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Opposition to Circumcision and Anti-Semitism: Follow-Up

Continuing on yesterday's post, I'd like to expand a bit with evidence. For context, consider this from a post at Hot Air Green Room on the Foreskin Man comic book:

Note that these circumcision-haters could have addressed the issue as one of science, medicine, personal autonomy, or even just a social issue on which reasonable people can disagree.

My archives demonstrate exactly that. But the issue is obviously larger than me, and currently focused on the proposal in San Francisco. The question is whether we're going to rightly hammer those involved in the creation of the Foreskin Man material for pushing anti-Semitic filth, or are we going to set aside logic and tarnish everyone opposed to circumcision who favors the plain language of the proposal, regardless of their demonstrated determination to engage the issue only as one of science, medicine, and personal autonomy devoid of anti-Semitism? Do we criticize and ostracize those directly involved or do we simply stop thinking altogether, ignore the issue involved and just self-congratulate?

To demonstrate what I wrote yesterday about my behind-the-scenes efforts, this is an e-mail I sent on December 3rd when I first encountered Foreskin Man issue #2. (I've omitted references to the recipient because, as I said yesterday, I don't wish to embarrass, if appropriate. Those involved rectified the problem immediately.)

To whom it may concern:

I do not believe [you] should be promoting the Foreskin Man issue #2 comic in any forum. The caricatures within this issue suggest that those of us against non-therapeutic infant circumcision can't see the difference between what is done and why it is imposed on healthy children. We understand the reality of circumcision and how parental intent does not justify or improve its imposition. But we must act against the procedure being forced on children without engaging in stereotypes and ad hominem. Issue #2 isn't close to being acceptable on those points.

We already encounter mindless accusations of anti-Semitism by people who refuse to engage in any critical thinking beyond the silly notion that challenging circumcision is an attempt to destroy Judaism. This charge is nonsense, but we are able to counter it with our words and deeds. The wording of the various MGM bill initiatives demonstrates this neutrality in seeking only that individuals choose for themselves, not the complete elimination of circumcision. Promoting anything the [sic] depicts "Monster Mohel" wielding machines [sic] guns and stealing children from parents who already don't consent to a bris for their son is damaging to us.

I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt, although I can only hope this was promoted because no one reviewed it before ... . Such an action wouldn't be acceptable, but it would be a forgivable one-time error. However, I will not be associated with this type of material or anyone who supports it. ...

Thank you for your time.

Tony

I should've stated rather than implied that Foreskin Man #2 is anti-Semitic. But I think the understanding is sufficiently clear. And in an e-mail I sent to alert someone I knew would be equally furious, I wrote this on December 2, 2010:

I don't know if you've seen it yet, but the 2nd issue is appallingly vile and anti-Semitic. ...

I can't control who creates anti-Semitic filth in a mistaken push against non-therapeutic child circumcision. I can somewhat influence who promotes it after it's been created, but that's limited where there is no organizational structure among independent activists. What I can do is expect to be treated fairly based on my own words and actions. If you're inclined to disagree with me, do so fairly on the principled arguments involved, not because some other guy created something disgusting to ostensibly support the same goal.

Comments

Tony, I like both your posts on this, and I respect your take on it.

A proposition: you've got another guilt-by-association problem with the SF initiative and the one floating around Santa Monica, and that is both of those cities are strongly associated with nanny-state mentality. One of the more trenchant criticisms of anti-circumcision laws is that they represent government intrusion into parental decision-making, and micro-managing of people's lives by the state. I think you can make a persuasive rebuttal to that: that the focus should be on the autonomy of the child, which the law seeks to preserve.

However, by choosing to push this measure in two cities known for nanny-state inanity, I think the anti-circumcision movement runs the risk of firmly placing anti-circumcision law in the public mind in the same category as telling McDonald's that they can't put toys in Happy Meals and banning bottled water and pet stores stuff like that.

Ken,

I think you're right on the guilt-by-association. I think California is a good place to start because it offers the ballot initiative that I don't think most places have. Going through legislatures now is just asking to get filed in the round file. It doesn't advance much of anything but mockery because it puts everything in the control of politicians. But the ballot initiative isn't enough. As you suggest, strategy matters most, especially in the early stages.

My problem with the choice of San Francisco stems from exactly what you state. It's too easy to pollute the discussion with the wrong implication and approach. I've read the Happy Meal comparison so many times, and it hasn't yet been intelligent. But it's there and must be dealt with. I'm fine with doing that since it's the option right now, even though I wouldn't have suggested SF if I'd had input. It doesn't change my defense from my principled approach to something less coherent.

I'm not sure that the digging in from the reasonable opponents of the SF proposal after it began has been caused more by bad marketing or by a first-glance nanny-state judgment by people considering it for the first time. The conservative sites I've seen have been gung-ho on the latter, but they also introduce it with "lib-tards" and other indicators that they don't want to think. Most other people can be reasoned with, if it weren't for the power of self-inflicted wounds. Those wounds result largely because there's no powerful organizing force among activists. The question is will we kill the possibility before we can marginalize those who keep inflicting such wounds... I wish I could be more optimistic.

As for Santa Monica, that frustrated me. As much as I'm hopeful to get my vision of individual choice as the standard as quickly as possible, the early stages have to be a slow play. Start the process, let opponents rant through the initial effort and celebrate the inevitable failure. Over time, thinking will start. It's the three stages of truth. Right now we're just beginning to cross from the first to the second. Instead, it's the loudest screaming "BUT THEY'RE TEH IDIOTS WHO CUT!", which is trying to skip the tedious, necessary process. More boys than should be will be circumcised by going slow. But fewer boys will be circumcised in the long-term if my alleged friends stop acting like morons.

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