The Liberal, Feminist, Chattering ‘Twitterati’ love to have a bete noire. It’s quite easy to see why people such as Michael Gove, Liz Jones, Ricky Gervais or Melanie Phillips have become monsters ‘right thinking’ people love to hate. Those individuals can be justifiably called ‘reactionary’ or ‘offensive’ or racist sexist whatever ist is important to the liberals at the time. But sometimes the mob goes for somebody a bit closer to home, and that can be quite an interesting spectacle.
Brendan O’Neill is a favoured target of ‘lefty’ bile. The Telegraph blogger, and Spiked editor is regularly wheeled out for the ‘good guys’ to make an example of and to throw metaphorical rotten fruit at. A few choice phrases have been used to describe Mr O’Neill on twitter: ‘cunt’, ‘idiot’ and ‘nutjob’ all feature quite heavily in the twitter ‘criticism’ of Brendan and his work (click on images to enlarge):
What has the writer and commentator done to deserve such opprobium? Well, something that I’ve learned from bitter experience is unforgiveable, and even more so coming from a man. Brendan’s crime is simple: he consistently and coherently challenges feminist dogma.
Back in 2011, Brendan’s Telegraph piece questioning campaigns against ‘Online Misogyny‘ gained the wrath of feminists across the internet. He wrote:
‘Leaving aside the question of who exactly is supposed to do all this “stamping out” of heated speech – The state? Well, who else could do it? – the most striking thing about these fragile feminists’ campaign is the way it elides very different forms of speech. So the Guardian report lumps together “threats of rape”, which are of course serious, with “crude insults” and “unstinting ridicule”, which are not that serious.’
In the light of recent events and recent arrests for tweets his words are as relevant now as ever. At the time I agreed with his observations, adding that I thought feminists’ ‘fragile’ response to nastiness online is accompanied by hypocrisy whereby they dole it out as much as anyone. That too has been borne out in the last couple of weeks. And O’Neill’s most recent piece about the current moral panic over ‘twitter trolls’ is as good as anything I’ve read on the topic.
Not unlike me, O’Neill has been met with as much if not more fire and brimstone than any ‘right winger’. Because, having been involved in ‘left wing’ Politics ( leaving aside what any of us from that background may think of the RCP) Brendan and I know of what we speak. His comments on feminism don’t come from a ‘women should get back in the kitchen’ ignorant and out of date point of view, but from an educated informed position of mixing with feminists over a period of years.
When he went head to head against one of the feminist women at the heart of the recent furore over ‘online abuse’ on R4s The World Tonight, Brendan destroyed the opposition and won the argument. Before going on the show his debating partner and screecher extraordinaire, Caroline Perez was gung ho, branding O’Neill an ‘idiot’:
But feminism is a powerful dogma not due to the logic of its premises or the articulacy of its followers. Victim Feminism, that O’Neill has successfully pulled apart is fuelled by identity politics and presenting women as ‘weak’ and ‘oppressed’ by men. Therefore, criticising feminist women is perceived as ‘oppression’ or ‘misogyny’. Caroline Perez has used the same terminology, and a number of times on twitter blocked or even threatened to have her (‘misogynist’ men) detractors arrested! Whilst I agree with those who’ve pointed out men can be on the receiving end of nastiness online, the men are victims too line employs ‘victim feminism’ s faulty positions, just applied to men.
I don’t agree with everything O’Neill writes. I do identify with him and admire him for his refusal to play any kind of ‘victim card’, and for his willingness to take on one of the most sacred of sacred cows in the milieux in which he moves – feminism. By having and winning arguments with feminist women he’s not likely to lose his bete noire status. But he’s impressed this ‘troll’. Kudos.