Tuesday, May 19, 2015

#MediaGate - Mad Max: The Boycott That Wasn’t

Jonathan Swift wrote in The Examiner, November 9, 1710: “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.”

Variations of this quote have been attributed to Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, and several others, with deviations having the character of Truth slipping its shoes on, lacing its boots up, putting its pants on, and so forth. This truism exists in so many forms, with so many apparent authors, because it is so blindingly obvious to anyone who takes more than a passing glance at how information travels, not just in the modern world, but throughout history.

In much of journalism, the general objective is to find a story wherein “Man Bites Dog,” because the idea of a dog biting a person is so commonplace. Another variation on this theme that was too much trouble to source is that “you never read about a plane that didn’t crash.” [1]

On social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, but also for many years in ordinary emails, “news” has traveled swiftly because most of the people who report or share the news via these mediums do not have jobs that depend on maintaining a reputation for accuracy. For those who do make their living that way, however, one slip-up or blunder can be disastrous (e.g., Brian Williams, Dan Rather, Jason Blair, Stephen Glass, et cetera [2]).

And, as folk do still tend to seek sources that they can count on not to mislead them, the worst kinds of “supporters” to a cause are those who constantly spread bad information, losing and degrading credibility, not only for themselves, but for nearly everyone else in their “group.”

This, of course, brings us to the topic of this post:

The recent reports of “MRAs” allegedly boycotting Mad Max: Fury Road.

A Basic Timeline of Events (and Other Related Information):

1) On May 11, 2015, writer Aaron Clarey published an article on the Pick-up Artist (PUA) site ReturnofKings.com (RoK) bitching about the new Mad Max: Fury Road movie (which consulted Eve Ensler, Feminist author of The Vagina Monologues).

This event, apparently, led to the “MRAs are boycotting Mad Max” myth.

Aaron Clarey, for the uninitiated, claims to be:

“The resident economist of the mano/androsphere . . . a misanthropic, hedonist, nihilistic, cynical type, [who] keeps getting proved right every day.”

After bemoaning the failure of a previous film that might have appealed to men, and/or boys that aspired to be men, Clarey wrote a piece on the new movie Mad Max: Fury Road, which is a continuation of the Mad Max series created by George Miller, previously starring Mel Gibson (and in the new film, Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron).

Clarey recommended that men boycott the movie, not because it received negative reviews, but because it received positive reviews from (among several other places) Time Magazine. Heavens! And because a Feminist had something to do with the film.

His sound analysis concluded that, if this movie is a success:

“Then you, me, and all the other men (and real women) in the world will never be able to see a real action movie ever again that doesn’t contain some damn political lecture or moray about feminism, SJW-ing, and socialism.”


Having never heard of a single movie having such a sweeping permanent impact on the world before, one almost wants to go see it for that reason alone, no matter what its message might be.

The official trailer is here.

The trailer does not, as far as I can tell, contain anything that would be objectionable to anyone who has ever seen an action film of any kind, and the reviews appear to be generally good from everywhere. If there is any movie in circulation currently that seems almost destined to sell or perform well, this would be it. And so will (likely) end Aaron Clarey’s nascent career as a film critic.

But, now that I think about it, who would want to read a story about an action movie sure to appeal to a wide audience of action film lovers? It would be about like a story concerning a dog that bites a man, or a plane that doesn’t crash. Predicting “sure things” isn’t really very interesting.

Journalists, at least in general, aren’t entirely stupid; this movie needed something other than merely being a slam-dunk success. And, what’s one of the most effective mechanisms for achieving such an end?

Manufacturing a controversy.

2) Someone picked up on Clarey’s review, confusing him for an MRA, intentionally or not, and wrote that MRAs were boycotting Mad Max. This error, naturally, spread rapidly.

(Some suggest that The Mary Sue [TMS] was one of the first outlets to misreport the story.)

Regardless of who came first, whether it was The Mary Sue or some other site, the ripple that the misreports created has led to at least around 199 misinformation repeats (that Google can find, anyway):

 (Screenshot from May 18, 2015.)
 - Bonus screenshot (May 19, 2015):
 (Some general criticisms of The Mary Sue’s reporting, courtesy of a GamerGhazi subreddit user on a thread regarding Game of Thrones.)
And, while Aaron Clarey’s days as a film critic may be numbered, he might have something going on in the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) department. The RoK website will be receiving millions of hits for some time, or at least thousands, if only from people coming to mock the review after the movie breaks some records. [3]

3) Return of Kings is a PUA site, not MRA, despite being a part of the multifaceted “manosphere.” They have had a strained relationship with a fair amount of MRAs for some time, and Roosh V, the proprietor of RoK, has openly stated that RoK is not an MRA site.

Of course, the chief aspect that the media gets, or has gotten, wrong in this story, mainstream or otherwise, is the idea that Clarey is an MRA. He comes right out and says that he is not here.

The video above came post-controversy, so its evidence couldn’t be applied to those who wrote about MRAs boycotting the film before the video was published, but it was known that RoK was not an MRA site prior, and Clarey never indicated that he was an MRA. Thus, now that it has been made clear (reinforcing what was already true), there is no excuse for anyone else, journalist or not, to continue to repeat the same debunked falsehoods.

Make no mistake, though, Clarey isn’t a Feminist either. Like many, he says the word as if it shouldn’t be mentioned in polite company. A more accurate description of Clarey would be that he is simply Anti-Feminist. Some articles, despite all of the above, are continuing to call him an MRA, and it may well be the case that much of the media doesn’t really even know what the acronym means. For example, famous site perezhilton.com said: “Male rights activist (seriously, someone thinks that's a thing!)” [sic], and others quoted Clarey’s article at length, poking fun at its assertions. Needless to say, most outlets don't appear well-informed on the subjects of MRAs or the “manosphere.”

But, it is difficult to pigeonhole Clarey. He doesn’t seem to refer to himself by any of the standard or more common designations: MRA, MGTOW, PUA. In describing his life in the past, PUA appears to have come the closest. Yet, he says that he is sorry for hurting people in his heavy dating days, and also sorry that he missed out on some possibly good lifelong companions. He additionally doles out financial advice that many cellar-dwellers probably don’t want to hear, and he does so with a heavy hand of arrogance which many other Anti-Feminists don’t seem to care for. [4]

He distances himself from these groups, too, however, although he does claim to be in the “manosphere.”

4) The misinformation is becoming discourse canon.
(A graphic from my Twitter; click to enlarge if necessary.)
What will happen as this tale is told and retold countless times is that many in the media, and elsewhere, will never bother to find the facts. They will take an original story from their favorite sources and rework it so as not to be out-and-out plagiarism and then attempt to garner their own hits.

The result will be that this film will perform better, at least to some degree, than it would have otherwise. Women will see it in droves; men will go with their wives or girlfriends, or boyfriends or husbands. Men without partners will attend just to be horrified by the fact that women are portrayed as “tough” and self-sufficient. (That was a joke.)

Box office numbers are already good for the movie, even if not off the charts [3], so Clarey’s review either has not had the desired effect, or perhaps had a reverse effect. His effort, and this entire kerfuffle, might have even contributed to inflating the seemingly overwhelming positivity of many of the ratings and reviews of the film as well.

I have compiled two lists below under citations [5] and [6], far from comprehensive, of course. One consists of media outlets that have kept to the “MRA” theme, and another is of those who have, at least now, taken a more nuanced approach to the story. I, likewise, made a list under citation [7] of reviews that didn’t mention the controversy at all and merely stated what they thought about the film. All such examples that I found were positive.

One thing is for certain, other than that there is no substantial evidence of MRAs boycotting the film and that RoK is not an MRA site, and that is that Aaron Clarey has scored a major hit for himself and the blog that he writes for. Whether they will receive a great deal of new regular readers, or simply amplify the more negative aspects of their reputation, or both, remains to be seen.

Who would have thought it possible to make controversy out of a movie that is intended to be nothing more than an action-packed thriller. No hidden messages, no deep philosophical truths, no need to explain how, 40 years after a worldwide apocalypse, people are still driving gasoline-powered vehicles. In the desert.

There is genius lurking somewhere in this “controversy.”

Author: Krista [@Femitheist]
NOTE I: I hope that I have now, once again, lowered your expectations regarding what mainstream journalism is capable of, even when they are willing purveyors of the truth. It is a profession becoming less and less valued, except for those rare journalists who leave no stone unturned in their reporting. But, the reality is that the job environment for journalists doesn’t make much room for such individuals anymore. My story here isn’t primarily about Clarey, or MRAs or PUAs or Feminism, but about reporting and how it can be so poorly done that it creates and perpetuates false narratives. These narratives can, and frequently do, live on for months or years. A hotel break-in four decades ago still causes us to nonsensically add the suffix “-gate” to nearly anything that seems controversial. A “review” that wasn’t a review should have been ignored, and now it takes on a false importance. A movie that should have been enjoyed and then forgotten also takes on political meaning that was probably never intended for it. How many days, weeks or years of distraction from important things will this provide? #MaxGate

NOTE II: AVoiceforMen.com (AVfM) has also come out to note that there was no boycott of the film by MRAs, which, unless a handful of posters scattered across the internet and a single non-MRA writer count as a boycott, appears to be correct and true. Judge for yourselves here.

+Update (May 19, 2015): AVfM has published a review of the movie, awarding it 4/4 stars.

NOTE III: If you liked this post, feel free to share it, and if you have any thoughts on it or the general subjects discussed within, or even merely semi-related topics, please leave them in the comments below. I always enjoy reading the feedback of others whether they liked and agreed with what I had to say or not.
References (Last Accessed on May 19, 2015):

[1] Journalist Truisms

[2] Handy List of Journalistic Scandals
+Even longer list:

[3] Early Box Office Results
http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2015/05/17/box-office-mad-max-fury-road-scores-lovely-44m-weekend/ (Keep in mind, naturally, that these numbers will increase even more over time.)

[4] Ample Evidence That Several MGTOWs and Others Don't Consider Clarey One of Their Own

+Aside: TRP is slightly different from the MR subreddit, and MGTOWs ≠ MRAs, but the differences can be felt out, and there is certainly a great deal more where the above came from, including on Reddit, Twitter, YouTube and in other places as well, I imagine. So, anyone reading this, feel free to post your own evidence in the comments below.

[5] Sample of Media Outlets That Got It Wrong, Over-Emphasizing the MRA Aspect

[6] Sample of Media Outlets That Took Slightly More Balanced Approaches, at Least on MRAs

[7] Some Positive (and Non-Controversial) Reviews

[8] Additional Links of Disassociation from, or Critique of, MRAs From Roosh V and RoK