I DON’T believe that the mass of people are basically uncivilised monsters, which is why I don’t buy that most men teeter so unsteadily on the cusp of being rapists that a book or a website might tip them over, which in turn is why I’m not convinced that men’s rights activists pose as big a threat to the general populace as they would like to think. It does interest and bother me, however, that lucid, right-thinking and liberal people see so little contradiction in hurling threats of violence at someone who they dislike because he preaches violence.
Last week, a particularly vile advocate of so-called men’s rights – I don’t want to grant him yet another namecheck, because it’s a dead cert that even as we speak he’s down in his mum’s basement deriving unwholesome enjoyment from the spike in his notoriety – pretended he was going to hold mass gatherings in cities around the world, got shouted at by everyone, and then cancelled the pretend gatherings. Obviously, the shouting was gratifying evidence that women’s rights are not a wholly ignored and trodden-on quantity, and that the “rape culture” about which we often hear does not extend to actual encouragement of actual rape-encouragers. Also obviously, it was exactly what the needy provocateur in question wanted. So that all pretty much evens out.
Striking, however, was the readiness with which promises of like-for-like retribution were flung about. He shall be castrated! He shall be murdered! He shall be raped himself! Across the nation, people who are righteously affronted by corporal or capital punishment in criminal contexts discovered themselves to be in favour of it when it comes to saying moronic things on the internet. Here’s a thing. That kind of hair-trigger violent rage is what people like him feed on. It creates the very world they want: a bloody, primal, dog-eat-dog one, fuelled by vengeful fantasies and caveman levels of interaction. I don’t blame anyone, male or female, for being scared and angered by his rhetoric. I do argue, however, that lowering oneself to the same level of the most destructive and hate-filled achieves precisely nothing in social terms.
The thing about violent and vengeful responses to challenges is that they feel good: simple; cleansing; heroic in a vigilante movie kind of way. But unless you subscribe to that Saudi Arabian attitude to making a society – if you don’t like what’s in someone’s head, cut it off – then the effort to dissuade a mode of thinking involves rising above it somewhat.
This doesn’t mean, incidentally, that I want that appalling individual or his handful of followers to make their imaginary meet-ups a reality any time soon. Only that I’m grossly uncomfortable with people showing they’re more civilised than him by threatening to murder him. Incidentally, he really does live in his mum’s basement. This was revealed when this powerful conqueror of our tragically feminised world called in the police to protect him from all the nasty things people were saying. His power is a delusion, and we shouldn’t nourish it. Pity genuinely might be a more appropriate and useful response than fear or rage.
Glasgow Effect loses effectiveness
REMEMBER The Glasgow Effect? The project whereby artist and academic Ellie Harrison undertook to restrict herself and her practice to one rich and vibrant city, with only £15,000 of funding to ease the pain? The controversy it elicited was a supercharged, shape-shifting monster. First, the whole undertaking was an affront to those poor Glaswegians who don’t get paid for not flying anywhere. Then, that reaction was philistine, fifteen grand wasn’t that much, and the artist was to be applauded just for being an artist. THEN people noticed that maybe the funding should never have been awarded in the first place because the project contravened some Creative Scotland small print headed “Things for which this funding cannot be awarded.” But Ellie Harrison talked over her project at the Glad Café in Glasgow last week, and buried amid the debate was an interesting line. “I didn’t want to do it at all,” she told an audience member. “I just wanted to tick that box so I could keep my job. I thought that was quite clear.” Hmm! No, it wasn’t. I recall many people insisting there was a serious and important artistic motivation! Those interested in exploring things for longer than social media encourages might want to listen to the whole talk, which is online.
Romantic Auld Reekie?
‘WHY oh why do I love Paris?” ends Cole Porter’s famous song. “Because my love is there.” On which basis, of course, it could be about anywhere. The glories of Paris are irrelevant. It could be about Stevenage. Lists of the most romantic cities should probably foreground not thrilling metropolises but places where there is nothing to do except gaze into each other’s eyes. Nonetheless, Paris tops the most recent list, put together by something called WeLoveDates.com, with Edinburgh coming in 16th. This was based on its “world-class pubs” and “adorable tearooms”. That kind of sounds like it was written by someone who’s never been, doesn’t it?