If the events of the past few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that misinformation can do a lot of damage. A mistake of association was all that was needed for the media to further soil the name of the men’s rights movement. I am not so irrational as to believe that such an association was made on purpose. The more plausible explanation lies within the problems of internet journalism.
The media is still getting used to internet culture in many ways. I’ve noticed that any reporting about a person’s online activity, or cyber crime, is often a minefield of mistakes. Not because the media desire to portray it a certain way, but because there are likely very few people within professional news organizations who can interpret what they are seeing. So people being critical of Anita Sarkeesian are portrayed as cyberstalkers, and Elliot Rodger becomes an MRA.
It’s an easy mistake to make if you don’t understand what’s taking place. If you don’t understand pickup artist culture, or the men’s rights movement, it’s easy to lump them together. If the feminist internet journalist who argues on Reddit is the person who comes closest to understanding these vastly different groups, then the conventional media will use that journalist as a source if it means being the first to report the story.
Therein lies the problem. We know that a poorly researched story can travel right around the web before someone is able to stop and correct it. If none of these news organizations knows about the men’s rights movement, and their freelance journalists know nothing about it outside their own biases, then it’s not only possible but also plausible that news articles and opinion pieces will remain uncorrected.
It wouldn’t be the first time that the media reported stories that were factually inaccurate or heavily biased. I began to wonder how I could prove that misinformation and bias had occurred. I thought, “If these hacks are failing at it, how hard could it be to trace this back to its source?”
So I compiled a list of online articles in a rudimentary timeline, searching for the earliest pieces linking Elliot Rodger to MRAs, and the findings were pretty extraordinary. Likely the first article making this connection was on the Daily Kos, citing a blog. Which blog, you ask? None other than David (Man Boobz) Futrelle’s cutting-edge journalism at wehuntedthemammoth.com.
It gets worse. Of the 16 articles I looked at, eight of them sourced the Daily Kos article either directly or indirectly by citing an article that had cited that same Daily Kos article. You might say, “Well, eight is only 50%, that’s balanced.” But you’d be wrong—of the eight articles that didn’t directly source the Daily Kos article, two sourced a Huffington Post blog entry by a feminist blogger and others sourced from sites like jezebel.com.
The thing that should surprise no one is that of those 16 articles, not a single one provided a direct link to Elliot Rodger. None of the studies on violence against women proved that men’s rights activists were violent, and none of them showed an increase in violence in places where MRAs were present. None of them proved the existence of cultural misogyny in the west or that Rodger’s hatred of women was the primary factor in his decision to murder people.
I have included this list below. Enjoy your trip down the wormhole. I’ve placed stars by the names of authors who are feminists or suspected feminists.
Daily Kos May 24th 2014 7:51AM By OllieGarkey*
Cites wehuntedthemammoth.com as a source*
Skepchick.org May24th 2014 Before 1:54pm from comments By Courtney Caldwell*
Cites AVFM, the alleged assault on Danielle D’Entremont, a freethoughtblogs.com post that cites the Daily Kos article, and an abcnews article, none of which directly ties violence to MRAs or MRAs to Elliot Rodger*
Skepchick is an Atheist feminist blog started by feminist Rebecca Watson of Elevatorgate fame.*
Forbes.com May 24th 2014 3:57PM By Kashmir Hill
Cites the Daily Kos article that cites wehuntedthemammoth.com*
Twitchy.com May 24th 2014 4:36pm By Twitchy Staff
Shows rationalwiki tweeting a link to wehuntedthemammoth.com as a source*
Shows tweet of Daily Kos article that cites wehuntedthemammoth.com*
Slate.com May 24th 2014 5:48pm By Amanda Hess*
Cites article from jezebel.com about pickup artists from 2012 that doesn’t link MRAs with PUAs; the only link is in the comments section in which a woman states her dislike of PUAs and says:
“Well I guess I am joining PUA and MRA into one.… That might not be technically accurate, but … meh, I feel like there is enough cross-referencing in the comments about either that it’s not unwarranted.”
International Business Times May 24th 2014 6:22 PM By Dennis Lynch
Cites the same sources that say Elliot Rodger was associated with PUAhate forums; provides no direct link to MRAs*
The Guardian May 24th 2014 9:44PM By Jessica Valenti*
Cites wehuntedthemammoth.com and is written by the founder of feministing.com*
Thefrisky May 24 2014 Before 11:50pm from comments By Amelia McDonell-Parry*
Links Elliot Rodger to MRAs without sources that even suggest it*
PolicyMic May 24 2014 Exact time unknown By Elizabeth Plank*
Cites Daily Kos article as a source that links back to wehuntedthemammoth.com*
Cites RadFem reader blog*
By May 25, we start seeing posts that grasp for the tiniest link between Elliot Rodger’s past in the PUAhate forum and the men’s rights movement. Some news publications don’t touch it, but the damage is done. It goes international.
Huffington Post May 25th 3:40 PM By Anne Theriault*
Self-proclaimed feminist blogger only cites the Reuters article about a girl killed by a boy she rejected*
Village Voice May 25th 2014 6:17PM By Roy Edroso
Cites Daily Kos article that cites wehuntedthemammoth.com and tries to tie Elliot Rodger to AVFM*
www.news.com.au May 25th 2014 5:24 PM
Cites Huffington Post blog article from feminist Anne Theriault*
thinkprogress.org May 25th 2014 12:45 PM By Igor Volsky
Cites jezebel.com, thehairpin.com, and a businessinsider.com article that mostly cites other articles on its site, none of which links PUAhate with the MRM*
New York Post May 26th 2014 10:51 AM
Cites Huffington Post blog article from feminist Anne Theriault*
By May 28, people have accepted the link as fact and nearly everyone jumps on the bandwagon. It’s nothing short of amazing.
The Boston Globe May 28th 2014 By: Alex Pearlman
Cites the thinkprogress.org article, reddit.com, and the slate.com article*
indypendent.org May 28th 2014 Before 5:51PM from comments By: THE BELLE JAR*
Holy cherry-picking, Batman! Cites the Daily Kos article, wehuntedthemammoth.com, The Boston Globe article, and a study that doesn’t link violence against women to MRAs*
This is only a fraction of the articles showing obvious bias and misinformation. This isn’t a conspiracy. It’s first and foremost bias and just plain shitty journalism. You can’t get to the truth by listening only to the things you want to hear. I was glad to see that some news organizations at least tried to put forth studies and information about violence against women, but in the end they made the incredibly weak link between a mass murderer and a group of men fighting for basic human rights. Just remember, kids, opinion is opinion, but science is backed by empirical evidence. If you make a claim, you have to prove it by looking at both sides of an argument. Not by choosing the side that is most convenient. Stay skeptical, my friends.