The internet, like anything that is inanimate and unconcious, is neutral. The only way a thing can become either a force for good, or bad, is through the way that humans themselves choose to use it and percieve it. The narrative that our technology has far outstripped our ability to use things for good, holds some water, but a quick look into the inventions of the past and we can see we have always feared the new – shout out to those who thought early trains would go at such high speed (30miles and hour) that woman’s wombs would fly out of their bodies!
While the ludite lament is remastered for each new technology the ones that really bring fear and unrest are not those that help us travel, or keep food fresh, but for the way we consume and broadcast information. The invention of the Guttenberg Press in around 1440 set off a series of events in the west, which saw great shifts in society, from the Bible being translated into common languages, the introduction of protestantisim, and the ensuing sectarian fall out which saw the deaths of many, put to death for herasy or butchered in massacres. Later on across the British Isles, with cheaper printing presses and increased literacy, we see a plethora of religious and political sects operating with philosophies that were considered dangerous for the time, gaining more adherants and influence partly due to pamphlet printing. We have at this time the English Civil War, the Bishops War in Scotland, and also the Irish Rebellion and Irish Confederate Wars, which are combined and called the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.
In Men Who Hate Women, Laura Bates dives into internet manosphere and looks at some of the online communities which are have profound effect on real life interactions between men and women, ranging from the irritating to the down right murderous, by way of pick-up artists, incels, men’s rights and suprisingly body building forums.
While to many Bates book is unlikely to be classified as true crime, for me it definately strays into the area criminology which is essential just true crime – the super serious edit. It is a mistake to dismiss what Bates finds while investigating the darker corners of the web as a group of depressed bedroom dwellers, as the real world consequences of these fragile men so poorly adapted to and prepaired for the world around them, is mass shootings which started in 2000 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, the latest having happened a few weeks ago in Plymouth UK.
While Incels are definately the group that has the highest body count, others should not be dismissed. Pick-up artists quite blatantly teach vulnerable men and boys how to be a preditor and assault women, an easy fix, rather than doing the hard work to create real connections founded on respect with others. How do we quantify the harm that comes from that in harrassment, assaults and rape? While these crimes are definately under reported there is also the millions of women who curtail their leisure activities, friendships, relationships and possibly work, because of a fear of ending up yet again on the end of unwanted attention, when you can never tell who will be nice or nasty, or just plain harrassing upon rejection.
Bates book is part of a genre I have decided to name True Dystopia, so unrelenting and difficult to counter are the subculture she maps. However, at the end of the book we do gain some glimmers of hope as to how these incidious and dangerous ideas can be dealt with, and it will take a lot more energy and time than I suspect many realise. It is not the internet per say that has created these groups, but general culture, the internet just allowed communications between their individual members, who have used that opportunity the way any living organisim does, to grow, to become stronger, to reproduce. Therefore to counter act we also have to grown become stronger and better. Many of us while not being part of these groups have allowed ourselves to become complicit in prepairing a fertile soil for them to be planted in, through a general dismissivness and selective blindness when it comes to the inequality experienced by women, which can be particularily focused on women of colour.
Men Who Hate Women is an accessible and vitally important book in understanding and countering these cultures, but it is also imperative that it is not the last book, as we need to do more to understand how we encourage communication that sets up respectful dialog, and thoughtful discussion, and we can’t do that inside the internet if we’re not also doing it outside too.
Perhapse one day the Men’s Rights Movement and it’s various fraternal subcultures will be a thing of the past, as vauge in memory as the War of the Three Kingdoms. Until that happens though it is imperative to remmeber these virus like ideologys are the basis for crime, they set up a framework which absolves it’s adherants (at least to themselves) of criminal behaviour. People have already died, which makes this a most vitally alive, real and a true crime issue.