Circumcision, like vaccination, is kind of a controversial issue, it appears. Unlike vaccination, circumcision is not one of those things that you’re required to do to send your child to school or to keep a population safe from communicable disease. (Yes, there is good evidence that HIV infection can be curbed by circumcision, but that’s for another post.) I became aware of “intactivists,” people who are activists about leaving boys intact (uncircumcised), during the vaccine wars. As it turns out, a lot of anti-vaccine people are also intactivists, sharing the fear and anger at the government and pharmaceutical/medical systems. Intactivists can be quite nasty, just like anti-vaccine activists.
To show how angry, mean, and somewhat deranged intactivists can be, a few of us who monitor Facebook for anti-vaccine misinformation decided to bait them into showing themselves in an environment where we could control the discussion. We created a page about circumcision, made a few memes, and interacted with people posting comments. We also used the rules of some intactivist sites, deleting comments and banning people from commenting for no real good reason. All this was done with the intent of “getting them riled up,” as one of our colleagues put it. And riled-up they did get.
Let me just tell you this: I’m not pro or against circumcision. I really don’t feel anything towards it either way. There are plenty of people who live productive lives without any kind of problems after being circumcised. Likewise, uncircumcised people could care less about their prepuce. The intent of this “experiment” was to show the depths to which activists will go for what they believe in. Like anti-vaccine activists, they resorted to name-calling, ad hominem, quote-picking, and even threats. One intactivist dared one of my fellow admins who speaks Spanish to go to Florida when the intactivist will be there to protest the American Academy of Pediatrics meeting. He said he’d be there and meet “us” and show us what he’s all about, and he did so with very harsh, misogynist language.
So here’s a word of advice to the intactivists out there. Number one, don’t be evil. Don’t post personal pictures of people and make fun of them for circumcising their kids. Not only are you opening yourselves up to legal action for using likenesses without permission, you’re also dangerously close to committing crimes in several jurisdictions. Second, be civil. You make no friends calling people names and threatening violence. No one likes violent, rude, obnoxious activists who make fun of rape or use misogyny as a tool. Third, use facts, and nothing else. Half of the discussions descended into throwing out speculations and anecdotal evidence. People in power, the people you’re tying to convince to ban circumcision, they like facts. They hate conjecture. They hate it when you compare circumcision to rape. It’s not. It never will be.
And now, some images from that page:
The page will be taken down at the end of the weekend, thus ending the experiment. Thank you all who participated.