A Voice for Men, one of the most influential and popular Men’s Rights websites, is now offering a $1000 “bounty” for anyone able to track down the personal information of several Swedish women involved in a tasteless video advertising a theater production based on Valarie Solanas’ SCUM manifesto. As the anonymous poster calling himself John the Other – the second-in-command at AVfM – put it in a posting yesterday (emphasis in original):
We are asking for the full legal names, home addresses, places of employment, email addresses and contact phone numbers of the women and man who produced and starred in the video described above. We will pay 1000 dollars to any individual who provides and confirms this information, to be paid either directly to themselves or to a charity of their choice.
John explains that this information will be posted on the AVfM-affiliated site Register-Her.com, an “offenders database” that is being used to vilify individual feminists and “Fuck Their Shit Up,” as AVfM head honcho Paul Elam likes to put it. John notes that Regsiter-Her.com also intends to post the “government identification numbers [and] drivers licences” of the women they are able to identify.
John admits plainly that posting such information may put the physical safety of these women at risk from vigilante violence. As he puts it (emphasis mine):
Some individuals may criticize the intent to publish not only names, but also addresses, phone numbers, employers and other personal information – on the grounds that such exposure create a risk of retributive violence against individuals who openly advocate murder based on sex. It is the considered position of the editorial board of AVfM that any such risks are out-weighed by the ongoing hazard to the public of these individuals continuing to operate in anonymity.
The comments posted on the article at AVfM suggest that such “retributive” violence is a real possibility. Indeed, here’s the very first comment (which currently has 17 upvotes from readers of the site):
i would love to hunt down these women myself.
JinnBottle responds to this comment by advising “all men to start carrying guns.”
The commenters on AVfM have already uncovered the identities of all of the women involved in the video. The blogger Fidelbogen has been the most active internet detective so far.
There is no question that the video itself is offensive, and designed to provoke. You can see it here; I’m not going to embed it on this site. If you don’t want to watch it: it depicts a young woman shooting a man in the head for no reason. Afterwards the woman and her gleeful, giggling accomplices do a victory dance, then lick the blood from the dead man’s head. A message at the end urges viewers to “Do Your Part.”
Every feminist I know who has seen the video has been appalled by it. I’m appalled by it. It’s hateful, and it’s wrong.
But John the Other, and the other commenters on AVfM, claim that it is more than this: that that the video of the staged murder, intended to provide publicity for a theater production based on Solanas’ notorious SCUM manifesto, is quite literally an open call for the murder of men. As John the Other puts it:
Open advocation of murder cannot be allowed in a civil society, without that society devolving into a culture of brutal violence.
Evidently he has no problem with, or has somehow not noticed, the comments on AVfM fantasizing about shooting and killing the women involved in the video.
Is the video a literal call to murder? Is it, as one AVfM commenter puts it, evidence of a “conspiracy to commit mass murder?” No. Violence and murder have been dramatized in the theater since its beginnings. No one accuses Sophocles of advocating fratricide and incest, though both are dealt with in his play Oedipus Rex. No one accuses Shakespeare of advocating mass murder, though many of his most famous plays have body counts that put many horror films to shame.
Does the tag line at the end of the video – “do your part” – transform the video from a depiction of murder into an open call for it? No. The “threat,” such as it is, is vague; it’s not aimed at any specific individuals. It might be seen as akin to someone wearing a t-shirt that says “kill ‘em all, let God sort them out” – tasteless and offensive, but not a literal threat. “Kill ‘Em All” is actually the name of Metallica’s first album. While a lot of people see James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich et al as pompous idiots, they have not been jailed for conspiracy to commit mass murder. That would be ridiculous.
Someone claiming to have been involved in the SCUM-inspired theatrical production in question has posted several detailed comments on AVfM, explaining that those involved in the production are “not out to get you” and that the video itself was “meant as a viral “wtf?!” to give attention to both the questions that it raises and the play itself.”
By contrast, AVfM is targeting specific individuals, and intends to offer information that would allow anyone intent on doing them harm to quite literally track them to their homes and workplaces. Those fantasizing about killing these woman are not simply making a joke along the lines of “women, can’t live with ‘em; can’t kill ‘em.” They are fantasizing about killing real people, and providing would-be evil-doers maps to their doors.
AVfM is an American site, in English; these specific women live in Sweden. While it is a real possibility, it seems unlikely that anyone reading the site will literally find and murder any of those involved in the SCUM production. At least I hope that this does not come to pass.
I don’t believe that either Paul Elam or John the Other literally wants any feminist to be killed. The real intent behind AVfM’s publishing people’s personal information, it seems clear, is to intimidate feminist writers and activists into shutting up, to make clear that if they post something that offends the internet vigilantes at AVfM they will face the possibility of some deranged individual quite literally showing up at their door intent on doing them harm.
Paul Elam and John the Other claim that they’re not advocating violence. But they are playing a dangerous game here. If some deranged individual, inspired by the hyperbolic anti-feminist rhetoric on AVfM, and armed with information provided by “Register-Her.com,” murders or otherwise harms a feminist blogger or activist or video maker, Elam and his enablers will have blood on their hands. As will those MRAs who continue to publicly support and/or link to AVfM and/or Register-Her.com.
This is not the way a legitimate rights group deals with those who disagree with them. This is what hate groups do.