Heads Up Chicago: Fascism is Coming to Town

UPDATE: Thanks to your calls, tweets and messages, The Empty Bottle has cancelled this event.

From the “neo-masculinist” fans of the Return of Kings website to the openly fascist, rape apologist Boyd Rice, purveyors of hatred and misogyny have apparently decided that Chicago is their kind of town. Undeterred by our famously bitter weather, but ultimately dissuaded by the threat of worldwide reprisal, a planned gathering of Men’s Rights Activists was recently cancelled in Chicago – as were gatherings in a total of 43 countries around the world. Now, another hateful presence is poised to make itself felt in our city, and this time, there’s money involved.

Boyd Rice, whose published views on sexual assault include the idea that “Rape is the act by which fear and pain are united in love” and that forcible sex acts are “the triumph of harmony through oppression,” has booked an upcoming show at a Chicago venue. The performance, currently scheduled for June 12, 2016, at The Empty Bottle, will allow fascist friendly attendees to enjoy Rice’s musical stylings for the low price of $12.50.

But what is the cost to our city of allowing such people to profit from hate in our communities?

Rice, who actually appeared in full Nazi-garb for an interview with white-Supremacist Tom Metzger, has rejected claims that he is a fascist, despite having publicly stated that there is an intellectual conspiracy behind criticisms of Mein Kampf. Rice also expressed, in his interview with Metzger, that he hoped his music would mobilize greater white pride in the United States.

While Rice has rejected attacks on his fascism, when confronted, claiming that his pro-fascist statements have been the stuff of pranks, his hateful words and actions speak for themselves. Like the much-despised MRA blogger Roosh V, Rice falls back on claims of satire while addressing criticism, and espouses hatred when interacting with audiences that embrace such language. And as Rice’s critics have long pointed out, Rice’s brand of industrial music (described in promotional materials as “post-punk inspired apocalyptic folk/industrial” – whatever the hell that means) is presented to its fans as “a celebration of fascist ideals,” rather than a mockery or interrogation of neo-nazi aesthetics, and has served as a vehicle for the popularization of racist ideas. Under such circumstances, one might be moved to ask if Rice’s intentions are even relevant to any consideration of his work.

Whether Rice’s promotion of fascism is employed merely for its shock-value (which seems decidedly unlikely, given all available evidence), out of genuine belief, or for sheer financial gain, the end result is the same: white supremacy is granted an artistic vehicle, and communities are forced to play host to commercialized rallies for neo-fascists.

Outrage over Rice’s politics has caused numerous venues to cancel previous events. Given Chicago’s overall distaste for brazen fascism, it seems very possible that public pressure could garner the same result here. At the very least, consumers and artists may want to steer clear of a venue that plays host to pro-rape nazi fans.

Chicago’s organizing community includes numerous anti-racist groups and acts of protest seem likely, should the show go on. A previous Boyd Rice show, here in Chicago, was interrupted by a smoke bomb, presumably wielded by an anti-fascist, so it seems likely that some community members are well aware of Rice’s politics, and stand ready to push back. But while the thought of confronting fascists may appeal to some, hate-driven profit is at stake here, and that profit should be denied.

So if you’re disturbed by the thought of Rice profiting from racism and misogyny in our town, contact the Empty Bottle and let them know what this artist is all about, and that fascism is not welcome in Chicago.

The Empty Bottle
1035 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Roosh?

A widely despised blogger and lauded hero within the so-called “Men’s Right Movement” grabbed headlines this week as the “pro-rape” website Return of Kings announced a series of international meetups for its hyper-masculine fan base. Daryush Valizadeh, also known by the online moniker Roosh V, or Roosh Valizadeh, said that the meetups were being planned to allow men who view themselves as “pickup artists” and “men’s rights activists” to “come out of the shadows” and build deeper relationships with like-minded, straight cis men. The Return of Kings website, which treats women as both “the enemy” and the subject of constant sexual fixation, promised “furious retribution” against anyone who attempted to disrupt the boys-only rendezvous. But amid widespread threats of protest and confrontation, Roosh apparently lost touch with his self-purported ferocity, and announced on Wednesday that all scheduled meetups were cancelled.

By Thursday, Roosh had apparently become so concerned for his safety that he actually summoned police to his mother’s home in Silver Spring, Maryland – where he lives in the basement – to discuss threats he’s received from around the world.

Much of the outrage directed at Roosh highlighted a piece from last year, in which the blogger argued that rape should be legalized, so long as it occurs on private property. Roosh now claims the post was satirical, but the Return of Kings website has never been known to stray from the contention that the term “rape” is used too broadly to describe the sexual conduct of men, or the notion that manipulating women into sex, or even taking advantage of women who are too intoxicated to consent, is acceptable behavior.

While the blowback against these meetups was wholly understandable, there is a hard truth that will likely be lost in much of the conversation about Roosh and his followers.

In the predictably sensational media coverage of a standoff between feminists and misogynists that never quite played out, there has been virtually no discussion of the fact that a great number of men who feel comfortable denouncing Roosh and his fandom are, in fact, part of the problem.

While George Lawlor, the University student who famously proclaimed, “This is not what a rapist looks like!” was greatly maligned on social media, his sentiments were actually fairly normative. While there was no doubt racism and classism embedded in Lawlor’s comments, there was something else at work that also poses an ongoing threat to the safety of women: the idea that men with good intentions – or even “good politics” – are not capable of crossing boundaries of consent, and that such things are not commonplace.

The fact that extremity exists in the world, on the spectrum of every bad “-ism,” in no way astonishes me, or even startles me. When I encounter Roosh’s vitriol amid my social media scrolling, it neither brings my blood to a boil, nor inspires me to take significant action. To me, he is a mere caricature. And while caricatures can be deeply disturbing, they can also keep us comfortable.

If popular fiction tells us anything, it’s that people love battles that come down to good vs. evil. We love the simplicity of obvious targets and the satisfaction of righteous victories. We want a world that offers us heroes and villains, and allows us to feel confident that we are standing on the right side of whatever conflict is at hand. But the real world rarely offers such simplicity, and our aversion to complex matters leaves many issues and manifestations of harm unaddressed.

I am not afraid of Roosh Valizadeh.

Because to me, he is not the face of rape.

I am afraid because most of the women I know who have survived assault have not been abused by blustering creeps like Roosh. They have been harmed by their friends, their neighbors, their partners and others who managed to gain their trust. The situations in which many are harmed are often mundane, or even positive, until someone crosses a line. And in the aftermath of such moments, those responsible rarely believe that they’ve committed any harm at all. Because rape, to them, is a clear-cut matter. And when they brush aside the possibility of two people experiencing the same events differently, and focus on terms they cannot reconcile with their own identities rather than pondering what it is to feel harmed or violated, in real human terms, they reject all responsibility.

And they will almost always be abetted in doing so, because their friends, coworkers and partners are equally averse to acknowledging the complications of harm and the true bounds of consent, because no one wants to believe that “good guys” are capable of bad things.

So when Roosh says he’s coming to their town, these men raise their voices in disgust, and are applauded for doing so. Because they are nothing like Roosh. And really, we shouldn’t pretend that they are. Because a person need not be wholly bad or terrifying to do great harm. A person can be decent in many ways, and still hurt someone – even someone they care about. A person living in a culture of rape can mistake violation for passion, and they often do.

Each and every day.

And this is why some of us are so very afraid.

Not because of Roosh or a stranger in the bushes or some other human being that can be reduced to a concept.

But because some of the people reading this have no doubt crossed lines and broken boundaries of consent without ever knowing they’d caused harm.

Just as some of the people reading this will cross those lines tomorrow, or the next day, or some time after that.

And the person they harm won’t see it coming.

So rage against the likes of Roosh, if that rage empowers you. Mock them, call them what they are and menace them all you like, as they are no doubt worthy of scorn. But be careful. Because there’s a reason that people so readily engage with these moments, rather than the day-to-day realities of rape culture and sexual violence. There’s a reason that we sort the world into heroes and villains. There’s a reason most rapists are never answered for. And it’s not because of the Big Bad Roosh.