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Column: Bullies make for poor allies

Facebook friend posted a message on Thursday about Roosh V. and the ill-fated Return of Kings meet-up event. In it, he said that, while the event was canceled, men who had planned to participate were instead going to ”...’pick up’ (read: coerce and rape) women at nearby bars.”

I asked the poster, who thinks of himself as an ally for women, for his source on the information, and instead of supplying a link or a name, he became defensive and ultimately he deleted my comments.

Later that same day, the U.K. tabloid website Daily Mail published an article with the headline “Not so cool now! Pro-rape pick-up artist pictured in a sweat-stained T-shirt at the door of his mother’s home (where he lives in the BASEMENT!).” The included photo shows the self-identified men’s rights activist speaking to police at his door wearing – gasp – a T-shirt and shorts. No mention was made of how they had determined he lived in his mother’s basement.

As a journalist, a sociologist and a woman who needs feminism, these actions from so-called supporters make me just as angry as the misogynistic things found on the Return of Kings website.

It’s been a long time since the United States (as a society) has engaged in thoughtful debate. Instead, we spend our time spreading propaganda, beating our chests and yelling over our opponents.

This isn’t the way to change minds and further society. In the case of the Facebook post, it was the spread of misinformation. In the case of the Daily Mail article, it was bullying.

These are the sort of tactics people use when they want to vilify a person, group or idea. It doesn’t help us create equity or unity. It doesn’t lift our ideas into the public sphere in a positive way. Instead, it creates hurt. It creates a sense of “us against them.” It gives us that righteous feeling of combating the enemy.

And when we’re combatants, there has to be a winner and a loser.

Maybe that sounds like a good thing. Some of you reading this might be thinking “well, they’re my enemy.” I can understand that line of thinking, but if history has revealed anything to us, it’s that being the loser is an almost hereditary feeling. Think back to last year’s divisive Confederate flag issue, or the circumstances that created the staunch nationalistic feelings in 1930s Germany.

Being the biggest bully on the playground doesn’t solve the problem, it simply ensures that it will remain a problem for generations. What we should be doing is holding honest discussions on the things that divide us. We should master our tempers when someone holds beliefs contrary to our own and we should continue to explore ways to find a middle ground.

It’s easy to say that “they” won’t listen. That there’s no middle ground and that even thinking that there could be is idealist at best.

But again, this just widens the gap. I’ll concede that there will be people who cannot be reasoned with, but if you’re staunchly refusing to try, you might be one of them.

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