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Chris Cantwell, Men’s Rights Activists, and right-wing fantasies of “defensive” violence

Chris Cantwell got a sympathetic hearing from Karen Straughan on YouTube after being charged with violence in the Charlottesville protests

By David Futrelle

Yesterday, “Crying Nazi” Chris Cantwell was booted off of Gab for making just a few too many threatening comments about leftists.

Having already been kicked off of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even OKCupid, Cantwell’s Gab account was his last toehold in social media. And now that, at least temporarily, is gone.

The comments have been deleted, so it’s not clear exactly what Cantwell said that was measurably worse than any of the other horrific things he’s said on the site, which provides a weird sort of safe space for Nazis and other terrible people banned from Twitter.

According to antifascist organizer/researcher Emily Gorcenski, Cantwell had declared “that future shooters should be targeting leftists for murder,” adding that Cantwell’s wording in the posts was quite “specific, and it is evident that in the post he is implying *me* personally.”

Cantwell, in a blog post, admitted to writing some Gab posts on the Christchurch mosque attacks “which I hoped danced right up against the line of what is allowed on Gab.” While Cantwell hates Muslims as much as the next unhinged, gun-obsessed neo-Nazi, he has said more than once that he doesn’t “think shooting up houses of worship is a sound strategic move for White Nationalists.” In his now-deleted Gab comments, he says, he merely suggested that there were other people who “would make more worthy targets for people who saw no peaceful solution to their problems.”

In an email to Newsweek, he declared that it was “beyond ridiculous” that “anyone familiar with my thinking as of late” would think he was “egging on terrorism or assassinations.”

Gosh, how could anyone think that a guy who stockpiles guns, threatens journalists, who once openly admitted he’d thought about going on a murderous rampage against cops, who declared that the murder of Heather Heyer by a Nazi terrorist in Charlottesville was “justified,” and who talks constantly about how cool it would be if various people he hates got murdered would actually be endorsing terrorism in comments that apparently sounded a lot like direct threats?

But Cantwell, like many of those with violent impulses, likes to think of himself as the real victim — and to portray whatever violence he fantasizes about, or threatens, or even engages in, as purely defensive measures. In a 2017 podcastwith the ominous title “I Almost Committed a Hate Crime,” he declared that when he runs across a non-English speaking foreigner in the United States, he considers them

a fucking threat. You know? I feel like my country is being fucking invaded. That … I’m being outbred. That guy has probably fucking 12 kids at home.

Cantwell even tried to play the victim after a warrant was issued for his arrest after he was caught on video pepper-spraying antifacist counterprotesters at the Unite the Right march in Charlottesvile. In the video that earned him the “crying Nazi” nickname, Cantwell tearfully addressed police, saying that he wanted to turn himself in but was “afraid you’re going to kill me.” He tried to cast not only himself but all of the right-wing marchers in Charlottesville as the real victims. “We are trying to make this peaceful, we are trying to be law abiding,” he insisted. “Our enemies will not stop.”

Even before his turn towards outright fascism, Cantwell loved to talk about the righteousness of allegedly defensive violence. Back them though, he aimed his venom not at leftists, immigrants or Jews but at cops, declaring in one Facebook post that it would be “morally justified” for any driver to shoot and kill any police officer who pulled them over for a traffic stop.

Ironically, I learned about Cantwell’s recent misfortune as I was pondering the similar claims of victimhood regularly indulged in by many of those associated with a website Cantwell used to write for regularly, the men’s rights hate site A Voice for Men.

Back in its heyday, AVFM specialized in a kind of violent rhetoric that seemed calculated to scare opponents to the point of fearing for their own personal safety without quite crossing the line that could get AVFM sued for harassment or incitement. AVFM founder Paul Elam didn’t threaten anyone with violence directly, but he fantasized often, and in some detail, about doing violence to women. He liked to talk vaguely about “inflicting … pain” on his opponents, telling one critic that “I find you so pernicious and repugnant that the idea of fucking your shit up gives me an erection.”

The closest AVFM got to direct incitement was a manifesto it hosted on-site for several years urging men to firebomb courthouses and police stations to protest alleged unfairness in family courts; they took it down quietly, with no explanation or apology, shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing.

Elam’s colleagues at AVFM were not always quite so subtle in their rhetoric as he is; longtime AVFMer Jack Barnes once falsely accused me of doxing him and told me that if anything happened to his family he would drive directly to my apartment for “a face to face in person discussion” that would end up with him “stomping a mud hole in your fucking ass.”

But like Cantwell, those at AVFM liked to portray themselves as the victims — casting the violence they “warned” their opponents of as fundamentally defensive in nature. In Elam’s infamous post about what he called “Bash a Violent Bitch Month,” for example, the violent beatdown of this hypothetical “bitch” he described in such loving detail was presented as a justifiable defense against her violence.

The direct threats against me from Barnes were cast as a sort of hypothetical future revenge if something happened to his kids as a result of something he — falsely, and without an iota of evidence — accused me of doing. (I’ve taken entirely non-hypothetical steps to protect myself.)

I started thinking about the habit of Elam and others associated with his site’s tendency to project their own violent fantasies onto their opponents a couple of nights ago, after YouTube’s algorithms decided I needed to rewatch a Vice News video from 2014 profiling some of the antifeminist women associated with AVFM.

Watching the video I was struck again by how eager the AVFM crew — male and female — were to portray themselves as the innocent victims of feminist violence. Well, hypothetical violence, at least. While no feminists ever raised a hand to them, AVFM spent many years loudly proclaiming that, well, they probably would — and soon — talking about this hypothetical violence towards them at a time when AVFM and those associated with it were themselves pumping out violent and threatening rhetoric on a daily basis.

In the Vice video, longtime AVFM ally Karen Straughan — the YouTube blabber known as Girl Writes What — asserted that the popular (and I should say, completely accurate) perception of Men’s Rights activists as rape apologists made “the idea of violence against us … palatable.”

And she made clear how much she relished the role of hypothetical martyr, showing the Vice reporters a logo she’d come up with for her gang of so-called Honey Badgers, pointing out that it was in the shape of “a target with a Honey Badger head so that the feminists would know where to point the gun.”

Back in those days, AVFM boss Elam was even more eager than Straughan to claim the hypothetical victim mantle, talking again and again about what he saw as the imminent threat of violence against him and his crew.

In one 2012 rant on the subject, Elam falsely accused a number of feminist writers — among them Jessica Valenti, Amanda Marcotte, and me — of “encourag[ing] violence” against MRAs like him, “feeding … a steady diet of histrionic distortions, irrational fear and calculated misrepresentations of the men’s movement” to “already violence prone [feminist] ideologues.”

“Physical violence against the MRM [Men’s Rights Movement] on the streets is on the way,” he declared, suggesting that Straughan herself could well be a target.

Let’s just repeat that for emphasis:

Physical violence against the MRM on the streets is on the way

It’s been more than six years since Elam made that prediction, and the wave of anti-Men’s Rights street violence has not materialized. And it seems unlikely that it ever will. After a few minutes in the mainstream media spotlight in 2014, the Men’s Rights movement has largely faded from view as new and even more alarming misogynistic movements — from the incels to the alt-right — have arisen, taking many of the worst ideas from the Men’s Rightsers and somehow making them even worse.

And while MRAs themselves largely kept to rhetorical rather than real world violence, those who followed them — and who in many cases took inspiration from them — were not quite so circumspect. Incels not only fantasize about going on shooting rampages; several have actually gone and done it. And there has been a veritable orgy of alt-right violence over the past few years — from the street violence of groups like the Proud Boys to horrendous mass murders like the Christchurch shootings only a few days ago.

A Voice for Men has been connected, at least indirectly, to some of the worst of this violence — but we’re not talking about anything as indirect as six degrees of separation.

Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in cold blood and would have killed many more had he gained access tot he sorority that was his main intended target, was a reader of PUAhate, a site whose most famous moderator was regular AVFM contributor “Aaron Sleazy.

Former AVFM “social media director” Janet Bloomfield — aka Judgy Bitch, real name Andrea Hardie — went on to be a regular guest on Ethan Ralph’s so-called Killstream; in 2017 an editor at Ralph’s website The Ralph Retort murdered his father — stabbing him to death in the heat of an argument over far-right conspiracy theories.

And then there’s Cantwell himself — who, as a former contributor to AVFM, has zero degrees of separation from the site. Cantwell wasn’t yet a Nazi when he wrote for AVFM back in 2014, but he was certainly a raging asshole, and by that point he had already started justifying murder on supposedly political grounds — his Facebook post on the morality of killing traffic cops came in 2012. And in March 2014, while he was a contributor to AVFM, he penned a defense of violent revolution in which he pur forward a “proposal” for

free men and women to forcefully defend themselves against agents of the State. To kill government agents who would otherwise use force against them, until their jobs simply become so dangerous that they seek other lines of work.

This was the guy that AVFM decided to embrace at the same time Karen Straughan was joking about putting a target on the Honey Badger logo “so that the feminists would know where to point the gun.”

Despite all of his violent rhetoric, Cantwell hasn’t murdered anyone. But he did show up to Charlottesville with a small armory of guns which he proudly displayed to the Vice camera crew covering the right-wing march. Luckily, he didn’t make use of any of these weapons during the actual protests, but he did take pepper spray, and ultimately pled guilty to two counts of assault and battery for using that spray on two antifascist protesters. Despite the plea, I’m sure he’d still insist he was the innocent victim here.

Ironically, for all her alleged fear of hypothetical feminist violence against Men’s Rights activists, Straughan was still fond enough of her former ATFM colleague, and apparently so unbothered by his embrace of violent fascism, that she offered him a sympathetic hearing in a 2017 YouTube interview shortly before he turned himself in after being charged with violence in the Charlottesville protests.

Birds of a feather, I guess.

H/T — Though I’ve been following Cantwell for years, I learned a good deal about his background from the SPLC’s profile of him, and drew a lot on it for this post.

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tim gueguen
1 year ago

Reading about Cantwell here reminded me of Milton William Cooper. Bill Cooper was a conspiracy monger who got a lot of attention from the fringe and fringe watchers in the late ’80s and ’90s for his theories that crossed the Illuminati with UFOs and alien invasion paranoia. He eventually denounced much of what he wrote, and became increasingly connected to the militia and anti-tax crowds. He became a fugitive after he stopped paying taxes in 1998, and was shot and killed in November of 2001 by Apache County, Arizona deputies after wounding one of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the names frequently discussed here gets killed by law enforcement.

Jane Done
Jane Done
1 year ago

As I’ve said countless times, the loudest whiners are the most coddled, privileged brats.

I used to work at a warehouse that paid piecework. These three guys, one of them probably over 375lbs, could easily lift their own bodyweight with a single hand, yet every single day they came whining and crying to the office about how haaard their week had been and how they deserved a break, they deserved the easy work. Meanwhile, I, a woman, weighing in at a measly 150, with less than a tenth of the testosterone of all three of those men combined (testosterone being a PERFORMANCE ENHANCING STEROID) did my due diligence and took the heavy, brutal, demanding work day in and day out without saying a single word.

Some days I even stayed late to finish the jobs that were so difficult that they, in their self-entitled, infantile rage, walked out.

Then one day I found out that those dudes were making over $100,000 a year. I was being paid less than half that.

The loudest whiners are the most coddled, privileged brats.

Helix_luco
Helix_luco
1 year ago

I’m surprised crying Nazi cantwell is so agressive towards law enforcement. I thought that in general, police and military had been pretty well infiltrated by white supremacists?

Moggie
Moggie
1 year ago

And while MRAs themselves largely kept to rhetorical rather than real world violence…

Well, I don’t know about that. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of them have a history of domestic violence.

Bananananana dakry: Short-Haired, Fat, and Deranged
Bananananana dakry: Short-Haired, Fat, and Deranged
1 year ago

@Moggie

The Venn diagram of MRA/ alt-right garbage people and domestic violence perps has a hell of a lot of overlap, I suspect.

Knitting Cat Lady
Knitting Cat Lady
1 year ago

In my experience the people with the most kids are fundagelical Christians like the Duggars.

Where the woman is more or less constantly pregnant and the older kids, mostly the daughters, are doing the actual parenting of the brood.

And it has been shown time and time again that as the standard of living and level of education of the WOMEN increases, the birthrate goes down.

First generation immigrants might have more kids, but second generation immigrants tend to have a birth rate close to the ‘native’ population.

Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
1 year ago

@David F.

Physical violence against the MRM on the streets is on the way

It’s been more than six years since Elam made that prediction, and the wave of anti-Men’s Rights street violence has not materialized.

Three points:

First, Mr. Elam said the violence against the men’s rights movement is “on the way.” He didn’t specify when. It could still happen. Any moment now.

Second, 2 Peter 3:8 says, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” Could not the same thing be said of Mr. Elam’s predictions about the men’s rights movement?

Third — what’s that? Look over there!

Cat Mara
Cat Mara
1 year ago

BTW, Emily Gorcenski’s site, First Vigil, is an excellent resource. It tracks the fashy and fashy-adjacent, what groups they belong to, and what crimes they’ve been charged with and where. She was also instrumental in putting real names to a lot of the ugly faces at Charlottesville when the transcripts of their Discord chats got leaked– and their was much schadenfreude to be had to hear these scumbags who dealt for so long in fear and intimidation of their victims bleat about “doxxing” when that was their stock-in-trade. In at least one case, one of the scumbags in question turned out to be a member of the US armed forces (albeit not for much longer) which was extremely disturbing.

Otrame
Otrame
1 year ago

@Helix-Luxo

While there are certainly some white supremecists in the military 1) they keep their damned mouths shut if they know what is good for them or they aren’t in the military very long; and 2) a large percentage of people in the military are PoC.

The image of the military is a bunch of good ol’ boys from Appalachia, but there are far more homies from the hood and the barrio than most people seem to think.

Diego Duarte
Diego Duarte
1 year ago

It’s always been a not so secret wish of mine to have the privilege of running either into Alex Jones or Cantwell in a darkened alley. Won’t say more so as to not run afoul of comments policy.

But it really doesn’t surprise me that this guy got a slap on the wrist. I can’t be the only one noticing that the reporting on White supremacists caught among the police force and the military keeps on increasing, right? Not to mention that whole suicide, where a handcuffed woman managed to shoot herself in the mouth, whilst in the back of a police car.

They are certainly emboldened by the current political climate, and don’t seem like they are going to back down any time soon.

Susan
Susan
1 year ago

From the Council on Foreign Relations Website

Federal agencies categorize race into five groups—white, black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. Ethnicity, which the government considers distinct from race, is divided into two categories: Hispanic or Latino, and not Hispanic or Latino. Among enlisted recruits, 43 percent of men and 56 percent of women are Hispanic or a racial minority. Female recruits are consistently more diverse than the civilian population; they are also more diverse than male recruits.

Non-Hispanic white population of US 61.3% per Wikipedia, so the military is more diverse than US population but not by that much. I think the bigger difference is that you’re generally more integrated if you are in the military. There are plenty of nearly-all-white or nearly-all-black towns in MS where I live, but there are no nearly-all-white or black military bases or aircraft carriers.

Bakunin
Bakunin
1 year ago

The military was pretty strict about keeping white supremacists out. Unfortunately their standards were relaxed with the recruiting push for Iraq/Afghanistan

Onager
Onager
1 year ago

If I was in his local police force I’d imagine I’d be quite focused on making sure he didn’t have access to guns. I don’t know what his local laws are but I’d usually work on a general assumption that if I was known to be heavily armed and made highly visible online threats to kill police officers that I’d be getting a less than gentle early morning visit from some of those law enforcement professionals. Granted he’d love an excuse to play the victim but it is a public safety issue.

@Helix_luco

I’m surprised crying Nazi cantwell is so agressive towards law enforcement. I thought that in general, police and military had been pretty well infiltrated by white supremacists?

As with the Bill Cooper example, these types often come out of the other side of loving the police/army into more of a paranoid militia mindset where they’re prepared to take on all branches of the oppressive state in a battle for their freedom (to be an awful person usually).

Drungarios
Drungarios
1 year ago

So as someone who works in government security, there are actually a set of specific questions in the security questionnaire designed to weed out hate groups, militias, and terrorist groups. A positive answer to *any* of those questions leads to an automatic denial of clearance, and therefore ineligibility to serve in the military in any meaningful way. Furthermore, the adjudicators who grant clearances are trained to look for anything that looks even vaguely suspicious in that area.

Chris Oakley
1 year ago

The funny thing is, if Cantrell ever did find himself facing armed confrontation with a feminist he’d probably scream and run like he was on fire

Curious_Diversions
Curious_Diversions
1 year ago

Damn it, Straughan! You can’t just appropriate the honey badger!

Jennifer
1 year ago

“The comments have been deleted, so it’s not clear exactly what Cantwell said ….”

In response to the Christchurch massacre, he said that instead of murdering people in houses of worship, alt-righters should kill leftists:

“I’m pretty sure it would be against the rules for me to say that would be mass shooters should find left wing activists and gun them down instead of random people in mosques and synagogues. So I won’t do that. I just really want these people to shut the f**k up, and that seems like the most obvious and enjoyable way of accomplishing this goal. If you killed the 50 loudest Leftists in the United States, especially if you didn’t get caught, and continued killing, these people would shut their stupid f**king a**hole mouths, and that would save a lot of lives. All of these people should be in prison for the crimes they’ve committed in full view of the public over the last few years.”

He sounds nice. Can’t imagine why he’s had such difficulty finding a woman to date him.

Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
1 year ago

If you killed the 50 loudest Leftists in the United States, especially if you didn’t get caught, and continued killing,

That’s hilarious to hear from the totally not criminal mastermind who couldn’t avoid the crushing claws of law enforcement after macing a couple antifa activists.

AEB
AEB
1 year ago

Anglosphere conservatism in 2019 is nothing more than an online hate movement against blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, transsexuals, Millennials, feminists and journalists, among others.

EverythingIsRidiculous
EverythingIsRidiculous
1 year ago

A true weak chickenshit coward.

Cat Mara
Cat Mara
1 year ago

There is a new podcast that started recently called “I Don’t Speak German” that has been doing deep dives into the alt-right and its various personalities (sic). They’ve done a two-part episodes on Cantwell. I’ve made it through the first part so far; it’s nauseating stuff.

Scanisaurus
Scanisaurus
1 year ago

I don’t want to sidetrack too much, but seeing all their fantasies on display have reminded me of something I’ve thought about for a while. I’m not sure if maybe I’m just reading too much into things, but seeing the rise of the alt-right, neo-nazis and incels have made me realize how messed up a great deal of Fantasy is, because things we would rightfully condemn as blatant misogyny and racist propaganda is both common and accepted in the fantasy genre as long as you change the stereotypes to non-human monsters.

Just take the whole “the monsters/orcs/trolls/demons are coming for our women” trope, because if you think about it, a race that looks nothing like humans being attracted to human women and depending on females of a different species to procreate makes zero biological sense, and for it to make sense you basically have to ignore all female biology and think of women as mysterious birthing machines, and there are so many more disgusting parallells to the alt-right rhetoric around race and women’s bodies.

Like, alt-right people are literally saying “they are coming for our women”, claim that the immigrants are trying to out-breed them and treat women’s bodies as a resource that needs to be strictly guarded or else “the enemy” will rape them and make them breed more enemies, and the suggestion that “the enemy” are human beings themselves is considered about on par with treating literal animals as human.

And what bothers me the most is that this trope isn’t confined to edgelord anime, fetish fanfiction or old dated stories written by out of touch old men, but even Dragon Age, a franchise that was created by a gay man and has prided itself in being inclusive and progressive with several lgbtq characters, people of all skin colors and strong women, has this trope in the form of Broodmothers, women who have been captured by darkspawn (orc-like monsters) and forcibly mutated into hideous giant monsters birthing tons of more darkspawn. And to add to the problems, the Broodmothers are stated to have been defiled forever and the only way to release them is through death, which feels pretty disgusting considering in many conservative circles, survivors are still told that they are better off dead than being “defiled”.

Realizing the parallells has basically ruined the Dragon Age franchise for me (for while they aren’t in the sequels Broodmothers are still mentioned in codex entries and Bioware has showed no signs of retconning that lore), and I just feel that it’s pretty insane how readily the fandom will defend this trope and that whilst nearly everyone can agree that writing, say, a zombie virus that only turns black people into monsters, is blatantly racist, but creating a race of monsters that just kill men but can turn women’s bodies into monster factories is not seen as inherently misogynistic, and not seen as reinforcing rape myths like the idea that rape is just some biological urge and not about power and humiliating the victim and normalizing rape as a whole.

I really wish to clarify that I don’t think most of the writers using this trope intended for this to be the message of their work, and in many cases it was probably the result of taking the trope from older fantasy works without thinking through the implications, yet I still find it disconcerting that in Dragon Age’s case, apparently no one on the entire development team questioned this plotline while the game was made and I haven’t seen anyone else in the fandom ask them about it either.

Am I the only one worried by these parallels between these kinds of fantasy tropes and alt-right and incel rhetoric? We’ve already seen them appropriate both vikings, knights and lots of other fantasy imagery, would it bee too much of a stretch to be concerned that this other stuff I mentioned might further reinforce the misogyny in nerd and video game circles?

Nequam
Nequam
1 year ago

Am I the only one worried by these parallels between these kinds of fantasy tropes and alt-right and incel rhetoric?

Well, incels weren’t around when Norman Spinrad wrote The Iron Dream, but…

Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
1 year ago

re: fantasy/misogyny tropism…

additionally, I remember reading some copy about the parallels between fantasy “orc trope” and Western anti-black racism, specifically talking about the LoTR trilogy. Another spoke of the squicky feeling they got from GoT scene where Danerys Targaryen took over leadership of the Unsullied army… watching a white, blond person (literally) buy an army of castrated brown men… and the idea that the only one who COULD lead the Unsullied WAS a white blonde person….

I’m not a GoT fan, having no TV, but I did see that scene on YooToob. I am a LoTR fan, the movies ticked a lot of emotional boxes I’d probably be better off leaving unchecked.

Something I got from Anita Sarkeesian, in the commentary for the “Tropes vs Women” vids she offers that All of our media has problematic content, even the media we love. That doesn’t mean we can’t consume it, it means we must be aware of the problematic elements, and openly call them out, and it means we must watch ourselves so we don’t love it FOR the problematic elements.

Scildfreja Unnyðnes
Scildfreja Unnyðnes
1 year ago

@Scanisaurus! All of that is true. I have two things to beep about on it.

First thing is that a lot of fantasy and mythology is pretty gosh darn racist. It’s heckin’ bad. Given that it’s rooted in Elder Days of Yore where society had greater tolerance for terrible things like that, it’s not really a surprise. It sort of makes me glad for modern editions of D&D, where you can *play* the Orcs and Goblins and stuff, and the tropes are getting turned on their heads more. It’s good.

Second thing, more serious I guess. Fascists and the right have always appropriated fantasy and myth. They have to. They always harken back to a golden age that never existed. The Nazis looked back to Germanic myth. Today’s fascists do the same, with a thick mix of Skyrim and comic book villains added in. Less extreme right wing groups will do this too, looking back to the golden age of the 50s where everyone had their house and their two kids and their picket fence (and the people who didn’t fit in knew to shut up and stay out of sight).

Left wing people aren’t immune to this either – they can harken back to hunter-gatherer societies and the conquered/enslaved/segregated societies that settler cultures displaced, holding myths of the noble savage as ideals that never were – erasing the people from those cultures who actually exist now, today in the process.

So it’s important to remember that it’s not just right wing people that do this, it’s dominant groups that do it. It’s awful, but it’s part of the lubricant that keeps their hate-machine running smoothly.

Teach the fascist to dream that he’s slaying the foes of Asgard and he won’t stop to think about the horror he’s committing.

Kevin R.
1 year ago

Am I the only one worried by these parallels between these kinds of fantasy tropes and alt-right and incel rhetoric? We’ve already seen them appropriate both vikings, knights and lots of other fantasy imagery, would it bee too much of a stretch to be concerned that this other stuff I mentioned might further reinforce the misogyny in nerd and video game circles?

I was literally just about to bring up The Iron Dream, but @Nequam beat me to it. So instead, I’ll bring up Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein. (Science fiction rather than fantasy, but there’s a lot of overlap between the two genres’ fans — and if the Sad Puppies taught us anything, it’s that this overlap includes the alt-right shitheels.) On the surface, the book is about humanity in the future fighting an alien invasion, but the structure of the Terran Federation, while not quite fascist as we would recognize it, still treads pretty close to the line. It is extremely militaristic and contemptuous of ideas of egalitarianism and inalienable human rights, with society built around military service that is depicted as having reinstilled a sort of moral character into society. It’s stated that the Western liberal democracies collapsed due to the inability of their systems to manage rising crime and delinquency, and while there’s still some measure of democracy, the franchise is restricted to those who undergo Federal Service, which usually means military service. And while any racism and sexism towards human characters is more background-level ’50s/’60s stuff than active bigotry (it’s stated that 20th century racial and sexual prejudices have largely evaporated), the way the “bugs” are described in the book is loaded with parallels to Yellow Peril paranoia.

Paul Verhoeven sure as hell recognized the parallels between Heinlein’s message in the book and that of fascism, and so when he made the film adaptation, he put a spotlight on the fascist undertones, going out of his way to make a movie that felt like something a fascist regime might’ve put out as propaganda. He wasn’t subtle, either; he lifted shots straight out of Triumph of the Will and modeled Neil Patrick Harris’ uniform after those of the Waffen-SS.

Drungarios
Drungarios
1 year ago

@Scildfreja

A lot of my medievalist friends have been dealing with this in particular, as the alt-right has really seized on the period, I suspect in part due to reading bad fantasy novels and reading bad history.

Also, if the Left is mythologizing the Noble Savage, they’re harking back to the Glorious Revolution (whether it be 1789, 1917, or any other), despite the fact they were generally not fun to live through, and did not end particularly well for most of those involved.

Bakunin
Bakunin
1 year ago

@Scanisaurus
Ech, the Broodmothers remind me of the worst thing I ever saw in Exalted, Lillun. Seriously turned me off the game.

rikalous
rikalous
1 year ago

Ech, the Broodmothers remind me of the worst thing I ever saw in Exalted, Lillun. Seriously turned me off the game.

One of the few things that every member of the fractious Exalted fandom, and the developers for that matter, can agree on is that Lillun and the chapters surrounding her were a baaad move.

Full Metal Ox
1 year ago

I missed the Captain Marvel thread, and posting there might be necromantic by now–but anyone’s thoughts on the portrayal of the Skrulls?

Bakunin
Bakunin
1 year ago

@rikalous
I’m not 100% certain, but I don’t think the the enlightened souls at GW ever went that far

tim gueguen
1 year ago

There must be someone out there who’s done a variation on the “aliens want our women” trope where most aliens don’t, and members of their civilisations who do are see as having a weird kink.

The Broodmother description reminds me of a sci fi/horror novel called Vaders from some years back. In it aliens spores land on Earth. They infect creatures, including humans, and turn them into giant monsters that eat their own kind and whatever else they can. There’s a scene late in the book where the heroes stumble across a Vader nest, for lack of a better term, that contains women turned into giant breeding factories. (This also involves the cannibal monsters having died, only for the corpses to crack open and spew out giant flying fleshing eating insects. Yeah, as you might guess the biology in the book makes pretty much no sense.)

The idea of the bugs in Starship Troopers being a reworked “Asians don’t value human life” type narrative is one I’ve had for a long time. The book was written in the aftermath of WW2 and the Korean War, so the typical reader would be familiar with the Japanese banzai charges, and the supposed human wave attacks by the Chinese in Korea, which apparently didn’t actually happen.

Penny Psmith
Penny Psmith
1 year ago

@tim

I think there’s something in the webcomic Order of the Stick with orcs discussing attraction to humans as weird, but can’t look for the relevant strip(s) right now.

opposablethumbs
opposablethumbs
1 year ago

re fantasy tropes and racism, cf Terry Pratchett focusing several books specifically on how the evil-despised-feared-OTHER-inhuman-species turn out, upon closer acquaintance, to be … people.
(trolls, golems, goblins, orcs …)
And Granny Weatherwax on “treating people as things”, of course.

Kevin
Kevin
1 year ago

@ tim gueguen

At some point I vaguely remember a short story (I think) in which Earth had encountered a pan – Galactic culture and fitted into it by operating ‘service stations’ that the other peoples of that culture (all of them more advanced than Earth) considered an amusing convenience, but didn’t really need. Then there was a lot of human exogamous behaviour going on with the aliens, and it wasn’t doing Humanity’s long term survival prospects any good. Can’t for the life of me recall where I saw it, and who wrote it though.

Scanisaurus
Scanisaurus
1 year ago

Something I got from Anita Sarkeesian, in the commentary for the “Tropes vs Women” vids she offers that All of our media has problematic content, even the media we love. That doesn’t mean we can’t consume it, it means we must be aware of the problematic elements, and openly call them out, and it means we must watch ourselves so we don’t love it FOR the problematic elements.

Yeah, I really wish I could still enjoy problematic stuff despite the problems, and when it comes to dated racial stereotypes, damsels or evil seductress tropes, I can do that if the rest of the work is good enough to compensate for that, but I can’t do that with depictions of rape.

I have been lucky enough to never have been physically abused, but I’ve still been taught almost my entire life that it’s a real risk women face in their everyday lives and that it could happen to me if I go to the wrong place at the wrong time or trust the wrong person, and every day I see news stories of real women being brutalized, and when I try to sit down with a book/movie/video game to find some escapism, all this stuff I’ve been taught since middle school doesn’t magically switch off.

To me, stories casually adding rape just to be “edgy” isn’t a fantasy horror comparable to zombies or people being killed with swords, it’s a nauseating visceral reminder of why I’m afraid to go out alone after dark or talk to strangers, and it honestly frightens me how many people don’t get it, because in every other forum where I’ve seen this discussed, there’s always a choir of pundits saying “WhAtS WronG wiTh RApe bUt NoT muRdEr?“, and they don’t say that because they think fictional murder depictions are wrong. They not only ignore the reason i stated above, but also ignore that you can kill on accident, be forced to kill in self defense an there are other justified instanced of killing, but there are zero justifications for rape.

The second argument is always “But this is what would happen in wartime/the middle ages/the post apocalypse! The bad guys ignoring pretty females would be unrealistic!” and it’s just as bad. Firstly, almost none of these stories that get complained about are even remotely realistic, and I’ve seen people defend both the rape threats hurled at Elizabeth in Pirates of the Caribbean (a movie with living skeletons) and the rape backstory of the main female character in Overlord (a movie with nazi zombies), so they could accept reanimated corpses breaking every known law on physics, and male characters doing a whole bunch of crazy action stunts that would kill real humans, but not that we could have a heroine that wasn’t threatened with rape?

The other problem with claiming that “It’s war/she’s captured by bandits/monsters in this story, of course that would happen!” is that its frighteningly similar to the real life rape apology argument that “She was out late/hung out with bad boys/going to the wrong neighborhood, of course that would happen!”.

It’s so incredibly frustrating because I am a history buff and I love fantasy, but trying to a find a story set in history or fantasy setting that doesn’t feature a pretty woman threatened with rape makes me feel like the old lady in the Monty Python Sketch with the spam, just replace “food with spam in it” with “fantasy stories with rape in them”; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OVKXIfrGJE

And of course, this only applies to attractive young women, you hardly ever see men being sexually abused except in the absolute darkest and grittiest stories that maybe show one or two men being abused in between a cavalcade of brutalized women, but you would never see something marketed as a fun action romp casually threaten a male hero like Jack Sparrow or Indiana Jones with rape just because “it’s realistic” (despite the fact that a great deal of men are raped in war zones and prisons, but somehow it’s not necessary to show when it comes to male action heroes).

Or to go back to the Dragon Age Broodmothers, they’re considered par for the cause in fantasy, but can anyone imagine Bioware green-lighting someone suggesting that they should add a race of monsters that kidnap men and transform them into testicle monsters that spawn more monsters in a grotesque parody of male reproduction?

I bet that either the one making the suggestion would be out on their ears for even suggesting putting such weird fetishes into a game meant for public consumption, or it’d be treated as a gross joke. In fact, I think the mocking of male survivors and treating them as jokes and the ubiquity of threatening female characters with rape are two sides of the same ugly coin, because all the rape tropes I described serve to cement the idea that rape only happens to attractive women and it only happens due to physical attraction on part of the perpetrator, and that women being threatened with rape is inevitable, and so the idea that a guy being “irresistible” automatically becomes hilarious (these jokes are almost always aimed at fat, old or ugly men), paired with the “hilarity” of men being treated like women.

Sorry for the long rant, it’s just that I’ve thought about this for a really long time but haven’t really had a good place where I’ve felt safe speaking up about this before!

moregeekthan
moregeekthan
1 year ago

@Kevin & Tim

While reading Starship Troopers a few years back, I remember thinking that the subtext was basically “Things are great under a benevolent military dictatorship,” and feeling a bit icky. After finishing it, I realized the text was about how great a military dictatorship would be. The subtext was more “McArthur was right. There can be no coexisting with China, therefore we need to eliminate [offensive archaic term for People’s Republic of China].” And this made me feel extremely icky.

Diego Duarte
Diego Duarte
1 year ago

Full Metal Ox

I missed the Captain Marvel thread, and posting there might be necromantic by now–but anyone’s thoughts on the portrayal of the Skrulls?

Absolutely loved it. It would’ve been beyond irresponsible at this point to keep on banging about the old tired trope of “alien invaders who have come to replace us”, when Nazis are out and about killing people.

Love the fact that the movie is sort of a critique of White women who, despite being feminist, embrace White supremacy when it’s convenient for them.

The one thing I didn’t like about the movie was Brie Larson’s acting when she finds out she’s the bad guy.

I mean come the fuck on! You just found out that not only are you NOT the good guy: you’ve been part of a fucking Nazi death cult, hellbent on EXTERMINATING another group of sentient beings solely because they are green and have pointy ears; and the only thing you give us is slightly reddish eyes, like on the verge of crying?

No, the internal struggle right there should’ve been especially highlighted. THAT’s the conflict, that’s what the movie is all about. But so little is dedicated to that moment of realization that it entirely falls flat.

That whole line the Skrull leader adds with “I have blood on my hands too” is also unwelcome. No, I don’t need this milquetoast shit, he was defending himself and his people from extermination.

Other than that the movie was awesome.

Robert
Robert
1 year ago

Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette)’s novel “The Goblin Emperor” treats fantastic racism well. Elves and Goblins are almost identical except for skin color and social organization, yet the elves regard the goblins with barely concealed contempt.

Cat Mara
Cat Mara
1 year ago

Re: Starship Troopers, the film version specifically, the director Paul Verhoeven was a very young child during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during WWII and is on the record as stating the portrayal of the totalitarian government in the film is a deliberate mockery of fascists.

I second (third?) Nequam’s and Kevin R’s recommendation of The Iron Dream (incidentally, it was also name-checked in the podcast about Cantwell I mentioned above) Not only does Norman Spinrad make explicit the fascist tropes that were implicit in fantasy fiction all along but he does it in a way that’s very blackly funny, in a so-good-it’s-bad-it’s-good kind of way, if that makes any sense at all. And despite how obvious his intentions were, Spinrad has still said in interviews that he had idiot fans come up to him complaining about him “ruining a good yarn with politics”, just like the modern-day Sad/Rabid Puppies or Gamergaters. 🙄

Redsilkphoenix: Jetpack Vixen, Intergalactic Meanie
Redsilkphoenix: Jetpack Vixen, Intergalactic Meanie
1 year ago

@Diego Duarte,

I have yet to see Captain Marvel, so I won’t really touch on how the Kree/Skrull War was handled there. In the comics though, that conflict was nowhere near as black and white as ‘evil space Nazis exterminating innocent race of people.’

In the comics, the then-peaceful Skrulls arrive at the planet Hala to make it a part of their empire by bringing their tech level up to the Skrull’s level for trading purposes. They find two races living there, the Kree and the plantlike Cotati, who were still at a very primitive (implied hunter/gatherer) tech level.

For some unrevealed reason, Skrull foreign policy wouldn’t allow both races to brought into the empire as equals, so the Skrulls set up a test to see which one they would deal with. Representatives of the Cotati were placed on one barren moon, the Kree reps on Earth’s moon; both sides are told in essence to ‘do something’ during their year there. The Cotati create a garden on their moon; the Kree a beautiful city.

The Skrulls are impressed with both achievements, but ultimately judge the Cotati garden the better one and decide they win the right to become their trade partners. The Kree do not take this defeat well, and kill the Cotati (though they get better) and the Skrull delegation, this kicking off the Kree-Skrull War.

So yeah, the origin of the hostilities there isn’t so black and white as the movie evidently makes it sound.

And as for the whole ‘humanity has to destroy a race of space bugs to survive’, Anne McCaffrey’s Talent series (the one that begins with The Rowen and ends with The Tower and the Hive) has a similar set-up, but the main characters work on finding a solution that doesn’t involve the genocide of the bug people. Though he warned that McCaffrey does have her own problematic issues in her work, too. Otherwise, the stories are pretty good. Ymmv.

numerobis
numerobis
1 year ago

I’m pretty certain the “aliens are coming to violently impregnate your women” thing is projection. It’s what the right-wing men would do, if the right wing could (indeed, it’s what they have done, around the world and throughout history).

Catalpa
Catalpa
1 year ago

@Scanisaurus

I too am so effing sick of people throwing rape into their stories just to make it edgy/grim/”realistic”.

It’s why I was so pleasantly surprised to find The Magnus Archives podcast, which is a horror anthology series that features exactly zero instances of sexual violence (and also zero instances of threats of sexual violence).That has had the creator of the show explicitly express his distaste for people using rape and sexual violence in such a tasteless and offensive manner. It’s such a breath of fresh air, and it’s something that I highly recommend if you want to have your spine utterly chilled. It does have a slow-building overarching story, though, so start at episode 1:
http://podbay.fm/show/1095138637/e/1458777653

(Yes I am blatantly shilling this show but it’s just so good and also 130+ episodes of completely rape-free horror, so it’s technically on topic!)

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
1 year ago

@Kevin:
People have had fun along those lines. Phil Foglio’s “Buck Godot/Gallimaufry” stories have humanity’s primary contribution to Galactic culture being… popsicles. Apparently nobody else had ever thought of putting a stick into frozen liquid as a method of serving it.

@Scanisaurus, Catalpa, others:
I write, and I’ve never liked that particular cliche myself. The closest I ever came was in a cyberpunk story where one of the minor characters had previously been rescued from a black market surgeon who was doing human trafficking on the side, and in that case it was just implied that she could have been raped if the operation hadn’t been shut down first.

(Granted, he was shut down more because he’d become an embarrassment to his silent partners rather than because of what he was doing. Cyberpunk can get damn bleak, but dwelling on the nasty details can feel rather dehumanising, and I don’t like dragging my own mind through that sort of toxic sludge. Besides, I was working on a way to transition to a post-cyberpunk world by breaking the system.)

Scanisaurus
Scanisaurus
1 year ago

@numerobis
Yeah, but it’s not just projection, they are actively distorting reality to create something even more evil and misogynistic that makes classic colonialism and traditional oppression of women look good in comparison. Raping and enslaving people, and force their children to work as slaves? Well, these monsters force the women to breed an army to take over the entire world! Creating a society where women are at the mercy of their husbands and have no reproductive control over their bodies? Well, these monsters literally reduce women to just a giant living womb!

Seriously, all this trope does is make real people raping and pillaging look good compared to the pure evil monsters in addition to the gross misogyny and racist implications and the fact that it hasn’t been thrown into the garbage pile of things-so-offensive-they-have-no-place-in-mainstream-fiction like blackface and anti-semitic caricatures is insane.

@Jenora Feuer
Indeed, it’s a pretty big difference between having a character go through trauma if you’re genuinely interested in exploring the consequences of said trauma without gratuitous imagery, or just have it because “that’s how it is in the dark and gritty world”. I was seriously turned off reading the Game of Thrones Books after seeing a passage describing a warrior raping a woman as just a casual background event, because it dehumanized the victim to the point you could replace her and the warrior with a rotting animal carcass and nothing in the scene would change. That scene didn’t say anything about why it happened or what the victim felt like, it was just something for the main character to be briefly disgusted by before moving on, and that stuff only serve to diminish and normalize rape as I’ve seen far too many people using exactly the same arguments when defending explicit depictions of rape in fiction as people defending rapists and denigrating survivors in real life.

Stuff like that has convinced me that there seriously should be some kind of entry barrier to publishing any works containing rape, and that content creators should be forced to give a real justification for why it should be in their stories before being allowed to publish them.

@Catalpa
Thanks for the link, I seriously need to check it out!
I’ve practically given up on horror fiction that isn’t Poe or Lovecraft thanks to the ridiculous prevalence of this trope, so I’ll definitively give this a listen!

Catalpa
Catalpa
1 year ago

@ Scanisarus

I know, it’s ubiquitous. I love horror and most of the time I have to just grit my teeth and endure the trope. I originally went into The Magnus Archives expecting the other shoe to drop any episode now, and was so pleased to hear the Q&A with the creator confirming that it was never going to happen.

I hope you enjoy it! Though if you have any triggers, the podcast covers… pretty much every horrifying topic outside of sexual violence, so tread carefully.

Voxpoptart
Voxpoptart
1 year ago

@Scanisaurus, Catalpa

The bestselling horror author of modern times, Stephen King, doesn’t do cheap sexual violence. Indeed his very first published novel, “Carrie”, was a feminist novel from a girl’s perspective, in which her bodily autonomy was taken very seriously, and his two novels that do involve sexual violence — “Gerald’s Game” and “Dolores Claiborne” — are centered around the female victim’s psychology and attempts at recovery.

But for example, even his novel that involves the complete collapse of civilization — “the Stand” (his absolute masterpiece) — doesn’t go near rape scenes. Whereas it does have an important strand about a Nice Guy who feels entitled to one of the book’s heroines and — when she isn’t attracted to him, a choice clearly portrayed as reasonable — ends up defecting to the forces of evil out of curdled and sick resentment. King knows which side he’s on, and he knows it matters.

(Disclaimer: he’s written vast amounts, I’ve probably read 1/3 of it, and some of that only as a teenage boy who wouldn’t have focused on casual rape scenes: I can’t promise that his oeuvre is 100% free. But because he’s been alert to the issue from the start, my hunch? Is that it is.)

Ariblester
Ariblester
1 year ago

Voxpoptart wrote on
March 23, 2019 at 6:11 am:

The bestselling horror author of modern times, Stephen King, doesn’t do cheap sexual violence.

…have you ever read about halfway through It?

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

There actually is rape in The Stand. It’s completely off page in the abridged version and described in bit more detail in the unabridged version. Dayna and Sue along with other women had been abducted by a group of violent rapists. They managed to escape before encountering the main characters.

Also, Nadine tells Randall Flagg no when she finally meets up with him in the desert but she knows it’s too late to say no and that’s where the chapter ends. Next time we see her, she’s pregnant.

It’s not lurid, so it’s probably easy to forget if you haven’t read it in awhile.

Redsilkphoenix: Jetpack Vixen, Intergalactic Meanie
Redsilkphoenix: Jetpack Vixen, Intergalactic Meanie
1 year ago

This discussion reminds me of that infamous Senan McGuire post about the ‘fan’ who asked her when she was finally going to have one of her female characters raped, then essentially asked why she didn’t have “respect” for her work when McGuire said ‘never’.

https://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/470626.html

(I’m sure it’s been posted here at least once, but it’s still relevant to the discussion at hand.)

And she had a follow-up post where she clarifies a bit under what circumstances she would tackle that subject:

https://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/2012/10/06/

Though I swear she had another follow-up where she specifically stated that she wasn’t ever going to tackle rape in her for-funsies Urban Fantasy series (which was the series said ‘fan’ wanted to see rape happen in) because yeah, that’s not a ‘fun’ topic to read about.