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How bad ideas get started: The “Apex Fallacy,” the “Frontman Fallacy,” and the murderer Marc Lepine

Would blabla
Would MRAs still be into the Apex Fallacy if boards of directors looked like this?

So some Men’s Rightsers are up in arms because the powers that be at Wikipedia just deleted a page devoted to a phony “logical fallacy” invented by a friend of Paul Elam. According to the now-deleted Wikipedia page, “the apex fallacy refers to judging groups primarily by the success or failure at those at the top rungs (the apex, such as the 1%) of society, rather than collective success of a group.”

In other words, it’s a convenient way for MRAs to hand-wave away any evidence that men, collectively, have more power than women. Mention that men hold the overwhelming majority of powerful positions in the worlds of politics and business, and, I don’t know, podiatry, and MRAs will shout “apex fallacy” and do a little victory dance. Rich and powerful dudes don’t count, because of poor and powerless dudes!

On the Wikipedia discussion page devoted to the question of deleting the apex fallacy entry, one Wikipedia editor – who voted “strong delete” – noted that

This is men’s rights activist astroturfing. The guy above [in the discussion] isn’t posting examples of its usage because they’re all on websites showcasing brutal misogyny and hateful ignorance, like A Voice for Men.

He’s got a point. When I did a Google search for the term, my top ten results (which may be different than your top ten results, because that’s how Google works) included posts on The Spearhead; The Men’s Rights subreddit; Genderratic (TyphonBlue’s blog); Emma the Emo’s Emo Musings; and a tweet from the little-followed Twitter account of someone calling himself Astrokid MHRA. In other words, five of the ten results were MRA sites, several of them with explicit links to A Voice for Men. (That “MHRA” is a dead giveaway.)

The top result, meanwhile, linked to a post on the blog of the delightful Stonerwithaboner, who doesn’t consider himself an MRA, as far as I know. But he’s still kind of a shit, and he did recently confess to being (as I suspected) the person who was going around posting comments on manosphere sites as David H. F*cktrelle, Male Feminist Extraordinaire ™.

So, in other words , I think it’s fair to say that the term “apex fallacy” has not yet achieved academic or philosophical respectability just yet.

The deleted Wikipedia page attributes the term “apex fallacy” to Helen Smith, a psychologist who is a longtime friend to A Voice for Men, and dates it to an interview Smith gave to the odious Bernard Chapin in 2008.

But the idea seems to be a simple reworking of a bad idea that’s been floating around in Men’s Rights circles for a lot longer than that.

Back in the 1990s, New Zealand Men’s Rights Activist Peter Zohrab came up with what he called the “Frontman Fallacy,” a notion he spread via the alt.mens-rights newsgroup on Usenet and elsewhere; the term has been widely adopted in Men’s Rights circles since then. As Zohrab defined the term,

the Frontman Fallacy is the mistaken belief that people (men, specifically) who are in positions of authority in democratic systems use their power mainly to benefit the categories of people (the category of “men”, in particular) that they belong to themselves.  

So, in other words, if you mention that men hold the overwhelming majority of powerful positions in the worlds of politics, business, and podiatry, MRAs will shout out “frontman fallacy” and do a little victory dance. Rich and powerful dudes don’t count, because of poor and powerless dudes!

Like the extremely similar “apex fallacy,” this idea is rather too silly and facile to count as a real fallacy, but it has proven quite popular with MRAs. Looking through the google search results for “frontman fallacy,” I see links to a wide assortment of MRA sites using the term, including AVFM, Genderratic, Stand Your Ground, Backlash.com, Toysoldier, Mensactivism.org, Pro-Male Anti-Feminist Tech, Fathersmanifesto.net, Mensaid.com, and some others. Like “apex fallacy” it hasn’t made much progress outside the Men’s Rights movement.

What’s interesting about this to me is that this is not the only bad idea that Peter Zohrab has ever had.

Indeed, Zohrab had some extremely bad ideas about Marc Lepine, the woman-hating antifeminist who murdered 14 women at the École Polytechnique in Montreal in 1989.

While Zohrab, to my knowledge, never explicitly justified Lepine’s killings, he described the massacre in one notorious internet posting as an “Extremist Protest Against Media Censorship.” Of Lepine himself, he wrote

I bet you don’t know he wasn’t a misogynist – because you have been conned by the media (as usual). In fact, he was a Men’s Rights activist (albeit an extremist one), and one of the things he was protesting about was media censorship.

Zohrab went on to say that it was clear from Lepine’s writings – or at least writing alleged to have been written by him —  that

he [was] against Feminists — not against women — he clearly states that he is protesting against various issues which are aspects of Feminist sexism.

Indeed, Zohrab seems not only sympathetic towards Lepine’s “cause” but seems to feel that he was being unfairly misrepresented:

The write-ups on Marc Lepine concentrate on character-assassination. They take things out of context, in the same way that fathers are slandered in the divorce/family court, in order to deprive them of custody or access. …

Marc Lepine was not only not sexist, as the media stated – he was actually fighting sexism!

Lots of MRAs love talking about the “frontman fallacy” or the new and improved “apex fallacy.” They don’t seem much interested in talking about Zohrab himself.

Like it or not, MRAs, this man is one of the leading figures in the emergence of the Men’s Rights movement online, and in the intellectual history of the movement, such as it is.

If I were a bit more paranoid, I might wonder if the emergence of the “apex fallacy” was some sort of an attempt as a rebranding, an attempt to push the “frontman fallacy” and its creator, the old, odd duck Peter Zohrab, with his embarrassingly sympathetic feelings toward a mass murderer of women, down that famous memory hole.

P.S. Don’t read the comments to that MensActivism.org posting, unless you want to get really depressed.

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titianblue
titianblue
8 years ago

So really it’s the apex fallacy fallacy.

Chie Satonaka
Chie Satonaka
8 years ago

The write-ups on Marc Lepine concentrate on character-assassination.

Yeah, who cares that he killed 14 people?! The media should have focused on his positive traits.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

I mean, if someone murders a bunch of women, obviously he might have a valid reason. Why didn’t the media search for that reason and explain it sympathetically? Misandry!

augochlorella
augochlorella
8 years ago

Did Marc Lépine actually identify as an MRA, or did they claim him after the massacre? I know Thomas Ball was a MRA. Do we know of any other violent criminals who were MRAs? This may be relevant for a project I want to work on this summer.

Also this is what happened when I tried googling Marc Lépine. Gross.

Bagelsan
8 years ago

“Murderer” is a little strong; they were only women!

Aaliyah
8 years ago

“the apex fallacy refers to judging groups primarily by the success or failure at those at the top rungs (the apex, such as the 1%) of society, rather than collective success of a group.”

Yes, because the fact that a disproportional number of a particular group is found at the top rungs of society indicates nothing about that group’s privilege. And obviously feminist theories only point to how men overall are doing in the top rungs of society – they never focus on things like social privilege and institutionalized privilege across all classes.

Also, this definition is fraught with ill-defined words. What does it mean to judge a group in this context? How are success and failure defined?

Cthulhu's Intern
8 years ago

Couldn’t this “apex fallacy” also be used against them? The way they always focus entirely on their “victories” but completely ignore how they almost never do shit about anything?

Aaliyah
8 years ago

Let’s do a little google search for Marc Lepine:

“Marc Lépine is a feminist hero | A Voice for Men”

LOL

Aaliyah
8 years ago

Couldn’t this “apex fallacy” also be used against them? The way they always focus entirely on their “victories” but completely ignore how they almost never do shit about anything?

Perhaps, but in any case, there’s another way it can be used against them.

Many MRAs like to point out the fact that women at the top rungs of society are privileged and so aren’t oppressed by sexism. In fact, I’ve seen them constantly say that society is biased against men because many women have power. But then they completely ignore women of color, trans* women, women in poverty, etc.

Hmmm…

cloudiah
8 years ago

This appears to be the “reputable source” they are using to cite the term.

Cthulhu’s Intern and Aaliyah, there you go again, applying logic to MRA arguments.

cloudiah
8 years ago

Based entirely on this comment from here:

As I mentioned on another forum, if you would like to understand the whys and hows of the war on men, google the following:
1) Apex fallacy
2) Glass cellar
3) Unbridled credentialism (run by women for women)
4) Feminine imperative

Men are going Galt, also known as Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW). Like women, we are simply dropping out of tradition. Marriage rates are in termininal decline because we are not interested in thankless, risky, unrewarded lifetime servitude.

LOL.

Ian
Ian
8 years ago

They are just making up names for over generalization, applying traits to a population based on a skewed sample. The irony is that MRAs are constantly over generalizing. And as someone above pointed out the feminist movement is trying to bring awareness to women’s issues that affect a broad number of socio-economic classes.

The whole point of discussing the apex is that a low number of women at the top means that there is a lower number of women that have the basic economic opportunities and support that men often have. Its pointing out an effect of a more general trend and not pointing out a small sample and trying to draw conclusions to the population, ie over generalization.

augochlorella
augochlorella
8 years ago

Glass cellar? Pfffffft.

cloudiah
8 years ago

David, when you mentioned podiatry, were you aware of this?

😀

Aaliyah
8 years ago

Feminine imperative

*wall of laughter*

WTF?

bahumbugi
bahumbugi
8 years ago

Oh lord, from the “Marc Lepine is a feminist hero”

Understanding this throws a bit of light on why he took up an assault rifle and murdered 14 women. But that’s not the public narrative, that a MAN (evil) shot women (good) because he hated feminism, (and therefore, hated women). That simplistic lie is the story we are bludgeoned with every year.

This crime occured 23 years ago. Taslina Nasreen has just done her level best to attach to the men’s rights movement; the child from an abusive upbringing, who, so lost and distorted by belief system inculcated by an abusive parent ended up shooting and killing 14 women, then himself.

When women are abused mercilessly and respond with violence/self-defense against their abusers – misandry!

A man raised in an abusive household who was “inculcated” by a violent father commits mass murder – heroism!

Tulgey Logger
Tulgey Logger
8 years ago

The term “MHRA” never fails to make me smile.

“‘Men’s Rights Activism’ just isn’t cutting it! We need something a little extra. Something with pizazz. Something with punch. Hey, I know! We’ll call it Men’s HUMAN Rights Activism!”

Regarding that ridonkulous apex fallacy, I had always assumed it was Warren Farrell’s invention. Every day’s a school day.

Bee
Bee
8 years ago

So really it’s the apex fallacy fallacy.

Apex fantasy?

P.S. Don’t read the comments to that MensActivism.org posting, unless you want to get really depressed.

Oh wow. Why did I not believe this? I was kind of buying into the conspiracy theory ideas David laid out, and then I remembered that MRAs would first have to think that it’s in poor taste to lionize a misogynistic mass shooter, when in fact this is something they’re totally comfortable with.

TRTina
TRTina
8 years ago

Hitler loved his dog!

johnnykaje
8 years ago

It can also conveniently be used not only to disregard men who excel, but also women.

“If women are so bad at (something), what about (insert string of women who excel at the previous something)?”

“APEX FALLACY!”

thekidwiththereplaceablehead

A. If the argument is “people in positions of power are mostly men”, then “but not all men are in positions of power” is not really a response. Often the issue at hand is, in fact, the composition of the apex.

B. Men as a group are doing quite well.

And despite sheaves of equal-pay legislation, women get paid less than men for comparable work. That is partly because they often work in different fields, and many of them are part-timers with lower hourly rates. But even in identical jobs they earn slightly less than men from the beginning, and as time goes by the gap gets ever bigger. Across the OECD it now averages 18%.

Women also participate less the workforce. 64% to 83%, OECD average.

From those fucking communists at The Economist.
http://www.economist.com/node/21539928
The whole special report is worth reading.

C. Ever notice how when men are doing worse in some area it’s because of reverse sexism, but when it’s women doing worse it’s because men and women are just biologically different?

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

LOl at “Apex fantasy,” Bee. When will they stop trying to make shit up and realize that words mean things? Probably not in my lifetime, but I can dream.

The MRM has some lovely heroes, don’t they? Lepine, Sodini, Ball, all totally worth looking up to.*

ALL the sarcasm for the painfully literal MRAs who will come to say that they don’t hold up these dudes as heroes.

titianblue
titianblue
8 years ago

Apex phallus-y!

Tulgey Logger
Tulgey Logger
8 years ago

That was phallacious, titianblue.

Aaliyah
8 years ago

hellkell, don’t forget Brevik!

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

Aaliyah: Whoops, I did forget Brevik. So many assholes, so little time.

Pro-Equality MRA
Pro-Equality MRA
8 years ago

Agreed partially with this post. Just saying “apex fallacy” is itself not an argument, but I also would say that if you are just looking at the CEOs, you may be mising other salient points.

http://www.reddit.com/r/MensRights/comments/1a2vhy/glass_cellar_vs_glass_ceiling_85_of_the_worst/

Like I’ve said before, I don’t think feminism is completely wrong, and we can gain from pointing out that female top brass are uncommon. But you gain a one sided picture- and this is where MRAs/MHRAs come in. We need both sides of the coin.

Fade
8 years ago

Do you have some kind of point, pemra? That’s not even what apex fallacy was talking about in the OP. It was that lots of MRAs deny male privilege because most men aren’t CEOs.

Lady Stark
Lady Stark
8 years ago

Don’t forget about the emerging “Reality Fallacy” which states that “any instance of reality that does NOT make women look bad is not, in fact, actual reality.”

Lady Stark
Lady Stark
8 years ago

“‘Men’s Rights Activism’ just isn’t cutting it! We need something a little extra. Something with pizazz. Something with punch. Hey, I know! We’ll call it Men’s HUMAN Rights Activism!”

Might I suggest Men’s Right’s Jacuzzi Activist? Why? Because JACUZZI.

Aaliyah
8 years ago

They are just making up names for over generalization, applying traits to a population based on a skewed sample. The irony is that MRAs are constantly over generalizing. And as someone above pointed out the feminist movement is trying to bring awareness to women’s issues that affect a broad number of socio-economic classes.

The whole point of discussing the apex is that a low number of women at the top means that there is a lower number of women that have the basic economic opportunities and support that men often have. Its pointing out an effect of a more general trend and not pointing out a small sample and trying to draw conclusions to the population, ie over generalization.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Bee
Bee
8 years ago

Pemra totes has a point. It’s too bad feminists have never supported an intersectional look at kyriarchy or anything, so instead we are forced to go to the MRM to gain a second one-dimensional look at society’s problems.

genderneutrallanguage
8 years ago

If Lepine is a symbol of “Men’s Rights” then Solianas is a symbol of Feminism. If you want to compare crazy, you need to compare crazy to crazy. In the SCUM manifesto Solainas advocated keeping 10% of men as sex slaves and murdering the rest.

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

Like I’ve said before, I don’t think feminism is completely wrong, and we can gain from pointing out that female top brass are uncommon. But you gain a one sided picture- and this is where MRAs/MHRAs come in. We need both sides of the coin.

Not when the MRA side of the coin is made of utter hateful shit, we don’t.

Why don’t you fuck off with your mealy-mouthed puling bullshit? You keep repeating this mess, and doing that will not make it true, no matter how many times you do it.

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

Zombie Solanas! BINGO!!!!

Uh, no dude. Solnas didn’t kill anyone, much less scores of people. FUCK OFF.

Gillian
Gillian
8 years ago

You know, it’s worth going over to the reddit page in the link and looking through the comments. Skim over all the bunched panties on the part of the MRAs there (of course) and you will find that the user “c0untered” (who took the lead in flagging the entry for deletion) has a pretty lucid (and therefore quite useful) unpacking of relative privilege in zir reasoning behind recommending that deletion.

Of course the MRAs there would rather mansplain why zie is wrong, along the “I know you are but what am I?” lines (with a dip into who is physically capable of doing more than 3 pull-ups or running 3 miles in less than 15 minutes), than engage with the idea of relative privilege and why the “apex fallacy” is little more than a sloppy strawman cover for a questionable ideological stance, but no one expected more of them, did they?

emilygoddess
8 years ago

The fact that women have been trying forever to get into high-risk professions like coal mining, construction, the military, etc. and have been met mainly with resistance from the men in those fields doesn’t register with these “class cellar” folks at all, does it?

Women try to work in high-risk jobs: “OMG, this is men’s work, you won’t even be able to do it, *sexual harassment and quips about setting up a cot at the front of the mine*”

Women don’t work in high-risk jobs: “OMG glass cellar expendable males bonbons princess cupcake MISANDRY!!!”

emilygoddess
8 years ago

@genderneutrallanguage there’s a big difference between the number of feminists who want to claim Solanas, and the number of MRAs who want to claim Lepine. Also, what Hellkell said.

Fade
8 years ago

If you want to compare crazy, you need to compare crazy to crazy

Thank you for your ableism, please don’t troll again.

Pro-Equality MRA
Pro-Equality MRA
8 years ago

@Bee- Okay, but my issue is that feminism still has a monopoly on *gender*. Also, other equality movements are often sympathetic to feminism, and not MRAism, because feminists have controlled gender studies for about a century now.

I might even argue that it is a GOOD thing to place MRAs and feminists in somewhat antagonistic opposition. They make each other question their ideology and think about the biases inherent in any given ideological movement.

Chie Satonaka
Chie Satonaka
8 years ago

Hitler loved his dog!

And he was a vegetarian!

Bob Dole
Bob Dole
8 years ago

Off-topic: remember that conversation we had about MRA’s hijacking left-wing concerns to advance their own decidedly right-wing agenda? Well here’s another example (towards the end): http://www.the-spearhead.com/2013/04/29/a-poisonous-atmosphere/

And I wonder what ol’ Pricy would deem “unnatural” within human action…

Fade
8 years ago

Dude, we’ve been over this before. Feminism has a monopoly on gender* because women are oppressed based on gender. Men aren’t. Hence, there needs to be more correction in terms of equality on the women’s side.

*not that it only focuses on women’s issues, but most of it’s focus is there.

gillyrosebee
gillyrosebee
8 years ago

there’s a big difference between the number of feminists who want to claim Solanas, and the number of MRAs who want to claim Lepine. Also, what Hellkell said.

Not to mention the number of feminists who will actively disavow her, but hey we don’t get to say what ideas define our movement, do we? That’s for others to decide for us so that our girly little brains don’t get overtaxed.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
8 years ago

This CD seems to be stuck on repeat.

neuroticbeagle
neuroticbeagle
8 years ago

I might even argue that it is a GOOD thing to place MRAs and feminists in somewhat antagonistic opposition. They make each other question their ideology and think about the biases inherent in any given ideological movement.

Except that feminism already questions its ideology and has discussions about the best way to bring about equality which you would know if you actually took a gender studies class.

Mras whine, dox and threaten anyone who questions their “ideology” (delusions) which you would know if you read this website.

Chie Satonaka
Chie Satonaka
8 years ago

If Lepine is a symbol of “Men’s Rights” then Solianas is a symbol of Feminism.

If you’re trying for a gotcha, at least spell her name right.

MRAs openly embrace murderers and terrorists like Marc Lepine, George Sodini, Thomas Ball, and Scott Evans Dekraai. They praise them. They call them heroes. They discuss why their violence was justified. They call them activists.

gillyrosebee
gillyrosebee
8 years ago

Okay, but my issue is that feminism still has a monopoly on *gender*. Also, other equality movements are often sympathetic to feminism, and not MRAism, because feminists have controlled gender studies for about a century now.

Feminism has a “monopoly” on gender only to the degree that gender was not an area of inquiry until feminists created it by beginning to systematically explore the nature of gender categorization and its consequences. If you done actual work in gender theory (as opposed to just reading some blogs) this would not be news to you. Only women have a gender, in the same way only people of color have a race, because the history of Western culture has been one in which white, cis, hetero men were settled as the normative condition from which all else was defined as other.

Feminists “control” gender studies in roughly the same way that women have “controlled” such professions as nursing and teaching, because men were largely not interested. And who can blame them, for the most part. To paraphrase Sinclair, it’s difficult to get someone to understand something, when zir privileged position in society depends upon zir not understanding it!

Lady Stark
Lady Stark
8 years ago

@Bob Dole

Sorry for OT and Derail, but I checked out your link and had to share this gem. I was wondering how he was going to blame air pollution on feminism, but he did it.

I see human-caused environmental damage as linked to the careless attitude we display toward natural human social institutions and functions, such as the family and procreation.

Baaaaaahaaaaaaahaaaahahahahaha!!! Damn that Price has a reach on him.

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