Canada, we're being trolled.
Some 43,000 people have petitioned "pickup artist" Roosh V's entry into Canada on grounds that he disseminates hate speech. Yesterday, Toronto Mayor John Tory denounced him before more than 67,000 followers on Twitter, while councillor Norm Kelly (followers: 91,000) warned venues not to host his talk this Saturday.
But do the math: the blogger (real name Daryush Valizadeh) attracted a paltry 34 men to his speech on "neomasculinity" in Montreal this past weekend.
While it's commendable that critics are blasting a guy who once pushed for the legalization of rape, fear and loathing served up in 140 characters might not be the most productive conversation, and might actually be serving Roosh well.
The Canadian backlash has fuelled some serious publicity bluster for Valizadeh, who has self-published a series of "bang guides" to bedding women in various countries. It's bloated his follower count, and Valizadeh's been carefully tracking his own exposure on Twitter this week – along with baiting feminists after several women allegedly attacked him in Montreal, two reportedly dumping beer on his head.
"The best way of handling people like this of course is to try and ignore them," Kelly acknowledged, before explaining that it was incumbent for him to speak out as a public official.
The pickup artist, or PUA, community remains a relatively small subculture of men who hope to get laid more often. They plan to achieve this by poring over "seduction manuals" and attending bootcamps that force shy guys out of their shells. Popularized in part by Neil Strauss's The Game, some PUA techniques are psychologically off-putting, including "negging," which consists of mildly teasing or criticizing a woman so her self-confidence drops and she somehow becomes intrigued (the grade-school equivalent is letting a girl know you like her by kicking her).
Recently though, the PUA community has spouted more odious fare. In February, Valizadeh penned a bizarre and troubling blog post titled "How to Stop Rape," arguing that the legalization of rape on private property would make women more vigilant with strange men at frat parties. Never mind that most women are raped by someone they know, and very few report it. Using some seriously fuzzy logic, Valizadeh argued that in order to stamp out sexual violence, it's up to women to show "self-control" and "make adult decisions about their bodies." It's outdated rhetoric we've heard before, sometimes from women, no less.
Almost immediately, Valizadeh was beaten back by a vocal community of feminists online. (The pickup artist was not available for an interview before deadline, but tweeted at Tory, "Mr. Mayor, my speech doesn't promote violence, harassment, or hate against any group. You were lied to about me.")
In a foreshadow to this debacle, Australia banned pickup artist Julien Blanc last November. A photo that showed his hands around a woman's throat went viral under the hashtag #ChokingGirlsAroundtheWorld. Canadians protested him too, getting the Immigration Minister's attention, with Blanc eventually cancelling planned speaking dates here.
Blanc's "techniques" are disgusting, juvenile and misogynist, definitely. But as Maclean's columnist Emma Teitel pointed out at the time, his detractors scored him more airtime than he'd ever enjoyed before. Feminists were failing to distinguish between "what's idiotic, what's lecherous, and what's criminal," wrote Teitel. "Not all pickup artists are equal; and very few of them are the spawn of the devil."
Those who rail against Blanc and Valizadeh counter that they're concerned about how misogynist content plays into the mindset of more violent men like Elliot Rodger and John Houser, who opened fire and killed two women at a screening of Amy Schumer's film Trainwreck in Lafayette, La., last month.
With the current climate, it will be interesting to see if a prolific chauvinist like Roosh V will get run out of town. If not, protesters will no doubt be keenly watching whether anyone will host his "The State of a Man" address in Toronto this weekend (he is keeping venue details under wraps until Friday).
Ultimately though, the gender war that's been fomented between PUAs and feminists isn't really indicative of modern male-female dynamics – men and women who work, play, live and raise children together, whose long-term relationships likely weren't forged over carefully crafted disses.
Most well-adjusted men don't bone up on misogynist mind games before heading out to the bar, and most women have enough self-respect to turn the bar stool away from a neg. For those who don't, maybe we should focus the conversation on them – not another chafing, Twitter-metric scanning PUA.