Vice columnist Kane Daniel wrote a piece about his infiltration of a men’s rights group. It appears Daniel’s intention was to show men’s rights activists as raving lunatic misogynists. Instead, Daniel demonstrated what bad journalism looks like. He wrote in his piece:
I, like most people I know, am indignant at the very idea of men’s rights activists. A semi-organised group of men who believe the sinister spectre of feminism has inveigled itself into the fabric of culture, society and media. A shadowy illuminati who have succeeded in making men an oppressed majority. If you’ve ever had a friend with some, ah, unusual ideas about Jews, then just imagine them talking about women rather than the chosen people and you get the tone.
(Quick note: according to current population numbers, women outnumber men, so men are not “an oppressed majority.)
This is a common refrain from feminists and progressives. They see no validity in men’s complaints about feminism, so in an effort to justify their dismissal, feminists and progressives equate them to racists. This was Daniel’s first step in telling the reader that they need not take these men seriously. The next was to challenge men’s rights activists’ manhood:
The idea of a bunch of little man babies screaming about the evil militant feminists stealing their rights feels galling. Acting as if the Ghosts Of Radical Feminists Past swoop into their homes while they sleep soundly under The Matrix Reloaded bedsheets and magically castrate them while they dream of a Doc Marten stamping on a man’s face – forever.
Note how Daniel shifts the focus off of feminists in general and blames “radical feminists”. This too is a common tract among the left. It allows them to claim that only a tiny set of feminists harbor the hostile views men’s rights activists detest. This is done just in case someone can present evidence of feminists engaging in such behavior.
Yet despite considering men’s rights activists “little man babies” whining about nothing, Daniel wanted to “try and understand something about them outside of their din of blog posts and YouTube videos”.
His decision: infiltrate a Sydney-based men’s group. Daniel created a fake name and burner email address, scoured the forum on A Voice for Men, found an invitation for an in-person meet-and-greet, and contacted them. The men who organized the meeting bought his deception and allowed him to attend.
He noted that the men were concerned about protecting their identities, and specifically asked that no one wear anything that revealed their political views. He also wrote this:
Because many people would be meeting in real life for the first time, the group was identified by a Rubik’s Cube placed on the pub table. A nod, perhaps, to constant claims of being the voice of rationality and logic.
That unnecessary dig gives a hint of what Daniel took from the meeting. He found the introductions awkward, but charming. He also discovered the issues that led these men to the men’s rights movement:
Then, it took the feel of an AA meeting like any you’ve seen in a Hollywood film. People went around in a circle introducing themselves, how they came to the movement and their place within it. This is where things got unsettling. It became immediately clear the vast majority of these men were deeply wounded. There were stories of schizophrenic mothers, abusive wives, lost or estranged children. It’s hard not to imagine their point of view as a way of dealing with this trauma. It’s, perhaps, easier to rail against institutions they feel prosecute and punish their shared manhood than deal with the idea that they suffered an injustice — but that injustice may have been meted out capriciously or through the failure of individuals rather than large-scale systems. I, last man to speak, mumbled something about feminism going too far and being just there to learn. Which seemed to suffice.
Note how Daniel dismisses their experiences and their understanding of their experiences. What happened is not really wrong. They suffered “an injustice”, but the failure, not fault, lies with individuals not large-scale systems.
So when there is a system in place that is set up to prevent abusive parents from keeping children, and that system tends to allow mothers to keep custody despite being unfit, the failure lies with individual judges, not the overall family court system.
When there is a system in place that is meant to stop domestic violence, and that system turns a blind eye female-perpetrated violence because most police departments have written policies telling them to arrest only men when called to domestic violence situations involving heterosexual couples, the failure, not the fault, lies with individual officers, not the overall police system.
When there is a system in place that is meant to address child custody, and that system tends to favor mothers over fathers regardless of the fathers’ level of participation, relationship with the child, or greater financial standing, the failure, not the fault, lies with individual judges, not the overall family court system.
This is at best spurious. The very scenarios these men describe imply a fault on the part of the systems meant to govern those problems. A person could slip through the cracks. Yet to have millions of men experiencing the same set of problems across the world suggests there is something larger at play. Even feminists, despite their misandrous callousness towards male suffering, see this and incorrectly attribute it to “The Patriarchy.”
Daniel goes on to mock the men’s complaints about the difficulty of instituting change. He complains about their comparison of feminism to communism. He bemoans that the men did not condemn the “more rabid, troublesome edge of the movement”. Granted, perhaps Daniel’s understanding of the conversation was skewed because:
It was a rambling, unfocused discussion made less clear in my head because of the riot of anxiety generated by my deceit.
That deceit did nothing to change his opinion. He states, “[…] looking around the table, they looked exactly how I thought they would. Self-awareness has its limits, I guess.”
More concerning to Daniel was:
[…] how easily anti-feminist rhetoric came out of my mouth, how easy it was to lock into a hateful groove – even if it’s a groove you want to be out of as quickly as possible. How the inertia of feeling accepted into something can start to make any opinion sound credible. How the subterfuge came easy, how simple it is and furrow a brow and listen to someone share their pain. How real twinges of empathy stirred within yourself. Which makes me think these men need a support group more than they need a movement.
That is often the final tract of the feminist argument. That happens when feminists see that the men complaining about feminism are real people with real feelings and legitimate complaints. Rather than accept this, however, feminists continue to dismiss it, this time chalking the men’s feelings up to being wounded.
What Daniel describes is not empathy. It is not even pity. It is guilt.
He feels guilty about conning these men, as he expected them to be crazy and found that they were quite sane. He expected their objections to feminism to be unreasonable and found they were perfectly reasonable. He expected to see hate mongers and found wounded men.
That does not work for Daniel. He wants men’s rights activists to be sexist, fedora-wearing jerks, so he continues to argue that they were hateful without presenting a single example of the men saying anything of the sort.
Remarkably, most of the comments on Daniel’s piece criticize him for his spurious attacks. The general argument is that these men are clearly hurt, and rather than support them or at least present them as human beings, Daniel engages in invectives and ad hominem arguments. In short, he behaves exactly like men’s rights activists state feminists behave: cold, callous, and hypocritical.