American writer and "pickup artist" Roosh V is causing a bit of hysteria abroad in countries where citizens are even more likely than they are here to say that offensive speech is "dangerous." The trouble started when Roosh V—real name Daryush Valizadeh—announced the organization of 165 simultaneous meetups on February 6 for followers of his "neomasculinity" movement, including gatherings across American and in countries such as Australia, Canada, Chile, England, Israel, and Scotland. Soon thereafter, activists in the U.K. and Canada began protesting the meetups, which they have labeled as "pro rape" events.
(Update: The meetups have all been canceled by Valizadeh)
Granted, Valizadeh doesn't have the most progressive views on romantic relations. And in stories about his sexual exploits, he often crosses into consent grey areas. But being a brute or a cad isn't illegal, and neither is writing rapey tall-tales. Nor is meeting with like-minded people to express unpopular views.
Of course, this is exactly the problem for some, who are calling on their governments to ban Valizadeh from even entering the country, to ban his fans from meeting up, and to criminalize all anti-woman "hate speech"—an impossibly broad category that seems to include everything from common insults to political expression at odds with feminism.
As of February 3, more than 55,000 people had signed a petition calling for the Scottish government to prevent Valizadeh from entering the country. "Promoting rape is hate speech, and should be treated as such," the petition reads.
Sandy Brindley of Rape Crisis Scotland has been organizing with other women's groups to protest Roosh V meetups in Scotland and pressure authorities to close the "gap in the criminal law" by designating "incitement of hatred against women" as a hate crime. "If what [Valizadeh] is doing is promoting rape then an incitement to hatred offence would enable us to deal with that," she told The National. But as a Scottish government spokesperson pointed out, making "threats of sexual violence" is already against the law in Scotland, as is harassment that would "be likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or alarm."
Over in Canada, the mayors of cities where Roosh V meetups are planned took to the Internet to voice their displeasure. "Your pro-rape, misogynistic, homophobic garbage is not welcome in Ottawa," tweeted Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson. Toronto Mayor John Torry tweeted that Roosh V "doesn't reflect the values of Toronto and his statements about women are demeaning and unacceptable." And Vancouver police have assured residents that they will be monitoring the Roosh V meetup there.
All this for a dude with a blog and some self-published books? Or, rather, the fans of some dude with a blog and self-published books? I mean, look, I've been aware of Valizadeh since he blogged under "D.C. Bachelor" back in the mid-aughts, and I find his views as gross as his capacity for self-promotion is impressive, but … come on. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that either Valizadeh or his fans intend any sort of public spectacle during these meetups, let alone any violence or incitements to violence against women. The entirety of activists' "case" for keeping them out, or under the watchful eye of law enforcement, is that they simply do not like what these men believe.
And that's rather insane for anyone who claims to be sticking up for the rights of the vulnerable, marginalized, or oppressed. Because a government allowed to whimsically ban someone from entering the country or ban a group of people from associating based purely on dislike for the content of their beliefs is sure as shit not a government that's going to stop with pickup artists. Throughout history, limits on freedom of speech and association have come down hard on the left, because it's the left that most frequently challenges the status quo. Lip service to social justice goals notwithstanding, there's no reason to think that people in power are going to suddenly stop with this centuries-long tendency now.
What's more, this sort of illiberal behavior from the left only enables those with views like Roosh V fans. As Charlie Peters writes at Spiked, "when you censor extreme views, you force them underground where they escape criticism and become even more radical. If our politicians will not allow us to debate Valizadeh, then how do they ever expect his brand of nonsense to be repudiated?"