April 25, 2015

The Warren Farrell Protest at the University of Toronto: An Example of How Not to Behave If You Want To Be Successful In Life

On this site, we strive to practice the philosophy of John Stuart Mill, who would eagerly read every side of an argument because he wanted to se that “no scattered particles of important truth are buried and lost in the ruins of exploded error”.  That means we each have a fundamental, moral duty to openly fight against any censorship or suppression of ideas, regardless of if we think those ideas are good or not.

This goes hand in hand with the rule Charlie Munger constantly reminds us to follow: Our greatest duty is to attack our own, best, cherished ideas as ruthlessly and as intellectually as we can.  Those ideas that stand up to the attack will have proven themselves even more valuable, while those that fail improve our cognition because we no longer believe falsehoods.  It is a win-win situation that can only make your life better in the long-run if you are willing to give up the security and comfort of false dogma.

Tonight, I am going to share a counter example with you.  The way these protestors are behaving is exactly the opposite of how you should strive to live your life.  If someone wants to promote an idea, you don’t block the doors and keep people out (doing so only indicates you fear what they say).  Instead, you throw open the doors, turn on the spotlights, turn up the microphone, and then invite the informed to debate, discuss, evaluate, weigh, measure, and work out whether there is truth in the idea.  You do not demonize your opponent.  You don’t attack him or her as a person.  It’s about the ideas.  Good people can have terrible ideas and bad people can have excellent ideas.  To think otherwise is to suffer from the halo and horns effect mental model and the mere association mental model.

If you stray from that willingness to consider all evidence, especially evidence that is counter to your core beliefs, you are setting yourself up for foolishness.  You will see the world how you think it is, and not how it actually is.  That’s not ideal.  To use an example we’ve discussed in the past, it is this mental tragedy that explains how you get entire civilizations of people who will murder their neighbors as heretics for daring to question the barbaric practice of sacrificing newborn infants to a harvest god so the wheat grows a little higher.

Prepare yourself.  Here are the protestors at the University of Toronto late last month.  This is the full, non-edited video of a group of students that blocked other students from hearing an on-campus speaker named Warren Farrell, bestselling author of The Myth of Male Power.  Update: The protestors are trying to get YouTube to remove the video.  It may disappear soon.

Wait until about halfway through the video.  It’s short (less than 5 minutes).  The protestors have no interest in hearing the other side, or engaging in a dialogue.  It is absolute tyranny.  This is the horseshoe political theory made manifest.

It doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with Warren Farrell.  It doesn’t matter if you think his ideas are good or bad, whether you think he walks on roses or throws puppies off overpasses, or whether you are convinced his concepts will help or hurt the world.  Intellectual honesty means you do not censor speech (sans ad hominem attacks).  You work to persuade your fellow citizens that your position is right based on reason and facts.  You do not shut down their access to information.

These protestors just assured that several mental models are going to kick in that will ultimately help Warren Farrell.  The forbidden fruit mental model, which causes people to want to know about and have access to what others are trying to keep them from discovering or enjoying, is powerful.  The mere association mental model are going to result in people who were trying to attend the lecture out of curiosity ascribing a range of violent, hateful, anti-intellectual traits to feminism in general, much to the movement’s detriment.  The reciprocity mental model means that some people may take actions against these protestors, perhaps even covertly, to undermine their cause as retaliation for the abuse they dished out to innocent passers-by.

It’s a self-defeating way to behave.  Were I the protestors, I would have setup a booth, served free oversized chocolate chip cookies with hot chocolate or cold milk in branded cups leading to a website that had a series of videos refuting specific points in the speech.  As I handed each attendee their free dessert and food (triggering reciprocity), I would have smiled, and gotten specific promises from people on a one-on-one basis to listen to our counter-arguments.  My success rate would have been far higher.  It’s basic psychology.

What Warren Farrell Was Discussing

This is besides the point of the post but as an addendum, many of you are going to be curious as to what the controversy entailed.  The thesis of Warren Farrell’s speech was that men in the developed world, particularly the United States and Canada, are facing an unprecedented crisis in five key areas: education, jobs, emotional health, physical health, and fatherlessness.  He points out several facts that should come as no surprise to those who keep up with the economic posts on this site and elsewhere:

  • For the first time in history, our sons and brothers in the United States will have less education than their fathers.
  • The current societal hierarchy ignores the mental health of boys as evidenced by the fact that the suicide risk for boys and girls are the same up through 10 years old.  After that, when men begin being indoctrinated into the societal roles that are expected of them, suicide risk climbs 2x relative to girls between 11 and 14, 4x relative to girls between 15 and 19, and a staggering 5-6x girls between 20 and 24 years old.
  • Addiction to media, including video games and other interactive content driven by the information revolution, is disproportionately hurting men.  Men in general spend 3x the hours per week engrossed in these types of activities compared to women.
  • For every 1 girl who drops out of high school in Canada, there are 2 boys who do the same.
  • The reading and writing scores of boys throughout Canada are significantly below those of similarly situated girls.
  • Unemployment rates are significantly higher for men than they are for women, especially African American men.
  • This is causing a rise in extended adolescence as a coping mechanism for the failure of society’s institutions to address the emotional needs of boys.  This extended adolescence ultimately hurts women.
  • College graduation rates for boys are falling relative to girls.  This has terrible economic consequences.

Farrell’s argument appears to be based on the idea that modern society indoctrinates young boys into thinking they are disposable.  For example: Boys are taught their feelings don’t matter and to hide them (don’t cry); that when conflict arises, their lives don’t matter (drafting only men into war instead of both genders, like you see in many modern armies such as Israel); that their success is determined not by how much they love their work or feel fulfilled but by the total amount of cash they can bring home for their spouse and children to spend; that certain fields are unacceptable based on their gender (certain middle schools not requiring boys to take home economics, which includes baking, sewing, and household budgeting); that they are all potential rapists; that they are all violent by nature; that they are not given equal consideration for joint custody of children and alimony in the event of a divorce; that their natural hobbies and interests (golf or boating) are a waste of time; etc.

Farrell goes on to talk about the dangerous jobs men face.  “Every day, almost as many men are killed at work as were killed during the average day in Vietnam. For men, there are, in essence, three male-only drafts: the draft of men to all the wars; the draft of Everyman to unpaid bodyguard; the draft of men to all the hazardous jobs—or ‘death professions.”  Most women don’t allow their little girls to dream of fighting fires or becoming a police officer; yet, they encourage the same behavior in their boys.

Farrell talks about the role of evolutionary biology – that all of this made sense prior to World War II when the focus of life was survival.  Now, with the abundance of material goods and long life spans, we have shifted so that marriages, careers, hobbies, and friendships should be about self-actualization yet boys are socialized and educated in a way that strips them of that power.

Here is the actual speech – it is 2.5 hours long – that they were trying to bar people from hearing.

To decide whether you think Warren Farrell is controversial or not, here is a long list of his quotes.  Read them and come to your own conclusions.  If you are going to support or criticize his positions, you must be intellectually honest about it and read his books to come to a fully formed decision about his facts and interpretation of those facts.  I have not, yet, personally read any of Farrell’s books so I have no comment on them either way.  However, I will buy some of his work(s) and put them on the reading list so that I am better prepared to comment on them in the future.

If you are interested in the “War Against Boys“, here is a speech by author Christina Hoff Sommers who discusses, in depth, the failure of the institutions to prepare males for the changes in the modern world. It’s an interesting speech if you are a student of sociology and, in the case of many people on this site, how cultural and demographic shifts will ultimately influence the economy.  Her most powerful assertion is that the education system is increasingly run “by women for girls” and that the attempt to turn boys into girls is a system of oppression.

  • Gilvus

    You do not demonize your opponent. You don’t attack him or her as a person. It’s about the ideas. Good people can have terrible ideas and bad people can have excellent ideas.”

    Rationally, I agree that ad hominems impede intellectual progress. But if you’re a lobbyist or a spin doctor working for a PR firm, it’s not about intellectual progress – it’s about winning. The Machiavellian part of me can’t help but admit that if your job is winning, logical fallacies are indispensable weapons. I sometimes think of climate scientists who “stick to their science” and consequently lose out to climate change denialists. It makes me sad.

    Of course, the students in the video are doing PR wrong. Like you said, not only do they fail miserably at their goal, they’re discrediting the cause they stand for.

    • Deansdale

      “they’re discrediting the cause they stand for”

      Well, it might sound strange but I think this is actually the cause they stand for. I mean the blockade was not a fluke or a mistake, that is what they mean by feminism.

      I know this article is not about the actual opposition of feminism and antifeminism but I have to state that it is my recurring experience that the MRM is much more fact-based and reality-based and also a lot more open to debate than the feminist movement.

      • Gilvus

        I’m a little confused – they’re blockading the talk by Warren Farrell, so presumably their interests are at odds with the speaker’s, right? I’m saying that they’re trying to hurt Warren Farrell by denying him an audience, but due to their behavior they’re more likely to make people sympathetic toward Farrell instead.

        Because you know, Internet > crude forms of censorship.

        • Deansdale

          When you said “they’re discrediting the cause they stand for” I thaught you implied that their cause (feminism) is actually something else than censorship, bullying and the suppression of men(‘s rights). I say modern feminism is not much else than censorship and bullying, so they are not discrediting some benign cause, they are showing their true colors.

        • Gilvus

          No harm done. We’re both right :)

        • Anon

          They are too stupid to think that, most people think “oh people are protesting against it, it must be bad.”

  • jen111

    Although the point is that no one has the right to censor speech, Farrell’s ideas are very insightful. Feminism has had its positive effects but unfortunately has also negatively impacted society in a lot of ways for both men and women alike (esp my generation in which there is a lot extended adolescence). I have thought about this quite a bit, and it’s good to finally hear a voice on this issue. Men deserve a voice just as much as any other group, and this subject definitely needs more attention than it’s currently getting.

  • Ian Francis

    I have actually stopped reading some articles in the news (specifically about my industry, nuclear power) because I cannot get anything done if I do. All my time is taken up by responding to comments by ‘environmentalists’ whose grasp of logic is not far from those shown in this video. I know they won’t read it, or attempt to understand it, but I can’t help myself.

    I actually had an argument with someone on the Huffington Post spanning a number of articles where he or she would make a false comment, I would respond with my correction, supplying my arguments and references to the information I supplied, to which he or she would make the same illogical comment on another article. I would say it was like arguing with a child, except children do listen on occasion. It was more like arguing with a tape recorder.

    I will never understand the mental hoops people must have to jump through to ignore any other opinion. I admittedly thought like that about certain subjects growing up, but as an adult I came to realize that it does not do me any good to defend a fallacy. Maybe I will win in my mind, but I won’t in real life. People say college is important, not so much because of what you learn, but that you learn how to learn. If that is truly the case, then every protester in this video should have flunked out.

    • Gilvus

      That was back in the days when only the truly motivated/privileged people went to college. Now it’s the norm. Standards have been watered down to accommodate the change in demographics. By that, I mean a lot of universities now admit anything with a pulse.

      I had a girl who had couldn’t find Alaska on a map. It’s just one data point, but it’s a telling one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Zarat/100002545695048 Anthony Zarat

    Bravo!!! Bravo to the author for supporting equality and freedom of speech! Bravo to Dr. Farrell for pointing out the obvious discrimination faced by boys in K-12 education and fathers in family court!

    • TheLonelyHumanist

      I don’t know what State you are in but around here the courts favor Dad.

      • John David Galt

        I don’t know where you are, but it’s not anywhere near California.

        • TheLonelyHumanist

          Quite right. I am thousands of miles from CA. Former Confederacy.

  • Obamasmama

    Why do the feminists not protest Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran etc…it’s because they are afraid. Afraid of the consequences of those actions . Those countries play for keeps. Yes. It’s happening now in Canada. You know Obama will not save you. Elder white gentleman are easy targets. Dearborne Mich. is coming to your town. Look and listen…

    • TheLonelyHumanist

      I have noticed a strange trend on the Left of simultaneously condemning sexism and defending Islam. Apparently, for many, cultural relativism trumps equality. Or in other words: cultures or collectives are more entitled to equality than individuals. I disagree. While I can see the argument that anti-sexism is somewhat of a parochial value, so is anti-foisting-human-rights-onto-other-cultures.

      • Obamasmama

        I tip my hat to you TLH and maybe you can answer my question. We know there are strength in numbers, and protests abound on the nightly news; but does the mob rule in our culture (or others)? Is this how to get what we/you/they want in today’s world?

      • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

        I’ve been struggling with this for a few years. One of my best friends from childhood has been discussing this. The more I think about it, and the more I reflect on the real world ramifications, I cannot avoid the conclusion to which I find myself constantly returning.

        The simple reality is that all cultures are not equal and should not be treated equally. A culture that treats a woman as property is not worthy of respect. A culture that executes teenage boys because they fall in love with each other is not worthy of respect. A culture that calls for a person to commit suicide to prevent shaming their family is not worthy of respect. A culture in which the strong prey on the weak is not worthy of respect. A culture in which people are sold into slavery is not worthy of respect. A culture that mutilates the bodies of newborns is not worthy of respect. A culture that calls for the communal murder of dissenters is not worthy of respect.

        Simply because a prejudice is ancient does not make it right; ideas are not automatically correct due to their tenacity.

        I think whomever said it is correct: There is coming a fight between the scientists and the druids of the world. I pray the former win. We cannot afford another dark age.

        • TheLonelyHumanist

          The rub is that we are using OUR cultural values to perform these evaluations of others’ cultures. Relativism is unavoidable. In the end, might is right. If enough people agree with you, you are “right.” If you go out, today, and stop a circumcision you would be jailed. By the 22nd century that will be the job of the police. If Vienna had fallen, you might never have made these affirmations of Western notions of Human Rights.

  • Bryon Mu

    i had a run in with toronto police (for hanging out on the roof of a skyrise), and they were the nicest, most helpful cops i think i have ever encountered. at these feminists hurling “pig” and “scum” at them, i must take offense on their behalf. very professional crew!!

  • mnemko

    I know Warren quite well and am sad for him and for the decline of fairness and true justice. Warren is a fine man who holds very worthy positions, well stated. We live in a world in which today’s censorship and distortion from the Left far exceeds the McCarthyism from the Right that the Left relentlessly decries.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.elam Paul Elam

    This is a great article, but with all respect to the author, it stops short of identifying the core of the problem. Bullying from gender ideologues, especially in academe, has a long and well documented history. If you look at the stories of esteemed academic researchers like Murray Straus, Richard Gelles and Suzanne Steinmetz, you will find that after they conducted exhaustive research documenting that intimate partner violence is perpetrated equally by men, and women, in conflict with the feminist narrative, all of them received death threats. Bomb threats were phoned in to conference centers at schools where there were scheduled to present. Straus later penned an article documenting the multitude of ways that feminist academicians bullied and harassed their peers into only presenting research that aligned with feminist dogma, as well as how they falsify research results to achieve the desired propaganda.


    Erin Pizzey, the founder of the world’s first battered women’s shelter, received death threats after publishing papers saying that the women she worked with were as much or more violent than the men they were “escaping” from. She was stalked and harassed continually for years.

    What happened in Toronto in November was only a microcosm of what has been happening for decades across the western world, and as a culture we have scarcely been willing to acknowledge it until very recently. Largely I think this has happened because the culture is so PC crazy about women’s issues that few will take a stand against the lies and suppression.

    The problem here is feminism. Not the idea, but the common practice. Until people start calling it out for what it is, the problem will continue.

  • welllahdeedah

    The beauty of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly is that it allows for both sides to be given equal ground. The students were within their rights, just as much as Mr. Farrell was in coming to an open-minded, liberal university like UofT to spout his ridiculous bullshit.

    • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

      Attempting to physically block someone’s access to a building to prevent them from hearing a speaker while losing control of yourself and hatefully screaming in their face is not freedom of speech nor is it freedom of assembly. It is a form of violence.

      You do not win people’s hearts and minds that way. History demonstrates it time and time again. The most effective, shining examples of activism in the past century here in the United States involved Rosa Parks simply refusing to move to the back of a bus, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. peacefully marching through the streets and quietly sitting on bar stools at restaurants. The Irish couldn’t throw off the British Government despite generations of bombs and bloodshed, yet Gandhi did it for India with patience and appeals to humanity.

      No matter how righteous or just the cause, if people feel as if they are being attacked, they will shut you out; become defensive; write-off your intentions. There is truth in the Chinese saying, “dripping water wears away stone”. The demonstrators in this video have done incalculable damage to that which they claim to love and protect.

  • Guest

    Thank you Joshua for this excellent post. The evidence speaks for itself. Males are clearly getting the short end of the stick in our secular society. It’s time to support our boys and young men as much as we can.