Coming soon to an angry dude near you - the "pro-men" party

Mike Buchanan thinks "state-sponsored feminism" is ruining society and women are defying their "natural instincts" by going to work. Terrifyingly, some people are taking him seriously.

Feminism: you can define it in many different ways, but the most accurate would probably be ‘destroyer of worlds’. All that harping on and on about equality between the sexes, fair pay, recognition of labour, universal suffrage, and an assortment of other ridiculous so-called ‘rights’ that no real female needs or cares about is quite clearly a veiled assault on men, and therefore the world at large.

Feminism has gone too far, indeed, so far has it gone that it has insidiously infiltrated every institutional orifice like a omnitentacled being from Japanese octopus porn. It is a parasitic beast which silently permeates the organs of its hosts, burying beneath their flesh, nesting in society’s innards before it bursts forth like the larvae of the botfly, screeching and demanding stuff. And astride this fearsome creature sits Harriet Harperson, chieftain of the feminist militia and bête noire of any human with a penis.

Does this viewpoint sound like you? Are you lacking direction in your life, possibly because you sit at home wondering how you can possibly convert all of the hatred and fear of ‘the other’ that you have inside you into serious political action? Don’t resign yourself to a life of merely raving drunkenly at passers-by just yet, for we come bearing good news. Mike Buchanan has started a "pro-men" party that aims to get rid of feminism once and for all - and it’s coming soon to a dank, stinking room above a sub-standard regional pub near you any day now.

"Who is Mike Buchanan?", you may justifiably ask. A man of many talents, Buchanan is a self-styled business consultant, and, much like George with his apocryphal dragon, he considers it his divine calling to vanquish the feminist death kraken once and for all and be hailed as your spiritual king for ever more. He was described last week by the Daily Mail as "not some lunatic of the Monster Raving Loony Party ilk", despite the fact that he once claimed that "the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition currently in power continues to pursue feminist agendas with some enthusiasm", something anyone with half a brain knows is complete and utter unadulterated bollocks. The fact that Buchanan has been dubbed sane by the Mail also raises certain questions.

Aside from professional lunacy, he also practices authorship, having written a book called Feminism: The Ugly Truth which is currently available on Amazon, complete with a front cover illustration of a red-eyed vampire woman to really drive home the ferocity and apocalyptic horror of the politically minded female.

"Feminism attracts little serious opposition in the developed world," the book begins, "which is extraordinary given that it’s systematically and progressively assaulting men, women, marriage, the family, government, the legal system, the media, academia, capitalism and much else." Thank God Mike’s spotted that one, guys, because we almost wasted a shitload of resources on kidding ourselves into thinking that problems with the government, the media, and the legal system run deeper than the pursuit of gender equality.

Now that we’ve realised the true extent of our destruction, we’re both personally willing to retire to the kitchen without further ado (because feminism is - direct quotation - "forcing [women] to go against their natural instincts and rely on the world of work for their economic survival".) At Mikey’s behest, we shall give up our livelihoods post-haste in order to restore a natural and utilitarian order. And ‘lo, as we turn our backs on the women’s movement in favour of a lifetime of gooey-eyed, beatific servitude, the sun will rise and our red eyes will once again turn baby-blue as the twin evils of independent thought and liberal ideology are expelled from our systems. Our jagged fangs will shrink back into our silken gums and the snakes’ nest atop our heads will wither, then transmogrify into golden ringlets. Our banshee screams will fade and dwindle, and in their place will emerge the meek, soft mew of the feeble female.

But before we do, permit us to stand on our evil feminist soapbox a few words longer. It goes without saying that crackpots like Mike Buchanan exist in every section of society: fundamentalists routinely make members of all social, cultural, and political groups look bad (including some of the more radical fringes of the feminist movement). But the time that the most successful "news" website in Britain (in terms of sheer numbers) has dedicated to this man and his regressive ideology is shocking; the published comments from the readers even more so. One which states that "the shocking events in India make me glad we have feminists in this country" has been voted negatively 99 times at the time of writing, while "anything that upsets feminists HAS to be a good thing!" has been voted positively 104 times. While it’s easy to laugh at Buchanan and the bogeywomen lurking in his mental closet, this sort of comment juxtaposition is downright depressing. It’s clear that his pro-male political party will not be short of potential recruits. Fear can do that for a movement.

As with many extremist political ideologies, the increased visibility and popularity of Men’s Rights Activists (or MRAs) such as Buchanan can be attributed largely to fear. Fear, paranoia, and hatred. Fear that white working class men are set to become a "minority" (David Willetts this week confirmed this by comparing them to other "disadvantaged groups"); paranoia that such disadvantages are caused by the increasing emancipation of women, out there, spreading their tentacles, passing exams, and taking the world by storm, like the demented harpies that we are; and hatred of those women, with their vaginas and their soft smooth skin and their Child Support Agency. The bitches.

While we’re not denying that there are many male-specific problems which are not being adequately tackled – not least the alarming suicide rate among young men, which Buchanan seems to imply is also feminism's fault – laying the blame at the door of women is an astonishing jump in so-called logic. All the major political parties seem to be doing a rather nice job of championing male interests already, and although the coalition clearly couldn’t give a toss about the working class, the fact that they only have five women in the cabinet doesn’t exactly signify the ‘state-sponsored feminism’ that Buchanan sees lurking in the dark corners of his proverbial bedchamber. So where’s the beef?

Fear, as we know, is not a rational emotion. So often is it rooted in ignorance, in misunderstanding, and in the hounding of the scapegoat. In light of this fear, society’s failure to create a more equal class system with increased social mobility becomes unimportant, as does the fact that men created that class system in the first place.

Embarking on a witch hunt is far easier than questioning why none of the political parties seem to reflect the interests of the worker. Blaming the pair of yellow female eyes peering from the dark is much simpler than asking why these men have become the casualties of such a system. These questions go to the very core of capitalism, and they make your head hurt.

There is no room for subtlety in the all-out assault of gender conflict. After all, Buchanan is busily engaged with the slaying of the mythical monsters beneath the bed with the use of his phallic lightsaber of masculinity, which makes us wonder whether the jump between his politics and the Raving Loony lot is actually that large. Perhaps he’d be better off abandoning his own efforts in favour of the party devoted almost entirely to monsters. At least he’d have a laugh.

Harriet Harperson, feminist dragon. Montage by Malky Currie.

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter are co-founders and editors of online magazine, The Vagenda.

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The boy who lies: what the Daily Prophet can teach us about fake news

The students at Hogwarts are living in an echo chamber of secrets.

They can make objects levitate, conjure up spirit animals and harness the power of invisibility. But perhaps the strangest thing about the witches and wizards of the Harry Potter universe is that despite all their magic, they still rely on old-fashioned print media for their news.

Although the Daily Prophet bills itself as “the wizarding world’s beguiling broadsheet of choice”, the reality is that its readers have no choice at all. Wizards don’t have their own television network – the risk of muggles accidentally tuning in was deemed too high – they don’t generally use the internet, and rival publications are virtually non-existent. (No, Witch Weekly doesn’t count.)

JK Rowling clearly sought to satirise the press in her portrayal of the Prophet, particularly through its poisonous celebrity journalist Rita Skeeter and her tenuous relationship with the truth. And in doing so, the author highlighted a phenomenon that has since become embedded within the muggle political landscape – fake news, and how quickly it can spread.

In the run-up to the recent French presidential election, an Oxford University study found that up to a quarter of related political stories shared on Twitter were fake – or at least passing off “ideologically extreme” opinion as fact.

While they don’t have social media at Hogwarts – probably for the better, despite the countless Instagram opportunities that would come with living in an enchanted castle – made-up stories travel fast by word of mouth (or owl.) The students are so insulated from the outside world, the house system often immersing them in an echo chamber of their peers, they frequently have no way to fact-check rumours and form rational opinions about current events.

When the Ministry of Magic flatly refuses to believe that Voldemort has returned – and uses the Prophet to smear Harry and Dumbledore – most students and their parents have no choice but to believe it. “ALL IS WELL”, the Prophet’s front page proclaims, asking pointedly whether Harry is now “The boy who lies?”

While Harry eventually gets his side of the story published, it’s in The Quibbler – a somewhat niche magazine that’s not exactly light on conspiracy theories – and written by Skeeter. He is telling the truth – but how is anyone to really know, given both the questionable magazine and Skeeter’s track record?

After Voldemort’s followers take over the Ministry, the Prophet stops reporting deaths the Death Eaters are responsible for and starts printing more fake stories – including a claim that muggle-born wizards steal their magical powers from pure-bloods.

In response, Harry and his allies turn to their other meagre sources such as The Quibbler and Potterwatch, an underground pirate radio show that requires a password to listen – useful to some, but not exactly open and accessible journalism.

Rowling is clear that Harry’s celebrity makes it hard for him to fit in at Hogwarts, with fellow students often resenting his special status. Do so many believe the Prophet’s smear campaign because they were unconsciously (or actively) looking forward to his downfall?

We are certainly more likely to believe fake news when it confirms our personal biases, regardless of how intelligently or critically we think we look at the world. Could this explain why, at the start of last week, thousands of social media users gleefully retweeted a Daily Mail front page calling on Theresa May to step down that was blatantly a poorly-edited fake?

The non-stop Hogwarts rumour mill illustrates the damage that a dearth of reliable sources of information can cause to public debate. But at the other end of the scale, the saturation of news on the muggle internet means it can also be hugely challenging to separate fact from fiction.

No one is totally free from bias – even those people or sources whose opinions we share. In this world of alternative facts, it is crucial to remember that all stories are presented in a certain way for a reason – whether that’s to advance a political argument, reaffirm and promote the writer’s own worldview, or stop an inconvenient teenage wizard from interfering with the Ministry of Magic’s plans.

Now read the other articles included in the New Statesman’s Harry Potter Week.

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