- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 7, 2016

Daryush Valizadeh, the writer whose website was promoting men’s only gatherings around the globe this weekend before withdrawing support amid security concerns, rejected being labeled a “pro rape” blogger on Saturday and blamed the media for making him the “most hated man in the world.”

The 36-year-old responsible for Return of Kings, a self-described “blog for heterosexual, masculine men,” spoke to about a dozen journalists inside a Washington hotel Saturday evening after a nearby meetup for fans of his website. It was among more than 100 planned events abruptly canceled earlier in the week when he said he could no longer guarantee the safety of its attendees.

Mr. Valizadeh, who posts online as “rooshv,” said that the world had “gone insane” after learning of plans for what he described as a worldwide “social happy hour.” He claimed that individuals could have discussed topics like women and politics with like-minded men at public meetups, but he scrubbed plans from his website on Wednesday when media reports described the events as “rape rallies” to be attended by advocates of sexual assault.

With regard to a February 2015 blog post in which he wrote that it should be legal to rape women “when done off public grounds,” Mr. Valizadeh said he had “never imagined that people would take that in a literal sense.”

“That article was making a point about personal responsibility — that a woman’s safety is not only in the hands of men, but in their own hands too,” he said.

But he refused to denounce further posts that provoked controversy — among them an entry that claimed “rape culture was manufactured to wage an unjust war against men” — and for an hour bounced between defending his musings as being satire, installments in a “thought experiment” and exercises in free speech, all the while offering explanations not unlike the content typical of his websites.

“If a woman got raped, that is a sad thing. It’s a bad thing. But whose fault is it? Is it the woman’s fault? No, I’m not saying that,” he told reporters. “If I get a BWM car right now and I leave the key inside and park it in a bad area and it gets robbed, whose fault is that?”

Continuing on the topic, the writer said he thought the rape allegations against comedian Bill Cosby were “weird,” and said of his accusers: “I don’t think that they’re being honest.” He added that he’s leaning more toward Republican hopeful Donald Trump than any other presidential candidate, but mentioned plans of going out for drinks in Washington as some reporters retired from the presser early to begin watching Saturday’s Republican presidential debate.

Mr. Valizadeh, who said he had traveled from Europe to visit his family in Maryland, had urged users of his online forums to take security precautions earlier in the week after media reports had made them a target of hackers, and told The Washington Times that his website was getting 20 million hits an hour. Anonymous, the hacktivist group, had circulated an address for his parent’s house that was verified by Daily Mail reporters, and he has received dozens of threats.

“I pray to God that nothing happens to anyone that is close to me, and if it does, it’s your fault,” he told reporters at Saturday’s event.

Security guards were stationed at the Washington event, and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department was on hand as he left the building.

“Be offended. Good. That means that my writing got to you. But so what?” he said. ” I acknowledge that as a writer my job is to get attention — and I did it, right? But so what if you are offended? So so what if I make fun of you. So that’s where we’re at now, that we can’t write things that hurt people’s feelings? Good, get offended. Feel something.”

“Not a single woman has been hurt by me. I’ve never been accused of rape. I’ve never been charged. No follower of mine has read something of mine and then gone on to rape, because I know if they did hurt a woman, it would be all over the news.”

Nevertheless, news reports concerning his writing had made him not just a target of hackers, but international authorities as well. He said Saturday that public outcry in recent days has caused concern among within the governments of Australia and the United Kingdom, but didn’t discount the likelihood that followers would be gathering for the “International Meetup” on Saturday, albeit without the website’s blessing.

A few blocks away, a rally that had been planned to counter the Return of Kings meetup went on as scheduled and attracted about 50 attendees.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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