When even a happily married French blogger is selling Man Hate, you know we’re living in dangerous times. Expressing hatred is a simple route to infamy and fortune nowadays. Extremists abound in Britain and France, especially as we live in such polarised times.
For every angry nationalist who hates the European Union and wants to Leave in the most comprehensive manner possible, there will be an equally infuriated Remainer. They exchange insults on social media and on comment threads, or else become professional politicians or commentators and go public with their fury.
There is little room for reasoned compromise in these debates. You are either pro- or anti-EU. Among the worst aggression in recent days has been from those who disagree with official handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Crowds get together to scream and shout, railing against perceived attacks on personal freedom, be they full-scale lockdowns or the closure of bars.
They then start fighting, usually with the police when they arrive to try and enforce the wearing of facemasks, or to make arrests for disorderly conduct. The dynamic creating these chaotic scenes boils down to simple hatred. If there is something you do not like, you go for the person responsible for it, or anyone that supports them. Logic and reason go out of the window, and everyone just starts insulting and injuring.
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I Hate Men
Given all this potential for brutality, it is sad to see that even an apparently mild-mannered blogger from provincial France has turned to Man Hate to try and make a name for herself. Pauline Harmange has produced an essay called Moi les hommes, je les déteste. There is no ambiguity here: it loosely – and highly aggressively – translates as I Hate Men.
The piece is less than 100 pages long, and started out in the hands of a volunteer micropublisher. Interest was only stirred when a government official, Ralph Zurmély, who is linked to the Equalities Ministry, complained that the title might be prosecutable.
Using a word for Man Hate that sounds particularly officious, Mr Zurmély said: “This book is obviously an ode to misandry. I would like to remind you that incitement to hatred on the basis of sex is a criminal offence!”
The inevitable result was lots of people bought the essay, which sold out and a second print run had to be ordered. The old adage held true – if you want to make something popular then threaten to ban it. Angry debates intensified, too, with the author complaining, through her micropublisher, that she was shocked by “the violent reactions” she had unleashed.
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What did she expect – love and peace? Surely the whole point of her inflammatory title was to divide everybody into rival groups, who could then start attacking each other? As with the absurdly simplistic fights over the EU, or coronavirus management, or a hundred other very serious and complicated challenges in society, there was no subtlety involved. The author’s premise was the title of her book, and so was her conclusion.
Evidence for Harmange’s entire thesis can be summarised as her having once helped female victims of rape and sexual assault. She thus feels confident enough to use criminality to spread collective guilt against all men. It is certainly a view, but not one easily reconciled with Harmange apparently living in domestic bliss with a supportive husband.
It has since emerged that Mr Zurmély, the civil servant who created the fuss around what would have been an easily ignored pamphlet, only read its title. This, more than anything else shows how these pitiful storms work – facts are unimportant, hateful anger is all, and society is poorer.
Nabila Ramdani is an award-winning French-Algerian journalist who specialises in French politics and the Arab world. Her articles feature in the French national press as well as internationally. She is a regular columnist in The Connexion.