From the MRA Marmoset.
The mechanisms of control I’ve described on this blog so far have been attempts to address dissent head-on (e.g. invalidation, blame) or by making dissent more difficult (e.g. thought-stopping, competition). I have not yet addressed misdirection. Magicians, and rogues in fantasy movies, know that the best way to keep someone from realizing something is by misdirecting their attention.
Mainstream media, serving the interests of the power elite in constantly setting the margins of discourse, diverting our attention, and omitting important facts, is the quintessential example of this. Noam Chomsky calls it the manufacture of consent; I would go further than that and call it the manufacture of entire worldviews. After all, television, movies, books and other narratives inform the vast majority of what we believe about other people and other times.
Misdirection also takes place at the personal level. The use of coded rhetoric, as politicians’ speeches are stereotyped, is one of them. Another is “what about teh menz??”. This is the name radfems have given to men who barge into feminist discussions demanding that men’s interests be made the center of discussion. This is especially egregious when men not only demand that they be made the center of discussion, but insist that they are the “real victims.”
As one person described it:
In any discussion focusing on women’s issues, the probability that someone will come around and say “men are [fill the blank], too!” approaches 1 the longer the discussion gets.
The “what about teh menz” argument does not only apply to radfem. One can easily observe it within pretty much any ideology. “What about the menz” complains run the gamut from the factually reasonable (“men get raped too”) to the extraordinarily bigoted (“but look at how many American soldiers have died from this war”) to the sublimely ridiculous (“Christians are the ones who are persecuted, because we’re not allowed to express our hatred of homosexuals”).
It’s obvious that part of this tactic is based on the “virtue of victimhood.” Based on the profound moral intuition, persecutors are always evil and victims are always good, members of a persecuting group will use any reasoning they can, no matter how absurd, to portray themselves as the “real victims.” The reason why this gets so absurd is because it implies that the victims are actually the persecutors. So neo-nazis fall back on Holocaust revisionism and anti-semitism, conservatives posit that “illegal immigrants” are ruining the economy, the police state portrays pot users and anarchists as dangerous criminals, and so on. This contributes to the marginalization of the real victims.
There is also a strong part of entitlement in this. The privileged feel that they are entitled to be seen as the “good guys” by virtue of being part of a privileged group. They also feel that they are entitled to the attention of the marginalized, that their issues are the only important issues. As Derailing for Dummies points out:
Privileged People® are accustomed, after all, to it being “all about them”. Not used to simply sitting back and listening to othered people‘s issues, Privileged People® like to be the centre of attention at all times. It reminds them that they are important. By doing this, you will feel good about yourself and send a crucial message to the Marginalised Person™ (yes you really can diminish their experience by making it all about you, all the time!).
Also related to trying to divert the topic is the attempt to have spaces reserved for the privileged. For instance, some men establish “men’s rights” groups, even though all rights are already men’s rights. Others want a White History Month, even though history is already about white people. This is merely a more elaborate and structured form of the same kind of misdirection. The ultimate result of such initiatives is to obscure the fact that the privileged are privileged.
They can also be based on voluntaryist analysis, which omits the context or history behind existing institutions and judges them purely on the basis of their present, isolated actions. This means that patterns of inequality are ignored. This can lead to a “you want to complain, then I get to complain too, so it’s fair” mindset. The problem is that this concept of fairness relies on a perspective completely divorced from reality. Fairness means to treat each other as equals, not to turn a blind eye to exploitation and deal with people as if every action exists independently of any other.