Paul Elam, you’re no Jonathan Swift
|Paul Elam, in context.|
Yesterday, I posted a set of pretty awful comments from Paul Elam’s A Voice For Men blog, one of which included this lovely line:
I am so fucking tired of this shit, that I really wouldn’t mind shooting a bitch dead in the face.
While even the mildest critiques of MRA dogma tend to get downvoted into oblivion on Paul’s site — see this one, for example (you’ll need to click another link there to even see it) — the “shoot a bitch” comment got more upvotes than down. Which tells you something about Paul’s audience.
Paul has now taken the offending comment down, saying that he hadn’t noticed it before, because he was on vacation. I’ll take his word for this. His explanation for taking it down? “[T]he bottom line,” he writes, “is that I am vehemently against violence.”
Given that Paul has written several posts containing similarly over-the-top fantasies of violence against women, and another recent post mocking female rape victims, this explanation rather strains credulity.
His explanation for these previous posts? Again, back to his post today:
I have satirized violence several times, and it has of course been taken out of context and even drawn criticism from MRA’s and sympathizers. … If people don’t recognize satire or humor then let ‘em stew.
So he’s making three claims about his previous posts containing fantasies of violence towards women: that they’re “satire,” that they’re “humor,” and that the violent quotes have been “taken out of context.”
So let’s deal with all of those claims in regard to Paul’s most notorious “satirical” post. I’ll start with humor.
Here is an example of humor, from comedian Emo Philips:
Always remember the last words of my grandfather, who said: “A truck!”
What’s funny about this — at least the first time you hear it — is that Philips has led us to believe one thing (that we’re going to hear some words of wisdom from his grandfather), but instead flips the script, challenging our expectations by delivering instead the last thing his grandfather shouted before being hit by a truck. (Sorry, explanations of humor are almost always completely unfunny.)
Here is an example of something that is not humor:
Let’s punch some bitches until blood spurts from their noses!
That second example might seem a bit strange. It’s not clever. There’s no twist, no challenging of our assumptions. There’s no incongruity. It’s really just a violent fantasy. Why would anyone claim that it’s “humor,” or satirical?
Well, that’s essentially what Paul Elam has been doing. That quote isn’t from him — I made it up as an example — but it’s essentially a condensed version of Paul’s allegedly “humorous” remarks about domestic violence:. Here’s Paul, in his own words, in a post I’ve criticized before:
In the name of equality and fairness, I am proclaiming October to be Bash a Violent Bitch Month.
I’d like to make it the objective for the remainder of this month, and all the Octobers that follow, for men who are being attacked and physically abused by women – to beat the living shit out of them. I don’t mean subdue them, or deliver an open handed pop on the face to get them to settle down. I mean literally to grab them by the hair and smack their face against the wall till the smugness of beating on someone because you know they won’t fight back drains from their nose with a few million red corpuscles.
And then make them clean up the mess.
Ba-dump TSSH! Not even an instant rimshot makes that funny. There’s no clever twist; it’s just a fantasy about beating and humiliating women.
Is it unfair to quote this passage “out of context?” Here’s a bit more context: those words ran next to a photo of a woman with a black eye, with the caption: “Maybe she DID have it coming.” (See the picture at top right, which is a screenshot from Paul’s site.)
But I suspect that’s not the “context” Elam is talking about. He seems to be referring instead to this, from later in his post:
Now, am I serious about this?
That seems clear. And in one sense this is true: he’s not literally calling for men to organize a “Bash a Violent Bitch Month.”
But let’s look at the comment I just quoted in context, shall we? (Emphasis added.)
Now, am I serious about this?
No. Not because it’s wrong. It’s not wrong. Every one should have the right to defend themselves. …
In that light, every one of those women at Jezebel and millions of others across the western world are as deserving of a righteous ass kicking as any human being can be. But it isn’t worth the time behind bars or the abuse of anger management training that men must endure if they are uppity enough to defend themselves from female attackers.
In other words, he’s not backing off from his advocacy of violence against “violent bitches” because he thinks that this violence is wrong; he’s backing off for purely pragmatic reasons — if you actually “bash a violent bitch” it may get you arrested.
Now, about the question of satire. Satire is defined as “the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.” When Jonathan Swift wrote his famous essay seemingly calling for the Irish to eat their own children, it was satire because he was being bitterly ironic: he didn’t really think anyone should be eating babies, and his essay was in fact intended to mock British authorities and callous attitudes towards the Irish.
By contrast, there’s no irony in Paul’s post: he actually believes that “violent bitches” deserve “a righteous ass kicking,” and he states this quite explicitly.
Since Paul wrote that post, he’s written others that reveal a pretty callous view towards female victims of violence. In one post, which I discuss here, he mocks and blames women for the crime of getting raped, suggesting that women who get drunk and make out with guys are “freaking begging” to be raped, “[d]amn near demanding it”:
[T]here are a lot of women who get pummeled and pumped because they are stupid (and often arrogant) enough to walk though life with the equivalent of a I’M A STUPID, CONNIVING BITCH – PLEASE RAPE ME neon sign glowing above their empty little narcissistic heads.
You can find those quotes, in all their glorious context here.
And in a more recent piece, Paul announces that he doesn’t really care all that much about rape:
I lack any desire to react to rape, especially as currently defined, with the same vengeful repugnance that I would other crimes generally considered heinous.
The fact is that I care about a lot of things more than I care about rape.
He goes on to suggest a curious moral equivalency between women and rapists, saying that he views “the perceived struggles of women with all the concern I have for the struggles of real rapists in the criminal justice system.”
Now, again, there is context here: in the rest of the piece he argues, not very effectively, that rape has been defined in crazy ways by the “hegemonic [feminist] elite,” that “so often nothing more than accusation is needed in order to secure a conviction.” And so on and so forth. You can read the whole thing here. Still, none of this “context” alters the noxious attitudes he’s shown towards women time and time again.
Paul, you’re a terrible comedian, and an even worse satirist. But as a human being?
You’re pretty fucking awful at that too.