Today I’d like to share with you two quotations. One is from Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader whose legacy we honor today. The other is from someone who considers himself the leader of a human rights movement that follows in the footsteps of King.
The first quote:
Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
[Name redacted], I hope you are looking forward to our date. I certainly am. … [I]t is clear that you have gone to great lengths to keep your image off the internet.
Is that a threat? No, it is a promise. Big difference.
As we have been saying here for years, the time for collegial, polite discussion and negotiation with these piles of refuse is over. …
We have people working on securing her image. Meantime, $100.00 to the first person who gets us a clear image of her which we can verify. Something large and clear enough to be used as a feature image is preferred.
As you have probably gathered, the first quote comes from Dr. King. It’s from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, in which he sets forth a powerful argument for the transformative power of nonviolence, which, as he notes, “nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation.”
The second quote comes from Paul Elam of A Voice for Men. I’ve taken the liberty of redacting the name of his target.
Yes, this self-described “humanitarian” is launching yet another campaign of doxxing and intimidation aimed at an ideological enemy who just happens to be female. And once again, as he so notoriously did several years ago, Elam is offering a bounty for the personal information of one of his targets – in this case a clear photograph of her face.
It’s a strategy that draws not on the tactics of Martin Luther King but on those of his enemies – in particular the Ku Klux Klan, which in the 1960s posted “wanted posters” featuring the faces of civil rights activists, including King himself. Some of those whose faces appeared on these “wanted posters,” most famously King himself, were later murdered.
In more recent years, anti-abortion activists have posted similar “wanted posters” featuring the pictures and addresses of doctors who perform abortions – some of whom were themselves later murdered.
Now AVFM has taken up this classic technique of intimidation.
Last year, AVFM activists – including the site’s “activism director” Attila Vinczer — posted hundreds of wanted-style posters of feminist philosophy professor Adele Mercier on and around the campus of Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario. The year before, a Men’s Rights group in Edmonton closely associated with A Voice for Men put up similar posters targeting Lise Gotell, the chair of women’s and gender studies at the University of Alberta.
We can only assume that Elam has a similar campaign in mind for his latest target.
So what are Elam’s charges against this new woman to hate?
According to him, the woman, a professor at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, accused AVFM activist Sage Gerard (aka Victor Zen) of “demonstrat[ing] a desire to kill women” in a complaint she filed with the KSU administration.
Elam has posted the complaint on his website. Her name appears nowhere in the complaint, nor does anything about Gerard wanting to kill women.
[ Clarification: Elam has now posted a separate campus police report about an incident in which Gerard came to the office of the Interdisciplinary Studies department requesting to see the professor; the police report contains her name as well as notes from the officer saying that “she has seen the cartoons, videos and blogs online and believes Gerard demonstrates having violent fantasies about hurting and murdering women.” ]
This anonymous complaint, along with another complaint about Gerard, were evidently triggered by a video Gerard posted last year of a late-night “sticker run” he made on the KSU campus.
The video, which Gerard filmed and narrated on the fly, is more than a little creepy. In it, Gerard describes his preparations for his “activism” as if he were launching some sort of covert operation; at one point he talks about hiding his stickers in the sleeves of his jacket. As he heads out the door to start his stickering, he announces “let’s go fuck with people.”
Gerard clearly sees what he’s doing as a deliberately provocative act. He talks about putting AVFM stickers in places “where they cannot be ignored” and about his desires to “push the boundaries” by plastering them in places they’re really not supposed to be put – most notably in a women’s bathroom where, thankfully, no women were present.
Weirdly, given that he later posted the video on his YouTube channel, Gerard also took steps in the video to conceal his identity and cover his tracks, wiping his fingerprints off of some of the stickers after pasting them in a bathroom. Later, apparently wanting to look as much like a serial killer as possible, he dons latex gloves.
At one point, Gerard jokes about how he’d like to paste one of the stickers over the mouth of a feminist to shut her up.
His behavior in the video and in his interactions with others on campus, as well as his affiliation with AVFM, clearly rattled some on the KSU campus. The anonymous complainant to the KSU administration suggested that Gerard’s actions were creating a “hostile work environment” for some faculty and staff and making students fear for their safety.
Elam has posted the actual complaints, which, in what seems to be a pretty clear violation of privacy, were sent to Gerard with the identity of one of the accusers laid bare. Here’s the anonymous complaint that Elam has attributed to his current target:
Among other similar offenses by the same individual, a KSU student (Sage Gerard) posed as a custodian and entered the women’s bathrooms on campus, placing stickers intended to intimidate women. … Gerard’s behavior indicates contemplation of violence against women (he posts art depicting guns pointed at women’s symbols, as well as other violently anti-feminist themes). His behavior has created a hostile work environment for multiple KSU employees who do not only fear intimidation and harassment, but actual physical violence against themselves and their families. KSU students have also expressed real fears for their own physical safety on campus . . . I do not feel safe on this campus. As an advocate of women, I feel strongly that I am at real risk of becoming the target of violent retaliatory actions perpetrated by Sage Gerard and the organization sponsoring him, A Voice For Men.
The KSU administration investigated these complaints, and concluded that Gerard was not responsible for creating a hostile work environment, and that his speech was protected under the first amendment. The complaints were dismissed; no charges against Gerard were even filed.
He was asked to stay out of women’s bathrooms in the future. And the KSU counsel who prepared the report also had this suggestion:
We do recommend that Mr. Gerard continue to refrain from further contact with the persons who made the hotline reports (or those who Mr. Gerard believes may have made them), to avoid any real or perceived retaliation. In addition, we recommend that Mr. Gerard refrain from further contact with the members of the Interdisciplinary Studies Department to avoid escalating the situation to the point that it becomes a hostile environment in the legal sense.
That’s right. Gerard wasn’t charged with anything. He faced no sanctions. He was simply asked not to contact those on campus he was making uncomfortable.
But apparently this “no contact” request is so offensive to Gerard and his AVFM comrades that they have decided to launch the very retaliation campaign that the KSU complainants were afraid of. Thus, once again, proving their critics have been right to label them a hate group in the first place.
AVFM’s new target joins a long list of women (and a few men) who have been doxxed and/or harassed in retaliation for their “crimes” against Paul Elam’s delicate sensibilities.
Elam started off this parade of harassment shortly after this site started by attempting to get a woman fired from her job at a women’s shelter for a comment she made here in which she wondered aloud if Elam had a criminal record.
Since then, Elam and his AVFM cronies have:
Started Register-Her, a fake “Offenders Registry” designed to vilify and intimidate women. (The site is now in the hands of AVFM defector John Hembling.)
Gleefully participated in the unending harassment of a Canadian feminist that one AVFM author dubbed “little red frothing fornication mouth,” for her crime of … arguing with some AVFM activists at a demonstration once. Unflattering images of “Big Red” at that demonstration have since been plastered all over the internet; she even has a page devoted to her on KnowYourMeme.
Launched a years-long harassment campaign against feminist writer Jessica Valenti. Starting with a 2011 post in which Elam himself attacked her as a “stupid, hateful bitch,” the hate campaign has moved on to labeling her a “child abuser,” posting her personal photos on AVFM without permission, putting her on Register-Her.com, and libeling her by making up inflammatory quotations and attributing them to her. (AVFM’s “social media director” and serial quote-fabricator Janet Bloomfield was evidently permabanned from Twitter for her persistent harassment of Valenti.)
Supported GamerGate’s harassment of cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian, with AVFM’s PR whiz Bloomfield doing her part by blatantly libeling her on Twitter.
Launched a campaign of vilification against a Chicago-area “mommy blogger” for writing that she felt uncomfortable with the idea of a male day care staffer taking young girls to the bathroom.
Along with an assortment of white supremacists and online assholes, joined in a hate campaign against a young woman wrongly accused of trashing applications from white guys as a staffer at a college admissions office. Elam declared the woman, by name, to be a “warped by ideology” with “deep seated prejudices that guided her unscrupulous actions.” The blog was a hoax, and the woman Elam so eagerly vilified had nothing to do with it.
Published an article falsely accusing a male feminist blogger of being a “confessed rapist,” because, as Elam puts it, “karma is a BITCH.” (AVFM’s defense? It was being “satirical.”)
Accused a former AVFM staffer, with no evidence, of absconding with money donated for a men’s shelter.
Attacked feminist and skeptic Rebecca Watson on numerous occasions, including a post from Elam in which he used the term “whore” several dozen times.
And of course AVFM has accused me of everything from starting Reddit’s terrible BeatingWomen subreddit to somehow faking my site’s traffic stats on Alexa. (AVFM has never even bothered to provide “evidence” for any of their various accusations against me, perhaps because none of them are even remotely true.) Elam has posted bizarre sexual fantasies involving me, called me a pervert, and publicly suggested that I kill myself. One of AVFMs most, er, enthusiastic activists once left me a creepy, threatening voicemail at 1:38 AM. And AVFM “activism director” Attila L. Vinczer has tried to dox me, with somewhat comic results.
This isn’t even close to an exhaustive list of AVFM’s assorted retaliatory campaigns against feminists and other critics.
AVFM has made it very clear to the world – through its actions and its rhetoric – that if someone starts putting up AVFM posters or stickers on your campus or in your neighborhood, you have every reason to worry.
AVFM is not a civil or human rights group by any stretch of the imagination. It is a hate group, plain and simple, less akin to Martin Luther King Jr. than it is to those who so stubbornly fought against him.
NOTE: Here is Sage Gerard’s (aka Victor Zen’s) video of his sticker “activism.” You can probably see why people found it a little unsettling.