Leave it to Dr. Helen – psychologist, right-wing blogger, friend of A Voice for Men – to come up with what has got to be the most transparent attempt to distract public attention from the obvious parallels between the misogyny of spree killer Elliot Rodgers and the misogyny of the Men’s Rights movement she supports.
In a blog post on PJ Media, she suggests half-seriously that “If Pick-Up Artists Are Guilty,[of inspiring Elliot Rodger] Then So Are the Feminists.”
The good Doctor starts by accusing Slate’s Amanda Hess of blaming pickup artists for Elliot’s rampage. Her proof? Several passages from Hess in which Hess makes very clear that she is not blaming PUAs – or the anti-PUAs at PUAhate — for the deaths in Santa Barbara, or even for Rodger’s misogyny.
Dr. Helen then quotes eminent mental health expert “JudgyBitch,” who wrote of the case:
The fact is that Elliot’s outburst does indeed highlight an issue of central importance to the MHRM – the inadequate, almost non-existent treatment of mental health problems for young men.
Well yes, speaking as someone who’s been dealing with depression most of my life, I agree that mental health services could be improved for young men. And old men. And everyone else.
What difference this would have made in Elliot Rodger’s case, though, is unclear. Though he’s being routinely described in the media and in online discussions of the case as “mentally ill,” “freaking nuts,” a “deranged lunatic,” and numerous other variations on this theme, we don’t actually know much for sure about his brain chemistry; claims that he “suffered from extreme paranoia and heard voices” haven’t been confirmed.
In any case, Rodger himself wasn’t suffering from a lack of mental health support. He had been treated by several therapists, and was seeing a psychiatrist. He chose not to take the meds he was prescribed.
What we do know is that Rodger was a young man driven by intense, murderous misogyny, and by what sociologists Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmel call “aggrieved entitlement” (pdf here), a personality trait he shares in common with a number of young spree killers in recent years. It’s also pretty much a default personality trait for Men’s Rights activists – but we’ll get to that in a moment.
First, let’s return to Dr. Helen, who’s just getting to the main point of her post: The Blaming of the Feminists.
Perhaps it is the feminists and their supporters who block funding and education going to boys’ and men’s issues that are to blame. Case in point? Warren Farrell tried to give a talk in Toronto about suicide in young men and other topics and was accosted by nasty feminists who did not want him to speak.
Now, I don’t support shutting down lectures of those I disagree with, and I think the protestors who shut down Farrell’s lecture not only acted in an unprincipled way but also, unintentionally, provided the Men’s Rights movement with the greatest recruitment tool it’s ever had.
That said, the protesters didn’t shut down Farrell’s lecture because they opposed mental health funding for men and boys. They shut it down because Farrell has, in the past, offered creepy apologias for date rape and for incest – including the sexual abuse of underage boys and girls by their parents.
Indeed, in a notorious interview he gave about his research exploring the supposed “positive” side of incest in the 1970s, Farrell told Penthouse magazine that most of the boys he studies actually enjoyed being abused by – sorry, participating in incest with – their mothers.
The author summarized Farrell’s claims:
Mother-son incest represents 10 percent of the incidence and is 70 percent positive, 20 percent mixed, and 10 percent negative for the son. For the mother it is mostly positive. Farrell points out the boys don’t seem to suffer, not even from the negative experience.
So, yeah, the man Dr. Smith is holding up as a compassionate hero for boys, the man who essentially invented the Men’s Rights movement we know and don’t love today, has argued publicly that boys not only aren’t harmed by sexual abuse, but that most of them like it.
I’m not sure the men and boys of the world need this brand of “compassion.”
But this is not the only thing about Dr. Helen’s post that is deeply hypocritical.
Rodger’s murders were clearly driven by “aggrieved entitlement.” He believed he deserved a “beautiful blonde girlfriend,” and that the world had wronged him by not giving him one. And so he set out to take his “retribution” upon the girls who had rejected him – as symbolized by the “blonde sluts” of the sorority he targeted – and upon the world at large.
As Kalish and Kimmel write,
What transforms the aggrieved into mass murderers is also a sense of entitlement, a sense of using violence against others, making others hurt as you, yourself, might hurt. aggrieved entitlement inspires revenge against those who have wronged you; it is the compensation for humiliation. Humiliation is emasculation … For many men, humiliation must be avenged, or you cease to be a man.
Like virtually all spree killings by young men driven by “aggrieved entitlement,” Rodger’s rampage was also a suicide; he ended it with a bullet in his own head. Kalish and Kimmel would define this as “suicide by mass murder,” a way for aggrieved young men to use their own suicides to reaffirm their masculinity and take revenge upon their supposed tormenters.
The trouble is, even while Dr. Helen condemns Rodger’s murders, and tries to blame feminists for them, she herself has joined many other Men’s Rights activists in glorifying a man who attempted something very much like a “suicide by mass murder” himself.
I am talking, of course, about Thomas Ball– an angry MRA, estranged father and admitted child abuser – who several years ago set himself aflame on the steps of a New Hampshire courthouse, leaving behind a manifesto urging fellow MRAs inspired by his suicide to start firebombing courthouses and police stations, acts of terrorism which he admitted quite plainly could lead to deaths.
So what did Dr. Helen have to say about this manifesto, which among other things contained helpful tips on how to make effective Molotov cocktails? On her blog, she waxed poetic:
His statement is not the ramblings of a madman, it is the mission of a warrior in some sense. …
Mr. Ball’s death should serve as a wake-up call to the men and their supporters in this country to continue to fight for equal rights in the area of marriage and family law.
Like Rodger, Thomas Ball was driven by a sense of aggrieved entitlement. Like Rodger, Thomas Ball hoped for a “Day of Retribution” in which his enemies would die violent deaths.
Unlike Rodger, he did not kill anyone else himself; instead, he hoped that others would do the killing for him. But the impulse behind Rodger’s manifesto was largely the same. He sought to fight what he considered a grave “injustice” through violence.
And Men’s Rights activists turned him into a martyr. A Voice for Men posted his manifesto – complete with its calls to firebomb government buildings – in its “activism” section for several years; it was finally removed only after the Boston Marathon bombings brought media attention back to the issue of domestic terrorism. The theme song for AVFM’s flagship radio show contains an “invocation” celebrating Ball as a fallen hero and declaring that “his death will not go in vain.”
No, the Men’s Rights movement didn’t cause Rodger’s rampage; there’s no evidence that he ever even came into contact with it, though he was clearly steeped in misogynstic online subcultures like those of PUAhate. But there are a frightening number of MRAs who think a lot like Rodger. And that is far more worrying.