Will you take The Red Pill?

In the The Matrix, the protagonist Neo is offered a choice of taking the red pill which will wake him up to painful reality or the blue pill which will allow him to remain in blissful ignorance. The movie ‘The Red Pill: a feminist’s journey into the Men’s Rights Movement’ uses this analogy to illustrate the filmmaker’s journey from ignorance about men’s rights issues to her waking up to the painful reality that men’s issues are not given much attention. Recently, a group of feminists has successfully lobbied for Melbourne’s Palace Cinemas to withdraw a screening of the film using a change.org petition. They managed to get 2,370 signatures and called for Palace Cinemas to “…not associate your cinema with the kind of people who teach men how to violate women physically and emotionally. Please stand with the women everywhere, and do not promote misogynistic hate.” They also focused on the unsavoury words of one of the men’s rights activists featured in the documentary, Paul Elam. He sounds like a not-so-likeable guy, and at first glance it might seem reasonable that Palace Cinemas have cancelled the screening.

But let’s have a look at the whole story. Cassie Jaye, the director and producer is a feminist who has made a number of documentaries about sexuality and gender issues including “The Right to Love: An American Family” a documentary about a married gay couple that fights back against discrimination.  She set out to document the Men’s Rights Movement and along the way many of her personal beliefs and assumptions were challenged and she ended up sympathizing with many of their concerns. Kudos to her for having an open mind and being willing to change her stance, it’s not every person that is willing to do that.

The problems started for Cassie Jaye when she announced that her MRA documentary was going to take a ‘balanced approach’. This ‘balanced approach’ resulted in her funding being pulled and so she turned to Kickstarter to fund the project.  Since then she has been the target of hateful invective, slurs and hit pieces from people who are against MRAs in principle and don’t think that a documentary about MRA’s should take a balanced point of view. Feminists lined up for interviews in the film cancelled, and former supporters who were after an MRA ‘hit piece’ withdrew their support. And now we see that in Australia a screening of the film has been shut-down by feminist activists.

Attempting to block people from seeing a movie that you disapprove of is a violation of what free speech means in its purest essence. I recently read a great article that spoke of there being two camps of free speech advocates: those in the ‘principle’ of free speech camp and those that focus only on our ‘legal’ rights to free speech. If you are in the principle camp, you agree that the government should not censor speech in any way. You also recognise that somebody has the right to produce their art, make movie or write a book about any topic, and interested people have a right to see it without these works being banned, blocked or censored in anyway by non-government groups. Those in the legal camp, don’t think the government should censor speech but they also think it’s OK to no-platform and use whatever coercive means possible to shut down expression of views they hate.

Feminists who paint this movie in the worse possible light in order to pressure the cinema to withdraw it, do not respect the principle of free speech in any way. I doubt they are in any ‘free speech camp’ at all, but it’s clear to me, being as I am in the ‘principle camp’ that this action is anti-free speech. It’s tantamount to saying that ‘they’ know better about what is right and wrong, and that the rest of us can’t make our own minds up. They are purposefully standing in between the free expression of a number of people, and the people who want to see this free expression.

This sort of censorious silencing of other opinions is exactly the kind of attitude that has given rise to the more extreme MRAs. The culture of attacking, blocking and censoring opinions you don’t like is not only wrong but also counterproductive. People don’t want to be told that their concerns don’t matter. When a discussion about the rates of suicide being higher for men that for women, is answered with ‘but women attempt suicide more’, then it’s no wonder some of these people are feeling frustrated. There are plenty of issues that are unique to men, and saying ‘yes but’ each time they are brought up fosters an environment of frustrated extremism.

Since the petition to withdraw the screening of ‘The Red Pill’ by Palace Cinemas had its victory, a counter petition has claimed over 7000 signatures from people who don’t like being told what movies they can see and who agree that the film should be screened. The Streisand effect in full colour.

I haven’t seen the movie and I’m not an MRA, and before the censorious actions of the feminists behind the Palace Cinema’s cancelling of the screening, I wasn’t all that interested. Now though I want to find out what all the fuss is about, so I’ll be watching it at soon as I get the chance and in doing so exercise the freedom to form my own opinions.  


Nicola Wright is a writer for LibertyWorks. This article was also published by The Spectator Australia magazine 27 October 2016.

28 Comments on "Will you take The Red Pill?"

  1. So, it sounds like the director of a film sought a platform for their views. A group of critics organised themselves to present their concerns about the film to the venue. The venue, on considering those concerns, decided to deny the use of their platform to the film’s promoters. And a group of advocates for the film have now organised to express their support for the screening, in their own attempt to change the venue’s position.

    It sounds like everyone is exercising their freedom of speech just fine, and it doesn’t seem like anybody has had their freedom of speech infringed upon at all. Everybody has had the opportunity to speak their minds and nobody has been forced to lend their support to the opinions expressed by another. Where, exactly, is the problem?

    • Agreed. We’re not calling for any action other than joining the resistance to this new wave or puritanical intolerance that’s sweeping the country…

    • Given the references to “censorious silencing of other opinions”, the accusation that “[f]eminists who paint this movie in the worse[sic] possible light in order to pressure the cinema to withdraw it, do not respect the principle of free speech in any way”, that “[a]ttempting to block people from seeing a movie that you disapprove of is a violation of what free speech means in its purest essence”, that “[t]hey are purposefully standing in between the free expression of a number of people, and the people who want to see this free expression”, and even the distinction between the “legal” and “in principle” camps of free speech, the conclusion you’ve just spelled out isn’t particularly obvious…

      Aside from that, though – you can certainly argue that the tactics of these feminists attempting to no-platform speakers were morally wrong, unreasonable, intolerant, counterproductive, or whatever. I might even agree with you in this instance, although I’d need more information on the film given that I do believe that there are excellent reasons for denying certain opinions a platform. But you cannot frame the issue of no-platforming as a free speech issue, because those tactics – and, indeed, the venue’s decision to deny some speaker the use of their platform – are no less valid expressions of free speech than is the film in question.

    • “it doesn’t seem like anybody has had their freedom of speech infringed upon at all.”
      You can’t have freedom of speech without the freedom to be offended, and denying people the chance to observe the speech contained within the film is a direct suppression of freedom of speech.

    • Nobody has denied anyone the opportunity to promote or show the film. LibertyWorks is currently promoting it for free; I’m sure plenty of other places are doing the same, and I’m sure the producers and the proponents of the second survey will make efforts to capitalise on that. I’m also sure it will be readily available through many channels to anyone who wishes to view it, unless it’s actually breaking some laws.

      All that has happened is that the promoters have been denied the use of a specific, (I believe) privately-owned venue. Not only does your right to free speech not guarantee you access to *any* venue or platform, it would actually be a violation of free speech principles to *insist* that a private venue in particular screen *any* film, whatever their reason for deciding not to.

      If you insist that Palace must screen every film that anyone wants them to, then you’re requiring that their voice be used to espouse opinions with which they disagree, or that might be harmful to their business, or that are simply crappy films, or that they don’t want to promote for any reason whatsoever. That seems like a far greater violation of free speech than does the efforts of some group to convince a venue to no-platform a particular film *that can still potentially be shown in any number of other venues*.

  2. So, boycotting Palace Cinemas. Got it.

  3. So after watching the film do they have a point? Or do you consider anything OK even ISIS propaganda?

  4. Sorry, I dislike double posting, but a question has just occurred to me. The article focuses on the particular issue of a petition resulting in a film being denied a specific venue for screening. Question – is the problem that the film won’t be screened there because someone convinced the venue to change its mind, or would you object just as vociferously if they’d just said no – without giving any reason, or even on the grounds that they object to the film’s content – when first approached about screening it?

    • I’m only speaking on behalf of myself here Ashley, but the biggest concern is the mindset of individuals (in this case the feminists who started and signed the original petition) who through perfectly legal means tried and succeeded to get a screening of a documentary banned because they didn’t like the subject matter.

      Their actions show that they don’t believe that a certain viewpoint, or certain individuals should have a platform for whatever reasons (the viewpoints expressed are immoral, people are easily swayed by a documentary or whatever). They are well within their rights to do so, and the cinema is well within their rights not screen it, but using your freedoms to stand between the free expression of a person or group, and their intended audience is anti-liberty and anti-free speech. In my humble opinion. Thanks for commenting.

    • Hi Nicola, thanks for the reply. You still didn’t clarify if you thought it would have been a problem if the venue had just said “no” in the first place, and I think that’s the crux of the issue here.

      Just to be clear so that I don’t have to repeat myself later, when I say “required”, “should” or similar from here on, I mean ethically, not necessarily legally.

      So, if you believe that the venue would have been wrong to refuse to screen the film *for whatever reason*, then you’re saying that venues should be required to offer a platform to any opinion that any person wishes to espouse – be that men’s rights, extreme feminisim, anti-vax, pro-paedophilia, or even otherwise legal ISIS propaganda – regardless of their opinion on the matter, or the damage that promoting those ideas might do to their business (or the government watchlists it might land them on). Heck, the logical conclusion of that position is that cinemas should not be allowed discretion even over the quality of films, and should the “producers” ask, a grade three school project must be shown in a theatre alongside the latest Hollywood blockbusters – because otherwise you’re infringing on the kid’s rights to free speech!

      On the other hand, if you’re saying that the venue was wrong to shut down the film for *this* reason, then you’re attempting to arbitrate the circumstances under which a venue has the right to decide, and when they don’t. Or, if you’re saying that the protesters were wrong to ask the venue to cancel the film, then you’re attempting to arbitrate when individuals can and cannot exercise their rights, or in what ways they are free to do so. Either way, you’re cherry picking situations in which you think that the free exercise of ones rights should be restricted.

      What happened in this situation, based solely on your report of it, sounds not only like what we would expect in a society that offers freedom of speech, it’s what we should *hope* would happen – after all, what good is free speech if *not* used to change people’s minds? Isn’t that in fact exactly what you’re trying to do by writing articles?

      As I said in another post, you can argue that tactics like those used here (exercising ones own freedom of speech to convince a venue to deplatform a film) are unethical, or counterproductive, or whatever else you like. As I’ve noted before, I completely agree that one should engage with opinions contrary to one’s own when possible – but, like you, I also agree that certain views don’t deserve oxygen (perhaps I’m just a little less liberal with my line than you). But you cannot frame an *example* of free speech in action as an issue of free speech being restricted.

    • No Ashley, I can frame the actions of the feminists who acted to shut down a movie screening as a free speech issue, because as I said in the article, I’m in the free speech as a principle camp. Being in that camp I view an attempt to stand between freedom of expression and the interested audience (even though they are within their rights to do so) as anti-liberty and anti-free speech. It is a comment on the mindset and attitude of people who seek to censor the free expression of others.

      No I wouldn’t have too big an issue with the cinema refusing in the first instance to screen, as I support a business’ right to make decisions about their service. It is a blurry line between supporting the cinema’s right to not screen it and condemning the actions of the feminist activists, I’ll grant you.

      However the cinema at first agreed and then changed their minds based on largely libellous and false claims about the movie and its intent, causing whoever makes the decisions at the Kino theatre to fear they were about to screen a movie that incites men to rape women (false). Those actions are indeed unethical and counterproductive, as well as an attack on the principle of free speech.

      To fully exercise their freedom to free speech, the activists could have done any number of things to protest the movie, such as picketing, writing a press release, publishing articles, speaking on radio stations or any number of other avenues in order to publicise their issues with the movie. They would be exercising their right to free expression without impinging on the freedoms of others.

  5. Love how reactionaries and conservatives are now painting themselves as the ‘new radicals’, whose freedom of speech is under attack. Anyone would think they were some kind of persecuted minority, or something.

    Newsflash: the people represented by Cory Bernardi, Pauline Hanson, the LNP generally, MRAs, are NOT IN ANY WAY REPRESENTATIVE OF AN OPPRESSED MINORITY. Quite the opposite, in fact. Why are MRA groups presenting themselves as such, when they are the ones who ‘derail’ any discussion of current women’s issues (such as DV or reproductive rights) with ‘what about us men ??’ This is not a case of a persecuted group in society wanting to express their free speech, this is a ‘backlash’, which has been happening, every time some progress IS made, towards true equity.

  6. Interesting interview with Filmmaker Cassie Jaye about the film. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpGzgFX_X4I

  7. oh the feminists didn’t want the truth to get out

  8. Men’s Rights Movement? Are these plonkers trying to ‘rebrand’ Patriarchy? The only thing worse than blindness to Male Privilege is the sound of hopeless and pathetic losers who bemoan their ‘lack of rights’ and deny their own failings.

  9. She’s not a feminist, she’s an idiot.

  10. Desperate for publicity

Leave a comment