Pedophile . . . pride? How the Night Breed taught me self-love

Part 1: The Novel

One of the things I am frequently accused of by critics is being proud of my sexuality.  Initially I was taken aback by these accusations. Sure, I talk openly on the web and in media interviews about what it’s like to have this orientation, but I never thought of myself as deriving any particular pleasure from simply having it. These imputations clearly stem from the concept of ‘gay pride,’ which has become a large part of the LGBT identity. I’ll be honest here: though I had no beef with it, I had never really understood the reasoning behind gay pride, or racial pride for that matter. So you happen to be born gay, or black, or white, or whatever. It’s a simple accident of fate, a genetic toss of the dice and nothing more. No, I’ve always taken pride in accomplishments, not in random conditions I had no control over.

On the flip side of that, I was not ashamed of my sexuality either, and for precisely the same reason. I didn’t choose it, so why should I feel ashamed of it? My feeling has always been that you should feel shame for bad deeds, things you’ve done wrong, not for things you had no choice about. I saw pride and shame over identity as two sides of the same coin. But in a discussion I had a few days ago with someone who is deeply troubled by his own sexual attraction to kids, I had an epiphany, what I call a Eureka Moment.

During the discussion, this young man pointed out that he was confused by the MAPs who seemed to view their sexuality through a positive light instead of as something wholly negative. My advice to him was to read Clive Barker’s novel Cabal.  That may seem like a rather oblique suggestion at first glance. What does a horror novel from the ’80s have to do with a much maligned sexuality, after all? In a word, everything.

The novel follows a group of freakish characters called the Night Breed who live in the underground city of Midian. Barker initially sets them up as frightening beings with a horrific appearance, a connect to death, and disturbing powers, all qualities ordinarily attributed to the villains in horror tales. But then he does something astounding: he completely subverts this trope, making the Night Breed the heroes of the story. You see, the Night Breed aren’t Night Breed by choice, but rather by birth or by accident, and what they want most in the world is simply to be left alone by outsiders. This isn’t for selfish reasons. They aren’t a cult doing terrible things away from the prying eyes of “decent” society. Nor do they recruit members. Quite the opposite, in fact: it is difficult to find them, and even if one manages to discover their secret underground lair, there’s no guarantee they will accept you as one of their own.

The Night Breed know from centuries of experience that most people are frightened and repulsed by them, and thus would rather destroy them than learn from them or accept them. If discovered, they would be called witches and demons and be killed, just as they had always been in the past. Indeed, by the novel’s finale the local authorities have invaded Midian, destroyed it and murdered most of the Night Breed, all at the behest of the psychiatrist Decker, who lied to the cops by claiming one of his patients, Boone, is a serial killer when in fact it is Decker himself who is the serial killer.  He tells them Boone is hiding out in Midian, which is true, but Decker has framed him, set him up to take the fall for his own murderous ways by convincing Boone that he is guilty. And because Decker was a wealthy, highly respected doctor and Boone just a working class nobody, Decker’s claims are believed both by others and (at first) by Boone himself.

Now, to understand where I’m going with this, we need to know something about the book’s author: Clive Barker is gay. Cabal is at it’s essence a story about persecution of those who are different and misunderstood. It was written and published in 1988, well before the LGBT community were accepted by a majority of mainstream society and had the rights and protections they have today. But the concept works for any group of people who are despised and mistreated because of who they are rather than anything they’ve done.

When the novel came out, the critics, who had been much more enthusiastic about Barker’s earlier work, weren’t sure what to make of it. Some dismissed it as silly or over-the-top. Others failed to see it as horror because they simply couldn’t comprehend the humanity of the Night Breed, or how tragic their destruction is. How does a critical fandom weaned on Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King process this? Cabal is in no sense a typical horror novel, more a dark allegory that hits a major nerve in the ongoing culture war. Some may even be tempted to dismiss the book’s message as quaint. I mean, it’s not like we live in medieval Europe anymore, where people we’re afraid of can be falsely accused of committing atrocities, tortured and murdered, right? Surely we’ve moved beyond the mentality that gave rise to the Jewish Holocaust, right? Right?

But there’s something else about the Night Breed that may have been off-putting to some readers. Sure, okay, they can accept that there are freaks who can’t help being freaks, but the social code suggests—nay, demands—that the freaks feel ashamed of their differences and be humble in the presence of the beautiful and non-defective. While the Night Breed tend to stay away from “normal” folks, when they are forced by circumstances to interact with them, they aren’t modest, deferential or in any sense apologetic about their peculiar nature. Perhaps they are even (gulp) . . . a bit prideful of it.

Part 2: The Epiphany

But why? Why would such malformed creatures take any pleasure in their own aberration? I think it’s for the same reason that some MAPs, even the non-offending variety, take any degree of satisfaction in something so woefully at odds with society’s mores: there is a kind of power, and a certain peace, in being so thoroughly secure in one’s identity that even in the face of near absolute condemnation, you know without a shadow of a doubt who you are. What’s more, you hold that knowledge with such conviction that you are willing to endure an unceasing storm of insults and abuse to announce it out loud, both as a beacon for others like you and to enlighten the non-MAPs out there who are sympathetic to your struggles. Can this honestly be said of most people? Why else would they be willing to murder perfectly innocent people if not compensating for insecurity in the face of their own doubts about themselves and what they have always believed? In that sense they are no different than the jihadis who are willing to murder innocents to assure themselves their beliefs are the right ones.

The same applies, I think, to the persecutors of the Night Breed, who are simply too dynamic, too cool, too accepting of their own eccentricities to be allowed to exist. For the Night Breed are not outlandish in only one dimension, which is a common problem with many non-humans in horror fiction. And regardless of what others might think of them, the Night Breed know there is an orchid-like beauty, rare and exotic, in all that flagrant, unapologetic strangeness, an embrace of diversity that might frighten even the heartiest defenders of multiculturalism. Love ’em or hate ’em, the Night Breed know who they are, and they don’t run from it.

When I read Cabal in high school, after having read all of The Books of Blood collections and The Damnation Game, it was hands down my favorite Clive Barker story. It resonated with me like no fictional world before it ever had, or could. I always knew there was a reason I’d loved monsters since around Kindergarten age, and Cabal taught me why: I identified with them. Here was a book where the “monsters” not only weren’t depicted as inherently violent, soulless and depraved but were actually being celebrated, shown to have intelligence, sensitivity, culture. Yes, they were stranger than strange, but they could also be tender lovers, wise leaders, adoring parents, brave warriors, passionate musicians, and everything in between. As a shy, bookish teenager born without a right hand, fascinated by the darker side of reality and cursed with a completely unfeasible sexuality, something I could never tell even my closest loved ones about, I looked at the Night Breed and saw my own reflection there.

So, yes, there is a portion of humanity—a small but steady one, to be sure—who fully embrace everything they are, no matter that they’re unlike 99% of the world’s population (and a sizable percentage of that 99% think the happy oddballs to be mentally ill at best, downright evil at worst). I am one of those people. I have never been particularly interested in conforming to other people’s expectations of me. For a time I tried to play it safe in that regard, to the extent I was able. But these various aspects of me—my physical disability, my emotional issues, my creativity, my growing interest in the horror and dark fantasy genres, and of course my pedophilia—were becoming entangled, playing off of and reinforcing each other to the point where they eventually became inseparable. It was inevitable, really. I was playing Whack-a-mole with myself, trying to keep all of these troublesome aspects from popping up at the wrong time, and the strain was unbearable.

It all came to a head one morning before school when I was 16, ironically over this very novel. I had long known my dad to be weirded out by horror fiction and avoided exposing my interest in it to him in any direct fashion, knowing he was likely to voice his displeasure. However, I was excited about Cabal. My sister and my dad were both sitting on the couch in the living room while I stood nearby. For some reason my sister, who had never taken an interest in what I was reading before, asked me about Cabal. Even though my dad was present, I plunged into it anyway, telling her about the scene where Boone’s girlfriend Lori first encounters the little shape-shifting girl Babette, trapped in her animal form under the shade of a bush. Like vampires, the Night Breed cannot be exposed to direct sunlight; it destroys them. So Babette could not leave the shade of the shrub and her mother Rachel cannot retrieve her. Lori, realizing what’s happening, rescues the child, shielding her from the sun, and safely delivers her to her mother. That’s it.

My sister, not a fan of speculative fiction at all, and certainly not dark fiction, thought the scene I described was quite nice. My father, however, had a very different opinion, telling me outright that I was sick for having any interest in such things. His words cut deeper that morning than I could ever have imagined. I couldn’t understand it. I mean, I’d chosen the least disturbing scene in the book, one that demonstrated the basic humanity of the Night Breed and had nothing particularly gory or gruesome in it. The scene had a happy ending, for God’s sake! Yet still he excoriated me for my enthusiasm for these weirdos, my sympathy for Barker’s devils. I broke down into tears and fled to the kitchen, sinking against the cabinets, truly shaken to my core. Could he be right? My sister did her best to comfort me, which helped but did not alleviate the shame and hurt entirely.

Following that, I did some soul-searching. An ordinary kid might have been more susceptible to his father’s opinion of his tastes, might even have taken it to heart and rejected his deep love for monstrosity. I was no ordinary kid, and never would be. At that point I stopped caring about my dad’s opinion of my interests. It was my first step toward full autonomy of thought and feeling. There was no way in hell I was going to stop loving these things. If anything, I doubled down on my passion for the dark and weird. My main takeaway from that experience was not to be so open about it in front of him, which I had plenty of practice with because of hiding my sexuality. But there was no going back. If I recognized before then that I had trouble relating to my dad’s point-of-view, I now understood that we resided on entirely different plains of existence.

Am I a pervert? Am I sick and twisted? Am I . . . a monster? At one time these labels would’ve offended me, but now I realize that, like beauty, they are really in the eye of the beholder anyway. If you want to call me a monster, so be it. I don’t consider that an insult anymore. In fact, I will wear it happily, because it doesn’t mean the same thing to me as it does to you. Is that pride speaking? Again, if you want to call that pride, be my guest.

You see, it is because of my fundamental differences from the fearful, pitchfork-wielding mob that I am the person I am today. Every good thing I’ve done, every child whose life I’ve made richer, every abuse survivor I’ve commiserated with, every person I’ve comforted when they were down, every interview I’ve done in support of NOMAPs, was a direct result of the accumulated experiences of my life and my passions, all of it ineradicably woven together into the curious and unique arras that is my self.

Part 3: My History

I was born and raised in rural communities, where I was constantly bombarded with prejudice of all sorts. Being born disabled, and left-handed at that, I never truly fit in with boys my own age, who pursued sports and rough play. I was an introverted kid from the beginning, and my interests as a small child were very different from that of most boys my age: monsters and sci-fi (which have now become a lot more mainstream but were niche interests for kids in the rural South in the early 1970s), rock collecting, drawing, and of course, reading. My favorite subjects were Greek mythology, stars and planets, aliens, dinosaurs, reptiles, insects—basically anything that was weird and cool to me.

Being rejected by the cool kids at school for my one-handedness, I quickly befriended the other class outcasts: the chubby boy, a born storyteller; the Native American kid, who had long hair and lived up the road from me; and our class’s only black kid, whose artistic skills I envied. Thus, from my earliest years I saw through the nonsense of bigotry against out groups. This would extend into junior high and high school, where one of my best friends was gay before that was ever cool. He wound up being the very first person I ever told about my sexuality.

On top of that, as a small child I was quite keyed into my emotional side, including the horrors of life and death. Because of this, I have always had a strong sense of right and wrong, to the point that I was against capital punishment even as a kid. Once, in my seventh grade math class at the school I attended in Michie, Tennessee, someone came in to do a survey of which kids were for and against capital punishment by show of hands (oh, that’s not biased research at all, is it?)  Every other kid but me and Ruby, the girl who sat behind me, raised their hands in favor of the death penalty. Ruby had an uncle who was executed by electric chair, which explained her opposition to it. But I have never had any relatives executed, as far as I know; I was opposed to it on strictly moral grounds.

Ergo, against all odds, I became a flamboyant liberal in the midst of a culture dominated by hardcore conformist conservatives, and I’ve remained so ever since.  Spending my teen years mainly in Michigan helped some too, as I finally met people who shared my politics, which solidified my confidence in my viewpoint.  But the three things that really pushed me towards it was my birth defect, my sensitivity to unfairness, and the development of my sexuality, all of which were of a piece.

I was molested at age seven, but I never felt particularly traumatized by this, and as I was exposed to the violent feelings of the adults around me towards pedophiles and sex offenders, I was more horrified by these gruesome reactions than I ever was by the actual abuse, which was pretty tame in the scheme of things. This was, of course, before I learned what rape was, and other forms of sexual abuse that were much more horrendous than anything I went through. Nevertheless, the die was cast early, and it slowly began to sink in that I too found children more appealing than adults on every level, including erotically. In retrospect, I realize at least part of that appeal rests in the fact that, as a shy, awkward, sensitive adolescent, I found small kids to be safe company: friendly, nonjudgmental, and most importantly, not prone to horrific violence as adults often were, or threatened to be.

The levels of irony to be parsed out from the feedback loop of self-reinforcement that made me who I am have certainly not escaped me. There may be some innate component to pedophilia—I suspect there is—but if ever there was a childhood tailor-made to turn someone into a pedophile, it was mine: a smart, introverted, left-handed kid with a disability and other health issues that kept him away from peers while simultaneously planting in him an almost gut-level dread and mistrust of most of the adults around him, poorly educated blue-collar types who were prone to outbursts of anger and violence (if not personally then through their adoption of an unseen surrogate, a vengeful and angry God who would set you on fire forever if you disobeyed the rules), instilled in him a sense of his own oddness at every turn whilst also glorifying the healthy, beautiful child he never could be, forcing him to find solace and understanding in his own fantasy world whilst also constantly reminding him that fantasies were the province of children, to be well shed of and outgrown by the time one arrived into adolescence (and yet another thing to be ashamed of if he did not), and then throwing into this mix one of the few adults he could immediately identity with, benign, nerdy and unusual like himself, and having that adult introduce him to sex not in some horrific and painful way but in a gentle and intimate manner, and then having those adults near him tell him that this was wrong and dirty and a thing never to be spoken of again, something worthy of the most hideous forms of torture and murder they could imagine.

How, pray tell, did such a boy ever have even half a chance of developing anything like a normal sexuality in the midst of the esoteric circus that was his childhood? In the end, it doesn’t matter. I am who I am through no fault of my own. I am, like everyone else, a product of my genes and my early environment, as well as whatever it was, whether God or Nature, that saw fit to throw me into this world sans one limb.

Part 4: Conclusion

In the end, all of this has forged and strengthened me, made me into someone who, like Tom Petty, wouldn’t back down from his convictions even at the Gates of Hell. Someone with a love for truth, history and culture the likes of which Donald Trump and his half-baked minions could never comprehend. Seriously, ask any Trump supporter to name three famous American paintings from the nineteenth or twentieth century and watch them fall all over themselves in an attempt to avoid or negate your question. Ask them for three American artists period. Or ask them to name just the first six presidents in order. Or any number of facts about America that happened before their lifetime. You’ll discover immediately how patriotic they really are and how much they care about the culture they claim is worth defending against the encroachment of post-modernism. Hell, ask them to define post-modernism. Better yet, hit them where it really hurts: ask them to give you five quotes from their purported hero, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The supposed patriotism and Christianity of 95% of these fools collapses like the house of cards it is under any degree of real scrutiny.

Meanwhile, I can do all of that. Not because I like to show off, but because I care about these things. I care about these things because I care about the way we have progressed, or regressed in some instances, as a society since then; how American democracy has been perverted over time; what the founding fathers actually intended with the Bill of Rights, and so on. The history of art and literature are subjects that interest me, as is the history of censorship of the arts. Why? Because I want to fully understand my rights as an American citizen and a creative person, and the limitations of those rights. I want to make informed decisions based on facts, not on the opinions of blustering, under-educated loudmouths on YouTube, in direct contrast to what I see from the people who vote and opine, out of fear and hate, against their own self-interests.

Moreover, I have worked many times harder than I ever would have to fight stigma and abuse of MAPs and of kids, and to all persecuted minorities besides. I care very deeply about justice, fairness, tolerance, diversity, freedom and human rights for all. I have cried myself to sleep and lay awake all night worrying over children I will never meet, children in foreign lands and right here in America. Little girls being forced to marry men twice their age, and threatened with torture and murder if they refuse. Little boys conscripted into child armies, made to witness and participate in atrocities that have broken grown men. Children being beaten, starved. Kids separated from loving parents and kept in cages because they weren’t born here.

Despite sometimes crippling social anxiety, I’ve been interviewed by radio and TV stations, newspapers, magazines, blogs and podcasts all over the world. I’ve participated in a documentary about my sexuality, even though I would not call myself photogenic by any means. I’ve spoken to dozens of scholars and researchers, given up hours of my time to patiently answer their questions, and I did it happily and honestly. I suffered severe long-term clinical depression for many years, a depression that nearly drove me to suicide, and yet here I sit, typing this post to share with all of humanity. I do these things because they need to be done, and because I happened to bear the peculiar mix of circumstances and traits that have led me to this virtual mount, where I make myself a target daily to get my message out.

I have written a dark fantasy novel, not to mention various short stories that combine my passions. I wouldn’t dare say I’m the best writer around, or even the best amateur, but I am quite certain I have some degree of talent in this endeavor that most people do not. That comes from years of reading fiction, and writing it for myself. I have now achieved a level of proficiency that allows me to comfortably offer my work for the perusal and critique of all and sundry. I hope it is enjoyed and makes an impact, but I’m fine just knowing I have contributed something to the culture, given back for all the pleasure I’ve received from other authors. I also draw and create other sorts of visual art, as illustration and as graphic design. I have all but mastered Photoshop entirely. Again, I’m not saying these things to boast. I readily admit there are far better creative minds than I, and plenty of them. I point this out merely as further evidence of the degree to which my passions and desires, including pedophilia, have driven me to become a better person.

So is that pride? I don’t know, but if it is, I’d say I’ve earned it.

 

The argument that pedophilia is inherently wrong is . . . well, wrong

In my encounters with Twitter trolls I’ve been seeing the argument more and more that pedophilia is somehow inherently wrong, so I decided to make a post to address this argument in-depth because it has become quite clear to me that most of the people making it do not really understand morality. To be sure, it’s not always an easy thing to grasp, and anyone who believes it is clearly hasn’t thought about it very much.

Unfortunately, there are tons of people who haven’t, and it’s not difficult to understand why: many people want their moral decisions to be simple, which is why they gravitate to preconceived moral codes like the Ten Commandments. Having a few short, straightforward, easily remembered rules to live by makes life soooo much simpler, doesn’t it? No need to deliberate, or cause ourselves cognitive dissonance over a moral quandary when we can just refer to the existing rule book handed down by some ultimate authority, right?

Yet ethical problems invariably butt up against each other, which creates more complex ethical problems. Sure, thou shalt not kill, but what if the person we are faced with killing is trying to kill an innocent child right in front of us? Thou shalt not bear false witness, okay, but what if your government is murdering innocent people and you know you can protect them by lying?

Psychologist Abraham Maslow, perhaps best known for conceptualizing the hierarchy of needs, famously defined a cognitive bias called the law of the instrument, or the law of the hammer. Maslow said that if the only tool one has is a hammer, then one tends to treat every problem he encounters as if it were a nail. Which is to say, our capacity to solve problems—including the problem of making sense of reality—is necessarily restricted by our own limitations.

Children certainly have many limitations compared to adults. For example, it’s well known that newborn babies see in black and white, or at least they only see black and white distinctly while the few other colors they might be able to see (there’s some debate about this) will be fuzzy and ill-defined. By design, they must see the world either fully or predominantly in black and white. Their eyes have not yet developed the nuance to discern sharp colors, and certainly not to pick up various shades of the same color. In their next stage of growth, babies can begin to see red and yellow, or red and green, very well, until they finally are able to pick the full color spectrum around three months of age.

But what’s really eye-opening to me (no pun intended) is that this phenomenon is not limited to individual humans. The most primitive human societies only had words for black and white. Not surprisingly, the next most advanced societies had words for black, white, red and yellow or black, white, red and green. And so forth. The recognition of colors in various societies was studied extensively by Brent Berlin and Paul Kay and discussed in their 1969 book Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution. What they found was that there was a definite evolution in color conceptualizations in the languages of the most primitive extant societies to the most advanced.

Now, this may at first seem completely irrelevant to an understanding of morality, but I beg to differ. I propose that it’s no accident that the most basic (and therefore most limited) form of morality is often framed in terms of colors, namely black and white. Indeed, popular entertainment regularly traffics in it, which is why so many people find such entertainment appealing. In a world of uncertainties, it’s comforting to know exactly who to root for and exactly who to boo and hiss in our favorite movies and television programs.

But that’s the thing: no matter how much we’d like it to be, reality is never as simple as those TV shows with clearly defined heroes and villains. Even as the political landscape becomes increasingly polarized (I suspect in part because this simplistic hero & villain mentality has now taken over the news, and the line between entertainment media and informative media have blurred to the point where in some cases they are one and the same), it’s more important than ever that we come to scrutinize these issues with a critical eye.

Which brings us back round to the matter of pedophilia as a psychological phenomenon and its relationship to morality. Of course, it is first important that we establish in the minds of the public exactly what pedophilia is and what it is not. Pedophilia is, of course, a clinical term, not a legal one, and defines a primary or exclusive attraction to prepubescent children. At the basic level, that’s it. One need not molest children or consume child pornography to be a pedophile; I knew I was a pedophile long before I ever fantasized sexually about children, and even when I did, I knew it would be wrong to act on it. To this day I do not look at child porn, and I do not sexually abuse children, nor do I want to.

I’d say to you that you’d be surprised how many people don’t know that pedophilia and child sexual abuse are not interchangeable terms, but if you’ve followed me so far then you probably wouldn’t be surprised by that at all. Even when the people I’m debating are aware that these are not the same thing, I often see them make an argument which tends to go something along these lines: “Yeah, but you’re attracted to children. That’s just wrong and always will be. So you should be _________ [fill in the blank here: ashamed/arrested/hanged/castrated/stuck in a rocket and shot into the sun/etc.]”

Now here’s the part where we critically dissect this nonsense, and it isn’t all that hard to do, honestly. Pedophilia, whether you consider it a mental aberration or a sexuality, cannot be designated as inherently immoral without rendering the entire concept of morality meaningless. To understand why, we need to understand what moral agency is. Wikipedia describes it thusly:

Moral agency is an individual’s ability to make moral judgments based on some notion of right and wrong and to be held accountable for these actions. A moral agent is “a being who is capable of acting with reference to right and wrong.”

What that all boils down to is knowing what right and wrong are and being able to perform some action accordingly. In other words, for morality to have any real meaning, there must be some ability to act on one’s knowledge of right and wrong. Conversely, assigning a ‘morally inferior’ status to an unchosen condition cannot be right, since there was no moral agency involved.

And yet, that is exactly how a hefty percentage of people approach this issue. Such thinking is dangerous in a number of ways. For one thing, in the past this sort of viewpoint has fueled some of the worst atrocities humans have ever committed against each other. This is the sort of belief that led to most historical genocides, most notably the Holocaust, in which Nazis justified their mass murder of the Jews by first preaching that Jews were inherently corrupt and immoral just by being genetically Jewish, a condition they were born into. American slavery was likewise justified on these grounds: that blacks were amoral savage animals by nature and thus enslaving them was no different than domesticating dogs or cows.

Another problem with this line of reasoning is that it reduces or eliminates the incentive among pedophiles to behave, since they are essentially damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If the moral status of pedophiles in society is largely considered the same whether or not they offend against children and a pedophile takes that message to heart, then the only incentive he really has not to engage is to avoid arrest and/or public shaming. Considering how often people commit sex crimes against kids despite both the powerful social taboos against it and the severe legal consequences, that is not going to be effective enough to significantly curb sexual abuse. Now, some have said that this is victim blaming. It isn’t. Nowhere in that entire point did I mention the condition of victims in relation to rates of sex offending. No, the condition which I’m claiming affects the rates of sex offending by pedophiles is societal perceptions of them as a population.

The biggest problem with the notion that pedophilia is intrinsically wrong, however, has already been mentioned: it essentially renders the entire concept of morality irrelevant, for if one innate, unchosen and unchangeable condition can be deemed immoral, then it’s a short leap from there to deeming another one so, and another one, and another one. The Nazis didn’t just murder Jews after all. They also killed gypsies, lesbians and gays, and yes, pedophiles. And unsurprisingly, the most vicious critics of NOMAPs on Twitter and elsewhere have been members of the far right, many of whom also support treating all minorities as subhumans who are worthy of everything from verbal degradation to execution. You see, this sort of thinking never stops with one unpopular minority.  Look at history.

That’s not all. Over the last two years we have seen Trump and his far right base attack and begin to break down the very bedrock principles of all free and democratic cultures: those of fairness, universal freedom, morality and most importantly, truth. Those of us who care about these things cannot allow that to happen. And so, we cannot let intellectual infants define morality by unchosen traits, for that way lies Orwellian madness. The less evolved among us, who can only perceive morality in the simplest black and white terms, might assure you that no, they only think of pedophiles as bad to the core, but you should know from experience that this simply isn’t true. Given leave to proclaim that this group is naturally evil, they will inevitably gravitate to affirming that that one is as well, and then that one, and that one, until no one is left but those who look, talk and behave exactly as they do.

And what is right and wrong must be defined not by unchosen conditions but only by chosen actions, or morality ceases to have any real value, and we step over the threshold from punishing wrongdoers to punishing wrongbe-ers, and those can and will be determined by whatever faction happens to hold power in the moment.

Sex abuse survivors should be pissed about the Q-Anon myth

I don’t swear in my headlines very often; however, this deserves to be addressed in the spirit of righteous indignation. But before I get too far into this post, I’d like to direct everyone to read conservative pundit Rick Wilson’s excellent take-down of the Q-Anon conspiracy theory and it’s followers. Read it first if you can, and then return to this post. Anyway, to quote Wilson from that piece:

When difficult realities confront people without the intellectual horsepower to understand and accept the truth, some turn to conspiracy theories to paper over the holes in their worldview. No matter how absurd, baroque, and improbable, conspiracies grow on their own like mental kudzu where inconsistencies aren’t signs of illogical conclusions, but of another, deeper layer of some hidden truth, some skein of powerful forces holding the world in its grip.

It’s true that there are a lot of dumb, ignorant people out there who fall for this stuff hook, line and sinker. But that’s what makes propaganda effective, and this is propaganda, cooked up in the filthy, unregulated meth lab that is 4chan by some white supremacist asshole who knew exactly what he was doing: taking the natural next step from the politically profitable Pizzagate episode and building on it by creating an obvious V-like character with an equally short code name and making up an entire backstory and mythos for him.

Whoever concocted this science fiction scenario is ultimately of little concern; what matters is its impact on the culture, and as we are starting to see by those t-shirts worn by many people at recent Trump rallies, it has made some headway into the mainstream. This is not only disturbing, it’s outright offensive to real sexual abuse survivors, of which I am one. Because for every dumb-ass who wholeheartedly believes in this nonsense, there’s another who knows it’s bullshit and happily repeats it anyway, choking it for all of its political momentum, and the fact that sexual abuse has now become such a politicized issue—having been weaponized by the far right in order to tar prominent Democrats with the most hated designation one can have—is a grave insult to actual abuse victims and survivors.

If abuse survivors are not offended by this, they should be. This sort of cavalier treatment of a very serious issue is, in effect, a regression to the days when few would believe you or do anything about it if you worked up the courage to report these crimes to them. It was a cultural coup for survivors to finally make society aware of both the ubiquity and seriousness of sexual abuse. And now, a group of shameless schemers exploiting that hard-won gravitas for political gain is the sort of thing that every real survivor, every person who has genuinely suffered at the hands of molesters, rapists and child pornographers, should be protesting in the streets. For what it does is reinforce the counterargument offered by abusers and abuse apologists that when survivors come forward and accuse someone of this most serious of crimes, they are just making it up for attention or personal advantage of some sort.

Well, that’s exactly what the creators and purveyors of Q-Anon are doing, and it threatens to undo every bit of social good will survivors have slowly engendered over decades and create a ‘boy who cries wolf’-type situation where an actual high-level politician is caught abusing a child and few people believe it happened because it’s someone in the trusted party and/or there have been too many false alarms like Pizzagate and Q-Anon thrown around. We saw this with Roy Moore, where white Republicans essentially dismissed or ignored what were very credible accusations because it didn’t fit with their worldview. This is a dangerous situation to create.

It becomes a very real possibility in that environment for abusers to get away with their crimes simply because they happen to belong to the popular party, are well-liked, succeed at whatever they do, hold all the “correct” beliefs. How many times have we heard the stories of victims whose abusers were successful and well-liked? It’s hard enough for the survivors of such offenders to get others to believe them when they say that the person is not who everyone thinks he or she is.  And now, to throw politics into that already volatile mix, especially in such divisive times, is a slap in the face to bona fide survivors. It displays contempt for them by turning their tragedy into a well-crafted lie designed to bring down political rivals. It neither protects kids from abuse nor honors victims who have already been abused. In fact, it does the opposite by deflecting attention away from the true culprits.

The lie that the political left is attempting to justify sexual abuse of children through acceptance of LGBT folks is almost laughably absurd, but it’s part and parcel of the right’s deflection when it comes to its own corruption and hypocrisy. As I’ve said before, would it be easier to convince society that pedophiles should have civil rights akin to gays and lesbians, or to convince them that sex with kids was justified by tradition and religious beliefs? We don’t have to conjecture too far here, as we have evidence to support this point. The idea of pedophiles getting the exact same rights as those in the LGBT spectrum, including the right to have sex with their preferred partners, has never made the slightest headway in any society, no matter how liberal, in the forty or so years since NAMBLA and PIE were founded. Meanwhile, in many countries, including the United States, child marriage still occurs with semi-regularity on traditional and religious grounds, cults both large and small– e.g. Children of God, the Fundamentalist LDS Church led by Warren Jeffs, David Koresh’s Branch Davidian cult—have leaders who frequently get away with abuse right out in the open, even sanctioned by the followers (to say nothing of how long sexual abuse flourished and went unaddressed in the Catholic Church), and Roy Moore came very close to winning the special election in Alabama last year, only losing because his openly racist rhetoric brought out black Democrat voters in droves, and thank God for that!

The far right has always used these sorts of black propaganda tactics, but now these tactics are being embraced, or at best ignored, by much of Trump’s base, which comprises about 30% of the US population. That’s still millions of people, a good chunk of them spreading this obvious lie around. The seeds of the Q-Anon fable have been planted and cultivated by people like Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh for years, with the gradual raising of both the scale and heinousness of Democrats’ supposed crimes, to the point where almost anything will be believed now. But when the dust settles and people come to their senses again—and they will—the resulting knee-jerk reaction will almost certainly be a wholescale devaluing of abuse victims’ credibility and influence on the cultural landscape, especially if the accused is a politician or celebrity, and that will be a condition ripe for exploitation by politicians or celebrities who are, in fact, abusive to minors. They do exist, but they are thankfully rare.

I’ve been saying for awhile that the right loves to beat this particular drum louder than most, whereas in reality few of them are doing so because they care about the welfare of kids in general or about victims of abuse. That has been demonstrated time and time again by the nature of their attacks and the range of their targets, which include not only actual child molesters but MAPs who are committed to never offending, members of the medical and scientific community who are tackling this issue from a therapeutic standpoint rather than a forensic one, and even abuse survivors (some of them still minors) who do not line up with them politically.

All of the hard right’s beliefs about and policies for curtailing sexual abuse are either morally reprehensible, mostly ineffective, or both. These policies, especially the ones that tend toward violence, are neither logical nor compassionate. They have little or nothing to do with protecting kids or providing justice to survivors and almost everything to do with their own tendency towards expedient solutions to complex problems, including eradicating their own deep-seated insecurities. Pizzagate, and now Q-Anon, are just another manifestation of this, a false assurance to the faithful that the Democrats as an entity are thoroughly evil and will meet with the proper justice soon, when Q comes forward with all the hard evidence he’s apparently been hording for just the right moment. And then, somehow, all of Trump’s own crimes and corruption will be vindicated, his extremes and excesses overlooked or revealed to be illusions set up to catch all the sexual predators who supposedly gravitate to the Democrat party, even as in reality it is Republicans who are caught abusing minors at a rate of something like five to one.

Not that it matters. All offenders, no matter where they are on the political spectrum, should be exposed and treated precisely the same. But vulgar myths like Q-Anon are attempts by political partisans to make the issue entirely one-sided, to hide their own abusers while they point the finger at innocents across the aisle. If successful, it would be a win-win for the finger pointers and the real abusers and a net loss for kids and survivors. Let’s make sure that never happens.

 

 

 

‘This House Has People in It’ is a big clue to understanding Pizzagate

I am a huge fan of the horror genre, of short films and of metamedia, all of which converge in the short found footage masterpiece This House Has People in It. The film, put together by Alan Resnick and the video art collective known as AB Video Solutions, is the unholy offspring of Mark Z. Danielewski’s brilliant postmodern novel House of Leaves and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks television series, as well as a host of other media. I’m not going to examine it in detail here, but I wanted to bring it to my readers’ attention because I think it is relevant to understanding how things like Pizzagate can flourish.

Now, in order to make sense out of the film, I highly recommend watching YouTuber Night Mind’s thorough examination of it in his video Explaining: This House Has People in It. If you look there now, you’ll see that the video is nearly one hour and forty minutes long, far longer than the film itself which clocks in just under twelve minutes, but there’s a lot to unpack and I assure it is well worth your time. Watch the film, and then the Night Mind video.  You may also want to watch another supplemental video from the same team first, The Sculptor’s Clayground, which is around fourteen minutes and can be enjoyed as a humorous bit of satire on public broadcasting shows just on its own but is actually relevant to the film.

In fact, in addition to this video, a whole crapload of supplemental materials can be found at the website AB Surveillance Solutions (not the same thing as AB’s main site), not to mention clues to understanding the film everywhere around that site, including this quote I pulled from the site’s About Us section:

We are patriotic Americans. We believe that all people, if they can afford to, should have an equal opportunity to discover the secrets of others, while keeping their own personal secrets.

Much of this is passed off as absurdist humor, but there is, I think, a serious message behind the film, which I believe Night Mind pretty much captures. If it seems like the video is going nowhere, please stick with it. I know it’s long, but trust me on this.

Republicans do not care about young people

Last week, on Valentine’s Day, our country dealt with yet another mass shooting, just the latest in a long line of disgruntled Americans, Far Right sympathizers more often than not, who decide to pick up the deadliest firearms they can find and take out a bunch of people. Frequently their target is a school. After the smoke had cleared, seventeen human beings, most of them high school students ranging in age from fourteen to seventeen, lay dead, and several others were injured. These tragedies have become so common now that after a couple of days of media coverage we tend to forget about them and go back to our lives. Many Americans have become numb to these horrendous outbursts of violence, just as the NRA and Republicans have counted on.

These days the Far Right even engages in the most heinous types of black propaganda to discredit the survivors and anyone demanding action. Initially they started labeling these events as false flag operations done by the government as part of an overarching operation to take all guns away. This began mainly under Obama, which fit the Far Right’s false narrative of a hostile Leftist government. Now that Trump, a politician who is friendly to the Far Right, is in office, they can no longer get away with labeling these shootings a government operation so they’ve switched tactics, and mainly that amounts to calling anyone who speaks out as a survivor of these shootings paid actors. This is absurd on its face, as anyone can verify these kids are indeed students of this school and were present at the event. But the people making these accusations count on the fact that most people will not bother, so they keep spreading these lies to sow doubt among the masses, and far too many people buy this line of BS. Because of that, any potential progress to be made on this issue usually grinds to a swift halt, with society freezing up with uncertainty, and those who genuinely care realize they are up against a massive wall and give up again and again.

But something is different with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting. It is the kids themselves who have taken to the streets in outrage and horror, demanding that those in Washington do something about this ongoing problem instead of continuing to accept this state of affairs as the inevitable status quo. Of course, the Far Right has employed its usual tactics of trying to discredit them, calling them paid actors. These are kids who went to this high school and were there that day when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student who had been expelled and wasn’t even old enough to purchase alcohol, walked into the school with a military-grade weapon he had bought himself and killed nearly twenty people, including three members of the school staff. This time these tactics aren’t working though, as it’s pretty clear to anyone with half a brain that these students are not fakes. High school students on the whole are not good actors, and if these were actors, then their performances would be considered Oscar-worthy. For example, anyone who can watch 17-year-old Emma Gonzalez’s speech and not be moved by it has, at best, a heart of stone. If that’s acting then Emma is wasting her skills. She needs to be in Hollywood, where she could make big bucks with that talent.

Of course, she’s not an actress. She is a genuine survivor of a real shooting who has become mobilized by this tragedy, as are many other students from this school. These kids are tired of being sacrificed on an altar of blood-soaked cash. They have been pushed to the breaking point, and their cries of pain and rage are finally being taken seriously by everyone. Everyone, that is, but the Far Right. This is no surprise to me. The people who have been harassing and threatening me by-and-large are from the same crowd, and I’ve known for awhile that they don’t really care about kids. Their campaign to silence and destroy MAPs, even those of us who are non-offending, has never really been about kids. It’s about what it’s always been about for their kind: creating a common and highly vulnerable enemy with which to channel their desire for a violent purge that would, if actually implemented, extend much farther than us. They will get their foot in the door by appealing to society’s fears of pedophiles and Islamic terrorists, but given any amount of real power, they would never stop there. You know it and I know it. History bears this out.

Thus, even kids have now become targets of harassment and threats for these people. Outside of their own, their claims of caring about kids have never been true. Sure, they’re anti-abortion, but that isn’t about kids and never was. It’s about increasing their numbers, because most Far Right people are poor, and abortion is mainly an issue for poor young women, who opt to abort instead of raising kids they know they can’t really afford to take care of. And honestly, if you could interrogate Far Right people with absolute certainty as to the truth of their answers, I’ll bet dollars to donuts most of them support abortion for minorities. They just won’t openly admit it. As usual, members of the modern Far Right are generally outright hypocrites on pretty much everything. Oh, they’re against murder . . . except for the people they support murdering. They’re against religious discrimination . . . except for any religion other than Christianity. And they’re against child abuse . . . except when those children are victims of gun violence and are speaking out in favor of gun control. Then all bets are off, and you can harass the hell out of them, threaten them, whatever it takes to shut them up.

This is the reality of the Far Right, and it’s why they can never be trusted to run this country ethically. Their track record is horrendous. They may claim to care about kids, but unless those kids are white and Republican, they don’t actually give a fig about them. If given the power to execute sex offenders and pedophiles, do you think they would stop there? Of course they wouldn’t. It’s not in their nature to be moderate. That’s why they’re the Far Right and not just the Right. Given the ability to do away with anyone they feel is a threat to their belief system, they would take it in a second. Pay attention to what they say to each other, not just what they say to their enemies.

But in terms of what they say to their enemies (which now includes teenagers who have been victims of horrendous mass shootings and have the gall to air their pain on national TV), even there they’ve gotten much bolder. They don’t honestly care about kids and never did. What they care about is putting forward their own political agenda, and they will happily steamroll over anyone who gets in their way, kids included. That’s where we are as a society now. I care about kids, period. I will not throw any of them under the bus for political expediency, not even kids like Nikolas Cruz. As vile as his belief system is and the horrendous actions he took on Valentine’s Day, I still do not support executing him, and I empathize with the losses he experienced. I do not believe he should be killed. I do believe he should be locked up for a very long time, maybe the rest of his natural life. I believe we need to do a better job of not letting kids like Cruz fall through the cracks of our system. I don’t believe Cruz really wanted to kill people. I believe he wanted love and attention he wasn’t getting, and this was simply his way of acting out, like a small child throwing a tantrum. Only, he had access to deadly weapons he should never have had access to.

So, I’m a MAP and I empathize with kids, even the not so good ones. I mean, sure, Cruz was 19, by law no longer a child, but he strikes me as someone who was fundamentally immature, not someone well on his way to becoming a responsible adult. Legally he was grown up but emotionally he was still a young teen, a kid who never progressed beyond his junior high school bully mentality. The problem is, their are millions of kids like Cruz in America today, and we can’t help them all. Nor can we stop them all from getting hold of assault weapons like the AR-15 he used to shoot up his old school. Not the way things are right now. We need to enact sensible gun legislation.

Gun advocates often bring up cars as an example of how we are hypocritical about the things that kill us, but actually they are the ones being hypocritical. First off, to drive a car you need a license, and training to get that license. That is required of every American who wishes to drive. Then, every single vehicle that goes on the road has to be registered and insured, annually. Before we can even purchase those cars they are subject to multiple safety regulations, and there are certain vehicles we simply cannot buy, at least not for use. Like military tanks. At the very least these have to be decommissioned before they can be owned by civilians. So why not place the exact same regulations on guns? Make certain guns and gun accessories off-limits right off the bat. Then, regulate the crap out of them, just as we do cars. And force owners to buy insurance on them. Given how often they kill people, it makes absolute sense to demand gun owners insure their firearms.

It’s time we stopped relying on Republican politicians and conservatives to do anything about this. They won’t. There’s too much money in it for them. It’s a sad statement on America that we’ve left it to kids to stand up for themselves, and that survivors of school shootings have now become political fodder for gun advocates. Imagine if they did this to survivors of sexual abuse. Imagine if they were saying things like, “These kids are just paid actors for the anti-abuse industry. We should listen to kids who weren’t molested and have them represent the issue of sexual abuse instead.” People would rightly be outraged. Why are these survivors’ suffering and outrage any less relevant than that of sexual abuse survivors? Why is their voice less valid than that of sexual abuse survivors? They’re kids too, and they’re also survivors. Attempting to silence and demean them is no different than attempting to silence and demean abuse survivors. It’s twisted and self-serving. We should be listening to them. They are the ones who will inherit this country. They will become our leaders some day. If we don’t listen to them then they will move on without us, and I can’t say I’d blame them. As adults, it is our job to look out for them, to protect them, and we’ve failed. Miserably. We need to remedy that now.

 

Reports of my downfall have been greatly exaggerated

So, in case you haven’t heard, my Twitter account was suspended about a week ago. Twitter claimed I violated their TOS, though when I asked for specifics I heard nothing back. I think ever since they got called out by a British tabloid for supporting “peeeeedos”, they have been culling our accounts slowly, looking for any little reason to suspend us. Meanwhile, the people acting as Twitter’s hall monitors—because, honestly, they have no life and need to feel like they’re accomplishing something to feel remotely good about themselves—are calling themselves the “unBEARables”, but what they are really is just the same old white supremacist jackasses that harassed us before, only because they were themselves getting suspended, they regrouped and came back pretending to be better people than they really are. They’re no longer billing themselves as hateful bigots anymore because, as it turns out, most people can see through that right away and know that if you’re rocking the swastikas and KKK emblems, you’re probably kind of a douche. Go figure. So now they’re just standard-grade ignorant ultra-cons with an ursine fetish, I guess. Whatevs. 😉

Anyway, these buffoons are having a field day thinking they have taken me down in some important way, as if removing my account from one social media platform somehow equates to silencing me forevaaaaahhh. Hey, I look at it like this: if they feel even an eency weency bit better about their pathetic little lives at the thought that they have felled some kind of Pedo Goliath, than more power to ’em. Logic would suggest they would be much more successful at shutting me up if they just ignored me, as I tend to come back swinging even harder, but hey, who cares about logic when you’ve got righteous indignation on your side, huh? For everyone else, I’m still on Facebook and Skype, I still have the same email account I’ve had forever and a day (starkroth@yahoo.com), I’m still on VirPed and I obviously still have this blog. I am not hard to find if anyone wants or needs to contact me. Sorry, haters, but I don’t go down that easily.

And you know what? I wasn’t even upset to lose my Twitter account. I view it as a blessing in disguise. Twitter is such a time-suck anyway, and I have gotten so much writing done over the last few days. Sure, I’ll set up a new account eventually, but honestly, I’m in no hurry to do that. I’m rather enjoying hearing through the grapevine about the absolute circus that has been left in the wake of the Twitter Pedo Pogroms, everything from claims that I am moping around the house in a blue funk because Twitter was just that important to me (it wasn’t) to rumors that my foreign girlfriend who still lives in her native country is a secret US federal agent and I’ve been busted for unspecified offenses. I promise you, my baby girl would cut you if you had the unmitigated gall to say to her face that she was working for the Americans. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but just barely. She’s Slavic, and Slavs don’t screw around.

So, all I want to say to you haters is, go on with your bad selves. You do you, guys. As for me, I am having a blast watching from a distance while the monkey house goes completely bananas, no pun intended. Have a good one, folks. Peace, out.

 

 

 

My present situation

Something insidious is going on in my family right now. Two of my relatives, whom I will not name here because I don’t want to give them undue public attention, are engaged in a campaign of spreading lies and rumors about me. They are also participating in a terror campaign to try to stir up local resentment against me, and they are doing this by contacting everyone they know, including all of my dad’s friends and co-workers, and informing them about me and my documentary and my activism. Knowing their political and social views, I also suspect they have ties to white supremacy groups. They’re purpose is thus: they are attempting to have me murdered without it coming back to them.

I want it to be very clear—these two relatives have never liked me, even well before I came out as a MAP, due to our strong political differences. In fact, I suspect none of their current activities are ultimately about my sexuality. Not really. This is all politically motivated, and is likely being brought on by the failure of Roy Moore to get elected—someone they both supported (thus proving my point about the hypocrisy of the far right)—and whom I obviously strongly condemned.

But I have connections too, and I have already arranged that if anything does happen to me, those two will be the first two people investigated, and I guarantee anyone else who is involved in an attack or attempt on my life in this area will have ties to these two relatives if you trace it back. I want to repeat that this campaign is purely political. These relatives—especially the older of the two—are unrepentant racists and supporters of the far right, and they are doing their best to try to turn my own father against me. These two people are immoral and have a long history of bad behavior, engaging in acts of arson, theft and insurance fraud, among other crimes. I would not be surprised to learn they had engaged in murder for hire either. Short of that, they may attempt to frame me somehow. Just exactly how they might do that I don’t know, but it is a distinct possibility.

I wanted this message to get out there so authorities and others know what is going on here. Like I said, if anything does happen to me, I have already arranged for it to be investigated, but I also urge my fans and readers to follow the Jackson Sun newspaper for the next few months, because it will certainly be in that paper. I’ve already made sure of that. And if it does happen, I urge you to contact the FBI and send them the link to this post. I will be leaving the names of these relatives with several individuals.

Thank you and God bless you all.