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

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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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kittehserf
7 years ago

Say, are there good pizza places in Chicago, anyone know?

hellkell
hellkell
7 years ago

NY pizza is thin, greasy, huge slices. Total grab-n-go street food.

trans_commie
7 years ago

@cassandrakitty

I guess the main characteristic of NY style pizza is large, thin slices.

cassandrakitty
cassandrakitty
7 years ago

So basically it is like what gets called NY style here. Good to know!

(London street-food pizza is a pitiful thing. Save yourself the heartbreak and don’t bother.)

hellkell
hellkell
7 years ago

Vancouver BC street-food pizza is the same.

cassandrakitty
cassandrakitty
7 years ago

On Oxford Street they used to sell pizza slices that were square as well as soggy and tasteleless. Square pizza? That’s just not right.

kittehserf
7 years ago

(London street-food pizza is a pitiful thing. Save yourself the heartbreak and don’t bother.)

Ditto the hot dogs. Mum and I got food poisoning from half a hot dog each back in the day.

hellkell
hellkell
7 years ago

Square pizza will always be associated with school lunch pizza for me, especially if the cheese is orange.

kittehserf
7 years ago

Ha, square pizza can be seen in takeaway places everywhere here.

Probably straight out of the supermarket freezers.

trans_commie
7 years ago

I actually don’t mind square pizza. Yes, it’s very strange, but I’ve often found that a lot of square pizzas are also well cooked – kind of like new haven style pizza. Maybe it’s just a coincidence.

cassandrakitty
cassandrakitty
7 years ago

Did I ever tell you guys about the time they had us make pizza in home ec in high school? They made us make it with a base that was like a hard but somehow soggy in the middle brown bread version of a baguette. It’s a good thing my mum taught me to cook so I didn’t have to learn from them.

hellkell
hellkell
7 years ago

Cassandra: that does not sound good. I’m trying to remember what we made in home ec, must not have been too scary because nothing stands out.

Unimaginative
Unimaginative
7 years ago

My big memory from home ec was trying to make a baked, stuffed-mushroom appetizer with canned mushrooms, because our teacher wasn’t able to find fresh ones when she was grocery shopping. We got high marks for effort, but the appetizer failed spectacularly.

kittehserf
7 years ago

Cassandra, that sounds like a takeaway fast food cooking masterclass.

I can only remember having made a tea cake (reasonably successful) and a sponge cake (didn’t rise much) in home eco. I can’t recall which classes I hated more – home eco, woodwork, phys ed or maths.

trans_commie
7 years ago

My sister used to make raw pizza by using avocado “cheese”, raw tomato sauce, and flax seed flour for the crust. And then she made it into a square and “cooked” it in an industrial-strength dehydrator machine. Speaking of that, she has also made actual chocolate pudding with avocadoes in it.

grumpycatisagirl
grumpycatisagirl
7 years ago

That’s Sheryl Sandberg — who thinks the most effective way to advance women’s rights is by getting more women to devote their entire lives (!) to the goal of gaining corporate institutional positions of power

Again, no. Not really. I’d venture a guess that Oliver hasn’t actually read Lean In .

And sorry to interrupt the pizza talk. Carry on; it really is much more interesting.

weirwoodtreehugger
7 years ago

I think that necro was lonely and wanted a little attention. There didn’t seem to be much of a point to him.

Anyway, on to pizza. I approve of all kinds. Thin crust, deep dish, thick crush, square, it’s all good. The important things are cheese and sauce quality. The cheese should be real, not processed cheezfood. The sauce shouldn’t taste sugary. People should focus on that, not regional style identity politics that distract from the real issues!

trans_commie
7 years ago

The sauce shouldn’t taste sugary.

That’s like one of the easiest ways to ruin pizza. I hate it when that happens. X_X

contrapangloss
7 years ago

Garlic chicken pizza with white sauce is amazing.

Most pizza is amazing, really, but I have a soft spot for the white sauce pizzas.

cassandrakitty
cassandrakitty
7 years ago

When the sauce is too sweet it’s like pizza candy. Weird, cheesy, tomato based pizza candy.

kittehserf
7 years ago

That sounds delicious, contrapangloss.

Definitely the sauces shouldn’t have any sweetness. That’s what I chiefly dislike about tomato sauce.

There’s a restaurant at Yosemite that does suprisingly good pizza. Or there was, three years ago, at least.

pecunium
7 years ago

Wow… if a small number of women get to the apex, then we should say all women are equal now: because a woman exploiting inequality = equality.

Up is down, left is right, vacuum is good to breathe.

Namely, that Perfect is the Enemy of Good.

Yes, but not all Goods are good enough.

trans_commie
7 years ago

kitteh, are you talking about the one at Curry Village? They’re not too bad, I guess.

kittehserf
7 years ago

Yes, I think that was the one, Ally! I’m no pizza gourmet but we were all four of us pleasantly surprised by the pizzas there.

Yes, but not all Goods are good enough.

Especially when they’re trolls. 😛

How are you, pecunium?

pecunium
7 years ago

Been busy. Conventions, singing lessons, work, trying to find a bank in this town where I can make a deposit, spinning (contemplating a loom, small: 8 inches wide), cleaning house (we no longer have any permanent houseguests), thinking I might get somewhat caught up tomorrow (HA!).

kittehserf
7 years ago

Busy indeed!

Well, I’m off home – catch you all later if anyone’s online by then. Otherwise, niters!

Octo
Octo
7 years ago

Yes, but not all Goods are good enough.
Well, that’s what progress is for: Eventually reaching good enough. Which is why blocking progress in the name of an aimed for perfect solution is the problem…

Anyway, pizza… well, I’d love to say something about it, but really, it’s not like anybody here would disagree pizza is a very good thing, and I certainly won’t, either! So, uh… I like that one pizzeria near my parents’ town which has a pizza with chicken parts and Indian curry sauce. It’s a nice Italo-Indian mix. Yeah. So much for pizza :p

emilygoddess
emilygoddess
7 years ago

You’d think he could have at least found the thread where people were actually talking about Sandberg.

But then he’s have had to acknowledge that many feminists didn’t agree with Sandberg either, and then how would he use her as a club to beat the rest of us with?

I’m just enjoying the schadenfreude of a necrotroll wandering in and mansplaining the intersection of gender and class to a community with so many red-leaning members.

she has also made actual chocolate pudding with avocadoes in it

The last time I had oral surgery, I kept my energy up by making chocolate milk shakes with avocado in them. They turned out wonderfully smooth and foamy, and you couldn’t really taste the avocado. I hear the pudding is similarly tasty (and I bet the texture is divine), but I’ve yet to make it.

I could really use a good slice of pizza. I haven’t found anywhere in my neighborhood that makes a decent one. Sweet sauce is one of the main problems, actually. Why do they do that?

wordsp1nner
wordsp1nner
7 years ago

I love pizza. Pizza pizza pizza!

Except that served at school. When I was in elementary school, the cafeteria served pizza from Silver Dollar, a pizza place/bar. It was some of the most disgusting I’d ever tasted, and I gave up trying to eat it after a couple of tries.

Well, a few years later, my girl scout troop is having a meeting, and the leader choses to go to Silver Dollar. My sister and I warn our dad, but he’s like, “No, it won’t be that bad. They were probably just skimping on the toppings to make it cheaper.”

No. We went. The pizza tasted like sugared cardboard. The place went out of business a few years later–not soon enough.

On the topic of street food, Portland actually as quite good food carts. The best, though, are at the Beaverton Farmer’s Market on Saturday.

cassandrakitty
cassandrakitty
7 years ago

Best food trucks here? Probably a toss-up between Curry Up Now (burritos stuffed with curry and rice, assorted chaat) and Kung Fu Tacos (tacos with bulgogi).

wordsp1nner
wordsp1nner
7 years ago

Actually, the best pizza I’ve found in the tri-cities is out of a food stall–Esternos Wood-fired pizza.

kittehserf
7 years ago

I could really use a good slice of pizza. I haven’t found anywhere in my neighborhood that makes a decent one. Sweet sauce is one of the main problems, actually. Why do they do that?

Same reason they make hamburger buns so sweet? No idea, but eugh, yuck.

Damn, now I’m remembering the hamburgers I’ve had from fish and chip shops over the years … damn some of them were good.

::stomach gurgles::

cassandrakitty
cassandrakitty
7 years ago

I’m not a fan of sweet bread that’s meant to be eaten with savory things in general. A bread that happens to be sweet as a snack, like stollen, sure, but why make a sandwich with something that sweet?

titianblue
titianblue
7 years ago

@Kittehs, they certainly do have good pizza in Chicago but Chicago pizza is deep-dish. Absolutely lush but polar opposite to New York pizza.

Have to say that my best ever flight home fom the US was when my friends took me for pizza & beer in Chicago before the flight. I fear flying but this time I staggered on board the plane, promptly zonked out & woke as we approached for landing.

Arctic Ape
Arctic Ape
7 years ago

trans commie:

My sister used to make raw pizza by using avocado “cheese”, raw tomato sauce, and flax seed flour for the crust. And then she made it into a square and “cooked” it in an industrial-strength dehydrator machine.

O.o Why do people adopt a diet implicitly designed to exclude anything remotely like pizza, then go into great lengths to create something as close to pizza as they can?

When my mother was young, pizza was something fine and exotic you got from Italian restaurants. Unless you were working-class, like my mom, who went to a lunch cafeteria and ordered a frozen-and-heated pizza imported from some country with more developed food industry. Then she was like, “this pizza thing is so overrated”.

I guess it’s like sushi for my generation, having seen some frozen sushi in a supermarket a few years ago when sushi bars had just become popular here. Reminded me of the “instant sushi” gag in anime film Cowboy Bebop.

LBT
LBT
7 years ago

Man, now I want some pizza. 🙁 My favorite was this monster Chicago-style deep dish back in Texas called Conan’s. I also loved the place for the atmosphere; it was established in the seventies and it REALLY showed. Big heavy oak tables, tons of Frank Frazetta and Julie Bell prints all over the walls of ripped men in loincloths, and tire treads burned into the linoleum where a drunk driver plowed through the front back in the 90s.

I miss Conan’s. At least I have the T-Shirt! (It has scantily clad women, a giant iguana, and planets all over it. SO SEVENTIES.)

kittehserf
7 years ago

titianblue – deep dish, thin, doesn’t matter if it’s good pizza! 🙂

emilygoddess
emilygoddess
7 years ago

Wait, Kittehs, was the question about pizza in Chicago asked in earnest? I though you were making a joke, since Chicago is famous for its pizza. That’s what I get for assuming…

cassandrakitty
cassandrakitty
7 years ago

…Frozen sushi?

Alex
7 years ago

I used to live in Hamilton, Ontario. There was a horrible excuse for pizza there at a place called “Roma Pizza”. It was thick, soggy, and had cold soggy tomato sauce, and nothing else. It was cheap, and also very fucking gross. I could never understand why people seemed to like it so much or why they expected me to be excited when it was ordered. Thankfully, I now live in a city that’s fairly widely known for having excellent pizza and the nightmare of Hamilton’s Roma Pizza exists only in my memories. Chicago deep dish pizza was pretty good. Not as good as one from my city would be if they did deep dish pizza here, but very good anyway.

hellkell
hellkell
7 years ago

There was a joint in my neighborhood growing up called Twin Trees that had the rudest pizza on Earth, and yet the place was always packed. Sweet sauce, gross crust, and bad cheese is not a hit with me.

katz
7 years ago

Add pizza to the list of topics that’s apparently great at getting rid of trolls.

Brooked
Brooked
7 years ago

Yup, we should use pizza and bras as vampire hunters use garlic and crucifixes.

cloudiah
7 years ago

I’m going to New Haven in May, and I am seriously excited about eating some fantastic pizza.

kittehs, if there’s time while you’re in LA, you should try 800 degrees, which is fantastic pizza that you get to customize and they make it in front of you.

kittehserf
7 years ago

Wait, Kittehs, was the question about pizza in Chicago asked in earnest? I though you were making a joke, since Chicago is famous for its pizza. That’s what I get for assuming…

LOL no, I know very little about Chicago and I’m going there in May, so it was a question in earnest. Given how much trouble I have in finding food that isn’t full of hot stuff in the US, I figure I’ve got a reasonable chance of something edible with pizza.

kittehserf
7 years ago

cloudiah – there won’t be time, most likely. I arrive on Sunday, fly to Chicago on Monday, get back to LA on Saturday and fly home Sunday night (I hope you’ll be in town for that brunch we talked about!). This rushed visit really is about Chi-town.

Arctic Ape
Arctic Ape
7 years ago

Yes, I thought the frozen sushi would be noteworthy as culinary fail, but then I didn’t know if it was actually a common thing elsewhere. (I’m not that much into sushi or pizza for that matter.)

pecunium
7 years ago

Pizza… it’s sort of like religion; people tend to stick with the sort they grew up with. I like most pizza (save that NY, as a rule, falls in the second/third rate category. Sauce is too sweet, cheese poorly arranged, and the middle undercooked).

pecunium
7 years ago

I’m not a fan of sweet bread that’s meant to be eaten with savory things in general. A bread that happens to be sweet as a snack, like stollen, sure, but why make a sandwich with something that sweet?

There is an afghani bread, related to naan, made with rasins and meat (lamb or goat, usually). Yum…

But I’m very fond of a lot of foods which mix sweet and savory.

LBT
LBT
7 years ago

RE: pecunium

My tastes in pizza actually changed over time. I used to LOATHE Conan’s Pizza as a child, and then I grew up and was like THIS IS GODSAUCE.