In light of recent developments to shut down legitimate and much needed debate of men’s issues at a variety of campuses, CAFE is posting a retrospective commentary on the hypocritical tactics employed by a small number of its critics as they’ve emerged since the Warren Farrell event

How could a presentation on suicide, addiction, increasing high school dropout rates and declining post-secondary enrollment spark a protest marked by violence and harassment?

The answer is boys, but not in the way you might expect. It was not boys, often perceived as violent, inconsiderate and uncontrollable, who perpetrated these law-breaking actions. It was a conversation about them that provoked it.

Dr. Warren Farrell, a Financial Times Top 100 Thought Leader and former Board member of the National Organization for Women (New York City branch), was asked to give a talk on the declining success and well-being of boys this November at the University of Toronto, and the response was explosive. That response was an incendiary and law-breaking protest organized by Socialist Worker Canada and supported by other allied organizations like CUPE, the University of Toronto Students Unions and the Ryerson School of Social Work.

The protest and its aftermath served to expose the deep hate some on the radical left harbour toward anyone that disagrees with their perspective on gender and feminism, as well as the willingness of the sanctimonious to engage in tactics characterized by aggression, bullying and censorship – all the while deploring such approaches as “patriarchal” – in order to defend their dogmas of Holy Equality.

The protesters had convinced themselves that Dr. Warren Farrell was a “rape apologist” who trivialized sexual assault against women. With the stated intention of shutting down the event, protesters proceeded to barricade every entrance to the lecture venue, which also served to block every exit for those already in attendance, in obvious contravention of basic safety codes. In other words, armed with a single passage taken badly out of context from an award-winning international bestseller, protesters decided to prevent the creation of a metaphorically dangerous space on campus for women by creating a physically dangerous space on campus for everyone.

When individuals tried to reason with protesters blocking their way, explaining they were seeking entrance to the event to better form an opinion rather than voice one already made, protesters responded with violence and harassment. After police arrived to ensure a safe entrance and exit to the venue, protesters tried to force the police back. One protester was arrested for assaulting a police officer (though later released without charges).

One ridiculed young man can be seen in YouTube footage explaining that he was attending the event to seek some understanding related to the suicide of two of his close friends. The video then shows one female protester comment with exasperation that men should deal with suicide through feminist channels, before moving on to another female feminist attempting to goad a young man into a dispute by yelling in his face: “you are fucking scum, rape apologist, incest supporting women hating fucking scum.”

But the protesters were equal opportunity bullies. They targeted the women attending the event with equal venom. These methods of violence, bullying and intimidation seem odd ways to preserve safe space for men, women, or anyone on campus.

The protest also had the goal of denouncing sexism, hate and vilification of women, a worthy endeavour. However, there is a telling message in the totalitarian and deceitful control protesters sought to impose as they turned people away, lied about the event being canceled, and set themselves up as arbiters of acceptable discourse. In assuming male attendees would unthinkingly be turned to hate at the mere exposure to supposedly repugnant ideas, and in attempting to “protect” women from being offended by the perceived obnoxious message of Dr. Farrell, protesters actually betrayed the paternalistic – and sexist – attitude they harbor towards everyone.

The tone of the message by which protesters and their allies sought to communicate their strong anti-hate position itself utilized the kind of excessive vilification and hate now characteristic of the hypocrisy of the radical left.

Socialist Worker Canada set up a group calling itself the “U of T Students Against Sexism” in order to undertake efforts on campus to undermine the organizing of the Warren Farrell event. The name is perfect Orwellian double speak. The group in fact has no official status at U of T, is run by non-students, and exists to reinforce sexism, rather than oppose it, by slandering as misogynist any male student who dares to organize around “men’s issues.”

The group’s primary activity was to orchestrate a concerted initiative to write “Rape Culture” over as many Warren Farrell posters as possible, then to vandalize an event banner by adding the word “Misogyny” to the top.

The University of Toronto Student Union (UTSU), fellow travellers of the radical left, recently rejected an application to ratify a “men’s issues” campus group at the University of Toronto, though the group was already approved by the administration’s Office of Student Life. The group was deemed to be guilty of discrimination and harassment, and to not contain enough students. Instead, the UTSU opted to support the U of T Students Against Sexism, a group run by non-students, unratified by the Office of Student Affairs, and founded with the single-minded goal of vilifying “men’s issues” groups. The UTSU sent representatives to the protest and stated their official position against giving a “space and forum to spread misogynistic, hateful theories.”

Danielle Sandhu, past President of the UTSU, can be seen in protest footage explaining that the event organizers “defend rape, they defend incest, they defend violence against children and we do not want any of this on campus.” Embedded within their very calls against hate speech, both real and imaginary, members of the radical left themselves make claims with impunity, which in the absence of evidence constitutes the worst kind of over-the-top hate speech.

In the aftermath of the protest, free speech was called on by protesters to defend the shrill vitriol of their hateful attack. There was no apparent acknowledgment of the irony that the content of that vitriol was calling for the limiting of the free speech rights of others under the justification that their opponents were the real purveyors of hate. It is hard to believe these protesters truly understood the importance of free speech, given their stated intention was to block the venue entrance. In other words, they sought to express their freedom of speech within the act of denying free speech to their opponents.

These radical left wing protesters did not choose to engage in open-minded debate at the event. They decided to close their minds along with the doors of the auditorium, forcing a boycott on others to protect them in their own “best interest.”

By justifying a self-serving and inherently hypocritical interpretation of free speech, protesters actually violated the free speech rights of all potential attendees – men and women. The hosts of the protest have pledged to continue their efforts to monitor the university for dissention from their authoritarian dogma, a clear attempt to work for a long-term reduction in the openness of the university.

Anyone holding a politically incorrect view, men and women equally, better take note. Concerned by the threat this cynical free speech double standard poses to the University’s mission as a forum for the free exchange of ideas, the University of Toronto Vice Provost issued a statement against attempts to impede events from taking place, stating that “It is therefore heartening that many members of our community with otherwise divergent views have recognized that the disruption of this event by protesters was a threat to free speech.”

The University finally took a stand, a hopeful development given that the important and timely debate about gender, equality, feminism, and men’s issues is starting to really heat up on campus. There will be many more lectures and debates at the University of Toronto and other venues that will seem provocative and contentious, but will also be educational, enlightening and peaceful. In fact, the Warren Farrell event offered a positive and meaningful contribution to the conversation about important topics at the intersection of gender and mental health, the education system, and the workplace, at least for those lucky enough to have been able to gain entrance.

Both the event hosts and the protesters who loathe them share a desire to bring about equality. Pushing an equality-based agenda requires accepting equality in the way by which we engage in dialogue and debate on the topic. It does not mean responding to an event thought to create an unsafe space for one gender with violence, harassment and door-blocking that even the police acknowledge created danger for all. It does not mean countering perceived misogyny by turning around and engaging in vilification of everyone else. It does not mean silencing opposing points of view by labeling them as hate speech, while then shielding the hate by which that opposition is voiced under the cloak of freedom of expression.

Equality means equality. Freedom of speech means freedom of speech. And hypocrisy is hypocrisy, regardless of the direction on the political compass from which it blows.