly used justification for the existence of the European Union is that it ensures the peace of the continent — by which, of course, is meant the pacification of France and Germany, since Belgium was never very likely to send its troops to occupy, say, Portugal. But from the first, the EU has taken Yugoslavia as its model, and Mélenchon’s rant at least has the merit of drawing our attention to a similar possible denouement.
July 15, 2015
Michelle Orange on the ways that photography can mislead and even change reality:
It may be that some of the great philosophical work of our time is taking place, hidden and unheralded, in the field of image forensics. Where but under the scrutiny of digital experts who draw a line separating false representations of the world from truthful ones are contemporary questions of perception and reality brought so keenly to bear? Who but these detectives of the real pursue as explicitly — as intricately — our crime wave of the fake, the contrived, the uncanny, the exponential image? With exquisite, singular focus, photo forensics engages the conundrum that photographic technology has tilted toward, steadily but ever more frankly, since its inception over 150 years ago: Does reality have a tipping point?
Dangling from the cliff edge of that question is the World Press Photo competition. In recent years the annual competition, which recognizes images submitted by photojournalists working across the globe, has dissolved into chaos, recrimination and a round of post-mortem soul-searching. Earlier this year, the WPP was forced to disqualify 22 percent of the competition’s finalists after forensics experts determined that certain images had been altered or manipulated beyond the currently accepted industry standard. This almost triples the number of disqualifications from a year earlier, suggesting a certain forward momentum, a trend larger and more fearsome than any set of standards.
Swedish photographer Paul Hansen won the 2013 World Press Photo competition with an image of a Gaza City funeral procession, led through an alley by men bearing the shrouded bodies of two children killed in an Israeli airstrike. Separate from the horror it depicts, with its fish-eye depth of field, stark figuration and stony matte light, the photo meets the eye as unreal. Complaints in this vein led to an investigation of the image, specifically its manipulation of tone — a quality central to photography’s evolving grammar of realism. Somehow both a beautifying tool and, in the right hands, possessed of the very texture of reality (as every Instagram filter maven knows), tone is transformative. For that reason, “excessive toning” is against WPP rules; Hansen said he adjusted tone only to balance uneven light, “in effect to recreate what the eye sees.” Ultimately, Hansen retained his prize: the judges stood behind what they saw, though it would appear their eyes prefer altered images a good portion of the time.
June 4, 2015
In The Lancet, Richard Horton discusses the problems of scientific journalism:
The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue.
Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, “poor methods get results”. The Academy of Medical Sciences, Medical Research Council, and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council have now put their reputational weight behind an investigation into these questionable research practices. The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data. Journal editors deserve their fair share of criticism too. We aid and abet the worst behaviours. Our acquiescence to the impact factor fuels an unhealthy competition to win a place in a select few journals. Our love of “significance” pollutes the literature with many a statistical fairy-tale. We reject important confirmations. Journals are not the only miscreants. Universities are in a perpetual struggle for money and talent, endpoints that foster reductive metrics, such as high-impact publication. National assessment procedures, such as the Research Excellence Framework, incentivise bad practices. And individual scientists, including their most senior leaders, do little to alter a research culture that occasionally veers close to misconduct.
June 1, 2015
Published on 26 Feb 2015
Created in 1965, 1400 Zulu is a classic British propaganda and recruiting film that profiles the Royal Navy’s operations around the world: from the Caribbean to Aden to the Suez Canal and beyond. It’s a job that involves hundreds of ships and tens of thousands of men both above, on and below the water of all the world’s oceans. The film shows some of the newest weapons in the RN’s arsenal including nuclear submarines, missile systems and the Guided Missile Destroyer HMS Hampshire, Harrier Jump Jets and carrier-based Buccaneers, and helicopters. The Royal Marines including frogmen are shown performing maneuvers, and various military exercises are shown and activities demonstrated.
HMS Hampshire was a County-class destroyer of the Royal Navy. Laid down, in March 1959 a couple of weeks behind the class leader Devonshire, she was classified as a guided missile destroyer, as the Sea Lords regarded the concept of the cruiser and big gun ship as discredited by the perceived failure of the Tiger class and the obsolescence of the heavy gun. The description of guided missile destroyer seemed more likely to win approval from the Treasury and Government for an adequate number of warships the size of small cruisers which could play many traditional cruiser flagship and command functions but had armour around neither its gun or missile magazine.
The Blackburn Buccaneer originated in the early 1950s as a design for a carrier-borne attack aircraft able to carry a nuclear bomb below radar coverage. It was a British low-level subsonic strike aircraft that served with the Royal Navy (RN) and later the Royal Air Force (RAF), retiring from service in 1994. Designed and initially produced by Blackburn Aircraft at Brough, it was later known as the Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer when Blackburn became a part of the Hawker Siddeley group.
The Royal Navy originally procured the Buccaneer as a naval strike aircraft capable of operating from their aircraft carriers, introducing the type to service in 1962 to counterbalance advances made in the Soviet Navy. The Buccaneer was capable of delivering nuclear weapons as well as conventional munitions for anti-shipping warfare, and was typically active in the North Sea area during its service. Early on the initial production aircraft suffered a series of accidents due to insufficient engine power, thus the Buccaneer S.2, equipped with more powerful Rolls-Royce Spey engines, was soon introduced.
Although they originally rejected it in favour of the supersonic BAC TSR-2, the RAF later procured the Buccaneer as a substitute following the cancellation of both the TSR-2 and its planned replacement, the F-111K. When the RN retired the last of its large aircraft carriers, its Buccaneers were transferred to the RAF. The South African Air Force also procured the type. Buccaneers saw combat action in the Gulf War and the South African Border War. In RN service, the Buccaneer was replaced with the V/STOL British Aerospace Sea Harrier. In RAF service, they were replaced by the Panavia Tornado.
H/T to @NavyLookout for the link.
May 28, 2015
A fascinating little bit of German history (by way of Open Culture:
The more World War II history you read, the more you understand not just the evil of the Nazis, but their incompetence. Sometimes you hear variations on the observation that “in Nazi Germany, at least the trains ran on time,” but even that has gone up for debate. It seems more and more that the Holocaust-perpetrating political party got by primarily on their way with propaganda — and in that, they did have a truly formidable apparatus.
Much of the dubious credit there goes to Hitler’s close associate Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda and an anti-semite even by Nazi standards. “Power based on guns may be a good thing,” he said in a 1934 Nuremberg Party Convention speech. “It is, however, better and more gratifying to win the heart of a people and keep it.” He understood the power of film in pursuit of this end, providing not only essential assistance for productions like Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, but also attempting to recruit no less a leading light of German cinema than Fritz Lang, director of three Doctor Mabuse pictures, the proto-noir M, and the expressionist epic Metropolis.
Goebbels loved Metropolis, but had rather less appreciation for The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, going so far as to ban it for its supposed potential to instill in its viewers a distrust of their leaders. And so, on one fateful day in 1933 when Goebbels called Lang to his office, the filmmaker wondered if he might find a way to get the ban lifted. But Goebbels preferred to talk, at great length, about another proposal: Lang’s employment in artistic service of the Nazi cause.
May 12, 2015
The problem with the posters in the airport was that they resembled the political propaganda of a totalitarian regime, insinuating what could not be dissented from without some danger or personal inconvenience. I do not mean to say that we now live in such a regime in the most literal sense, that we have already to fear the midnight knock on the door, but rather that the posters contribute to a miasma of untruth, the kind of untruth that is becoming socially dangerous, or at least embarrassing, to point out. For if you do dissent from such a slogan you will be immediately cast into the social Gehenna where the reactionaries are sent, whose cries of outrage can be dismissed merely by virtue of who they are. If you say that science does not need women, you will be taken to mean that you think that women should be confined to children, kitchen, and church, and that you are an advocate of the burqa (though actually I would make it compulsory for young English women in the center of English towns and cities on Friday and Saturday nights, though only for aesthetic, not for moral or religious, reasons).
Not to be able to answer back to perceived untruths: such is the powerlessness that can eventually drive people to espouse the worst causes.
Theodore Dalrymple, “A Miasma of Untruth”, Taki’s Magazine, 2014-06-29.
April 29, 2015
Published on 27 Apr 2015
Indy takes place in the chair of wisdom again to answer your questions. This week we deal with the outer ends of the Western Front, changes in propaganda and the logistics in the Carpathians.
March 12, 2015
Wonder Woman creator William Marston wrote the comic as pop-culture propaganda for men, to train men for the coming female dominance through themes of sexual bondage. Marston sought to entice men with a smart and scantily clad warrior woman, whom villains repeatedly bind and punish but who always breaks free and binds them, to their ultimate pleasure. Wonder Woman’s kryptonite was a man binding her hands, which drained her of all will and super strength. She would use her wits and feminine wiles to escape and then bind them back with her golden lasso of truth, which made them happier people. The repeated lesson: men can rule women physically, but are better men when women bind them.
In short, Wonder Woman is a heroine for matriarchy — rule by women. This is enough to complicate culture’s current feminist battles. Declared feminists prefer to keep hidden the question of whether feminism strives for equality of women or superiority of women. There is a clear majority only for equality, so the declared feminist movement tries to claim superiority by speaking popular lines about equality. The resulting confusion has reduced the movement to rubble, and reviving the “Wonder Woman” franchise will only accelerate the remaining demolition. (That link is merely an example, not a history. The relevant part starts at: “I also learned that when you’re a committed feminist, it’s sometimes confusing to reconcile your ideals with your desires.”)
Marston wanted Wonder Woman to prepare society for rule by women, but he did not succeed, mainly because the facts are not in his favor. Rule by women is just as bad an idea as rule by men; it is just bad in other ways. Marston did not realize this logical truth because his understandings about women and truth was shallow, naive, and preoccupied with his own pleasure.
Among fans, the basics of Marston’s story are commonly known. Lately, however, in part to fuel more “Wonder Woman” projects, books on Marston and his creation have appeared. The two best known: The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Harvard professor Jill Lepore, and Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine, by Tim Hanley.
The sum up: Marston was a psychologist otherwise well known for his invention of the lie detector test. He was also a common-law polygamist with a bondage fetish, most likely as a submissive. He lived with three women, one his legal wife. He had children by two of them, his wife and a younger woman who raised the children. He had a bondage relationship with the third woman. He apparently used Margaret Sanger, eugenicist and founder of Planned Parenthood, as one of his inspirations for the heroine (she is the daughter of the queen of an all-female island, which makes for more than a hint that only the elite reproduce sparingly) and the bracelets that bind Wonder Woman were inspired by the bracelets that the woman who raised his children wore.
Leslie Loftis, “Here’s Why Wonder Woman Isn’t Getting A Movie Any Time Soon”, The Federalist, 2015-02-24.
February 13, 2015
Strategy Page on the disturbing resurrection of Soviet style “news”:
Westerners in Russia, especially those who speak and read Russian, report that state controlled Russian media has seemingly reverted to stories and attitudes right out of the Cold War. It is, in short, unreal but actually happening. Russian media is full of stories of NATO aggression against Russia and anything that is going wrong in Russia is blamed on a NATO conspiracy to destroy Russia. The Russian aggression in Ukraine is described as largely a fable created by a NATO conspiracy to take over the Ukrainian government and institute a terror campaign against the ethnic Russian minority in Ukraine, especially eastern Ukraine. There, the Russian media described ethnic Russians leading a rebellion against this NATO puppet government running Ukraine and NATO soldiers pretending to be Ukrainians doing most of the fighting. No captured NATO agents are presented which Russian media describes as proof of how clever and dangerous this NATO aggression is.
The reality is that Russian soldiers are regularly captured (dead and alive) and presented on Ukrainian TV but this is ignored and dismissed by Russian media as more insidious NATO propaganda. Those Russians familiar with their own history who point out the current government propaganda in Russia is similar to what went on in 1939 and 1941 are condemned as traitors. But it is a fact that in 1939 the communist Soviet Union signed a peace treaty with Nazi government of Germany and overnight Germany went from threat to valued ally according to Soviet media. That switched again in mid-1941 when Germany broke the treaty and invaded the Soviet Union. But during the time the treaty was in force Russian invaded Poland, the Baltic States and Finland. Russia was defeated in Finland and only got control of some territory just across the border. But eastern Poland was seized (as part of the 1939 treaty, with Germany taking most of Poland) as were the three Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania)
February 4, 2015
Published on 2 Feb 2015
Indy sits on the chair of wisdom again to answer your questions. This week, he outlines the work of journalists during the war and explains how he writes the different episodes for the show.
January 22, 2015
Ah, well, I haven’t ridden this old hobby horse for a while, so let’s just let Tim Worstall explain why this time, we might be able to get a bit of perspective from the otherwise unreliable official Chinese government economic figures:
Many observers have been slightly sceptical of Chinese GDP numbers for some years now. Regional GDP numbers don’t seem to quite match with other regional numbers (say, oil consumption, other proxies for economic activity) and national numbers don’t necessarily reflect the sum of all of those regional numbers either. There’s absolutely no doubt at all that the place has been getting richer but whether quite so much or quite in the manner being reported is another matter. And then there’s another group of observers (this one including myself) who have some experience of how communists report economic numbers. There’s a plan, the Communist Party is in charge of executing that plan and, amazingly, the plan is always reported to have either worked or been exceeded. Anything less would reflected badly on said Communist Party. As I’ve also been exposed to the old Soviet accounting systems I’m more sceptical than most on this point.
So, there’s that slight worry that a slowing China (or one not growing at the former breakneck pace perhaps) will also lower growth in other countries. We’re pretty sure that’s going to happen. But we’ve also got this other thing to ponder. If the Communist Party is allowing the reporting of numbers that don’t meet the plan then what’s going on with that?
Is this some sea change in the management of the numbers? They’re actually reporting the correct numbers? Or are those suspected massages of the numbers still going on but they underlying reality is so bad that they just couldn’t get up to the planned target? This is, I agree, all wild surmise. But it is a surprise that the numbers came in below target because that’s just not what we’ve come to expect in such a political system. And that could be very bad news indeed.
January 12, 2015
The Soviets consciously followed the Gramscian prescription; they pursued a war of position, subverting the “leading elements” of society through their agents of influence. (See, for example, Stephen Koch’s Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals; summary by Koch here) This worked exactly as expected; their memes seeped into Western popular culture and are repeated endlessly in (for example) the products of Hollywood.
Indeed, the index of Soviet success is that most of us no longer think of these memes as Communist propaganda. It takes a significant amount of digging and rethinking and remembering, even for a lifelong anti-Communist like myself, to realize that there was a time (within the lifetime of my parents) when all of these ideas would have seemed alien, absurd, and repulsive to most people — at best, the beliefs of a nutty left-wing fringe, and at worst instruments of deliberate subversion intended to destroy the American way of life.
Koch shows us that the worst-case scenario was, as it turns out now, the correct one; these ideas, like the “race bomb” rumor, really were instruments deliberately designed to destroy the American way of life. Another index of their success is that most members of the bicoastal elite can no longer speak of “the American way of life” without deprecation, irony, or an automatic and half-conscious genuflection towards the altar of political correctness. In this and other ways, the corrosive effects of Stalin’s meme war have come to utterly pervade our culture.
The most paranoid and xenophobic conservatives of the Cold War were, painful though this is to admit, the closest to the truth in estimating the magnitude and subtlety of Soviet subversion. Liberal anticommunists (like myself in the 1970s) thought we were being judicious and fair-minded when we dismissed half of the Right’s complaint as crude blather. We were wrong; the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss really were guilty, the Hollywood Ten really were Stalinist tools, and all of Joseph McCarthy’s rants about “Communists in the State Department” were essentially true. The Venona transcripts and other new material leave no room for reasonable doubt on this score.
While the espionage apparatus of the Soviet Union didn’t outlast it, their memetic weapons did. These memes are now coming near to crippling our culture’s response to Islamic terrorism.
In this context, Jeff Goldstein has written eloquently about perhaps the most long-term dangerous of these memes — the idea that rights inhere not in sovereign individuals but identity groups, and that every identity group (except the “ruling class”) has the right to suppress criticism of itself through political means up to and including violence.
Mark Brittingham (aka WildMonk) has written an excellent essay on the roots of this doctrine in Rousseau and the post-Enlightenment Romantics. It has elsewhere been analyzed and labeled as transnational progressivism. The Soviets didn’t invent it, but they promoted it heavily in a deliberate — and appallingly successful — attempt to weaken the Lockean, individualist tradition that underlies classical liberalism and the U.S. Constitution. The reduction of Western politics to a bitter war for government favor between ascriptive identity groups is exactly the outcome the Soviets wanted and worked hard to arrange.
Call it what you will — various other commentators have favored ‘volk-Marxism’ or ‘postmodern leftism’. I’ve called it suicidalism. It was designed to paralyze the West against one enemy, but it’s now being used against us by another. It is no accident that Osama bin Laden so often sounds like he’s reading from back issues of Z magazine, and no accident that both constantly echo the hoariest old cliches of Soviet propaganda in the 1930s and ’40s.
Another consequence of Stalin’s meme war is that today’s left-wing antiwar demonstrators wear kaffiyehs without any sense of how grotesque it is for ostensible Marxists to cuddle up to religious absolutists who want to restore the power relations of the 7th century CE. In Stalin’s hands, even Marxism itself was hollowed out to serve as a memetic weapon — it became increasingly nihilist, hatred-focused and destructive. The postmodern left is now defined not by what it’s for but by what it’s against: classical-liberal individualism, free markets, dead white males, America, and the idea of objective reality itself.
Eric S. Raymond, “Gramscian damage”, Armed and Dangerous, 2006-02-11.
December 2, 2014
Joanna Williams talks to Peter Lloyd about his recent book and the ongoing vilification of all things masculine in the popular press:
Lloyd, who somehow combines writing for both the Daily Mail and the ‘women in leadership’ section of the Guardian, was prompted to write Stand By Your Manhood in response to the ‘dismissive, patronising and skewed narrative about heterosexual men’, which he suggests is apparent in the mainstream media. He argues that it has become normal to consider masculinity as entirely negative and problematic, and to present boys as ‘defective girls, damaged by default’ who need to be medicated, educated and socialised out of their masculinity. Whereas once manhood was celebrated in all its stiff-upper-lipped glory, it is now considered threatening. Lloyd welcomes the progress society has made in recent years, and he is happy that homosexuality is no longer so stigmatised. However, he warns that there is a danger that things have gone too far in the other direction, and that shame is now attached to masculinity, with heterosexual men, in particular, being made to feel guilty if they don’t frequently display a more feminine side to their personalities.
Lloyd suggests today’s men’s movement is a response to strains of feminism that first appeared in the late 1970s — these strains were far more explicitly anti-men than pro-equality. He claims today’s feminists perpetuate the idea that women are oppressed and ‘refuse to let go of old arguments’ despite the changes that have taken place in the real world. Often, Lloyd argues, there are monetary incentives for feminist campaigning groups, such as the Fawcett Society, continuously to propagate an image of women as victims of a non-specific patriarchy. He cites the case of Erin Pizzey, who established one of the first refuges for female victims of domestic violence, but who later received death threats for suggesting that women were also capable of violence. Certainly it is not in the financial interests of groups like Hollaback and FCKH8 to question the facts promoted in their campaigns against sexism. Lloyd blames the media for unthinkingly picking up on such campaigns and escalating an anti-male sentiment. As a result, he says, feminism can seem like a ‘hate movement’ and men have not had a voice to challenge these newly dominant perceptions.
While it may seem either naive or disingenuous of Lloyd to suggest that the men’s rights movement won’t embrace victimhood and a crusading ethos, he does follow his own arguments to their logical conclusion. Success for the men’s rights movement, he argues, will be when it is no longer needed — that is, when there is true equality, and people are judged according to merit rather than gender. It’s a long time since I’ve heard feminists arguing anything similar. However, until such a point in the future, the inescapable fact is that both the men’s rights movement and feminism continue to cast people as victims of their gender identity.
Feminism today is premised on the assumption that women are persecuted by an oppressive patriarchy; the men’s rights movement considers men to be equally as persecuted by feminists. Both sides need a reality check. Arguing the toss over who is the most oppressed serves only to pitch men and women into battle against each other. It fails to look at what people have in common and how society can be made to work in the best interests of everyone. To achieve individual emancipation today, it’s not feminism or men’s rights that we need — it’s a movement to liberate us all from the stifling constraint and moral authoritarianism of being defined by our biology rather than by what we have the potential to become.