Fear and Loathing in Kingston, Ontario: Confronting Lies at Queen’s University

Okay – straight off the bat I want to do some housekeeping. I immediately apologize to fans of the late Doctor Hunter S. Thompson, but I’m going to stick with this title and motif because it’s extremely appropriate, for reasons that will make sense later.

Second – since I went to Kingston on April 8, 2014 more as an activist than as a journalist, my objectivity is all shot to shit; so, with that in mind, I’m going to do something that I don’t normally do here at A Voice for Men (AVfM) – I’m going to write this in the first person, completely from the hip and from my perspective.

I’m not trying to give an unbiased account but I am going to give an honest account. In fact, I’ve tried writing this piece a couple of times already and have found the process extremely frustrating. It’s been frustrating because I’m very aware of the fact that I wasn’t at Kingston to report the story – I became part of the story, and, as such, have to be very careful about what I write.

It’s a long time since I studied journalism, and studying journalism now is a lot different to what I learned. When I was in college, the internet wasn’t the place it is today. Citizen journalism, blogging, social media, and the benefits of the democratization of information that we now enjoy, were still developing.

Back then, we had the Quick Chat Café and terrible internet sites. There was no Wikipedia – no YouTube – and newspapermen were curiously poking around the internet, wondering how it worked and in many instances treating it with suspicion and scorn. Hacks made predictions about the imminent death of the newspaper industry, and indeed their own, impending obsolescence. The internet was a new frontier and there were many changes.

Having said that, some things haven’t changed. If you’re a journalism student these days, there are timeless rules and knowledge of which you ought to be aware. You still need to know the law as it pertains to your profession – you need to understand what constitutes libel, slander – and the difference between the two. You need to know how to construct a sentence, how to proofread and copy-edit. There are still prickly, pedantic lecturers who explode into Old Testament paroxysms of lunatic rage when they see a greengrocer’s apostrophe, a dangling modifier, or some other grammatical faux pas. You need to know how to ask questions and how to do solid research. And, for a lot of people, you have to practice picking up the bloody phone and talking to other human beings – this last skill is one that is deteriorating rapidly, in my opinion, as we seem to increasingly rely on text-based communication platforms.

You also need to know about ethics and objectivity. Of course, when we look back at the recent history of journalism we see resistance, albeit sporadically, to traditional ideas of objectivity and to the journalist’s role. In most instances, the rule is that a journalist has to recognize the line between reporting the story, and being in the story. If you can’t see that line – or if you can and just don’t give a damn, then you probably need to find a different profession. Unless you’re Hunter S. Thompson.

And you’re not him.

And neither am I, for that matter – which is why I began this piece with an apologia.

The problem I face is that as both an activist and a journalist I often find myself in situations where I have to make a decision between acting, and reporting; if I act, then I don’t get to report because if I do, I jeopardize my perceived objectivity. When we held the rally at Queen’s Park last year, I helped Attila Vinczer a little with the preparations for the event. I made some posters and attended a meeting here and there. But, when it came to the actual event itself, I stood back. I knew I was going to write about that event so I did what I could to maintain distance. It’s not always easy. Activism is based on volunteerism. Dedicated volunteers are often difficult to find and so the effect is that the greater burden falls on the few, while the many, busy with the realities of life such as employment, family, health, etc. help how and when they can. It is easy, therefore, to be pulled in a bunch of different directions and to find oneself in situations that can be tricky to navigate.

This happened to me just recently.

The news of Danielle d’Entremont’s alleged attack in Kingston caused a lot of consternation within the Men’s Human Rights Movement (MHRM.) The reporting of the incident was, to say the least, embarrassing and slapdash. Vincent Ben Mattak of The Queen’s Journal wrote a deliberately inflammatory and deceptive article in which he parroted d’Entremont’s baseless insinuations levelled against the Queen’s Men’s Issues Awareness group. That story, like d’Entremont’s version of events, stank. Yet, a number of media outlets ran with it; it was a predictable, if not depressing development. d’Entremont’s account simply doesn’t hold up to any degree of scrutiny and as that scrutiny increased, she has sought to remove herself from the controversy. That didn’t stop those opposed to the MHRM, however, from using the alleged assault as political currency. As soon as d’Entremont posted her “no makeup selfie” replete with facial swelling and a chipped tooth, feminists went on the offensive, spewing forth the usual, by-now boring canards regarding men’s groups.

While this was going on, I was working away in the background, trying to find a way to figure out what happened. I wasn’t too interested in the comment sections except as a potential source of information. I’ll state right now that I remain highly skeptical of d’Entremont’s attack claims and I flat out reject the idea that an MHRA was responsible. I can say this with confidence because I’ve never seen MHRAs physically attack their opponents. Ever. In any case, I was busy beavering away and racking my brain when the Mercier situation exploded. Mercier’s comments, even for a feminist, were amazingly repugnant. I’m delighted that Alison Tieman was on hand to bring them into focus in the way she did. Of course, this meant that focus was also put on Mercier; it was important to figure out what her deal was and what was motivating her bizarre remarks – other than what was obvious. When we looked at her, we realized that Friedman was coming to town and not only that, but Mercier was going to be on the panel; it was an opportunity that we couldn’t miss, and, since it was in a matter of days, the chances of getting a large group together were small.

It was then that I made the decision to forgo the pen and paper and to use other tools.

We put the word out on Facebook in an attempt to get more activists at the scene; it was a risky strategy as we knew that by doing so we’d alert the fem-a-loons, but we went with it anyway.

The next day or two were spent organizing. We worked on the material we’d need, and figured out the logistics of getting people to Kingston. I picked up Suzanne McCarley from the airport the day before the rally and the next morning Danny Boy and Attila turned up at my place – fired up and ready to go.

It took four hours or so to get to Kingston. The mood in the car was amazing; everybody was joking, laughing, and drinking terrible coffee from Tim Horton’s. There’s something very, very special about getting together with other MHRAs. For those of you who, like me, are relatively new to the movement, the feeling of isolation can be unknowingly intense. Taking the “red pill” doesn’t really put a stop to that; it just means that you see things for what they are and, in a horrible way, that can make things worse. If you don’t have anybody to talk to, or to share ideas with, the world can seem like a very shitty place. Meeting with like-minded people is cathartic; for that moment of time sanity returns to the world, and that while there’s a massive fucking fight ahead – you’re going to take that fight because you’re really not alone anymore. That’s how it felt, driving to Kingston. The mood did shift a little as we arrived at our destination though. When we got to the campus the feeling was still high, but we did become a little quieter. “Am I the only one who feels nervous about this?” I asked. I don’t recall receiving an answer one way or the other.

The first stop was to check the venue. We went in and had a snoop around. I found it somewhat ironic that a feminist lecture should take place in a building whose purpose is to further understanding about biosciences – although I kept that particular observation to myself. I was focused on finding the lecture hall as well as figuring out our plan of action. We quickly found our way into the lecture hall and left an Adele Mercier poster on the speaker’s lectern. After that, we posed briefly for a photo in the lobby, then decided to get to work.

We broke into two teams – myself and Danny Boy and Suzanne and Attila. We didn’t have a specific plan of attack as we didn’t know the place too well. It was more of a case of “you go that way and we’ll go that way,” and that’s exactly what we did. Danny and I, from what I can remember, headed west.

We were careful to make sure that everything we hit was legal; we made sure not to poster mailboxes or anything stupid like that, but made a point of hitting anything especially visible. A few people stopped to check out the posters and we talked to everyone who showed interest, explaining what we were doing, why we were doing it – and giving a very general account of the issues. Most got it – some didn’t. It was quite the experience to go on a poster run with Danny. Nonchalance is not an adequate enough word to describe the “I do not give a fuck” attitude that he displays when working. I guess that comes from having not only a firm belief in what you’re doing – but also the experience. Danny’s been at it a long time, and it shows in his willingness to clamber up lampposts to hang posters or in his amazing ability to engage with people that he meets.

While we were doing all of this we were also in contact with AVfM and the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE.) I spoke with a representative of CAFE who told me that Mercier had been pulled from the event. I wasn’t surprised – I’d made such a prediction to the group when we were on our way to Kingston. We were doing something that hadn’t been done before – an MHRA group was going on the offensive for once; we were raising our voices in opposition to something that was reprehensible, disgusting, and that would undeniably cause a male lecturer to lose his job. Mercier and her ilk have enjoyed the luxury of being able to spout their hatred in cloistered university environments – deluding themselves into thinking that they’re speaking out against something. As soon as opposition came her way however, she ran, like the pathetic coward that she is.

We stayed out for about an hour then made our way back to the venue. The lobby, which was earlier inhabited by groups of uninterested but busy students, now had a number of people present. Steve Brule was there with his camera gear. Organizers for the event were there too and it was patently evident from their body language that they weren’t happy with our presence.

The trouble started, I suppose, with Brule. While not an MHRA or a member of any MHRA organization, security immediately singled him out and told him that he wasn’t going to be allowed into the venue. We later learned that organizers of the event were communicating through Facebook and it was here that the decision to remove Brule was made. To his credit, Steve remained perfectly calm and reasoned in the face of obvious bullying and intimidation; he stood his ground.

While this was going on Danny decided to go outside to hand out flyers where he met a group of feminist thugs who had brought along an attack dog. Danny asked them what they were doing and without a hint of irony they replied “we’re here to make sure no one gets hurt.” Of course, Danny being Danny, he immediately undercut their effectiveness by petting their dog. They may as well have brought a fucking poodle for what good it did.

Security didn’t seem too bothered about this – or too bothered about the group of thugs inside the venue who were at this point milling about and attempting to stare us down.

By now the atmosphere was becoming quite unpleasant; if I include Steve Brule in our numbers – we were a massive, fear-inducing six people all in, to the two hundred or so slated to see Friedman, who arrived surrounded by a phalanx of security guards and a couple of flunkies.

Danny doing his bit at Queen's
Danny doing his bit at Queen’s

I was worried about Danny so I called him inside. Meanwhile, Brule was still making his points with security and Attila Vinczer had joined in to see how he could help. At this point, I was sitting away from the action; I was organizing our literature and keeping an eye on what was going on. I decided to take a photo of the group discussion with security and when I did, something rather bizarre happened. As I lined up my camera, I noticed two people move at pace directly into my shot. When they got between the group and me, they raised their hands to their faces – and then proceeded to hang posters around the lobby with “no photography allowed” written on them. I was a little puzzled by this at first but it didn’t take me long to figure out what they were doing: they were putting on a show – demonstrating to security that they were “justified” in hanging their posters and justified in refusing entry to Steve Brule. They weren’t bothered by the many students who were taking photos and video with their camera phones though…

After some more nonsense with security we decided to go inside – leaving Steve and his assistant behind. The lecture was about to begin and it was important that we got people in to explain why we were there, and what we were speaking out against. Mercier’s absence didn’t really change anything – if she hadn’t got the courage to explain her words in public then we’d let those students know what we thought – and why they should care too.

Of course – we had to get past security first – who, at the behest of the fem-a-loons, had now decided to refuse entry to all of us, for no reason whatsoever. We immediately challenged this and demanded, politely, for an explanation for the refusal. After a lot more nonsense and argument they eventually decided to let us inside, provided that we didn’t disrupt the event or take any photographs. I guess what they actually meant was that we shouldn’t bring in noise makers; I guess they meant that we shouldn’t bring bullhorns; I guess they meant that we shouldn’t scream and shout like animals; I guess they meant that we shouldn’t pull the fire alarm. We did none of those things, and, again, security did nothing while feminist goons continually attempted to intimidate us – now standing within earshot of our discussion.

The tension in the auditorium was palpable. Danny and I spotted Suzy and Attila and sat with them – as we walked down the steps we could feel the stares burning holes in the backs of our heads. This was hostile territory – no doubt. Sitting down was a relief, but it didn’t take long before the heads in front of us turned around to catch a repulsed glance. While we didn’t make it clear at the time – we found this amusing. The idea that a tiny group of MHRAs, there to protest rape apology and to insist upon an end to hypocritical double standards could be a threat to anybody was bizarre, laughable, and about to make complete sense.

All eyes were on us. It was going to be a long night.

Garbage cans aren't just for Oscar the Grouch
Garbage cans aren’t just for Oscar the Grouch

Shortly after we were seated two of the organizers introduced Friedman. The introduction, without any exaggeration on my behalf, without any attempt at hyperbole, was completely apeshit crazy – utterly insane. I mean waking up in the morning and eating raw chicken breast off the floor insane. Presumably referring to d’Entremont’s alleged attack, the speaker for some reason actually began crying, and immediately set to work on whipping the audience into a paranoid terror – “as we were deciding whether or not to hold this event, we talked a lot about safety – and fear,” she said, while sobbing. It was a theme that was constantly reinforced throughout the event. On two separate occasions women referred to their “fear” and began sobbing uncontrollably.

The next speaker began by saying “my silences have not protected me. Your silences will not protect you,” and went on to reinforce the threat narrative by saying “in the past few weeks many of our friends and colleagues have been silenced by fear.” She didn’t mention why they were afraid. “We have stayed home, sat down, and passed the mic.” She didn’t say why they did this either but continued “tonight… is for those women who have been so terrified because they were taught to respect fear more than themselves.” She also didn’t say, funnily enough, who taught them to feel like that. Was it the six MHRAs present at the talk? Or was it something else? Was it the never-ending mantra of rape culture – teaching women to fear men whom they don’t know, and even those they do in complete defiance of objective reality?

I’m betting yes.

Friedman’s talk was entitled “What’s feminism got to do with it?” and was ostensibly an attempt to “talk back” at Professor Janice Fiamengo’s talk that was held at Queen’s two weeks previously. Friedman’s lecture didn’t address any of Fiamengo’s talking points. Instead, Friedman lectured those present on her canned version of sexual consent – and issued forth a laundry list of prescriptive edicts on how to engage sexually with the opposite sex. At one point she even encouraged women to engage in childish mind games to assess the personality of prospective partners.

However, like the opening speakers, it didn’t take long for Friedman to talk about fear.

Friedman invited the audience to think about what a rapist looks like before putting up an image of a dark figure on the screen behind her. The figure appeared to lurch forward, held a knife and was, while humanoid, clearly not human. It had large, beaming white sockets for eyes and an evil grin literally from ear to ear. It was scary looking but Friedman insisted that while that is what people think about when thinking about rapists, it’s not the reality. The reality was, yes, you’ve guessed it – a white guy. He was a good looking white guy with nice teeth, great hair, clean shaven and athletic. He carried a backpack, indicating his student status. This is what a rapist looks like – he’s the nice guy who smiles at you from across the cafeteria and you should be very, very afraid. It was yet another cynical ploy intended not to inform, or to help – but to generate fear. It was particularly cynical because Friedman set up a false equivalency from the get-go; by invoking the image of the monster she gave an image of a rapist that nobody would actually agree with if they gave the matter any thought. The reason is because nobody actually believes in monsters – no functioning adults in any case. Adults realize that human beings rape – both men and women.

So, why the monster?

Friedman used the monster not to represent a rapist, but the fear of being raped. Rape is a horrible, personal attack and can be violent, hence the knife. Rape is an impersonal soulless act, hence the white eyes, indicating a lack of a soul, and is supposedly carried out in the shadows out of sight – and never spoken about – hence the dark figure. So, what Friedman was actually doing was subtly encouraging the audience to take their fears about an act that is extremely rare and is actually on the decrease, and to invest them in the average guy that they come across on campus.

Is it any wonder then, when this qualifies as rational discourse on a university campus, that there was such a reaction to our presence? Is it any wonder that people treated us with nothing less than loathing? Is it any wonder that they were ‘afraid?’

Friedman’s lecture was full of such false equivalencies and poor analogies (she at one point compared impaired driving to rape) and was constantly punctuated by her unbearably irritating laughter. Mercifully, she stopped talking and the Q&A began. We immediately raised our hands and were immediately ignored. Time after time we were passed by until one brave soul in the audience, clearly fed up with what was going on, pointed to Danny Boy, who had stood up to protest the deliberate stonewalling. “There are three gentlemen over there who’ve had their hands up from the beginning,” she said, pointing to our little group. It was an amazing moment. Many people in the crowd applauded and just like that – the moral high ground was snatched from the organizers – just like that they were shamed, and not by us, but by their peers.

We asked a couple of questions and made some comments – I highly doubt that we had much, if any impact on the people in that auditorium. I doubt it because it’s patently clear that for that cohort at least, the damage is done; they are simply beyond help. I can’t remember how many times I shook my head, or raised my eyes heavenwards, or sighed, or said “Jesus Christ” or “for fuck’s sake” under my breath that night. It was a lot – and I’m sure it was often enough in response to the whooping and hollering of the indoctrinated attendees – too far gone to realize what’s happening – too far gone to realize that they’re no longer just students; they’re now cultists.

For the most part, these young men and women have been conned. They’ve been tricked into believing that their participation in feminism will somehow secure them space on the right side of history. Consequently, ethical and moral behaviour take a back seat to the immediacy of ideology – pulling a fire alarm is okay because MHRAs are violent. Walking into an academic lecture and screaming like animals, slamming desks and intimidating people is okay because we don’t want any “hate speech” on campus. Making up lies about your opponents is okay because the end result is all that matters. Turning up with an attack dog to “keep people safe” is okay because we live in a rape culture.

After the lecture, we went to a pub. We were tired, but also somewhat exhilarated. We’d been to Queen’s to face down a rape apologist – and she ran. We put her face all over that university and by the end of the lecture left the building firmly in the belief that we’d had a successful, if exhausting outing.

When we got to the bar one of the feminist goons from the lecture came in; as he walked past our table he looked at me. I looked up at him and offered him a nod and a smile – a genuine smile. I was no longer at Queen’s – the lecture was over – the grief, the strife, was done as far as I was concerned. I was now sitting with friends, having a beer and a chat. I hoped that my acknowledging him and the scene that he encountered would give him a little pause for thought. Maybe he’d nod back, or smile – maybe – if only for a split-second, he’d notice our humanity.

He walked past with a scowl, and I went back to my beer.


Editorial note: AVfM and Men’s Rights Canada continue to offer a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and capture of Danielle D’Entremont’s alleged attacker, and continues to challenge feminist groups and feminist apologists to match that offer. –DE

Update: Check out this recording made in a men’s room at Queen’s just before the lecture that “violent” Men’s Human Rights Activists supposedly “disrupted.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaQQcScmzCA]

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