August 18, 2019 | 81° F

SHETH: Free speech countered by threats, violence

Opinions Column: Sonam Says


Radical misogynist and blogger Daryush Valizadeh, known commonly as Roosh V, has earned a notorious reputation as every feminist’s and decent human being’s bete noire, after making a string of disparaging and demeaning remarks about women and their role in society. Seeing them as irrational and far less capable than men, Roosh V has asserted that women’s role in society is that of housewives and homemakers, and that a woman’s worth depends solely on her beauty and fertility, as opposed to her intelligence, character or any non-superficial traits. He’s also remarked that because of this, “Women are not at all serving critical or important job functions at a level above men, and society is better off with them not participating full time in the labor force.”

As a forum to express these views, Roosh V created the “Return of Kings” website, which engages in belittling women and their worth, while advocating a “red pill” mentality for men — a set of beliefs that revolves around male dominance and female subservience. On Feb. 6, Roosh V had arranged an international meet-up for himself and his fellow “neo-masculinists,” as he’s dubbed his followers. Predictably, news of the event spread like wildfire through the media sphere, and soon enough, hundreds of outlets began covering the blogger and his “pro-rape” ideology. Despite Roosh V claiming that the article he wrote, which inspired people to label him as “pro-rape” was intended as satire, people world over were outraged that his group was organizing an event that advocated such an archaic and potentially dangerous worldview.

As is the case with most protests in modern-day America, the situation quickly spiraled out of control, and Roosh V and his followers began receiving threats of violence, rape and death. Protestors proposed government involvement to shut down the event, and government officials in the U.S. and world over attempted to bar Roosh and his followers from their constituencies. When the threats continued escalating, Roosh V was forced to cancel the event, citing safety concerns, and protestors around the world celebrated their victory over who they saw as the most high-profile blogger in the “manosphere.”

Let’s set aside, for a moment, the ridiculousness of a media firestorm over a self-important (aren’t they all?) Internet blogger who writes about how much he hates women, probably because he was rejected by one a long time ago. More importantly, despite being an ardent feminist and human rights advocate, I can’t help but notice the irony of this situation. Roosh and his followers gained notoriety for their indirect advocacy of sexual violence toward women as a way to assert male dominance. While it’s perfectly acceptable — and even encouraged — to protest their heinous statements, it’s also incredibly hypocritical to threaten a group that so many are against because of their supposedly “pro-rape sentiment” with rape and death threats.

One of the core founding principles of our Constitution is the protection of free speech and assembly. While we may vehemently disagree with the opinions held by fellow citizens, it’s unacceptable and, in fact, anti-American to counter them with threats of violence and censorship. There’s no doubt that the vast majority of Americans are against groups that discriminate against others, whether they’re white nationalist groups, anti-Muslim organizations or anti-feminist websites like Return of Kings. However, while we’re entirely within our rights to protest the messages groups like these send out, we are not at liberty to threaten them with physical harm, or to publicly post personal information about them, such as home address and phone number, in an effort to quell their speech.

In fact, when it comes to someone like Roosh, such a violent response from the media, public officials and feminist groups simply fuel his personal narrative of the world being against him: It serves primarily to build up his image to his followers — and himself — as a heroic rebel standing against the establishment. So let’s do ourselves a favor and see this guy for who he really is — an inconsequential Internet blogger whose delusions of grandeur exist primarily in his own head, and a guy who’s spent the vast majority of his life studying manuals on how to pick up women. And after recognizing that, let’s give him the attention he really deserves — none.

Sonam Sheth is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in economics and statistics. Her column, "Sonam Says," runs on alternate Thursdays.


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Sonam Sheth

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