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“We’re a group of volunteers dedicated to a cause, and the cause is Paul Elam.” — Dean Esmay of A Voice for Men

ProTip: If you're ever tempted to start a cult, play this video game instead, and leave real people alone.
ProTip: If you’re ever tempted to start a cult, play this video game instead, and leave real people alone.

I sometimes refer to A Voice for Men, the Men’s Rights hate site that has evolved into something of a hate group, as a cult. Up until now I’ve only done so half-seriously; while there are a lot of things about AVFM that are cultish, from the apocalyptic rhetoric to the constant demands for money to the organized harassment of its critics, it seems to lack some of the central elements of a real cult.

I mean, they’re not holed up in a compound in Idaho; they don’t wear funny uniforms; and they don’t talk, at least not publicly, about their single-minded dedication to serving the group’s leader — one Paul Elam of Houston Texas.

Or at least I thought they didn’t.

One of my readers has pointed out to me an interesting moment in a video posted on Youtube last year by a woman — known by her internet handle SworeByThePrecious — who had been talking to AVFM’s Dean Esmay about getting a press pass for AVFM’s conference last year. The video features the uncut audio from a long and contentious 4 AM phone she and Esmay had to discuss the matter. (Ultimately, she didn’t get the press pass; here’s her account of what happened when she caught up with some of  the conferencegoers at a bar afterwards.)

The really interesting bit in the recording — which I somehow missed when I listened to this last year — comes just short of the 23 minute mark, when Esmay pointedly tells Swore that he and other AVFMers are “a group of volunteers dedicated to a cause, and the cause is Paul Elam.” Here’s the audio:

Yep. You heard that correctly. The Number Two dude at AVFM doesn’t say that their cause is Men’s Rights, or fighting the evil “hate group” that is feminism, or any of the other things that Men’s Rights Activists like to say that they’re about. He says, plain as day, that their “cause is Paul Elam.”

If you don’t believe me, you can find the quote in the original video here. (The link should send you directly to that part of the phone call; if not, it’s 22:50 in.)

Now, I’m assuming that this was a Freudian slip on Esmay’s part, but whether it was intentional or not it’s pretty damn revealing, huh?

 

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Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

@Moocow

I can understand, but the violence against innocent people wasn’t really encouraged or discouraged. You could pretty much go through the whole game without killing people who were, at least, innocent in the sense they haven’t done anything to you or someone else, like pedestrians…does accidental vehicular manslaughter count? Of course, I’m probably forgetting some missions because I haven’t played either in a while.

Admittedly, when I was young, I used to do the whole “kill a hooker, get money back” thing, but I grew out of it because I learned more about the sex industry and some of the terrible things that happened, so I grew out of it and became uncomfortable with the idea. It’s completely optional so it doesn’t detract from the game experience, either, so I don’t miss it.

GTA V has done pretty well in this regard. The only people you have to kill are obviously the bad guys, and you have options to not kill some people, innocent or not.

Except for one mission. The torture mission.

The whole GTA V torture sequence is just fucking awful to me. You have to hurt this poor, innocent man with a family and shit for info about a guy he installed audio equipment for once. The man is also Azerbaijan, so there’s some racist connotations, especially when this IAA agent accuse him of being a spy (he’s obviously not) and the person they’re torturing the poor man for info is also Azerbaijan. Although the agent is portrayed as the world’s largest asshole, so the racist connotations in that are suppose to be interpreted as being bad.

The worst part is what Trevor – a problem character for many, many reasons I won’t get into now – says when the torture is done, and I quote:

“The media and the government would have us believe that torture is some necessary thing. We need it to get information, to assert ourselves. Did we get any information out of you? Exactly. Torture’s for the torturer…or for the guy giving orders to the torturer. You torture for the good times – we should all admit that. It’s useless as a means of getting information.”

The thing is that the information we got from torturing the guy was what we needed to ID the perp, although it is vague:

“A man of average height and weight (Able to kill Javan at this point to complete the mission early.)

Has a beard

Is a chain smoker and left handed

The very last piece of information the man gives is the most important because the perp is the only left handed person in the crowd. The game developers deliberately placed the most important piece of information to be the last thing we get, thus totally fucking showing the exact opposite of what Trevor’s quote about torture is about.

There’s also no way to skip the mission without torturing the poor man at least two times, or at the very least torturing him once and then crashing your vehicle several times to bring up the skip option.

If they had the option, maybe, to question the poor guy peacefully instead of automatically torturing him to get information, I wouldn’t have such a beef with this mission and the “lesson” Trevor tries to teach us at the end, especially if you DON’T want to “torture for the good times”.

Moocow
Moocow
6 years ago

@pandapool

For sure, one can play through the game without killing innocents! Of course, I was young and naïve so my first instinct in the game was to go on a psychotic rampage… While my parents were in the room… I was an idiot XD… There were also a few missions that they didn’t approve much of. The one where you’re tasked with killing someone via chainsaw was the biggest offender I think.

And yeah, that torture sequence in GTA V (and that half-ass pseudo-justification for it) was uncomfortable to say the least…. And overall I don’t like what they did with Trevor’s character. I love the idea of multi-protagonist games (I find that it’s a MUCH more effective storytelling technique than trying to build a story around a single playable character who never changes) but it became very obvious that Trevor’s entire character was basically “here is where we will dump all the missions that only a deranged psychopath would willingly partake in”

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
6 years ago

Torture is a fantastic way to dehumanize another person, or group of people. The logic goes:

We are good people.
Good people don’t torture people who don’t deserve it.
We are (factually) torturing this person.
That person must deserve it!
Therefore, what we’re doing is fine and we’re still good people.

It’s not precisely begging the question, because it doesn’t set out to prove that we are good people. Nevertheless, the chain of reasoning winds up beginning and ending at that point, because we always assume we are good people and it takes incredibly egregious behavior to shake someone’s faith in that assumption.

That’s pretty much all torture is good for. So whenever certain folks *coughcoughRepublicanscoughcough* try to argue that torture is A-OK, I have to keep in mind that the only possible outcome is the dehumanization of the group to which the torture-ees belong. I am 100% positive that at least some torture proponents, and probably all of those that are positioned in government, know this, and so I must ask myself what motive they have for wanting to dehumanize certain groups of people.

Monzach
Monzach
6 years ago

I remember when I found out that you can actually kill surrendered enemy soldiers in the Close Combat series of RTS WW2 games. It was in CC3, the game set on the Eastern Front, and I was playing as the German, fighting the USSR. I only did it the once, and it made me feel incredibly bad, especially since the game didn’t punish me in any way for that… 🙁

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

@Moocow

The sad thing is is that I like Trevor the best. I could write several paragraphs explaining why but it boils down to Trevor is much more interesting than Michael and Franklin. Franklin is essentially a “generic straight man” while Michael is a “cranky middle age white, rich man”. Trevor being a “psychotic bisexual”, while problematic, is still infinitely more interesting than Franklin or Michael, which is sad for many, many, MANY reasons.

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

@PoM

Well, I guess the scene succeeded in at least humanizing the poor guy being tortured, because he started talking about his family and kids and he started crying and pleading and you just feel bad. Or at least I did Some people weren’t bothered by it al all. :/

Moocow
Moocow
6 years ago

@Pandapool

Good point, the other two were definitely a lot more generic. As far as the GTA series is concerned, I think San Andreas had the best narrative. CJ, Ceaser, Kendal, Tenpenny, The Truth, Mike Toreno and Katalina were all pretty interesting IMO.

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

@Moocow

That’s very true. San Andreas has one of the best stories, if not the best. (It’s been awhile since I played it, so I don’t remember off hand all its details.) It also helped that it got the series out of the whole “white man organized crime” thing and went with a more relatable setting in which the character doesn’t automatically rub elbows with rich dudes and huge crime syndicates. Grove Street Gang was a small family, so you got to learn a lot about characters and were able to listen to them and feel for them and not all of them orbited around CJ, while in many other GTA games, all the narrative and characters orbit solely around the protagonist.

But one thing I’ve noticed is that CJ and Franklin are extremely similar. The thing is, CJ is suppose to be a sort of blank slate/generic straight man for you to put yourself into, while Franklin is part of three different protagonists all of which aren’t suppose to be slipper to step into. It, unfortunately, makes Franklin the blandest of the three characters, which is likely because they don’t know how to write a black character that stands on their own.

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

I’d like to clarify by what I mean by the characters orbiting around the main character.

In many early GTA games, you had characters that had very clearly defined roles: villain, love interest, partner, etc.

They broke that with San Andreas by introducing characters that don’t exactly fit into certain puzzle pieces or may have not been that piece to begin with *wink*. And they’ve continued this to the pretty much into HD verse, which is nice. A more complex story and characters to match is exactly what we should get from games.

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

Also secondary character motivation doesn’t always originate with the main character in San Andreas and beyond.

*facepalm*

Maybe I should just sit down and think about what I mean when I write words so that way I can write words that make sense the first time.

Kate Minter
Kate Minter
6 years ago

peppapig: Is this man a friend? Brother? What exactly is going on? Are there children involved? Is it fault or no fault divorce?

Just going on what limited information you gave, I’d say it’s very important he spend time with his children, fight the divorce if he feels the marriage is worth saving (most are), work out, and find a source of oxytocin. Just getting a weekly message from a woman could help out considerably.

It is also important that he keep what and who he is reading in perspective. While I do find some of the information valuable, it is not always obvious what age, experience, or relationship status those posting have. Anonymous commenters are simply that. One would hardly want to take the advice of a twenty year old who had never had a significant relationship nor had any idea what your person was really going through.

Best of luck!

Moocow
Moocow
6 years ago

@pandapool

Agreed. I tend to roll my eyes when EVERY character in a game solely exists to interact with (and stroke the ego of) the main character. Tis my biggest problem with Half Life games (as much as I love them), where every character starts off with “ahh Gordon freeman” “oh the freeman has arrived” “oh hey, Gordon freeman, NOW we can start doing things” “Great scott it’s Gordon freeman!” “holy fucking shit it’s the fucking Gordan fucking freeman”.

I actually recently re-played through San Andreas to record footage for my (eventual) story review of it. Something I did notice is how hilariously ‘distant’ CJ is from his actions. “Sure Ryder, no problem brah, I’ll go savagely murder those people for ya” “Hey man, no sweat, I’ll totally run this guy into the ocean for ya. Anything for a homie”

Probably my favorite moment is when they arrive in SF and realize they got ripped off. CJ is all pissed and Kendal goes: “you know, you’re a fucking idiot. Your entire life you’ve wanted something for nothing, now you have something and you don’t know what the fuck to do with it!”

And holy shit I almost forgot Woozie. The totally-thinks-everyone-doesn’t-already-realize-he’s-blind blind gang leader.

CJ (after Woozie confesses about his blindness): Just one more question… you do realize I’m black and not asian, right?”

Woozie: Carl, I’m blind, not stupid.

Moocow
Moocow
6 years ago

Aaaaand I just did it too. When I said “the main character” i mean ” the player character”. Guess this is the price we pay for not letting trolls edit their comments when they come in here XD.

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

@Moocow

Lol. I’d imagine CJ is distance because, well, he’s a video game character. Someone behind the controller doesn’t have to deal with the consequences CJ would have IRL, so those consequences don’t matter, his thoughts about violence doesn’t matter, all that matters is what the players want, and what players want from GTA is violence.

Also, I really need to play that game again. I forgot how funny GTA games used to be.

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
6 years ago

Why does Kate only crawl out of the woodwork when someone mentions marital problems?

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

@PoM

Maybe they’re trying to leave some sort of secret code? Like, they only comment on materials problems, so they also have marital problems?

Or maybe they just want to keep “marriages together” because in divorce a man must cut of their genitals and present them to their wife or whatever MRAs believe?

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
6 years ago

@Jackie

It’s like “I am – or someone I know is – experiencing marital problems” is the Katesignal, and here she comes oozing into the thread. I mean, this time she’s giving marital advice to someone who never asked for it, third-hand through a friend or relative who was asking a completely different question and also did not ask for marital advice.

It’s like Kate has some kind of compulsion.

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

@PoM

Maybe they have some sort of plug-in that shows feeds for any comment regarding marriage on feminist sites? Maybe they come here everyday and scour the comments for people having marriage problems? Maybe they need to get a hobby because they sure have a lot of spare time on their hands.

katz
katz
6 years ago

It’s like “I am – or someone I know is – experiencing marital problems” is the Katesignal, and here she comes oozing into the thread. I mean, this time she’s giving marital advice to someone who never asked for it, third-hand through a friend or relative who was asking a completely different question and also did not ask for marital advice.

It’s like Kate has some kind of compulsion.

It’s almost like she’s trapped in a horrendous marriage and has spent inordinate amounts of time looking up every possible way to fix a marriage besides divorce.

Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
Pandapool -- The Species that Endangers YOU (aka Banana Jackie Cake, for those who still want to call me "Banana", "Jackie" or whatever)
6 years ago

@katz

It’s like they’re trying to give bad advice so they’ll get good advice that doesn’t involve divorce.

But, you know, marriage is a partnership and both people must work towards making it better, so no matter the advice given, it won’t matter unless both people in the relationship use it. There is no magical thing anyone can do to make their partner or marriage better.

PussyPowerTantrum, the Lousy Flouncer
PussyPowerTantrum, the Lousy Flouncer
6 years ago

@Buttercup Q.

Yeah, I instantly thought of Migtoes, too. 😀 Authoritarians are all similar under the hood.

@Lea

I’m with you, best not to fool ourselves about what we’re doing when we eat meat. I suspect horses being frightened to the bitter end has more to do with their temperament than with intelligence. I’m not sure of the “humans don’t routinely eat companion animals” hypothesis, either, at least not from the Wikipedia article on horse meat. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_meat

Now dogs, there’s a species that is not only intelligent but specifically bred to be attuned to human beings. I’m part of a culture that eats dog, though thankfully less and less these days, and I’ve heard stories of dogs who ran away on the day they were set to cook. Then came back, or were lured back etc., but the point is dogs know us. To me eating dog is one step from cannibalism, no longer morally justifiable when food is plentiful.

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
6 years ago

The “companion animals vs meat animals” framework is not one I invented or came up with independently, although I agree that it observably exists. It’s been noted by moral philosophers who have attempted to explain it, given how little logical sense it makes given the biological and moral characteristics of the animals in question. The “ethic of care” moral system somewhat covers it. Care ethicists generally don’t think or write about human-animal relationships much, but it’s not hard to apply that system to relationships with animals.

Note that I am neither endorsing nor criticizing care ethics. What I’m saying is that this division between the animals a person (culturally influenced) is likely to eat versus those that person is likely to view as companions, with little crossover between those groups (such that when crossover happens, it is seen as peculiar if food animals are treated as pets, and shocking and taboo if companion animals are treated as food), is not my imagination, except insofar as lots of other people have the same imagination I do and have tried to explain the division. There’s quite a bit of literature on the subject. I claim no originality here.

BVH
BVH
6 years ago

Yeh gotta love it when the damn themselves in their own words.

Jack Remiel
6 years ago

Way way late to the party but

I recall that horse meat was sold for public consumption, only passed off as something else?

Yeah, that was a big thing here. The Islamic and Jewish communities were extremely pissed off because much of that meat had been certified halal / kosher. If the certification process can’t even tell you what animal it comes from, then the claims about ritual being followed suddenly sound less than credible. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

To be honest, I didn’t notice much. I imagine I ended up making burgers out of horse mince instead of mutton now and again, but they were delicious so that’s no problem. Horse seems pretty edible.

The real problem with selling horsemeat in countries where it’s uncommon isn’t “ZOMG horsies!” so much as that hygiene standards in freezing works’ where the meat is going to people is much higher than those where the meat is going to animals. So your food is being processed in unsanitary conditions.

There’s a similar problem here in NZ – horse is a fairly common food in Tonga, so Tongan immigrants want to keep eating it. But the only horsemeat available is from pet-food factories and people have gotten sick from eating it. Unfortunately the market isn’t big enough for anyone to set up a food-grade works which will slaughter horses.

Rina
Rina
6 years ago

I think he actually says, “the cause OF Paul Elam”.

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