Thursday, February 4, 2016

Return of Kings, Donald Trump, and the Fear of the Heterosexual White Male

Fear is a terrible thing. It can cause people to overreact, lash out violently, and respond to hate-fueled ideologues spouting dangerous rhetoric in a quest for what is perceived as diminishing power. Heterosexual white males have been living in fear for the past four decades. As society has become more inclusive, these HWM have responded, in increasing and mind-numbing numbers, to more alarmist calls to action. The violent anti-choice religious movements of the 1980s and 90s, with their bombing of abortion clinics and killing of doctors, gave rise to such “back to the kitchen,” male supremacist movements as the Promise Keepers, which also spawned militia movements and increasingly xenophobic leaders who directed their hatred toward immigrants. The 2016 presidential election has seen an unprecedented level of support for this mainstreaming of hatred, as one of the Republican front-runners, Donald Trump, continues to receive support for his outrageous speeches and policies by an electorate of these HWM who are continuously being told that their power is quickly evaporating because of illegal, “criminal” elements from Mexico and the Middle East. As the frightened HWM take a dose of Pepto Bismol, they have consolidated their support around this candidate, whom they believe will magically cure all their ills by building a wall on our southern border, because, in Trump’s words, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Now, usually American presidential elections, although always combative, have relied on a sense of decorum and fact-based argument; and although the rhetoric can get testy, the more megalomaniacal you are, the less of a chance you have… Until now…. 2016 seems to be the year of “anything goes.” It’s almost as if the American public, and the HWM in particular, have so bought into inflated stories of their impending demise that they are actually finding the most deranged voices around which to rally; and the “neo-masculinist” group Return of Kings is capitalizing on their fear. This group, founded by writer Daryush “Roosh V” Valizadeh, himself of Muslim heritage, prides itself on bringing back “masculinity,” by calling for a legalization of rape on private property, and fighting a war against feminists, homosexuals, the transgender community, and overweight women. They had planned to hold “tribal meetings” in 43 countries this weekend, where women, transgender, and homosexual men were not allowed to attend. These meetings have since been cancelled due to significant international backlash and Australia threatening to deny Valizadeh a visa, which caused him, in true Donald Trump fashion, to threaten to sneak into the country through its porous borders. What is going on here? When did our dialogue and passion for social progress degenerate into fat-shaming, homophobia, and misogyny? Well, one could argue that it has always been there, lurking in the darkest corners of traditional conservative movements. HWM have been railing against affirmative action for awhile now, even though they continue to represent the CEO’s of most major companies. But every so often, an ideologue like Donald Trump comes along, and makes what used to be hate speech a very real part of the modern political dialogue. It seems that these megalomaniacs get an inflated sense of validation, and invincibility, from any inkling of support they receive. Valizadeh has said, “There is nothing the media can do anymore to hurt me, and even if they paint me as a baby murderer, I will still gain readers because of it.” Compare this to Donald Trump’s comment, "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters," The similarities in the two men’s speeches don’t end there. Both seem to have a preoccupation with winning. Valizadeh said, “As long as my name exits the mouth of my enemies, I win, and I will continue to win.” Donald Trump said, “We will have so much winning if I get elected, that you may get bored with winning.” Clearly the only people who are “winning,” in this context, are the two men who are benefitting from the increased media exposure that comes with being a firebrand ideologue vilifying feminists as the destroyers of society. A cursory google search of Donald Trump and women will yield a number of shocking statements that the presidential candidate has made, from suggesting that Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly was on her period (because she pushed him too hard on a point at the first Republican presidential debate) to saying that Carly Fiorina shouldn’t get votes because of “her face.” (“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!”) Both Valizadeh and Trump seem to have a preoccupation with opinionated women, especially women who sometimes use profanity. The Return of Kings Facebook page (which has 12,866 likes) features an article titled, “Why Do Feminists and Social Justice Warriors Use So Much Profanity?” where they extol the righteous virtues of the “manosphere”: “Ad hominem attacks against people are comparatively rare in disagreements. And perhaps best of all, there is a great amount of social support for people who are embarking on ways to better themselves as men. The manosphere is, by and large, a portal of intelligent Y-chromosome carriers who have at least a decent amount of humility and class. Using massive amounts of profanity for the sake of being ‘edgy’ or ‘cool’ will not win anybody social brownie points.” Donald Trump has a preoccupation with opinionated women as well. He said that Rosie O’Donnell, “is disgusting both inside and out. You take a look at her, she’s a slob. She talks like a truck driver, she doesn’t have her facts. She’ll say anything that comes to her mind.” He also said Arianna Huffington “is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her husband left her for a man—he made a good decision.” Apparently, to Donald, having an unattractive “outside,” is the same as having an unattractive “inside,” which is why he makes such a big deal about women’s appearances. (Apparently this does not also apply to himself.) Similarly, the Return of Kings Facebook page features this Chinese proverb, “We ask four things for a woman—that virtue dwell in her heart, modesty in her forehead, sweetness in her mouth, and labour in her hands.” There is also this from the article “Introduction to Japanese Girls,” on the Return of Kings website, “Conditioned to act girly, almost childish (when they’re happy or content), Japanese girls come from a culture that strongly discourages rudeness and arrogance in women. In short, the exact opposite of America… Coming from a culture where the women are taught to be big-mouthed, rude, and disrespectful, the American visitor to Japan will at once be pleasantly surprised by the poise, demeanor, and courtesy of the Japanese girl.” Not surprisingly, the Return of Kings website also features articles on Donald Trump; although they have not come out and publicly supported him… yet… So, what do we make of all of this? Should we just ignore the ideologues in the hope that common sense will prevail and they will just go away or do we stand up and expose the dangerous hate speech that they are disseminating far and wide? Martin Luther King Jr’s words ring as true in the present day as they did decades ago, “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” Our collective silence in the face of dangerous people will never be seen as a victory; for the dangerous people take silence to mean complicity, and they will continue to drum up fear amongst their followers. Australia is right to deny Mr. Valizadeh a visa, as international outcry has forced Return of Kings to cancel their planned “Tribal Meetings.” Even though we live in an age of greater equality and greater sociopolitical opportunities for many, Donald Trump and Return of Kings remind us that we can never become complacent; for there will always be those commanders of hate, banking on the fear of the “endangered” heterosexual white males, to sustain them and raise them to undeserved heights. We the people must always be vigilant.

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