Last week, a group of students at the University of Toronto protested against a Men’s Rights Activist, Warren Farrel, from being given a platform by their university.
The event was set to be fairly minor and only a few tweets and a couple of posters acted as publicity for the protest. However, the protest didn’t go according to plan. It was no Poll Tax saga, but police turned up in order to forcibly remove the students from the entrance of the hall. The whole thing was caught on camera by Men’s Rights Activists, with the most “violent” moment consisting of one young woman out of a group of fairly calm students calling somebody “fucking scum”. Hardly a bra-burning bonanza.
So, imagine my surprise when an online witch hunt aimed at one girl, who did nothing provocative during the event, began to unfurl.
The personal details of Emma Claire, a Canadian blogger and something of a friend of mine, were posted and scrutinised in the public eye by the website A Voice for Men. The writing attempted to answer the question on nobody’s lips: “Who is Emma Claire and why is she so hateful?” The article tries to “seal her legacy” so that “anyone who ever does an internet search on her name again will be aware of [her feminism]” the author states. The comment section indicates a consensus between the author and readers, with one of the top-rated comments saying:
“I wonder if she will ever be rejected for a job, and wonder if it was because this came up on a google search for her name? I wonder if in future years, she will regret the event she recorded her ‘legacy’ at.
I wonder, and I hope all of the above happen.” – Steve_85
Claire, 19, attended the rally and was later spotted in a photo by somebody from the website. After hunting down her old internet history, they discovered she had posted faecious tweets about the protest in its lead up. Apparantly, this is all the justification needed in order to publish her personal details online, all in the hope of scuppering future chances at a job.
Incriminating evidence included a couple of blatantly satirical tweets like: “Political position: kill all men, hail Satan” and a separate plea to friends and family to help her save up for a “Misandry” tattoo. I can neither confirm nor deny how fundraising is progressing.
Misandry tattoos are not a laughing matter, the article reiterates: “She at least entertains the idea of permanently marking her skin with that hatred, like a convict signaling gang affiliation”. A piece of Men’s Rights journalism displaying more comedic ignorance than any humourless feminist to date should be mildly amusing. Yet, the article has devastating repercussions.
According to the website, Emma Claire has now been added to “Register-her.com” an online register for “False accusers of rape, murderers, pedophiles, and rapists”. Unfortunately for this satanic teenager, she was refused the opportunity to commit any of these crimes on tape, as she only appeared in the MRA’s video for a grand total of two seconds, doing nothing more than holding a banner next to friends.
The supposed expose of Emma Claire has revealed the dark side of internet vigilantism to counter one of the redeeming qualities of the online world: the prevailing existence of freedom of speech.
A Voice for Men has every right to call protesters whatever they feel like. They can dredge up old tweets by a 19-year-old girl only tenuously involved with the event in question. If they think it helps the brotherhood, they can even blatantly aim to harm the career prospects of a student picked at random, just because he or she has different beliefs. However, if they think they are still champions of free speech, they are wrong.
It is online vigilantism which will slowly draw moderates away from the art of protest, and that applies to those who support the MRA or Dworkin. If a young university student can simply stand next to a group of people and have her details leaked online, her face and full name added to a website containing lists of purported pedophiles and murderers, what hope is there of encouraging the most peaceful of people to protest? It is this vigilantism which will turn earnest protest by passionate people into the plaything of fringe extremists and an elite class who can be absolutely rest assured that their occupational fate won’t be harmed by attending a demonstration of any kind.
It is this kind of vigilantism which is adding stigma to protests and, in the internet age, it is the fear of losing any kind of career prospects which will lead to those normally peaceful protesters not protesting at all.
Nobody should be afraid of holding a banner for fear of feeling the wrath of online dissenters, and those who make would-be protesters feel this way are not champions of free speech, they are champions of fear tactics, and no group on the left or right can call itself a an ally to free speech whilst employing them.
Whatever one’s opinion of the Men’s Rights movement, this kind of behaviour is no different to the artless strategy employed by Red Watch: It should be denounced by anybody who believes in the right for people to protest without anxiety or apprehension.
I have emailed firstname.lastname@example.org, the internet providers for the A Voice for Men website, in order to raise concerns about the legality of posting the details of Emma Claire. For the sake of future protesters who will be targeted for nothing more than holding a sign, I hope that others will do the same. Whether you are feminist, left-wing, or right-wing, I hope that those who believe in freedom of speech will do everything possible to start the fightback against online fear tactics.
(Thanks to madeofmedals.tumblr.com for letting people know the email of the web provider and of course to Emma Claire herself for giving her permission for this article to be written).