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Lonely Robots: Transhumanist Responses to Unfuckability July 4, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Feminism, Queer politics, Science Fiction, Technology, Transhumanism.
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Soon after I mentioned being genderqueer during a conversation at the Extreme Futurist Festival 2011, the person I was talking to responded, “Wow, it must be hard for you to find sexual partners!”

“Gee, thanks,” I thought. As tactless as that remark may have been, it wasn’t wrong. This piece by Meredith Talusan explores some of the dynamics involved. Unfortunately, complaining about not getting laid immediately calls to mind masculine sexual entitlement to women’s bodies. I’m not sure it can escape that established trope.

The question of who’s considered attractive and who receives affection matters, but it’s unclear what to do. Most successful folks on the left and elsewhere enjoy their social power and/or romantic/sexual attractiveness. Critiques of the status quo as making it difficult for some to realize their desires potentially unsettle the existing elite, so they’ve no interest in pushing such critiques.

It’s telling Talusan’s article centers the achievement of Jacob Tobia and Alok Vaid-Menon, taking for granted the notion that prominent folks should get dates. What about all the humans who conform to neither ideals of attractiveness nor of success?

Well, nobody cares about those losers!

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Anybody who values the overall good should care, though, and some do, or at least pretend to. Transhumanism offers various theoretical easy fixes to the problems of loneliness and unfuckability, albeit with severe implementation issues and philosophical implications.

Morphological Freedom

Wait, some people are poor, ugly, crazy, and/or sick? Let’s use technology to get them up to standard. We can all be sexy immortal billionaires!

A lot of transhumanists think this way.

As simplistic as this perspective is seems, the difficulty if not impossibility of conforming to existing norms indeed accounts for much of their oppressive power. Currently, the genetic lottery, money, and time determine who’s beautiful, hot, sexy, stunning, etc. If anybody could make their body match ideals of physical beauty, the advantage the genetic elite have in this regard would evaporate.

On the other hand, the normatively gorgeous don’t necessarily have the kind of sexual and romantic relationships they want, so opening access to beauty hardly seems sufficient. Additionally, what about folks who chose unpopular aesthetics? They might still find themselves undesirable despite full morphological freedom. Additionally, deprived of the genetic hierarchy, attractiveness norms could shift to become akin to fashion: “Girl, that body is so last month!”

The prospect of modifying minds quickly leads to questioning the basis of individual identity. For example, assuming I could make myself think and behave as popular and successful people do, would I want to? What about rewiring my mind to disregard social status and affection entirely? Would I still be me if I did either of those? I don’t know. Many of us stubbornly wish to remain who we imagine ourselves to be.

Matching Algorithms

Given the wide array of different desires folks have, morphological freedom by itself seems inadequate for solving the problem of loneliness and unfuckability. And of course full morphological freedom would require technological innovation and economic transformation; it’s a long way off.

However, there’s potential to make things dramatically better in the nearer term. Matching algorithms, such as featured on dating sites like OkCupid, can facilitate connections and enable romantic/sexual relationships. This ain’t necessarily that great at the moment, but the principle of aligning people’s desires, interests, etc. has promise. As big the world is, there’s probably at least a few folks somewhere whose desires match up with any given person’s at any given time.

For instance, let’s say I want to get tied up right now. I don’t know anyone who I think would be interested, but there’s a decent chance one or more of the planet’s seven and half billion humans is, especially if they had an idea of who I am and a basic level of trust. There might even be somebody my city or neighborhood.

Increasingly sophisticated digital networks can theoretically hook people up for both romantic/sexual relationships and other interactions, decreasing loneliness and improving quality of life. We already try to do this with our social media, though it’s a rather blunt instrument at present.

Sexbots

Certain transhumanists and others look optimistically to sexbots, predicting physical and mental health benefits. Yet, in addition to raising questions about objectification, sexbots are unlikely be able to convey the social status associated with romantic/sexual desirability. While some may eventually function as romantic partners, this wouldn’t be equivalent to human partnership unless they had human-level or above artificial intelligence and autonomy like a human. Sexbots might well alleviate the pain of unfuckability by human standards, but it’s unlikely they would completely resolve the problem. As Sherry Turkle and company argue, the prospect of sex and love with robots has the potential pitfalls. I find those concerns mostly misguided but relevant here.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality offers a number of benefits for sexual/romantic relations, whether between humans or between humans and AIs. VR makes change ones appearance trivial, eliminating that aspect of the genetic lottery. By transcending geographic limitations, VR in conjunction with matching algorithms could dramatically increase the odds of meaningful connections.

VR sexbots have the same issues as physical ones, albeit with perhaps less stigma. With or without sexual/romantic elements, VR worlds could simulate social status, as games do today. Losing oneself in VR entails similar philosophical challenges to transforming one’s psyche as described above.

Conclusion

None of the above technologies can replace the political and social project of creating a more accessible and fulfilling society, but they can assist in that project and make life more livable in any case.

Pride’s Queer Future June 27, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Feminism, Queer politics, Science Fiction, Transhumanism.
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The year is 2020.

Pride events across the United States have banned cops, corporations, Zionism, & U.S. nationalism.

Talking heads rail about intersectionality as masked queers loot banks and big-box stores.

Cishet white men approach with caution, assuming the SJW mob will rip them apart. Instead they find themselves caught up in the revolutionary fervor.

Semi-autonomous remote-controlled drones assault police cars and stations massive numbers.

Law and order breaks down. It’s chaos in the streets.

New worlds are forming.

Against All Authority May 14, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Ageism, Anarchism, Feminism, Queer politics.
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¡Sin excepciones! No exceptions. Regardless of sentimentality, freedom means unmaking parental authority along with all other social hierarchies. The nuclear family serves as a practical and conceptual basis for oppression. I remain drawn to Shulamith Firestone’s thought in part because of how ey identified this dynamic.

Milo Yiannopoulos Manages to Be a Dangerous Faggot After All February 21, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Ageism, Anarchism, Feminism, Queer politics.
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In fact, it turned out that there was nothing ‘dangerous’ at all in picking on women and refugees. People will pay you good money for that. The dangerous ideas are the ones they don’t pay you for, the ones that don’t get you on HBO. You’re actually dangerous when you do what Yiannopoulos did in the ‘pedophile’ tapes: defend society’s most hated outcasts, and tell the truth about the complexities of gay men’s sexuality. You’re dangerous when you stick up for those on the fringes rather than kicking them. There’s nothing courageous or edgy in bullying the despised and excluded. But it might be dangerous if you dared to empathize with them.

To all the anarchists, radicals, leftists, and so on jumping on the Milo’s-an-evil-pedophile bandwagon, I urge you to reconsider. While understandable and presumably effective in the short term, Shaun King’s the-pervert-are-power line has pernicious implications for queer revolution. Many, including anticapitalist radicals, thought the perverts were in power back at the turn of the twentieth century. They understood queerness as a bourgeois degeneracy. We don’t need to revive that discourse. Yiannopoulos’s comments about intergenerational sexual encounters are problematic, as the whole subject is, but not nearly as oppressive as countless other things ey’s said. It’s utterly telling that it’s the pedophile charge that has finally damaged Yiannopoulos’s brand. (Well, for the moment. The long-term effects remain uncertain.)

Caution about the discourse of perversity and perverts matters especially for us transhumanists. Queers whose form of queerness has become at least more or less normalized in social-justice circles might perceive no need to worry about the whole pedophilia narrative and its use here. That’s the situation I occupy; despite the “your a fucking pedo” allegation from /r/Anarchism, I’ve no direct personal stake in the matter. I vividly recall the subordination of childhood and youth, but it’s been well over a decade since I’ve experienced it.

But queerness ain’t static. As Gloria Anzaldúa indicated, the demonized groups have shifted with time and will continue to. If technological innovation continues as expected and hoped, we can bet on future moral panics over bodily modification, intimate relations, and so on. Human sexual experiences with robots immediately jumps to mind, for example. We transhumanists have to rigorously attend to the process of queering and othering if we want to figure out ethical arrangement for coming technological realities. Merely accepting dominant lefty norms about who’s the real pervert won’t cut it.

Thinking Safety after the Orlando Massacre June 12, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Feminism, Queer politics, Technology, Transhumanism.
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“Freedom is never very safe.”

Shevek says this toward the end of Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. Tyranny isn’t safe either. In the wake of today’s deadly shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, we need to remember these principles.

Reactions to this atrocity follow predictable lines. Many progressives and leftists are warning about Islamophobia. Most liberals, along with some progressives and leftists, are blaming the National Rifle Association and encouraging state gun control. Some radicals are promoting armed self-defense for queers. Most conservatives and some liberals are blaming Muslims and beating the drums of war. Some antiqueer bigots are hailing the attack as God’s work, divine retribution.

Without question, the massacre highlights the horror of antiqueer bigotry. As with any mass killing, it stands out as a human tragedy, a site of spectacularly intense pain and loss. Because of this, the impulse toward mourning feels intuitive.

That’s not the approach I take here. Instead of prayers, I offer analysis.

While recognizing the appropriateness of mourning, I challenge it as an imperative. None of us can meaningfully mourn all of the death and suffering that happens in the world each day. Various valid responses exist, including reflection, looking at the big picture. It doesn’t necessarily make any sense that massacres like this attract more outrage than the structural violence that kills people more slowly, spread out across time and space. It doesn’t necessarily make sense that we mourn the massacres that the media tells us to and not others.

My reaction as a queer transhumanist anarchist adheres to its own predictable line: opposition to authoritarian security measures enforced through violence, whether controls on Muslim immigrants or on firearms. I likewise advocate criticism of Islam and other Abrahamic religions as part of the project of smashing straightness.

As I’ve previously written, state gun control has a racist history and enhances the power of elites. Moreover, as William Gillis argues, state regulation based on safety fundamentally conflicts with technological innovation. I don’t completely agree with Gillis, but find the broad sweep of the argument compelling.

First the state bans assault rifles; next it bans all 3D printers that could conceivably produce assault rifles. (How do they enforce these bans? With assault rifles, of course.) The logic of banning guns, of safety via state violence, tends toward totalitarian dystopia. It’s the logic of the cop wearing a pistol and body armor who’ll shoot you for possessing a knife. Perhaps enlightened progressives could somehow strike the right balance and allow for technological transformation while still reducing the odds of individuals going on murderous rampages.

I doubt it. That’s a risk I’m not willing to take. State gun control is manifestly hypocritical, unethical, and corrosive to freedom. The long-term dangers are overwhelming.

I do support nonstate efforts to reduce risks that come from the means of destruction, including firearms. Safety stands out as a hard problem for transhumanism. I plan to cover this in more detail in the future. For now, suffice it to say that I don’t want a nuclear bomb in every pot.

Banning guns is misguided. Further restricting Muslim immigration and targeting Muslims with increased security-based harassment stand out as far worse, nightmarishly oppressive prospects. Such prejudice and control run wholly counter to the principle of freedom.

With that said, despite how homonationalists tell me to join ISIS when I denounce the United States, I don’t buy into the mainstream narrative around Islamophobia. Islam, like other Abrahamic religions, contains endless oppressive elements. I don’t think there’s enough positive there to be worth salvaging, although I hold limited sympathy for Muslims/Christians/Jews/etc. who cultivate the best aspects of their religions.

I oppose prejudice against Muslims because region and culture determine religious identity more than adherence to dogma, and because anti-Muslim sentiment in the West primarily comes from imperialists, racists, and xenophobes. We should criticize and fight back those who preach oppression based on any religion or any other basis. This includes Islam.

Ultimately, I’m on the side of the apostates and blasphemers. Death to all domination!

Homonationalism Means Bashing Queers June 9, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Feminism, Queer politics, Transhumanism.
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I just got back from Albuquerque’s Trans March to the Pride Candlelight Vigil. As I yelled “Death to the United States!” and “Death to imperialism!” during the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem, two homonationalists put their hands on me, threatened to beat me up, grabbed my sign, and temporarily pulled it off its handle. This neatly illustrates what inclusion entails for normative LGBT subjects: bashing queers.

Pride 2016 Signs (1)

Earlier, during the Trans March, I engaged violent insurrectionist propaganda of the deed by following the lead of a few other folks and walking into the lane of traffic we were supposed to leave open. Security, safety, or whatever-the-hell people in reflective vests told me to know my place and get back in line. At first I ignored them. At a stop, when I don’t believe I was actually even blocking traffic, my presence out of the assigned area created a scene. One reflective person put their hands on me. Others endeavored to persuade me to conform. They said I was risking arrest. Somebody in the crowd said I needed to be peaceful.

“Death to peace!” I shouted. “There is no peace!”

When the march began moving again, I joined the main flow but on the outer edge, partially in the forbidden zone. When a person who identifies as an anarchist came to whip me into shape, I lost it and rushed through the crowd to the sidewalk. I the left the march at that point, as far I was concerned. I followed along as a bystander or perhaps heckler, not as a participant.

The security folks were doing what they thought was right, I’m sure. While I intentionally pushed the envelope, I suspect I would have gone with crowd after that pause if the peace police had simply let me stand there instead giving me a hard time.

leiafingers

Some attempts at control prove counterproductive.

Taking the whole street would have been safer and more fun. It’s fully appropriate, given the importance of trans lives and trans visibility.

Because of this debacle, I arrived at the vigil already enraged. The event announcer, Tony Carson, told us to get patriotic. “Death to patriotism!” I responded. Carson said something about taking that Saudi Arabia. I continued yelling through the ensuing U.S. nationalist ceremonies. I wasn’t in any mood to hold back.

Carson was the first homonationalist to confront me. Ey demanded that I leave, threatened to hurt me, and got up in my personal space. I alternated between yelling anti-U.S. slogans for everyone to hear and arguing with em. Ey grabbed my sign and we struggled over it. Another homonationalist came up and said ey would knock me out. Ey identified as a veteran. I said was condemning the United States as a political entity, not the individuals in the military. This second homonationalist also grabbed my sign, albeit with less vigor than the first.

A prominent LGBTQ organizer intervened with a liberal narrative of tolerance and free speech. The homonationalists had assaulted me and threatened me with bodily harm, but whatever. We’re all equal; it’s all good. Homonationalists who immediately turn to threats and physical attacks are the same as loud but technically peaceful queer anarchists as far as the big-tent LGBTQ movement is concerned, right? We just need to learn to get along. What’s a little domination, hierarchy, and oppression between family?

Nah, y’all ain’t my family.

Eventually a few folks with (un)Occupy Albuquerque approached and engaged. It felt like they had my back in the moment.

Although the homonationalists didn’t deliver the bashing they talked about, their repeated threats and physical aggression show how homonationalism functions. Becoming a respectable LGBT subject means disavowing radical queers who pose a danger to the nation. It means bashing those radical queers if they criticize the nation and won’t shut up.

After all, violence against the enemy and against the traitor is what nationalism is all about. It’s not surprising that these folks want to hurt me for insulting the United States, but it does tell you everything you need to know about the mainstream LGBT movement.

Homonationalists are another group of queer bashers. Their norms ain’t quite the same as your stereotypical straight homophobic man’s are, but they enforce them in the same fashion.

Albuquerque Pride condones and enables homonationalist queer bashing.

Queer anarchists struggle against all such policing. I wish had a queer transhumanist anarchist crew. (Ideally, each of these identifications implies the other two.) However, this is Albuquerque. Furthermore, queer transhumanist anarchist values hardly lend themselves to community.

Pride 2016 Signs (2)

While I respect certain oppositional nationalisms under present conditions, I consider U.S. nationalism utterly pernicious. Emma Goldman’s analysis of nationalism from the early twentieth century remains essentially correct. Nationalism and militarism stand in direct conflict with the core principles of freedom and justice, as well as with those of innovation, science, and technology. Sure, nationalism and militarism fuel technoscientific development at times, but much of this is wasted effort. Ultimately, free flow of information and of people does the most to advance science and technology, to make transhumanist dreams reality. Borders, militaries, and governments cause vast human suffering and hinder progress.

Death to the United States!

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Detained with Dignity: Reformism in a Nutshell June 8, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Feminism, Queer politics, Uncategorized.
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California is taking action to ensure that trans immigrants are treated with dignity at detention centers.

This quotation and the linked article highlight the absurdity of reformism. Sure, a modicum of respect is better than the alternative. But detention centers shouldn’t exist at all!

Even by liberal standards immigration law and detention centers are unmitigated bullshit. You can make a reasonable argument for prisons and cops within the liberal tradition, valuing both stability and freedom. You can’t do the same for an immigration policy any more elaborate than basic registration.

Immigrant detention and deportation are horrific practices akin to the now widely condemned WWII-era policy of interment camps. Kidnapping, caging, and forcibly relocating people based on where they happen to have been born? How can that be anything but nightmarishly illiberal?

This isn’t a difficult or complicated issue, yet representative democracy still can’t get it right.

Democracy never! How about liberation instead?

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Albuquerque Protests Trump May 25, 2016

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Anti-imperialism, Decolonization, Feminism, Queer politics.
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TrumpRiot004

Folks here in Albuquerque, New Mexico held it down at the Donald Trump protest yesterday. The protest had a little bit of everything: signs, chanting, marching, love, peace, rioting, and mayhem.

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It began like any other boring protest. We made signs, showed up, and milled about. I look the bus downtown with my #ExpropriateTrump sign. The only comment it got on the bus was from a Trump supporter who expressed the desire to build a wall and bring God back to prominence in the country. At the site of Trump rally, the police quickly herded most of us into a designated protest zone surrounded by steel barricades.

I took up a position alongside the main path into the Trump rally in the Albuquerque Convention Center. Both Trump supporters and stealth protesters were going into the rally. I held my sign and smiled/sneered at folks headed for the Convention Center. Combined with my queer/trans appearance, this was enough to enrage some of the Trump supporters. One of them yelled, “What’s with the dress, man?” Others expressed disgust. One offered me some sort of Christian newsletter, which I refused.

InsideProtester

Next we marched around downtown. Most people on the street expressed sympathy. After the march I walked a short distance with a couple comrades, then back to the protest. Under a bridge we encountered three Native folks who asked us about the protest, criticized Trump’s misogyny, and thanked us for protesting even though we’re white like Trump. Inside the Trump rally, various folks rose up with signs and got escorted or dragged out.

At some point many protesters broke through the police line and got right up to the Convention Center. A band of heroes stole Trump shirts and flags and set them on fire. Some protesters tried to get inside but didn’t quite make it.

The cops came down on us after folks tried to get inside the Convention Center, pushing/trampling people with horses, including an elder with a cane. This made us angrier. People threw bottles and pieces of flaming material at the cops. The cops physically pushed us back with their steel barricades. I got pretty nicely squished for a moment during this process. The cops used pepper spray as well, which messed up the protesters who received direct hits. Street medics tended to these folks.

TrumpRiot003

Protesters and police faced off by the Convention Center. Some folks periodically hurled gravel, rocks, and bottles. People took selfies in front of the police line. Security folks reflective vests from the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) repeatedly told people to stop throwing things, to keep the peace, and so on. Confrontations between these peace police and more militant protesters broke out. The peace police ended up winning the admiration of the police proper.

During a lull, a reporter came up to me and the two other people I was with and asked if we knew who threw the bottles. I told em no, and that we wouldn’t say if we did know, because snitching ain’t cool. My comrades were nicer but said about the same thing.

I thought it was over when we left the Convention Center area, but the protest transition to partying in the street and fast-paced skirmishing with the cops. Trucks, most sporting one or more Mexican flag, spun their wheels and burned rubber, making noise and smoke.

After a couple hours of that everyone went home, bodies still pulsing with excitement. We stood up to Trump’s quasi-fascist movement and Albuquerque’s murderous police department. Around the same time as we were wrapping up, in another part of the city, U.S. Marshals shot somebody to death.

This piece from KRQE describes the aftermath from the police perspective:

APD says its horses went to the vet Wednesday to be checked out after getting pummeled. They were all cleared by the vet and will be back in service Wednesday night. The nine riders who were on the horses last night suffered minor injuries.

According to APD, every police officer that responded to the violent protest was hit with rocks or debris. Six officers suffered significant injuries to the face, nose, arms and legs after being pummeled with fist-sized rocks. They were treated by rescue personnel on scene.

They say one Sergeant on scene was treated for smoke inhalation due to fires lit by the protesters. One Sheriff’s Deputy was also injured. There is no word yet on injury totals from the New Mexico State Police and Rio Rancho Police.

Two state police units were also damaged when people ran on top of them.

As you would expect, both local, national, and international media have made a big deal about the supposed violence of the protest. The cops are hunting for 30 supposed “thugs” who “perpetrated violence.” (Remember: No snitching!) In the context of pervasive structural violence, throwing rocks hardly registers. Folks have ample reason to be angry. It’s worthwhile to reflect on our tactics and who we’re hurting, as well on the question of mob mentality, but most of the moral outrage surrounding the protests is bullshit.

The walk-of-shame trick protesters used against Trump supporters  is the same tactic that anti-abortion protesters use. That’s a chilling comparison. I think the gravity of the situation warrants it, given the danger of Trump’s movement, but I’m not sure. Ideally we would have shut down the rally by taking the space and insisting on letting Trump supporters know just how horrible what they’re doing is, with both kindness and intensity. However, that wasn’t practical because of police presence. In this strategic context, trying shame Trump supporters has some merit.

I’m more concerned about the borderline and unambiguous oppressive language protesters used. I’m not even really comfortable with the night’s “fuck Donald Trump” anthem, though in the overall context it’s more positive than negative. The word “fuck” is of course common speech and a fabulously convenient way to express opposition, despite its connotations of sexual violence. Using “bitches” and “pussies” as insults ultimately relies on misogyny and anti-queerness. I’m not a fan, though I know this terms have complex usages. Saying “Trump sucks cock” or calling the cops “faggots” gets into explicit anti-queerness. That’s not remotely cool. The same goes for fat-shaming and other insults based on physical appearance used against Trump supporters.

También, pues soy gabachx y no es mi lugar decir hispanohablantes como hablar su idioma, pero a mí no me gusta oír personas diciendo “puto” y “chinga tu madre” y cosas similares. Soy putx/jotx/maricón, más o menos. Trump no es puto, es opresor, racista, etc. (Ya sé hay un gran debate sobre la palabra “puto”.) La frase “chinga tu madre” apoya la violencia contra mujeres.

With that said, notably none of the protesters harassed me for my gender presentation. From the anti-Trump crowd I received only compliments.

I hope our protests/riots become increasingly sophisticated, embracing queer/trans culture and utilizing cutting-edge technologies to coordinate. I’m inspired by the passion of both well-known comrades and strangers here in Albuquerque. Expect to see much more like this in the coming months.

Quotation of the Day August 14, 2014

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Feminism.
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And then, in my dreams, I see the figure of a giantess, a lonely figure out in the desolate prairie with nothing over her but the gray sky, and no light upon her face but the chill pallor of the morning. And I see her looking upward and whispering: ‘How broad it is! It is cold and dark and frowning: but is broad – and high!’ Such will be your figure, O Woman, such your words in the day of your emancipation. In the way when you break from your, this warmed, round cell, whose horizon-wall is your children’s life, whose light is husband’s eyes, whose zenith is your husband’s smile. Better the pitiless gray of the clouds than the white ceiling of a prison; better the loneliness of the prairie than the caress of a slave-born child; better the cold biting of the wind than a Master’s kiss. ‘Better the war of freedom than the peace of slavery.’

Voltairine de Cleyre, “The Gates of Freedom,” 1891

Masculinity Kills May 24, 2014

Posted by Summerspeaker in Feminism, Queer politics.
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Today’s shooting in Santa Barbara puts this dynamic in stark relief. The shooter, Elliot Rodger, justified the shooting based on sexual and social frustration. “‘I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you,” ey said in video made just before the deadly rampage. “You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one – the true alpha male.” This isn’t an isolated incident but a consistent and logical outcome of a culture that fixates on social status and glorifies violence. It’s enough to make Cathy Brennan’s focus on male violence seem wise. Rodger was influenced by and part of the Men’s Rights movement.