This is an amazing article at Medium (h/t Paul Campos) that obviates my unexpressed need to write about Gamergate or Milo Thingface. I wanted to write about the former at the time, and John said there was almost no upside (I wrote a post about dickweasels!) and infinity downside (I became the target of a random whirling roulette wheel of internet and even IRL destruction because I am a woman who wrote about dickweasels.) Compelling! Likewise he counsels me not to write about the crazy MRA bloggers with whom I have such an unfortunate obsession. I, like, have a problem. I know way too much stuff about the manosphere. I read reddit threads, you guys. But whatever, let’s just read this article about 4chan that explains everything! (And truly, if you don’t know about the rare Pepe memes, here’s your better than Vox explainer). Whenever you say something’s full of fail, you owe a debt to 4chan, you know. (Plain People of Crooked Timber: we never say that, Belle. Me: well…dang.) The author has the inside scoop.
As someone who has witnessed 4chan grow from a group of adolescent boys who could fit into a single room at my local anime convention to a worldwide coalition of right wing extremists (which is still somehow also a message board about anime), I feel I have some obligation to explain….
Again, here we can understand this group as people who have failed at the real world and have checked out of it and into the fantasy worlds of internet forums and video games. These are men without jobs, without prospects, and by extension (so they declaimed) without girlfriends. Their only recourse, the only place they feel effective, is the safe, perfectly cultivated worlds of the games they enter. By consequence of their defeat, the distant, abstract concept of women in the flesh makes them feel humiliated and rejected. Yet, in the one space they feel they can escape the realities of this, the world of the video game, here (to them, it seems) women want to assert their presence and power.
If this sounds hard to believe, take for example Milo Yiannopoulos, the “Technology Editor” at Breitbart News, whose scheduled lecture this month at Berkeley spawned massive riots and protests. Yiannopoulos rose to prominence via Gamergate. He is not a “technology” editor because he compares the chip architectures of competing graphics cards. [This is the sickest of burns—BW] Rather the “tech” here is code for the fact that his audience is the vast population of sad young men who have retreated to internet communities. Likewise the mainstream press sometimes describes him as troll as a way of capturing his vague association with 4chan. This term, too, is inaccurate. He is 4chan at its most earnest, after all these men have finally discovered their issue — the thing that unites them — their failure and powerlessness literally embodied (to them) by women….
Here Yiannopoulos has inverted what has actually happened to make his audience feel good. Men who have retreated to video games and internet porn can now characterize their helpless flight as an empowered conscious choice to reject women for something else. In other words, it justifies a lifestyle which in their hearts they previously regarded helplessly as a mark of shame.
Now, I could excerpt endlessly as it’s very quotable, (as here on Milo) but you should just go RTWT. It is, quite separately from its other virtues, a beautiful explanation of the rise of Trump, and his promises that we’re going to win so much we’ll be sick of winning—this being the promise of a guaranteed loser. And everything is going great riiight up until the end of the article.
By contrasting 4chan with their self-proclaimed enemy, their counter-culture counterparts, we can see that, though demographically they are so similar, the real difference is introduced here — at the thorny of issue of the girlfriend. 4chan’s self-described “beta” males are trapped in this ideology, hating their counterparts whose key difference is a willingness, like the beatniks of old, to slough off the “gender binary” and live how they please.
But rather than take this as reason to be ever more contemptuous of Anons and their misogyny, the left should regard Anon/the deplorables as a failure on its part, a terrific mangling of the left’s own arguments that has resulted in alienating the very group of people who could be the most helped by their ideas, if not the most convinced.
No. Just, no. Fuck these guys. Also, there is a slight problem. In the context of Anon attacks on artists’ spaces, Dale Beran is drawing an interesting parallel between broke artists living in warehouses to pursue some dream fundamentally at odds with the accepted norm of finding a good job etc., and broke 4channers living in their parent’s basements, pursuing inward looking dreams of video games. The difference being that artists can get laid. Now, it’s actually a good point but it requires a huge caveat which he has space for because the article is long, and that’s that some or the artists are the girlfriends themselves, if you see my point. Now, Beran’s not unaware of this, and explicitly refers to LBGTQ artists above, but there’s still something jarring about “the thorny issue of the girlfriend.” OK, whatever.
The more serious issue is: no. Which is to say, feminists can only say “the patriarchy hurts men too” so many times. The patriarchy hurts men too, guys! All these wounded manosphere commenters I read (which I should not, because it’s fundamentally negative for me, and I have it worse for them that John does for Rod Dreher) are trapped by their own ideas of masculinity, endlessly reinforced in a atmosphere of hetero male fantasies about alpha males with harems, consumed with resentment for sluts who won’t have sex with them. All of this is a toxic slurry of patriarchal, sexist attitudes about men and women, about what men should be like, about tedious madonna/whore obsessions that have them praising Amish women one quarter of the time and slavering over HB8s (HB is for hot babe) another quarter (the remaining half of their time is spent railing against fat, blue-haired feminists and white women who have sex with non-white men, a practice they call musharking and I’m sorry you know that now, that’s on me.) But that’s not the fault of feminists! These men don’t think this because we’re not trying hard enough to educate them, surely?
To the deplorables, whose central complaint is one of masculine frailty, pride, and failure — to deny their identities as men is to deny their complaint. They are a group who define themselves by their powerlessness, by being trapped into defeat. But if they are to accept the left’s viewpoint, they must accept that the problem at core of their being is all in their heads. That is to say, the left’s viewpoint of sexual-difference-as-illusion is exactly what they don’t want to hear — that they have cornered themselves into their mother’s basements.
The left does more than simply declare their opposing viewpoint wrong, the radical idea of sex/gender-as-illusion denies their viewpoint an existence. To the left, a complaint stemming from being a man is null space, lying outside the realm of what it will acknowledge as true.
Wait, no. I don’t deny Beran is talking about something interesting, but this is wrong-headed. These guys have cornered themselves into their mother’s basements, a point he makes explicitly above in the section I quote. And laughing at people with dumb complaints about how chicks only want to sex up alpha males isn’t the same as denying that the patriarchy…hurts men too. Nor is their personal felt hurt unreal or null. It’s as if someone were reproaching critics of Dostoyevsky’s man of ressentiment by saying “your insistence that Lake Como isn’t in Rome is hurting him!” Lake Como isn’t in Rome. That his fantasies include ‘Lake Como being moved to Rome for the occasion’ is precisely what makes them fantasies; that he is miserable no one will deny; that it is in some important way his fault is clear; as is the fact that he will hurt others and may be unable to care. This article is brilliant right up until the point where it goes (analogously speaking) full “the Left is at fault for not convincing white Trump voters, and is wrong for labeling them racist assholes, and caring about trans people cost us the election. Also Bernie.” Because while it’s true that feminism could, in fact, save these people from this loathsome pit they are in, it doesn’t follow that it’s a failure on the part of the political Left that they are down in the pit to begin with. The kernel of a good point is that people hate to be mocked, and one is unlikely to accept a rope thrown down by someone laughing at you, but on another, more important level, no.