Free speech and online masculinity movements
in The free speech wars
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This chapter explores how ‘free speech’ appears in contemporary right-wing reactionary movements and spaces, specifically those oriented around masculinity and unwelcomed changes in gender relations more generally. Men Going Their Own Way, Pick-Up Artists and Involuntary Celibates are examples of movements which, in the context of heightened feminist visibility, correlate the supposed suppression of free speech with a culture that increasingly rejects traditional expressions of masculinity. Though these movements are relatively niche, our discussion is tethered to recent developments that highlight the status of free speech in wider society. Chief among them is President Trump’s recent signing of an executive order ostensibly ‘aimed at improving transparency and promoting free speech on college campuses’, due to American values being ‘under siege’ both by student groups and a broader discourse of gendered and racialised grievance. Several popular speakers and magazines have similarly made speaking truth in the face of a suppressive, ‘politically correct’ establishment their raison d’ȇtre. Linking fringe reactionary groups with mainstream political discourse is ‘The Red Pill’ philosophy which, as in the film from which the phrase originates, posits a conflictual world view in which reality itself is hidden from the masses. Via analysis of these movements’ most popular online forums we ask: What is the hidden reality of gender that the Red Pill philosophy promises to bring into light? Are there fractures between and within these groups? What work does debate and controversy over free speech do in (or for) such movements? When these movements are debating ‘free speech’, what is actually at stake?

The free speech wars

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