In 2007, I began blogging about my friend’s bizarre custody case. HBR listeners and A Voice For Men readers will know it as the seven years in hell story, but back then it didn’t have that name, because it hadn’t gone on for that long yet. In fact, the worst aspects of it hadn’t even happened. I posted a blow-by-blow account of the case, expressing my shock and outrage, as each new ordeal was visited upon my friend and his family. I wanted people to know what was happening to them because it was crazy and wrong, and they were suffering. What their stalker and harasser was doing to them was sick and cruel, and the fact that the law and the courts were backing her was barbaric.
I published about 10 posts - largely opinion pieces briefly describing the facts of each incident and then discussing it in the moment when the information - and the outrage - were fresh, often the day after a night when my friend was “taken in for questioning,” or an afternoon of him being put through a ridiculous courtroom ordeal over a provably false complaint that should never have gotten that far, with the ex engaging in behavior that turned the courtroom into a circus. Needless to say, my writing was very unflattering to the professional liar, but I also still maintained the anonymity of everyone involved in the case except myself. I wanted the reader to know what was happening and what horrible behavior the court would condone from a person, if she was a woman making these kinds of allegations, but I didn’t want it coming back on her victims.
After the first few posts, I began using social bookmarking sites to share the story, hoping to create awareness in a larger audience. However, my approach was immature, click-baity, and overly emotional. That did work for bringing a wider audience to the posts. It did get people riled up about the injustice I was seeing visited upon my friend. It just also brought the liar herself.
Nothing in the posts directly identified her. She found them because she recognized herself in headlines like “My friend’s ex, the vexatious litigant.” The woman is a textbook narcissist, and her reaction, predictably, was a massive temper tantrum.
She outed herself in the posts’ comments as the subject about whom I had written, then threatened to sue the host site if they were not all taken down or edited to her specifications. The admins contacted me and told me the posts would have to be removed, but that I could contest the removal. I don’t think they actually wanted to remove the posts, because if they had, they wouldn’t have given me that message. Some had even commented on the story, and I don’t think they wanted to give the liar anything she could call a “victory.”
However, when a vexatious litigant threatens you with litigation, you take it seriously, and I didn’t think it was fair to drag that publisher into such a mess… so I told them I wasn’t contesting the removal. Instead, I stepped back and re-evaluated. I preserved the posts themselves in text files while I examined other options. I had to think: What did I really want to do with this story, and what was a better way to accomplish that?
One important factor I had to consider was, would these posts be helpful to other people? They told the horrifying details of the story, but what was the takeaway… just that the vexatious litigant was a bad person? That the courts were unfair? That the law itself mandates anti-male discrimination, and women’s advocates make a practice of directing women to exploit that? Did my readers need 10 doses of clickbait to figure any of those things out? The truth was, no… not really. That was a shoddy, tabloid-trash style of writing and I could and should do better.
In sharing the original posts through social bookmarking, I had run across reddit’s men’s rights subreddit, and connected with a growing population of men and women who already knew all of things one could have learned from my posts. My friend’s experiences would simply add to a mass of similar stories. It was still important to tell his story, and later on I did, in the more condensed seven-years-in-hell article, but there needed to be a discussion of the behavior itself, the methods and forms it involved, and ways men could mitigate its impact on their lives when targeted. There needed to be something that would tell people what to watch for and how to protect themselves or their loved ones. There also needed to be a re-examination of the filter of gynocentrism through which most folks view the world around them. Writing about my friend’s experiences could be provocative, but writing about what his friends and family learned from them could be of significant value to the community.
That was the beginning of Breaking the Glasses, with the first post about not my friend’s specific case, but the phenomenon of restraining order abuse and malicious prosecution, especially when used as a weapon in divorce and custody battles.
Of all of my posts on that blog and the honey badger brigade blog, the one that has the most views, and the 2nd most viewed of anything I’ve ever posted anywhere, is titled “A Temporary Restraining Order Has Been Filed Against Me. What Should I Do?” It’s topped only by the post, “When a person with a restraining order against you tries to contact you.” Both were designed to provide useful information, not to incite outrage.
My failure was that my click-bait made my publisher vulnerable to a predator, and that got me censored. My lesson was that journalism was a more effective response to outrageous situations than clickbait was. By stepping back, re-evaluating, and starting anew in a better direction instead of picking a new place to repeat my mistake, I was able to make my coverage of the issue relevant in the way I wanted it to be, reach the audience I wanted to reach, and actually be helpful where I wanted to provide help.
Thank goodness I had no safety net to protect my ego against criticism of my work, against recognition that in taking that approach, I had failed. Failure is not something to be feared or condemned. It’s your chance to show your guts. It’s how you peel off the things you’re doing wrong, sharpening your method, or your approach.
I didn’t die. I got censored because my writing was substandard, when it needed to be airtight. I never would have figured out what I should do if I hadn’t had to think about where and how I had screwed up. If I’d had coddling and excuses, I’d have learned nothing, and I wouldn’t have met my goal. That would have been the ultimate failure.
That brings me to one of modern western society’s biggest drawbacks, helicopter authority - like helicopter parenting, but with government and social attitudes, instead. We as a society have lost the ability to recognize the potential value in failure. Our society has two ways of reacting. If the person who failed is not part of the victim identity cult, his failure is condemned as a sign of his personal flaws. If the person who failed is owned by the victim identity cult, our society cannot admit he or she has failed, because there can be no character flaws included in the victim identity, or at least, no failure can be attributed to them. In fact, in many ways, it’s essentially banned, and as a result, many folks are not allowed to learn the lessons one learns from failing, picking oneself up, re-evaluating, and trying anew. This is one of the cruelest things authoritarians do to the common citizen - convince them that there are ideological shortcuts to contentment and security.
Our leaders market massive loads of bovine excrement to the public, eclipsing the futility of trying to eliminate adverse conditions by using social safety nets that ultimately incentivize the very unwise choices that cause them.
We are not allowed, for instance, to criticize women’s reproductive choices, even though we know unwise decisions impact their children, and the system we’ve created to provide them with a safety net is funded by confiscating other people’s earned income, mostly that of men who haven’t made those same unwise reproductive choices, because that’s who pays the majority of taxes. We know that children raised in long-term, welfare-recipient, single-mother homes are more likely to make the same choice their parents did - that of conceiving children with sex partners who aren’t going to be their life-partners, putting the next generation in the same circumstances.
In just a few generations, we’ve gone from talking about how it’s “not helpful” to “judge” women who “end up” in that situation to their grandkids and great-grandkids opting in to the creation of fatherless homes as a lifestyle choice. We are not allowed to expect women to figure out the impact of their choices on their children’s welfare and futures, and adjust their decisions accordingly. In succeeding in shielding women from the consequences of their unwise reproductive choices, we have condemned their descendents to poverty and its many drawbacks. If that was intended to benefit society, it’s a major failure.
The hallowed halls of the education system are another area of helicopter authority’s overprotection, with terrible results. Curriculum has been both dumbed down and politicized to satisfy the feelings of the victim identity cult. Students finish high school with insufficient skills in reading or math, lack of knowledge of their nation’s history, have little understanding of how science works, but possess a whole set of political beliefs they’ve been indoctrinated with instead. They’re told during their tenure in the public school system that they can do anything if they just apply themselves, but in practice, they’re not often really put up to it. They’re told to follow their dreams, when the lesson should be to evaluate themselves and the world around them, shape their dreams to fit, and hone their approach for success.
Then, as a 2017 article from HechingerReport.org states, half of students colleges enroll aren’t prepared for higher education. While we’ve seen students unprepared for intellectually diverse living environments, in particular, the article mentions students who are not ready for college-level work. Remedial courses that students have to take in order to catch up cost students and taxpayers funding their education an estimated seven billion dollars a year. And then there are many students graduating with degrees that aren’t going to get them jobs, such as in the arts, where luck and talent can be bigger determining factors than the letters behind one’s name. Creditdonkey.com’s article on college dropout statistics says that a third don’t get a degree at all, and of those who do, more than half take six years to graduate.
Hello, college debt crisis.
But it’s ok, right? Because according to The College Investor, there are now 80 different ways to qualify for student loan forgiveness.
That’s not my description. That’s the headline of an article.
And according to a Yahoo finance article titled “The $1.4 trillion federal student debt market faces a huge issue - transparency,” nearly 40% of students with education debt are expected to default by 2023.
When women fail to make wise reproductive choices, we blame their male sex partners, their living environments, the state, social attitudes… everyone but the woman. When a cookie-cutter education system doesn’t fit all students, we blame high expectations, educators, attention-deficit disorder… everything but the possibility that we don’t have cookie-cutter students. We can’t acknowledge these factors, because then we’d have to acknowledge the failure of the state.
The victim cult can’t acknowledge that not all students or families are going to have the same outcomes on an equal playing field, and the fact that it would be horrible for everyone, including the students and families themselves, if everyone did. We can’t ask if we’re forcing ideal welders who would enjoy the job, as my grandfather did, to become business management students with a crippling debt forecast in their future because how dare you suggest that student isn’t qualified for college, or that it isn’t the best option for them? We can’t tell the high school student who has her own business going by the time she graduates that she should stick with it and grow that, because “dance choreographer” is such a stereotypically female job, and we need more women in STEM, and besides, what if that business isn’t successful forever?
So in comes helicopter authority with another safety net, to deny the citizen the opportunity to benefit from what would be perceived as a failure. No, you can’t choose your own adventure. This isn’t that kind of story, kid. You can’t climb without a safety net. You’re only allowed to win after you’ve had help from an approved authority. You can’t hit the ground running, because you’re not allowed to hit the ground. You can’t brush yourself off & try again if you do fall, because you’re not allowed to fall. You can never, ever do better, because you’re not allowed to know when you’ve done poorly. Only bad people fail, kid… people who refuse to listen to their betters’ advice on how to realize their equality.
What fresh hell is this?
Welcome to political purgatory