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Intact America Part 4: We will cannibalize ourselves, rather than focus on the real enemy

October 10, 2018

Revised March 24, 2019

 

 

Outside the 2016 AAP Conference in San Francisco, our Circumcision Choice crew drew a variety of reactions from the intactivist side. Although many of them were confrontational, we found one older woman to be quite cordial. She took several photos and then politely asked us a few questions.

 

We soon recognized her as none other than Georganne Chapin, the executive director of Intact America. A resident of New York state, Chapin has forged a career in health care management for more than 35 years.

 

She cordially invited us to attend the Intact America press conference within the hour because – as she put it – “the media loves a controversy.” One might conclude from our brief exchange that, despite our differences, she was someone with whom we could reason, someone with honesty and integrity.

 

We can see this attempt at finding common ground in Chapin's 2017 letter to AAP President Dr. Karen Remley. Chapin wrote, "Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and Intact America share a common goal – protecting the health and wellbeing of children. We can and should work together toward that goal." [1] One might get the impression that  Chapin understands that reasonable people may disagree on the topic of circumcision. One would be mistaken.

 

In Part 2 on Monday, we saw how Chapin used media appearances to distort statements made by members of the AAP Task Force. Today we'll explore another aspect of her personality that she tries to conceal.
 

 

"AN OVER-CONCERN ABOUT ANTI-SEMITISM IS DISTRACTING"

 

In 2011 San Francisco voters were poised to consider a ballot measure that would have made elective circumcision of all minor boys a crime. Medical authorities and religious leaders planned a huge campaign to defeat the measure. [2]

 

During the summer of 2011 Matthew Hess, the man who wrote the language for the measure, published Foreskin Man, an online comic book for intactivists. The story featured a blond, Aryan superhero (a surrogate for the author) [3] who battles Monster Mohel, a bloodthirsty Orthodox Jew. Widely regarded as anti-Semitic, [4] the comic book helped opponents of the ballot measure demonstrate that support was motivated in part by anti-Jewish animus. [5] Several circumcision opponents condemned the comic book, [6] but the website promoting the measure featured a link to Hess's website. [7]

 


Three years later, Georganne Chapin presented her view at an international conference for anti-circumcision leaders. The main point of her speech was that the leaders must be willing to embrace - or at least tolerate - extreme language and tactics. [8]

 

From this perspective she focused on "recurrent accusations of anti-Semitism that arise within the intactivist movement," [9] and in particular, the Monster Mohel controversy. Chapin dismissed the controversy as "an over-concern about anti-Semitism" that was nothing more than a distraction.

 

"We ... could talk about whether the portrayal of Monster Mohel 'set the intactivist movement back,' as some have claimed. I will explain why I don’t think that is true, and will argue instead that an over-concern about anti-Semitism within this movement is misplaced, distracting, and destructive, and that we must grow beyond it if we are to defeat the real enemy.... The enemy is not an intactivist who might step outside our personal comfort zones. If we think this way, we will cannibalize ourselves, rather than keeping the focus on the real enemy…" [9]

 

 

"WE MUST CALL TO ACCOUNT ALL CIRCUMCISERS."

 

Chapin is like a two-faced politician. The Intact America leader feigns respect and cordiality when communicating with an opponent like the AAP president. Then she drops the facade to reveal a bellicose, condescending tone when speaking to the inner circle about their adversaries.

 

After dismissing concerns that anti-Semitism could harm the movement - as nothing more than "political correctness," Georganne Chapin defined for intactivist leaders who their real enemy is.

 

"The enemy is any person of any religion, culture, race or gender who circumcises a child. We need to stop questioning the motives of those whose aim it is to make all circumcisers feel bad, so they stop circumcising.” [9]

...

“We must be willing to vilify circumcision and call it for what it is ─ horrifying, yes, evil. We must unequivocally call to account those who perpetuate it. This includes ALL circumcisers. And yes, it includes parents too ─ if they have been informed, and still persist in doing it.” [9]

 

While disagreeing on a controversial issue, partisans may recognize and acknowledge that their opponents may have good intentions. They may disagree on the proper course of action, but their intentions are good. To call an adversary "the enemy," however, is to reject any possibility of good faith. Former Canadian political leader Michael Ignatief explained.

 

"An adversary is someone you want to defeat. An enemy is someone you have to destroy. With adversaries, compromise is honorable: Today’s adversary could be tomorrow’s ally. With enemies, on the other hand, compromise is appeasement. 

 

Between adversaries, trust is possible. They will beat you if they can, but they will accept the verdict of a fair fight. This, and a willingness to play by the rules, is what good-faith democracy demands. Between enemies, trust is impossible. They do not play by the rules (or if they do, only as a means to an end) and if they win, they will try to rewrite the rules, so that they can never be beaten again. [10]

 

It gets worse. Chapin believes that American doctors deliberately lie and mislead about the medical benefits. [11] She believes that medical professionals who perform circumcisions have no concern about the pain a baby may feel. [12] She believes that a doctor promotes circumcision specifically to increase his salary or profit. "In the U.S. the more procedures they do, the more money they make. So circumcision has become a time-honored way for obstetricians and pediatricians to make money." [13] 

 

She refuses to acknowledge that her opponents might have any legitimate argument. She dehumanizes her opponents, referring to them as "cockroaches." [14] She has convinced herself that there can be no reasonable defense because she considers the procedure to be "an unconscionable and unjustifiable practice." [14] Therefore, anyone who disagrees with her must be in denial. Or evil. Or both.

 

 

"OPPOSITION ... PRIMARILY FROM THE JEWISH LOBBY"

 

With this more complete picture, Chapin's indifference to anti-Semitic intactivists becomes understandable. She doesn't think that a caricature of a bloodthirsty Jew savoring the blood of a child is problematic - because she sees it as accurate. In her view, anyone who supports or defends circumcision is the evil enemy who is, at best, indifferent to a child's suffering. If it's okay to criticize and vilify doctors, [15] then it must be okay to vilify mohels, even with classic tropes used by Nazis, who were themselves inspired by Christian leaders who persecuted Jews during the Middle Ages.

 

In Chapin's mind, any public disciplinary action taken by the movement against a wayward member would be "cannibalizing." [16] All intactivists are useful, even those who demonize the Jews. Criticizing a rogue intactivist is not merely a distraction; it's counter-productive, since the rogues make the enemies feel bad for their evil deeds.

 

Occasionally when she's speaking to a sympathetic audience, Chapin lets her guard down. In a 2017 radio interview with a radio station in Ireland, Chapin blamed the Jewish lobby for obstructing legislative efforts to prohibit circumcision. [17] In fact the defenders of circumcision span mainstream religious and political spectra (as well as the medical profession). Political and religious leaders that opposed efforts to ban circumcision in California and Germany included several prominent Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims. [18]


In the next breath after blaming the Jewish lobby, Chapin declared that less than one percent of all circumcision performed in the U.S. are Jewish ritual circumcisions. [9] Thus she fed into the anti-Semitic stereotype that a small, powerful group of Jews control American public policy for all. "The stereotype of the ‘Jewish lobby’ is that the Jewish engagement in politics and policy debate is above and beyond the ordinary participation of a group in public policy-making. It paints Jewish involvement as surreptitious, and as subverting the democratic process. It alleges that a ‘Jewish lobby’, through bribery, bullying and manipulation, pressures politicians to act against their will and duties." [19]

 

 

Chapin once blamed the organized Jewish religion. She explained to a sympathetic New York talk show host that circumcision continues because of various American cultural influences, including “very strong political pushback from religious groups, from the Jewish lobbyists… The organized religion [Judaism], which fears that if medicalized circumcision goes away, if doctors stop circumcising, then all eyes will be on ritual circumcision, and it won’t stand up to any test.” [14]

 

A few years ago Chapin used an op-ed to argue that circumcision is a human rights issue. [20] A letter writer responded by observing that she had "[connected] those who circumcise infants to Nazi doctors and their experiments on concentration camp prisoners, a particularly horrible comparison to the thousands of Jewish survivors who willingly and joyfully had their infant sons circumcised after being freed." [21]

 

Let's review the facts. Georganne Chapin doesn't consider a comic book that depicts a blond, muscular, Aryan superhero battling a hook-nosed, bloodthirsty Orthodox Jew to be anti-Semitic. Chapin blames The Jewish Lobby and the Jewish religion for blocking legislation. She advises other leaders not to criticize or distance themselves from anti-Jewish elements in the movement. And she equates medical and religious circumcision specialists with Nazi doctors who tortured Jewish prisoners in concentration camps. [22] [23]

 

Any one example on its own wouldn't necessarily indicate an anti-Jewish attitude. Taken together, these incidents show a disturbing pattern of hostility toward the Jewish community and the Jewish religion.

 

Chapin might respond that she can't hold anti-Jewish attitudes, because she has Jewish friends in the anti-circumcision movement. That may be true, but enemies of Israel also hide behind token Jews to shield the anti-Zionist movement from anti-Semitism accusations.

 

A leader can oppose circumcision without tolerating cartoons that perpetuate classic anti-Semitic stereotypes. A leader can oppose circumcision without singling out "the Jewish lobby" and "the organized Jewish religion." A leader can oppose circumcision without comparing Jewish mohels to Nazi torturers. Unfortunately the executive director of Intact America hasn't demonstrated that she is that type of leader.

 

Georganne Chapin appears calm, polished, and professional when trying to influence a mainstream audience. But the polite facade disguises the same snarling militant extremism expressed by more chaotic elements in the movement. Tomorrow we'll explore how this extreme attitude directed the group's involvement in the most publicized story in Intact America's ten years.

 

 

[1] Georganne Chapin; "Dear Dr. Remley"; Intact America Blog; March 7, 2017

[2] Dan Pine; "JCRC launches campaign to defeat S.F. circumcision ban"; J.; June 3, 2011

[3] When asked about his comic book hero’s appearance compared to the villain’s darker complexion, Hess replied, “Foreskin Man’s blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin reflect my own German Heritage. I see absolutely no reason to be ashamed of that.” Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon, description of his video “Dear Intactivists”; YouTube; July 18, 2018

[4] See for example, Ken White, "You didn't have to be a dick about it"; Popehat; Jun 3, 2011

[5] Will Kane; "SF suit says circumcision ban is unconstitutional"; San Francisco Chronicle; July 1, 2011

[6] See for example, Tony Pierce; "Opposition to Circumcision and Anti-Semitism"; Rolling Doughnut; June 3, 2011

[7] Carolyn Tyler; "Anti-circumcision comic outrages Jewish community"; ABC 7 News; June 7, 2011

[8] Program & Syllabus of Abstracts13th International Symposium on Genital Autonomy and Children’s Rights ; p 5

[9] Georganne Chapin; "Whose Political Correctness? Changing Language, Viewpoints and Tactics in Today’s Intactivist Movement"; 13th International Symposium on Genital Autonomy and Children’s Rights; Boulder, Colorado; July 25, 2014

[10] Michael Ignatieff; "Enemies vs. Adversaries"; New York Times; October 16, 2013

[11] Georganne Chapin; "Walden's Pond"; WBAI Radio; January 24, 2010 (quote begins at 24:55) "I believe sincerely that American doctors know that circumcision doesn't prevent AIDS. They know that. I also believe they know ... that the rate of transmission from male to females is actually higher in men who are circumcised... They know it has no impact on transmission from male to male."

[12] Georganne Chapin; “Walden's Pond”; WBAI Radio; March 27, 2011 (quote begins at 24:47)

[13] Georganne Chapin; "Circumcision & Tuberculosis"; RT Radio; April 6, 2017 (quote begins at 6:41)

[14] Georganne Chapin; True News; Freedomain Radio; April 5, 2017

[15] A responsible leader would realize that it's wrong to villify doctors, mohels, or anyone just because they disagree with you.

[16] This attitude is mirrored by the more vulgar elements of the movement, who dismiss and ostracize anyone who publicly speaks up against bullying as an "intactcop." See wearemadeofstardust; "The Case Against Intactocop Labeling"; The Case Against Intactivism; February 14, 2015

[17] Georganne Chapin; radio interview; Moncrief on NewsTalk 106-108fm; Dublin, Ireland; August 4, 2017. (Quote begins at 13:57.) “I think that legislation is a very remote possibility. There’s a lot of opposition to that, primarily from the Jewish lobby,”

[18] A coalition of religious groups that opposed the San Francisco ballot measure included the San Francisco Interfaith Council, Catholic Archdiocese, National Association of Evangelicals (representing 45,000 churches), and several Muslim groups. Political leaders included Mayor Gavin Newsom and City Attorney Dennis Herrera (both Catholic), and several other political leaders. The measure was removed from the ballot because it conflicted with state law. A bill co-sponsored by assembly members Mike Gatto (Catholic) and Fiona Ma (Presbyterian) to clarify the state’s exclusive authority to regulate circumcision passed both houses of the legislature by unanimous vote and was signed by Governor Jerry Brown (Catholic.) A 2012 German regional court ruling prohibiting circumcision of minors was denounced by the Roman Catholic Archbishop, the German Evangelical Church, and the Central Council of Muslims, as well as several Jewish groups. The German legislature swiftly overturned the ruling.

[19] "The Jewish Lobby"; B'nai Brith Anti-Defamation Commission of Australia

[20] Georganne Chapin; "Routine circumcision: A human rights issue whose time has come"; South Florida Sun-Sentinel; March 28, 2015

[21] Michael Poretsky; "No clear winner in circumcision debate"; South Florida Sun-Sentinel; April 1, 2015.
[22] The U.S. State Department cites the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which includes among its illustrative examples, "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis." If comparing contemporary Israeli policy to policies of Nazi Germany is anti-Semitic, all the moreso is comparing a timeless Jewish ritual procedure to Nazi torture experiments on Jewish prisoners.

[23] "Comparison with the Nazis"; The Online Hate Prevention Institute. "When used in the context of Jews or Israel, it’s not just a really poor comparison; its use is designed to cause distress to those who survived the Holocaust or who grew up as the children of survivors. It’s like disagreeing with someone eating meat, and knowing they are a rape victim, choosing to make your point by comparing eating meat with rape and saying that someone who had been raped should know better. It’s not just a bad analogy, it’s applying a different standard to someone because they are a victim, making them a victim a second time." In other words, while one can criticize mohels, to compare the brit milah to experiments that Nazi doctors intended to torture and cripple Jewish victims - is obscene.

 

 

 

October 7: Part 1 - Introduction

October 8: Part 2 - They’re unreliable because they lie

October 9: Part 3 - History - the pressure was both inappropriate and indefensible

October 10: Part 4 - We will cannibalize ourselves, rather than focus on the real enemy

October 11: Part 5 - A wild goose chase backfires

October 12: Part 6 - One boy vs five hundred thousand girls

October 13: Part 7 - Conclusion: Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

 

August 18, 2019: Intact America makes absurd proposal that refutes itself

 


#IntactAmerica #AAP16 #SanFrancisco

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