Comment Unsafe Space

The Gair Rhydd Column: Don’t feed the trolls

How do you solve a problem like controversial misogynists dominating our mainstream media?

This column is a paradox. Until now I have actively refrained from commenting on controversial figures and their provocative declarations. I don’t like to give entities like Katie Hopkins or Dapper Laughs the satisfaction of a passionate response. Although they are most probably extremely disinterested in my own personal reactions, the principle is all the same. The more we collectively talk about them, allow ourselves to be infuriated by them, or award them the satisfaction of our acknowledgement, the more codswallop they will inevitably spurt.

Yet, here I am writing about them. However, this is merely a desperate attempt to advocate the culmination of responding to controversial figures and their opinions. So after this, I propose we agree to never speak of it again? Brilliant. Thank you.

The individual that inspired me to disregard my central views on commenting on controversial characters is Roosh V. If you missed the news last week, Roosh is a self-described pickup artist, who has recently acquired international infamy for his incongruous opinions, most notoriously on women and sex. He proposes that living in developing countries is advantageous because the women are easier to manipulate, and that the solution to combatting rape is to legalise it on private property. I have absolutely no interest in responding to such statements and will not bestow valuable word count conversing why his fundamental mind set is skewered.

That said, Roosh V has awoken a concoction of emotions in me that has only ever been done once before. This porridge of feelings was also propagated in November of last year by Dapper Laughs. Dapper Laughs, also a self-described pick-up artist and ‘comedian’, made a livelihood from the humiliation of women and shouting ‘oi oi’ at people in the street. Albeit he had a following, assumedly mainly consisting of those seventeen year old boys who park their Vauxhall Corsa C in the carpark of McDonalds for hours with a McFlurry and wolf whistle at every female that passes, Dapper Laughs was hardly newsworthy. However, after making an extemporaneous rape joke at one of his gigs, he attracted mainstream media attention and gained more interest in a week than the previous three years of making online videos about how to make girls fancy you.

The fundamental message that both men impart is that consent is not a decision but a challenge. They teach that when a woman says no, what she is really suggesting is you need to try harder. The likes of Roosh V and Dapper Laughs are, whether they genuinely believe it or not, encouraging young men to see sexual encounters as a challenge, a game to be won. You lose if you can’t convince her to sleep with you. You lose if she says no. If she does say no, she’s playing it wrong. She is a tease. She ruined the game.

It took me a while to identify the emotion that both men and the response to them stirred within me. I have since assaigned the emotion as frustration. This, and complete and consuming disappointment. Disappointment in their nonsensical ideologies, disappointment in the followers they lead, but primarily in myself, and everyone else, for caring enough about them to be upset by it.

The moment they upset us, or stir a reaction within us, is the moment that they win. The moment you construct a responsive tweet, Roosh V’s Twitter statistics take a boost. The moment you chose to speak about him to a friend, the greater the stir within the population. The moment you choose to focus your column on him, the moment you inspire a Google search that gives his website a hit (don’t look him up, just take my word for it, he’s a prick ). Every time we speak, write, post or think about them, they are winning.

If it was up to me, we’d ignore him. We would stop desperately attempting to talk to him and to understand him, because it is pointless. The moment we begin to discuss why he feels the way he does is the moment we attempt to justify his beliefs, something we must not do. The more Roosh V is asked why he hates women, the greater the suggestion that there should be an adequate response. There isn’t. His desire to create a ‘fat shaming week’ and his belief that ‘anorexic girls make the best girlfriends’, and his supposed general views on consent, women and sexuality are fucked, and that is it. No interview necessary. Further, with the rumour circulating that Roosh refuses to be interviewed by women unless they give him oral sex, it is absolutely, totally, completely, most pleasant to fucking ignore him.

Nonetheless, numerous journalists and documentary makers have attempted understand Roosh. Initially, desparation and curiosity would have perhaps led me to question what must have occurred in Roosh’s life to warrant such a passionate distaste for the empowerment of women, a question he is being asked regularly.

If my twenty years on planet earth thus far has taught me anything, it would be that some people cannot be reasoned with. Roosh V is a prime example of an individual who does not deserve neither the air time nor the word count. Attempting to have a civilised and rational conversation with an individual that verbalises the things that he does will inevitably be as fruitful as trying to discuss international politics with a squirrel.

The line between genuine unpopular opinion and desperate, empty controversy is increasingly blurring every day. Do I think the likes of Roosh V, Dapper Laughs, and even Katie Hopkins genuinely, honestly believe the bile that they spew? No. Perhaps this is a desperate attempt to preserve my diminishing faith in mankind, but I think the desperate desire for any kind of recognition or fame can outweigh the need to be a respectable and rational individual.

Ultimately, I don’t think that Dapper Laughs thinks rape is funny, I don’t believe that Katie Hopkins would really use gunships to stop migrants and I don’t consider Roosh V to honestly fall asleep dreaming of a world where ‘fat shaming week’ is an annual celebration. I think they revel in controversy. I think their personalities require a continual feeding, a kick which they attain from public backlash and upset. Who are they without their controversial opinions? Nobodies? What would they be if they didn’t have someone else to debase, whether that be migrants, or overweight people, or women? Ordinary? Equal? Boring?

Although I doubt the three are avid Oscar Wilde fans, I do believe they live by his words, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”. Imagine a world where nobody talked about them at all. That is how we win. Would Roosh V still hate women and still be a misogynistic arsehole? Probably, but at least he wouldn’t own the satisfaction of our upset.Probably, but at least he wouldn’t own the satisfaction of our upset.

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