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.

How I lost my faith in Christianity

I grew up mainly in the rural South, the stronghold of conservative Christianity, and while my parents and other relatives were not regular churchgoers, our family identified as Christian. My maternal grandmother in particular was a woman of faith, and my earliest memories of her are associated with Christianity: a massive, profusely illustrated Bible that sat on her coffee table (ironically, this also provided my first exposure to the nude human form in art, as nudity was quite common in early paintings of biblical scenes); a framed image of Jesus hanging in her bedroom with a built-in nightlight; listening to gospel records on the Sylvania turntable cabinet that hunkered in her living room; and, of course, watching her favorite program, The PTL Club, on television. This was well before Jim Bakker was involved in a sex scandal, or he and his wife were exposed as greedy tax cheats, but even after the Bakkers’ fall from grace my grandmother remained a fan, and she was not alone.

My grandmother was an amazing woman in many ways and I loved her dearly, but she was far from perfect. Her legacy is stained by her lifelong tendency to overlook my grandfather’s many infidelities as if they never happened, and also by what she did after I informed her about my molestation. Right after it occurred I reported the incident to her. I did not do so because I was upset by it; rather, I simply included it as part of my description of what I and my abuser had done over the last half hour since she asked me about it. Her reaction, however, should have been different. First, she told me to stay away from “Hans” as I call him—that part I get. The problem was that she also asked me not to tell anyone what happened, not even my parents. I, being loyal to the adults in my family as I was taught to do, obeyed, but I continued to wonder why long after the fact. It was only after many years that I began to piece it all together.

On the one hand, I think my grandmother’s motivations were altruistic. My father had a reputation in those days of being hotheaded, and my molester being an acquaintance of my aunt and uncle, she probably suspected Dad would react badly to the news, to the point where it might cause a rift in the family. Looking back, I can’t say she was entirely wrong. On the other hand, I think she was also covering her own behind to some extent, as she realized that if this came out it would reflect badly on her. After all, she was the one who sent me outdoors alone with this man neither of us knew very well. I had only just met him that day! For the longest time, then, she and I were the only family members who knew what had happened, though eventually the rest of my family learned of it too. A secret that toxic cannot be contained forever.

Through it all, while the actuality of it could not be denied, my grandmother had managed to repress the details of what had happened even as I held onto them. To this day I can remember the specifics fairly clearly. This is because I never allowed myself to forget them, from the funny thing I said to Hans as he was molesting me right down to the spot on my grandparents’ property where it took place. My grandmother, meanwhile, was a woman in deep denial about many unpleasant things, her complicity in my abuse being only one of them. I should state for the record that I do not hold this against her. She was a simple country woman and it was the late seventies in the rural South—to my thinking, she did what she thought was best, at least in part. In a time and place where even homosexuality was still extremely taboo, she understood that what had happened to me might not be something that should be out there in the open. Besides, back then people—and kids especially—did not talk about sexual things in polite company. Anything like that got swept under the rug.

Though she’s gone now, I still love my grandma. Even so, it’s clear to me that her religious views impacted how things turned out for me. As I’ve discovered time and again in my interactions with hardcore Christians, such denial is a hallmark of right-wing religion, and it only seems to be getting worse. Over the course of my life I went through several periods in which I embraced Christianity and tried to live that life, most notably during my late teen years and in my mid-twenties. Not coincidentally, both of those time periods in my life are marked by problems.

It was at age eighteen that I took on a babysitting job initially offered to my sister and then offered to me after she turned it down. The five-year-old girl I was sitting for was at the time the youngest child of a single working mom. Her and her then-boyfriend were biker buddies with my parents. Although I was certainly aware of my desires by then, I “gave them to God” as the phrase goes, and prayed on the matter. After doing this, I believed that God had dealt with it and removed this issue from my life. Besides, I strongly identified with people who were actively fighting sexual abuse, mainly Andrew Vachss, whose books I read with fervor. How could I be a pedophile if I was doing such things? That was my thinking. Thus, when the girl I was watching began to do things that tempted me—trying to grab my crotch, trying to get me to touch her, and running around the house naked—I was ill-prepared and had no idea how to handle it. I faced a degree of temptation I had never before (or since) experienced. I had let my defenses drop, believing I was protected. Obviously I wasn’t.

Not only had I come very close to acting out with this girl who seemed to me all too eager to participate in such forbidden games, I out-and-out fell in love with her. My head was a mess, and I knew I needed to get out of that situation or I would eventually give in. Ergo, I moved away from my hometown for a few months, living with my best friend in Port Huron, Michigan while I got over my feelings for “J”. When I returned to Hastings, the very same day, with her mother’s help, “J” called me. I still don’t know how she found out I was back. Maybe it was purely coincidental. Whatever the case, she wanted to see me. I was pleasant but explained that I was just too busy to come visit her anymore (a lie). After that I didn’t see for several years. She was about 8 or 9 when I saw her again—she was by herself selling candy bars for some school thing or other. The last time I saw her she was 10. This was at a local park, where I’d gone to snap some photos of ponds for an art project. She asked me for a hug, which I gave her . . . reluctantly. To this day I still have feelings for her. She was my first real love, and as they say, you never quite get over those.

The second time I threw myself into religion was around age 23. I had again moved to Tennessee and was living with my grandparents. I attended church faithfully with them every Sunday morning and evening, and sometimes on Wednesday nights too. I participated in a Christmas play, and even gave a lecture one night. I started working for the church’s treasurer at his used car lot. He was a corrupt and greedy man who exploited his costumers and kept two sets of books. One of his good friends was a racist who once told his daughter to bash a small black girl in the head with a rock. He and my grandfather regularly went out together and met up with poor women for sexual liaisons. My grandmother knew of these things and looked the other way, as did I at the time. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, as the saying goes. That’s the justification many Christians make to themselves for such things. Had I adopted the same philosophy, I likely would’ve wound up in prison. Thank God I didn’t.

Right about that time is when I began to actually read the Bible, to recognize and think about its many inconsistencies. It was that questioning of things I had long taken for granted which eventually led to me losing my faith, but that alone would not have caused it. I could always come back to the comforting notion that, while there were many errors and problems in the Good Book (it was recorded by men, and men were fallible), the essential truths were solid. But I quickly arrived at another problem, and it was this which finally did in my faith for good. That was a growing awareness of the fact that most of Christians I knew had long rejected the actual teachings of Jesus Christ in favor of a growing political ideology which posited pretty much the exact opposite of everything Jesus taught. As much as I tried, I could not write off this trend as a mere fad, and indeed this philosophy has only become more dominant and entrenched with time, culminating in the election of a man who clearly embodies none of the traits of Jesus or his immediate followers and yet somehow has come to be endorsed by the religious right. There was all the evidence I needed that Christianity was false, for how else could so many of Jesus’s purported followers get it so wrong?

This, of course, is nothing new. Many Christians of the Medieval era somehow came to believe that God wanted them to torture and murder anyone who didn’t conform to whatever the official teachings of the church was at the time when nothing in Christ’s gospel suggests anything of the kind. Later the church broke apart, forming Catholicism and Protestantism, and then the Protestant faith shattered into about a thousand different branches, all disagreeing on some matter of doctrine or other.

What has bubbled to the top of that mess over the last couple of decades is the vilest, most selfish and most hateful aspects of religion, and it shows no signs of stopping or slowing down. It all makes me very thankful that I will never have kids, because I would be terrified for the future of my descendants now if I did. Fascism and ultra-conformity are on the rise, and I should not be surprised to see the United States becoming the evil empire that must be defeated by the rest of the civilized world in the next world war. I have seen far too many supposed Christians endorsing what would amount to genocide against a number of groups, especially my own.

That might very well be the ultimate culmination of current trends, and there are plenty of signs pointing in this direction, but the biggest one to me is the outright rejection of Jesus’s teachings. Jesus endorsed the renunciation of worldly goods and a life of service to the poor. Modern Christianity has tacked in the other direction, as people like Joel Osteen and other prosperity preachers have never been more popular. As was demonstrated by Osteen’s behavior in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, these guys care more about their bottom line than about actually helping people as Christ charged them to do. Likewise, Jesus taught pacifism, telling his followers not to retaliate if attacked but rather to turn the other cheek. Modern conservative Christians, meanwhile, have embraced and endorsed nearly every possible form of violence—not just self-defense, which I could understand, but hawkish military offensives, capital punishment (remember that Jesus stopped a legally ordained execution in progress), the violent removal of illegal immigrants, corporal punishment of children, you name it.

Most disturbingly, racism and bigotry of all sorts are coming back into fashion amongst these so-called Christians. Where Jesus hung out with criminals and outcasts of all sorts, the new stripe of Christian are sanctioning more and more the radical displacement and oppression of anyone not like themselves. Muslims who have caused no harm are being banned from entering the US, and the children of illegals, many of whom have never known anything different, will be deported soon as DACA comes to an end. Last year during the election I saw many people, including my own sister, claiming that Trump was the “godly” candidate. I was stupified, as anyone who knows anything about Trump—hell, anyone with half a brain who has ever watched him speak—knows there is nothing even remotely godly about Trump. Donald Trump’s only god is Donald Trump. As he continues to prove what a morally bankrupt individual he is with every passing day, even a great many of the people who voted for him can no longer stomach his incessant lying, hateful policies or his obvious treachery against America. And yet, somehow much of the religious right remains faithful to this vulgar demagogue, either because they are woefully self-deluded like my grandmother was or they simply don’t care.

During president Bill Clinton’s sex scandal the religious right proclaimed loudly and obnoxiously that they could never countenance a man of such low morals who would cheat on his wife. Less than twenty years later the religious right’s priorities have shifted drastically, so that it was nothing for them to welcome Trump, a man known to denigrate and even sexually assault women, to cheat on his wives often, to reject those same wives when they no longer suited him and to remarry a younger, more attractive one. And that’s not even getting into all Trump’s other problematic behaviors with respect to Christian doctrine. Clearly the Christians who were surveyed back in the late nineties were either lying or conservative Christianity has changed so radically in twenty years’ time that it’s no longer recognizable as the same belief system. Either way, it points to a huge problem with Christianity itself. If the religion is indeed so malleable that it can be twisted completely out of shape for the sake of convenience, then its central tenets, including everything that Jesus Christ taught, are completely meaningless in the end. Simple and unshakable truths do not change.

Personally, I love Jesus. That may sound like an odd thing for a politically liberal non-Christian to say, but if you examine Christ’s teachings they line up far better with my core beliefs than they do with the modern conservative Christian’s. Christ was about loving other people, including those you don’t understand. He was about self-sacrifice and living a life in service to those in need. He was about peace and love and renouncing worldly things. Basically, if Jesus were alive today, he would be rejected by his own supposed followers, labeled a bleeding-heart liberal and a social justice warrior (SJW), a term that seems to inspire revulsion in the far right, as if helping the downtrodden and persecuted was somehow synonymous with rape and murder.

I’ve seen these so-called Christians on the internet explain why LGBT folks should be imprisoned, tortured or killed while in the same breath they claim that these actions somehow demonstrate their love for gays and lesbians. With us MAPs they don’t even bother to claim their will to torture and murder is about love—they just openly endorse our destruction, even if we’re guilty of nothing but fantasizing. Modern Christianity seems to have no problem embracing Orwellian doublespeak and thought policing. Anyone with an ounce of human compassion is and should be horrified by what Christianity has become.

My sister claimed before the election that God wanted Trump to be president. If He did, then it was to teach His followers a lesson about putting politics above Him. They don’t seem to be getting the message though. Over the last few decades modern conservative Christians have sold out, trading in the purity of their faith and all that was good about their religion for political expediency. They have sold their souls to the devil of politics, to the point where their beliefs no longer have any resemblance to what Jesus actually preached. When I was a kid the going Christian craze were wristbands with WWJD? on them. WWJD? equals What Would Jesus Do? I’m not sure exactly what he would do if he were alive today, but I know what he wouldn’t do: he wouldn’t have endorsed a person of such low moral character as Donald Trump for president, let alone voted for him. He wouldn’t have been slow to condemn the white supremacists and bigots who are starting to get bolder and more aggressive. He wouldn’t give Joel Osteen and his kind, people who get rich off of exploiting the faith of others, the time of day. Never forget what he did to the moneylenders in the temple. And he certainly would not be advocating violence against anyone.

That, in a nutshell, is why I am no longer a Christian. Now, you might argue, “Yes, but you shouldn’t judge God’s worthiness by His followers.” I agree to an extent. If it were only a matter of a handful of crooked and wayward souls claiming the faith, then I would make some allowances for that. The problem is, it is not a small minority. There are far too many people who have renounced Jesus but still somehow claim they are following his ways. How so many people can seemingly reconcile such disparate philosophies with no trouble indicates that there has to be something wrong at the heart of things. A decent and loving God would never allow so much hate and nonsense to flourish in His name. It is exceedingly clear to me that Christianity is a dying ember, and its ashes are bitter. Too many of the people who claim to believe in it are being dishonest. You know it and I know it. They are aware that their faith is empty, and in their resentment over that fact they are using their religion as a weapon to take down as many of the people they hate as possible before it fizzles out for good. That is what’s going on, and it is a tragedy of epic proportions.

I love Jesus still, but I could no longer abide the majority of his followers. That was the road to my loss of faith in Christianity. As for Jesus, I still have faith in his message. Maybe someday his followers will come back to it, but I’m not holding out much hope for it.

Best article yet on pedophilia

The South African branch of the Huffington Post just published an outstanding article on pedophilia written by Dr. Marlene Wasserman (a.k.a. Dr. Eve), called It’s Not A Popular Subject, But The Latest Research About Paedophilia May Help Us Protect Our Kids, and I have to say, I can’t find a single fault with it.  That may be a first.  Bravo to all involved!

The modern betrayal of intellect: why the moral panic over pedophilia has no roots

In 523 AD, while in prison awaiting trial for alleged treason against the Ostrogoth king Theodoric the Great, the famous Christian philosopher and logician Boethius penned one of the most far-reaching and well-received religio-philosophical tracts of the medieval age, The Consolation of Philosophy, in which he concludes that human contentment can only come from God, and furthermore, that God must be known through the intellect, the highest and best quality a man possesses, standing in stark contrast to his fleeting passions. This Christian tradition of experiencing God through the mind was the core of medieval philosophy, which itself sprang from the classical tradition. Boethius, highly influenced by Plato and especially Socrates, understood that it was the mind, not the fickle and often treacherous heart, that ultimately led one to God, and thus to true happiness. This was accomplished through study and reasoning (theoreos, to use Aristotle’s term).

This is not to say that medieval Christians were never guilty of falling prey to their passions. Certainly the Inquisition was motivated to a large extent by fear, but I would suggest that the bigger portion of it arose out of politics, namely the need for the Church to augment and reinforce its power and prestige.

Likewise, to a large degree today’s power-hungry—including not only certain politicians but also a particularly vicious stripe of media demagogue—though they did not invent these moral panics, definitely use them to great effect to increase their own popularity and influence in the socio-political sphere. In order to be successful at this, such individuals need to completely break down the appeal of reason, which to some degree restrains them, and tap into pure emotionalism. Thus, you have people like Alex Jones who wantonly, indeed ecstatically, not only eschews logic but outright attacks it. On his internet-based show InfoWars, he has more than once gone into fits of raving lunacy and glossolalia, spitting and raging at the camera. Jones, who claims to be Christian, has violated the entire historical arc of Christian thought by equating his base animal appetites with masculinity and virtue. Of course, by his own admission this is all an act. Or is it?

In any case, it’s no mystery why Jones would spend an entire episode of his show attacking my Salon pieces (in which he doesn’t criticize my ideas so much as attack my name, my face and my imaginary crimes): my first article was essentially a call for society to look at one of the far right’s favorite target groups, pedophiles, more reasonably than they are prone to. Pedophiles are in many ways the star target for fascists. Pedophilia is an easy issue to inflame people’s passions over, especially when those people have been systematically misinformed for decades and the taboo against pedophiles is so powerful that few without a direct stake in the matter are willing to stand up in their defense. It’s also an easy way to make a slippery slope appeal, thus seeming to vindicate their increasingly unpopular views on other minorities: look, if we give rights to gays, then next pedophiles are going to be able to rape your kids and you won’t be able to do a thing about it!

These sorts of arguments have little or no foundation in reason, and that’s why they appeal so much to the might-makes-right crowd. You don’t need to make a long and thought-out intellectual argument if you can bypass the brain and go straight to the heart. Fascism has always been an intellectually lazy form of authority, but in the past it has at least demonstrated respect for and attempted to wear the sheen of reason, to slyly base its moral pronouncements, no matter how skewed they might be, in the science and philosophy of the day (e.g. social Darwinism).

At this point, however, the political right has essentially renounced that long tradition altogether in favor of openly and enthusiastically embracing a new Dark Age, where reason has been entirely divorced not only from spirituality but from rightist politics. The right-wing internet is a veritable breeding ground for deliberate misinformation and thought-terminating clichés. (Yes, this exists on the left as well, but not nearly to the same extent.) The new gray and black propaganda delivered in the form of graphic memes—the internet version of the sound bite, only with even less context and fact-checking—is sometimes even in direct conflict with itself, but that is largely irrelevant in a medium where there is no need or plan for long-term cohesion of thought. Most Americans seem incapable of taking the big picture view of reality these days, a fact which people like Jones and the Russian Trump-trolls readily exploit, feeding right-wing web surfers, many of whom are simply unwilling to properly check facts, or don’t have the time to, a constant stream of new memes.

If this were somehow helpful to the overall situation then it might perhaps be forgiven to some extent, but the thing about reason is, it’s usually on the right track. Faulty reason exists, certainly, but a person who is truly devoted to understanding and solving a problem will almost inevitably arrive at a reasonable position sooner or later. The problem is, once an issue becomes a politicized one in an environment where political rivals have devolved into mortal enemies, then those who take an oppositional stance are no longer devoted to solving the problem. While they may claim they want to do so, in reality they are only intent on creating political scapegoats, which is why we have a culture where something as absurd and spurious as the Pizzagate conspiracy can gain any sort of traction.

In that light we can better understand the recent vote on a child exploitation bill by the House of Representatives, in which the House overwhelmingly supported the bill that hands down a harsh 15 year sentence to teenagers who are caught sexting each other. Child sex laws may have originally been made in good faith and with the actual goal of fixing, or at least curtailing, the sexual exploitation of children, but thanks to the ongoing moral panic we as a society have moved far beyond that point and straight into Bizarro World. There are effective measures and there are ineffective measures, but this spectrum is not a straight line like many may imagine. It’s a circle, and when you push too far in one direction, you’re ultimately going to come back around to the other. This is where we are as a culture, because our methods for dealing with these issues both in the legal domain and the social one have become measurably counterproductive.

Politicians know it too, but they are to some extent now captives of the very moral panic they helped create back in the 80s and 90s, and even Democrats, those bastions of reason and tolerance in most respects, have a hard time justifying to their constituents voting against measures which on the surface may seem to combat the problem but really don’t, so many of them simply pick their battles elsewhere and vote with the majority. I’m certain that’s what happened here, despite the fact that throwing the book at kids who get caught having a little fun with their phone cameras and their own bodies doesn’t punish hardened child porn purveyors but rather the very kids these laws are supposed to protect. It’s a first-class load of Orwellian double-think, but few in Washington are willing to call it that. Instead we’re now facing the substantial growth of a whole new class of thought criminal: the self-exploiting teenager. Congrats! Kids now have even less reason to trust their elders when it comes to sex mores, and like drug use (which is now an epidemic in this country), the very taboo nature of it is only going to give it more appeal to a group already prone to rebellion.

In the social arena things aren’t much better, and may arguably be worse. The constant refrain of anonymous internet trolls to pedophiles of “Kill yourself” and the calls for a pedo genocide (not to mention the legal policy of mandatory reporting) not only do not act as much of a deterrent to sexual abusers, it almost certainly makes the problem worse, for the zeitgeist of heavy hostility simply alienates pedophiles from the mainstream and pushes them further underground, including those who may be facing temptation and could benefit from seeking help before they offend. But again, despite what they may say, curtailing abuse is not the actual goal of most folks who harass and target pedophiles with hate speech. Maintaining a socially acceptable scapegoat on which to vent their rage and frustration is, and even more so now that pedophilia has been tagged to liberalism (nevermind the fact that most of the politicians and cultural leaders who have been caught sexually exploiting minors have actually been conservative).

Now, let us imagine a society where legal execution for child sex offenders was a real possibility. Sexual abuse is still going to happen. Ratcheting up the taboo may deter some, but for others—those who are risk-seekers—it will only provide more temptation, since the stakes are higher. And when they do abuse, what do you think will happen? I guarantee child murder will increase, since a) the incentive to hide the abuse is now much higher, and b) when child sexual abuse and child murder are both capital offenses, an offender has nothing to lose by killing his victim if there’s a chance he might get away with his crime by forever silencing that victim. Executing sex offenders is clearly a wholly irrational response to the problem, not simply because the punishment does not fit the crime but because it severely increases the danger to children themselves.

But, as is increasingly clear, society’s views on pedophiles and sex offenders are not rooted in rationality. Neither in a desire for a proportional reaction to the offenses committed, nor in a genuine aim to help pedophiles better integrate in society and give them the tools and support they need to keep them from offending in the first place. I’ll wager if they were interrogated with a polygraph, the majority of those who scapegoat pedophiles would ultimately reveal that their hatred has little if anything to do with empathy for kids or abuse survivors. It’s no coincidence, I think, that some of my detractors have actually said to me they were happy I was sexually abused as a child (failing to grasp, or more likely not caring, that if I hadn’t been molested I may very well not have developed pedophilia in the first place).

As the left-wing/right-wing divide grows even more . . . well, divided and America continues to be at war with itself, reason, truth and civility have become the most important casualties in that war. Within this new political reality, the non-offending pedophile’s prospects for being understood are poor. Nevertheless, it’s an undertaking of great worthiness, and like Rhode Island founder Roger Williams, though I may be viewed by some as mentally unstable in my own time, I reckon history will eventually vindicate me. So I’ve deemed the risks worthwhile, as I do not judge the current anti-intellectual lapse a permanent state of affairs for a country as resilient and experimental as America. Reason will return here someday, of this I’m certain. When it does, I will be ahead of the game. 🙂