Showing posts with label paul elam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label paul elam. Show all posts

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Is A Voice For Men A Cult?

Lately I've been reading American Crucifixion by Alex Beam.  My fascination with the early history of the LDS Church is rooted in my genealogy: my mother's family were (and mostly are) devout Mormons and I was raised to take great pride in the fact that some of my ancestors were members of Brigham Young's first party of pioneers to settle the Salt Lake Valley.  My mother attended Brigham Young University on scholarship, where she met her first husband.  However, in her early twenties she divorced frivorced him to run off with my father, who she judged had better financial prospects.  (Turns out she judged wrong on that count, but what could she do, driven as all women are by the mandates of hypergamy?)  At the same time, she officially renounced her ties to the LDS Church. 

And so I was born to a mother who was deeply ambivalent about her religious heritage.  On one hand, she taught me that the LDS Church was a cult that was based on a bizarre doctrine; that the prophet himself was a fraud and a plagiarist; that polygamy was an evil institution that oppressed the women and exhausted the men.  On the other hand, she taught me that Mormon pioneers were the strongest, most admirable people that had ever lived, whose work and spiritual ethics and dedication to The Great Idea wrought a virtual Eden from some of the most inhospitable country imaginable; that they had been unfairly maligned, persecuted, and suffered because of the envy and bigotry of the Gentiles.

My mother's legacy has left me struggling with a lot of questions about my forebears.  My biggest question has always been, What compelled my ancestors to embrace such a cult?  What persuades anyone to join cults?  And why haven't I, despite my genetic predisposition (as evidenced by a serious flirtation with various religions) ever been remotely tempted to join a cult?

One of the most interesting revelations in Beam's biography is that Joseph Smith was not an entirely admired figure even within his own band of devotees.  His "martyrdom" contributed mightily to his subsequent idealization.  There was considerable dismay and criticism about Smith's revelations concerning polygamy ("celestial marriage"), and the principle was not shared outside the closest ranks for years (his wife Emma never acknowledged it).  Even his closest acolytes saw something sinister and self-serving in Smith's insistence that polygyny was God's will.  Yet they eventually accepted the commandment, and with varying degrees of enthusiasm, set forth to enter into plural marriages themselves. And later they embarked on many other dark chapters, including the political shenanigans that led to their violent expulsion first from Missouri, and then from Illinois, and later still, the infamous, long-denied Mountain Meadows Massacre.  No, it's not hard to understand why, after reading Beam's book, they were so hated and feared by the frontier residents who had first welcomed them.

Over the last century, the Church has sought to assimilate itself within mainstream Christianity although, Mitt Romney's campaign notwithstanding, it has a way to go to escape its early reputation as a cult, partly because its members persist in wearing "garments," baptizing by proxy Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and indulging in other undeniably odd and -- to many non-Mormons -- offensive practices, not the least of which is to control state politics in ways that clearly violate the will of the majority (and echo the behavior that got them burned out of Nauvoo back in 1844).

What Beam is unable to do is depict the powerful charisma I'd always assumed Joseph Smith must have had.  Aside from his bright blue eyes, and a certain way with the ladies (he was nothing if not persistent once he'd identified a likely romantic prospect), he seemed about as charismatic as an insurance salesman.  The majority of people who met him were impervious to his charms.  And, of course, a few people, including his father-in-law, positively despised him.  Perhaps personal charisma cannot adequately explain the success of cult leaders.

And so it was in this frame of mind that I found myself pondering the nature of cults, and wondering if we could fairly characterize various "manosphere" related communities (Dark Enlightenment and other neo-reactionaries, the weird "Christian submissive wife" networks of blogs) as "cults?"

I was watching local activist Lissie's (sworebytheprecious) telephone call with Dean Esmay last night, and it dawned on me: Dean Esmay was speaking like someone who was caught in a cult.  Of course, knowing that Esmay has a long history documented online of getting caught up in various forms of quackery (i.e., AIDS denial) probably informs my perception. His need to reach out to "the enemy" at 4 a.m., while at the same time evincing fear that he would be punished for doing so was striking, and may be why Lissie found the conversation so unnerving.  The paranoid notion that Esmay espouses that David Futrelle is a kind of "puppetmaster" (or "puppet") of a vast feminist conspiracy is also rather extraordinary: 

It's not hard to understand why Paul Elam, with his fierce, grizzled face and Old Testament-style rages, inspires followers to accept him as a kind of prophet, summoned from above to restore the patriarchy.  In the manner of most cult leaders, he rules his followers by alternately exalting or expelling them.  

Here is what David Futrelle has recently observed:

AVFMers are expected not only to accept Elam’s leadership; they’re expected to accept his distinctly non-consensus reality – a world turned upside down in which men are the real victims of domestic violence and rape and pretty much everything else, a world in which the Southern Poverty Law Center is a collection of evil bigots and his motley collection of misogynists is the true human rights movement of the twenty-first century. 

Like a lot of cult leaders, Elam keeps his troops too busy to think straight in a continual frenzy of pseudo-activism. AVFMers are forever brigading comment sections of newspaper articles and YouTube videos in little squads (AVFMers almost always travel in packs), all reciting the same few talking points.

Weirdly, the dynamics of internet discussions can actually reinforce this kind of intellectual conformity, much as Stalin’s control of the media did in his day. No, AVFMers can’t avoid being exposed to facts that contradict the shared (un)reality of their ideological bubble.

But in internet discussions you don’t have to be right in order to convince yourself you’ve won an argument. You just have to be loud and persistent and unwilling to ever give in. You don’t have to convince anyone else of your arguments so long as you convince yourself. MRAs don’t win many arguments on their merits, but they manage to convince themselves they win every one.

The trouble is that when they step outside of their regular stomping grounds on the internet, this strategy – so effective in generating ideological conformity amongst cult members – falls completely apart.

Like most successful cult leaders, Paul Elam has solidified his cult base by recruiting women.  "The Honey Badgers Brigade" are an integral part of his self-styled position as grand patriarch and prophet.  Cults cannot survive without female converts; they are the most fervent, loyal members and the most willing to sublimate their own egos to ensure the survival of the group.  Within any burgeoning religious or political movement, women are the worker bees, zealously serving the agents of their own oppression. Plus they bring the male converts on board! Although I have to admit paying $5000+ to be "love bombed" by typhonblue doesn't sound all that enticing... 

In fact, watching the Honey Badger Brigade, I am reminded of Mark Twain's visit to Salt Lake City as a young man in 1861.  Finding Mormon women not much to his taste, Twain remarked, "The man that marries one of them has done an act of Christian charity which entitles him to the kindly applause of mankind, not their harsh censure, and the man that marries sixty of them has done a deed of open-handed generosity so sublime that the nations should stand uncovered in his presence and worship in silence."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Emma Howland-Bolton Slandered

Courtesy of mancheez, I learn of a young teacher named Emma Howland-Bolton who has been targeted for harassment and slander by Paul Elam and his goon squad at A Voice for Men.  Her "crime?" Encouraging others to protest the "First Annual Conference on Men's Issues" at the Doubletree Inn in Emma's home city of Detroit. 

I don't know Emma personally, but from what I can glean she is an elementary school teacher who is locally recognized for passion and excellence in the classroom, and who has hitherto spoken out against the closing of public libraries in her area.  She apparently does not want to see her city host a hate group featuring such "Red Pill" luminaries as Stefan Molyneux, and has lightly mocked them on Facebook.  Yes, folks, that's all it takes: make a few innocuous remarks criticizing the notoriously misogynistic "Men's Rights Movement" on Facebook and you too can expect a campaign immediately mounted to smear your name online and harass your employer with phone calls from anonymous loonies.  Note that Men's Rights Activists can only plant their slimy posts on the first page of Google results if their victim's "presence" online is limited (which is to say, she is an ordinary, private citizen).

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Girl Punched In Face Because Feminism

David Futrelle posted today about the attack on a university student in Kingston, Canada, possibly by an MRA, and the hay that AVfM (A Voice for Men) was having with this news.  AVfM is vigorously denying any culpability, whilst at the same time attacking the victim as either (1) a liar (who presumably punched herself?), or (2) an instigator who got what was coming to her for protesting the presence of an MRA speaker on her campus.  The usual cast of characters weigh in, including some weird over-sharing by Karen Straughan, the manosphere's version of Camille Paglia.  Straughan, while conceding the perpetrator might have been influenced by anti-feminist rhetoric, suggests he was in some way justified: if you kick a dog enough he will eventually bite.  (Because, you know, men are dogs in danger of being "metaphorically castrated" by feminists. Or something.)
As sad and scary as this news is, I am glad the young woman wasn't more seriously injured.  And I take some bitter satisfaction in the way this incident will discredit Paul Elam and his gang of thugs even further, which is perhaps in the long run for the good.

Amongst the comments was a link to an article by feminist blogger Sady Doyle that was written three years ago.  The title ("A Girl's Guide to Staying Safe Online") is ironic, given that the list of "suggestions" that follow are impossible for anyone who wishes to have an online voice.  The bottom line?  Being a feminist blogger = abuse.  Of course it's one thing to be called "a cunt" "a slut" or a lunatic, it's quite another to have your teeth knocked in.

Of course, the AVfM Grand Pooh Bah had a word or two to say about Sady's article:  "But no matter what you do, you are going to see a lot more of the things you don’t like in the future...  courtesy of the men’s movement.  Simply put, we are coming for you. All of you.  And by the time we are done you will wax nostalgic over the days when all you had to deal with was someone expressing a desire to fuck you up your shopworn ass."

So what is the answer?  "Ultimately," Sady concludes, "the best way to 'stay safe' online may simply be to stay online. After all: If there’s no one left willing to complain about the harassment, what are the odds that it’s going to change?"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Femitheist Divine Lives On!

A couple of years ago Paul Elam posted rather hysterically about the suicide of a "radical feminist" who had been advocating, among other drastic measures, the castration of men and the worship of the feminine principle, apparently never pausing to consider that her series of Youtube videos might be a blatant and fairly elaborate hoax.
It's been a couple of years since she was doxxed and then "faked her own suicide", but Femitheist Divine is still producing Youtube videos and until quite recently, was still engaging with MRAs.  And she is still the "feminist" a lot of gullable manosphereans love to hate.

She was very young when she started to troll the Young Misogynists, BTW -- well under 21 at the time.  I'm not sure if her relative youth says more about her precocity or the dearth of creative outlets available to teenagers in rural Arkansas.

Many of the manospheans have finally figured out they are being royally pranked by this naughty Southern Belle, but they're still pissed off.  They know that the world is divided into two groups, The Players and The Played, and, as the last kerfuffle on Return of Kings demonstrates, they don't like finding themselves in the latter category -- no, not one little bit!  

I've only watched bits and pieces of her oeuvre, but my own distinct impression is that Femitheiste Divine is neither "evil" nor "mentally ill" and that she still finds that making fun of the boys of the manosphere can be pretty diverting.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

On Doxxing

Doxxing: a new word for a new social phenomenon.  I was just reading an interesting article about it.

My students are always amazed when I tell them of the "old days" (when I was their age), before the age of personal computers and the internet.  They simply cannot conceive that there was a time when people communicated by hand-written letters or expensive long-distance phone calls, when "self-publishing" involved mimeograph machines.

Who imagined back in the seventies that one day anyone could "publish" anything globally, instantaneously, and... anonymously?  

Because of this, it has always been hard for me to wrap my head around the way people take "anonymity" for granted nowadays.  I'm very ambivalent about it.  I'm not sure if it's a positive social element.  In fact, I've often sensed that, at least as it has been practiced on the internet recently, it can be downright pernicious.  The freedom to say anything one damn well pleases without the risk of social disapprobation brings out the most careless and cowardly behavior.  It divorces actions from consequences.  (And yeah, I'm including myself here.)

I believe public discourse probably functions better when opinions are attached to real people.

What would happen to the "manosphere" if everyone was simultaneously and forcibly "doxxed" as I have been?  How would they react if they had their names, their addresses and phone numbers, their work and sexual histories revealed and disseminated to the most hostile imaginable audience?  Would these tough-talking guys just slink back into the woodwork, or would their "movement" finally evolve into a reality-based force for change? We'll probably never know, but I find it amusing to speculate.

I once had a conversation with the writer Joanne Greenburg, who published her first and most successful book, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, under the pseudonym "Hannah Green" in order to protect her parents' privacy.  She told me that she regretted it, and that pseudonyms generally caused more trouble than they were worth.

If I were to do it over again, I must say that I would not have used a pseudonym.  Of course, that means I might have been a mite more circumspect about the personal information I revealed!  But on the other hand, maybe not.  Truth is, I'm just getting too old to be very self-protective of my "image" or to present myself as anything other than what I am.  Call me crazy, ugly, fat, old, barren (!) -- I really don't care, you're probably right, it just doesn't matter.  See, I have pretty much lost all my vanity.  There's a great deal of freedom, as well as time-honored patriarchal tradition, in becoming a shameless crone operating on the margins of polite society.  That freedom is, perhaps, the greatest consolation of age.  And it has ever been thus. 

*Standing ovation*
This post now comes up #4 in a search for her name.  The sad thing is I bet she is above-average looking compared to the other posters on manboobz.

Hmm...  "above average in appearance"... Am I damned by faint praise here?
Ruin my reputation?  I don't have a "reputation" to ruin.  In fact, I am so completely inconsequential, so utterly without influence or public recognition, that even if you littered the internet with slander about me, no one would care one bit.  I've been employed at the same institution for fifteen years, and the admin there already know I'm a mixed bag of nuts.  And contrary to what Forney may believe, critical thinkers do "consider the source".  Anyone whose opinion I care about is unlikely to give much weight to online attacks from noxious trolls. 

The real mystery is why Matt Forney et al care what I say.  After all, in their world, I have long outlived whatever usefulness I once served as a woman, and now hardly count as a human being at all.  I reckon I'm about as much a threat to Matt Forney as a mosquito. A mosquito with bad knees, a full-time job, and a mortgage.  Who lives on the opposite coast.

So life proceeds apace at Casa La Strega.  After a flurry of hits on my blog (though I suspect no one hung around long enough to read anything, unfortunately), and a handful of inane, anonymous comments, nothing much is different.  I awake each morning and find there are no flying monkeys circling my roof, after all. I go to school and plod, more or less cheerfully, through my daily grind, I make plans for Valentine's Day with my sweetie, I chuckle at the characterization of myself as "a dangerous narcissist" as I clean up dog poop, drive my neighbor's kids to school, pay utility bills.