“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – FDR, 1933
I’d like to think I live in a fairly decent democracy. While idiots may cry the west has turned into a fascist state led by ‘literal Nazis’, the fact that they can hold and voice such opinions shows how very far their ideals are from the truth. And yet voices and opinions are silenced under the banner of ‘inciting hate and violence’. To be fair, in some cases this is a perfectly defensible idea – preaching actual hate, inciting real violence… words can be dangerous and harmful, and I agree that not all speech should be free.
But we slip ever closer towards the edge of acceptable freedom of speech and expression, into thoughtcrime. As a rule, I hate Orwell’s 1984 – not because it’s a bad book, but because the far left have abused it over the years. It’s akin to calling police ‘fascist’ because they enforce a law against you. The themes and world of 1984 are poignant, particularly for the time in which they were written – but now whenever a government exerts their authority, ridiculous parallels are drawn between that book and that action. The irony is that the far left and the far right are two sides of the same absurd, valueless coil. What if, when you hold up a mirror, you’ve become the very thing you hate?
In our fair Commonwealth of Australia, a movie called The Red Pill was due to be screen by Palace and Dendy cinema chains over the past eight or so months. These chains specialise in art-house screenings – not big blockbusters for the masses, but indie or niche movies that lack the mainstream appeal to be picked up by Event Cinemas. The Red Pill seems like just the sort of thing they’d show. Except they didn’t, because people are afraid of opinions.
What is The Red Pill?
The Red Pill is a documentary movie by Cassie Jaye, a self-identified feminist who has completed a few other documentaries. Two notable ones include Daddy I Do (2010), an examination of purity balls, and The Right to Love (2012), about LGBT family rights. Jaye also identifies that she has first hand experience with a sexist and misogynistic Hollywood culture, which caused her to become a feminist. This background is important, because Jaye finds her beliefs challenged while making the documentary.
The Red Pill is a documentary about the men’s rights movement – a movement that has been largely vilified by self-identified progressives, predominately because it includes the notorious Paul Elam, who runs A Voice for Men. Elam is infamous for writing clickbait articles and has been accused of inciting violence against women. Jaye speaks with a number of figureheads in the MRA community, including Warren Farrel who is famous for writing The Myth of Male Power and converting from feminism to MRA activism. Jaye’s motivation was apparently to do a movie about rape culture, but instead discovered the MRA movement and decided to make a movie about that. Okay.
The movie explores the MRA and feminist views on a number of topics, but devotes a significant amount of time to paternity and domestic violence issues, with other topics like suicide, deaths at work, homelessness, male circumcision, and the wage gap being mentioned when it’s convenient or pertinent. I believe the primary reason why paternity suits, DV and male suicide dominate the discussion is because of the statistics that can be used to support arguments – uncomfortable statistics that aren’t often displayed or remembered. While the MRAs hold the bulk of the discussion, Jaye does ask for input from identified feminists – including “Big Red”, although she doesn’t say much.
Without critiquing the movie too much, The Red Pill does seem to have a slant towards supporting balance into the gender discussion – while the MRAs interviewed seek to push an agenda (as do the feminists!), the entire thing is framed within Jaye’s personal journey where, at the very end of the film, she decides not to identify as a feminist anymore. Her perceptions of the world as coloured by a feminist perspective were challenged as the statistics and arguments assaulted her – more men commit suicide than females, more males die at work than females, DV is not exclusively males against females, boys suffer at the hands of DV too, nobody seems to talk about male circumcision while female circumcision is genital mutilation, there are very few DV shelters for men… it goes on and on. Jaye’s personal epiphany seems to come during the discussion of parental rights and the significant portion of fathers who seem to suffer at the hands of the courts. While the MRAs cherrypick cases and rely on unqualified statistics to support their argument, Jaye does her own thought experiment regarding reproductive and parental rights and comes to the conclusion that fathers have very little opportunity to end up with a positive outcome of their own accord – her thoughts are that the mother has a greater opportunity to affect the outcome, or drive it towards the outcome she desires without considering the male.
Critically, Jaye doesn’t really force conclusions on the viewer – statistics and statements are presented without too much fanfare. Jaye even looks sceptical at some claims – it’s evident from her body language. It doesn’t seek to demonise the MRAs she talks to, nor the feminists that she interviews for a counter-argument. But because she includes her personal journey, and how she found herself uncomfortably sympathising with the stories and statistics presented by the MRAs, the documentary doesn’t quite take a neutral tone. But few of these documentary movies ever do – nobody accuses Michael Moore of being objective with Fahrenheit 9/11 after all.
What’s the problem?
Importantly, The Red Pill was a Kickstarter success and a significant number of MRAs backed the project. This, in the eyes of some, indicates it is nothing more than a propaganda piece out to destroy women – despite the fact that the movie is nothing of the sort and doesn’t demonise anybody. I agree that knowing this information about the film is pertinent, but not automatic grounds for dismissal of content.
A petition was started on Change.org, calling for Palace Cinemas not to screen the movie. The aggressive petition states the following:
Film-maker Cassie Jaye follows members of online hate-group ‘The Red Pill,’ known to most as the sexist cesspit of the internet. The general plotline goes something like this: ‘feminist’ Jaye decides to investigate rape-culture, opens the first hit on Google (Red Pill) and before she knows it, she has seen the light and converted to ‘meninism.’
Firstly, Jaye doesn’t follow The Red Pill, a Reddit board which is divorced from most of the MRA community and is even mentioned in the documentary (albeit at the end) as a separate entity shunned by most MRAs. It’s up to you to draw your own conclusion, but Jaye doesn’t interact with the Reddit group. Jaye did not convert to ‘meninism’ and the term isn’t mentioned in connection with Jaye anywhere in the film. The rest of the petition calls out Paul Elam as a racist rape-apologist, therefore this movie condones violence against women.
Vice.com.au, ever the paragon defender of the left, said in their article that the documentary was “bullshit” and had this delightful quote:
In one article about The Red Pill, Breitbart columnist Milo Yiannopoulos proclaimed, “there is a war room, somewhere in Portland today with a vagina-shaped table surrounded by all the leading feminists arguing how to save their movement… [from Cassie Jaye] a self-identified feminist who has serious bona fides both as a filmmaker and a friend to lefty causes like marriage equality.”
Brietbart was also one of the organisations that funded the documentary. Ironic that Yiannopoulos, who I don’t particularly like, actually had a poignant point for once in his career – while the vagina-shaped table is artistic license wrapped in a bit of hate, people legitimately are trying to silence the film to protect their movement. In fact, they succeeded in Australia (at least, in part).
News.com.au, a conservative outlet, posted an article about the ‘banning’. This quote, from the University of Sydney Student Union (USU), represents the duplicity of the argument against the documentary.
“The Red Pill is purported to be a film which highlights issues specific to men in our society,” the USU said in a statement. “The USU is obviously supportive of efforts to bring awareness to, and to combat, issues such as the higher suicide rate for men than women.
“The reality of The Red Pill, however, is much more sinister. This documentary is decidedly anti-feminist and anti-woman, focusing not on the ways in which the systemic issues of patriarchy may also adversely affect men, but instead placing the blame on women and feminism specifically for men’s issues.”
Notably, the USU wanted to be careful to say that they acknowledge some of the issues in the movie – and they picked the one that is objectively factual with zero capacity for dismissal, that being the higher male suicide rate. However, because they’re a university student union and can’t alienate their socially progressive members, they decry the movie as anti-feminist, anti-woman, and blaming feminism when in reality it’s entirely the patriarchy’s fault. The movie actually addresses this by presenting the MRAs who refute this, as well as the feminists who reinforce that it’s the patriarchy’s fault.
The Project, a sort of current events talk panel, hosted Jaye and were, again, actively hostile to the movie. Jaye and Waleed Aly, one of the presenters, had one poignant point in the event. It referred to Rosie Batty, a celebrated anti-DV campaigner. In 2014, Batty’s husband Greg Anderson, who had a history of domestic violence, murdered their son Luke Batty, who was 11. Anderson stuck him in the head with a cricket bat and stabbed him multiple times, and then threatened paramedics with the knife when they approached. Anderson was shot by police and later died in hospital. Despite the involvement of child protective services and the police, Batty and child services believed that Anderson wouldn’t hurt Luke. But he did, and Luke died.
When Jaye questioned why there was such a strong reaction to her documentary, this incident was brought up to highlight how much of a hot topic domestic violence is in Australia. Jaye asked if it was Anderson’s son who passed away, and Aly confirmed. Jaye’s reply: “I didn’t know about that, but that’s interesting, because it shows there are male victims of domestic violence.” The Project panel were shocked into silence – with Aly’s response (“The point I think a lot of people take from that is that the violence was perpetrated by the man in that situation, as it overwhelmingly is…”) attempting to divert from Jaye’s point.
Funnily enough, the allegations levelled at the documentary – that it promotes or condones domestic violence, that it’s attacking women or hates women – doesn’t pan out. Is it anti-feminist? I’d actually sort of agree, to a point – taken as a collective whole, I’d say that it’s critical of hardline modern feminism; that is not feminism aimed at equal rights, but intent on silencing MRA lectures or discussions (as many YouTube videos will attest to). In fact the backlash against the film here in Australia attests to that point – that there is a section of the feminist movement that will do whatever it can to silence the opposing views.
A counter-petition was organised which also includes statements from Palace Cinemas regarding why the film was banned from the cinema.
[…] Although we are yet to see it, we have since become aware of the controversial nature of the documentary. […] The overwhelming number of responses [to the petition], many from regular Kino customers, has really resonated with us and has led us to reconsider the appropriateness of going ahead with the booking.
Much of the feedback that we have received assumes that the choice of film was our curatorial decision rather than that of the cinema hirer, which is potentially damaging to our credibility as we are yet to see the film so cannot stand by its contents in the face of the criticism we are receiving.
It’s unfortunate that it has come to this, however we have come to a decision based on the overwhelmingly negative response we have received from our valued customers. […]
For reference, Kino is a cinema that is part of the Palace Cinemas outfit, and was due to screen the film. Without even knowing about the content of the film (despite the organisers claiming to have made Kino aware of the content prior to booking it), they’ve decided to bow to their customers’ demand – after all, they can’t screen a film that might offend their primary clientele – even if it’s one they probably wouldn’t even bother to go see, because it involves watching it instead of posting on Twitter or Facebook.
But why talk about it now? Much of this happened in 2016, but the discussion keeps going – because even in May 2017, and now into June, people are still afraid to show it.
A Parody of What You Protect
I don’t agree with all of the points made in The Red Pill. I don’t agree that it’s a truly balanced look at the MRA movement. I don’t agree that Paul Elam’s inflammatory comments are benign and posted strictly as a response to the same inflammatory shite posted by sites like Jezebel. I also don’t agree that the documentary is an assault on women and feminism – I don’t think it’s inherently harmful or that screening it promotes misogyny. I think it raises a number of pertinent points about the roles of men in society, and some of the issues that face males that aren’t discussed. I’ve got plenty of friends who suffered first hand at the family courts, and in my professional role I see the human wreckage left behind by those decisions. I’m first on scene when that male suicide occurs – and yeah, in my experience, men do successfully kill themselves more than women, and most of my mental health calls regarding suicide are for men. I’ve been to DV calls where the victim is a male – both at the hands of another male and the hands of a female. It’s hard for some of the topics not to resonate with me.
But regardless of whether you agree with Vice that it’s “bullshit” or think it’s the new gospel, we shouldn’t be afraid to screen it. We shouldn’t need to condemn it as misogynist and sexist just because Paul Elam is in it. We shouldn’t be afraid of dissenting voices. A coordinated effort to silence productions like this shows one thing – fear. For a movement that prides itself on being inclusive and vocal, the progressive far left sure is afraid to hear voices that might say something that doesn’t follow their manifesto. You questioned the patriarchy’s fault for everything? Silence, worm! Off to the gulag with you!
And it’s not just this movie. In this loaded-language Vice article about CAFE’s meeting in Toronto, protesters pulled a fire alarm in order to disrupt a lecture attended by MRAs. A false fire alarm, triggering the response of local fire units, was employed to interrupt a lecture attended by about 60 people. Even within the article itself (where Vice calls their ideas “very, very dumb”) when male suicide rates being higher, the author immediately tries to turn it around by saying “but female attempted suicide rates are 3 times higher than men, what about them?!” This ignores the fact that males are 3 times more likely to actually succeed. It’s a meaningless response. From that same link, females are more likely to be hospitalised for an attempt than males, and females tend to use less violent methods such as poisonings or overdose attempts than males – again, from the same link, males overwhelmingly chose hanging with firearms and poisonings coming a close tie for second place – females predominately choose poisonings with hangings a fairly close second. As a clinician I’ve seen loads of botched poisoning/overdose attempts – particularly when prescription meds are involved.
Why do I mention all of this? Because it all paints a picture of how the extremes of either side are attempting to silence the other side – while screaming that their opposite doesn’t want to listen to them. The media, both liberal and conservative, seek to polarise the issue to the point where there’s no room for middle ground. There’s no room for a discussion – if you aren’t with us all the way, you’re totally against us and are now a bad person. Social media is making this worse – the deliberate and persistent attempts to divide people along political and social ideological beliefs, to turn the world into a black and white, good versus evil game ends up leading us nowhere.
Silencing The Red Pill ultimately gives it more power, more poignancy. It’s the film they didn’t want you to see! It’s yet another pointless battleground, fought with accusations of hate speech and persecution. Who can be more oppressed this time? If everyone had shut up and let the movie stand on its own merits, chances are it would have been quickly forgotten as an oddity. Strangely, nobody seemed interested in hating Jaye when she was making a documentary about LGBT family rights. But now that she’s questioning her feminist ideals? Hang her! Hang her high!
This isn’t being afraid of literal hate speech. Literal hate speech is when someone threatens to kill you because you’re a certain gender or skin colour. None of that gets preached in this documentary. This documentary is a difference of opinions – a counterpoint to the rhetoric that every MRA is a misogynist out to harm women (apparently physically and mentally). It is a counterpoint to the rhetoric that being a male comes with no disadvantages or negative aspects – that it’s all smooth sailing, that there’s nothing to stand in your way, and any problems you might encounter is entirely because of other men. In an age where the progressive far left plays an elabourate game to see who can be the most oppressed, it is a threat – a pathetic one, one that most people probably won’t even notice, but in this hyperactive social media driven environment, it’s one to be destroyed. It prompts an almost anaphylactic reaction – where they actually harm themselves in their effort to destroy something that really doesn’t matter.
If one side has to work hard to silence the other side from even voicing an opinion, then we’re sliding towards an era where thoughtcrime and wrongthink become real concepts… and there are sects on both the far left and far right that are trying their hardest to make this a reality. When Antifa go out to attack Trump supporters and unironically cry when they in turn have violence done unto them, when InfoWars cries about media bias and fake news while perpetuating their own brand of the very same, we know we’re in an era where both are smiling assassins. They claim they’re for truth and justice, but really, they’re out for their own agenda.
It’s time that we stopped fearing opinions and started to analyse them on their own merits – their own supporting information, their own facts and figures. To attempt to understand the perspective of the other side. Simply silencing and abusing the other side, claiming that they’re misogynists, racists, regressive leftists or feminazis leads us into fear. Fear of the other side. Fear of differences of opinions. Fear of deviating from the absolute guidance and will of the group. Fear.
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
– Franklin D Roosevelt, 4th March, 1933.