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How intactivists exploited the Coronavirus

October 28, 2020

"We've never had an opportunity like this to force our will on the people."

The Coronavirus pandemic has affected every country on earth. The numbers are astronomical: as of the date of this article more than 44 million people worldwide have been infected and nearly 1.2 million have died. Entire nations shut down in an attempt to control the spread. Unemployment rates reached historic levels, and there have been fears of a global depression. By early May a senior editor of foreign policy at Slate predicted that the coronavirus "is likely to be remembered as the first truly global event in human history". [1] The repercussions of this pandemic will affect human civilization for decades.

In the midst of this global catastrophe, there was no pause by the intactivist movement. Their actions were shocking, yet predictable. Some intactivists cheered for the spread of the virus. Others dismissed it as a hoax or conspiracy. They tried to interfere with hospitals that continued to offer elective circumcision. They cited the virus to generate donations for their campaign. One prominent intactivist leader used the rapidly changing situation as an opportunity to discredit medical authorities. What follows is a summary of the intactivist responses during the first few months that the pandemic afflicted the United States.

Some intactivists cheered for the virus

Anti-circumcision activists began by pondering how the pandemic would affect the anti-circumcision movement. As initial deaths were reported in the U.S. and several states shut down, intactivists responded with appreciation - expecting that the Coronavirus would halt circumcision procedures and kill people who performed or supported the procedure.

  • "There could be a silver lining to the coronavirus pandemic." - Ken Satisfka

  • "Maybe corona could be good for something after all?" - Melissa Hodge (March 14)

  • "Does anyone else hope that the current COVID-19 crisis will stop ... [circumcision]?" - Frances Maxant (March 19)

  • "Since most mohels are on the older side, they're at high risk of dying from it.😊" - Mitchell Kaufmann (March 19)

  • "We've never had an opportunity like this to force our will on the people." - Rediate Yohannes (March 28)

Intactivists celebrated the March 24 death of Avraham Romi Cohn, a prominent rabbi, mohel, and Holocaust survivor. At the age of 16, Cohn joined the underground resistance and helped save 56 Jewish families from the Nazis. Cohn had performed thousands of circumcisions, for which he had refused payment. [2] [3] Upon reading the article announcing Cohn's death, Blood Stained Men director James Loewen called him a "serial child molester", while others wished that he suffered. [4]

A few days later longtime intactivist Robbie Tvetkov announced that the Corona had taken the life of his 73 year-old father in New York City. Apparently a deadly virus doesn't distinguish between people based on a pro-circumcision or anti-circumcision agenda.

They misunderstood state directives to postpone elective procedures, and then wasted the time of hospitals government agencies

In order to prevent a health care overload like the one that had overwhelmed hospitals in Italy, in March several state governors issued directives for hospitals to postpone non-urgent surgical procedures. The U.S. Surgeon General and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services concurred. [5][6] The CMS explained the reasons for postponing non-urgent procedures:

• to encourage patients to stay at home,

• to preserve personal protective equipment, beds, and ventilators for Covid-19 care,

• to free up health care professionals to care for patients who are most in need

Intactivists pounced on these recommendations, erroneously believing that they included a (temporary) ban on circumcision. Marilyn Milos of NOCIRC argued with staff at Marin General Hospital, tying up the phone line and restricting the ability of callers with actual medical issues to reach the facility. [7]

Intact America spent more than $7,500 to send 8,000 letters to hospitals in early April demanding that they cancel (not postpone) newborn circumcisions. [8] The group falsely stated that the Surgeon General had asked hospitals to STOP elective surgeries. (In fact the recommendation was to postpone such procedures.) Intactivists called hospitals and organized a campaign to tattle on hospitals to state and federal agencies.

On April 15 Intact America created a petition to ask the U.S. surgeon general to "tell doctors and hospitals to STOP [performing circumcisions]". In fact the surgeon general has no authority to issue such a demand, as medical procedures are regulated by the states. [9] Moreover infant circumcisions would not affect a hospital's ability to serve other patients. Two weeks earlier the American Academy of Pediatrics had stated that hospitals should continue to provide circumcisions for healthy baby boys upon request. [10]

George Vockovic, an associate producer of American Circumcision, was one of just a handful of intactivists who understood the purpose of the recommendations made by the surgeon-general and the CDC. He wrote, "Minimal PPE is often used during RIC anyway. Usually just gloves, no gown, hat, mask, face shield, etc." [11]

Celebrity philanthropists stepped up to the plate

In March and April, several public figures donated generously toward the fight against the Coronvirus. They included three prominent American philanthropists who are despised by intactivists.

On April 2 Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates pledged billions to develop a vaccine. [12] That same day talk show host Oprah Winfrey pledged $10 million for Coronavirus relief. The next day pop superstar Pink announced that her family had been quarantined for three weeks after she and her son had tested positive for the Coronavirus. Pink pledged a total of $1 million for testing and relief in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

The intactivist movement responded to these generous donations with silence. Meanwhile they continued their own unending fundraising efforts. Not to provide relief or find a vaccine. Rather to erect anti-circumcision highway billboards and fund Kenneth Hopkins's trips around North America to stalk and assault doctors and nurses.

During April Intact America used the Coronavirus crisis as a pretext to make several donation appeals. On April 6 Intact America announced that it had sent almost 8,000 letters to hospitals demanding that they stop circumcisions. [13] Ten days later the group posted a fundraising video in which Georganne Chapin explained "how the coronavirus pandemic is giving new energy to the intactivist movement." [14][15]

Anti-circumcision physician used misinformation to attack the U.S. health care system

Back in February we posted about the disgraced intactivist physician Eugene Gu., who falsely claimed that circumcised patients routinely go into shock. Gu had used sockpuppet accounts to promote himself for personal and professional benefit. He does not have a medical license due to his poor performance and conduct during residency.

In January and February Gu made a series of irresponsible tweets about the Coronavirus. He downplayed the severity of the threat, claimed that facemasks are ineffective, declared that children are "virtually untouched" by the virus, and understated the incubation period. [16-33] Without apparent awareness of the irony, Gu lectured his followers to rely on "facts and evidence alone - not sensationalism and innuendo".

One month later Gu attacked the U.S. health care system as "one of the worst health systems" in the world. He based that statement on a comparison between the number of cases in the U.S. and those in China. [34] A factchecker called The Meme Policeman refuted Gu's statement, saying, "This statement from Dr. Gu is completely in bad faith and fallacious logic (seems to be a reoccurring pattern with him)." The factchecker pointed out that some of the data Gu used was dubious because circumstances were changing rapidly and because the the Chinese government had censored information about the Coronavirus, making the government-approved data unreliable. [35]

Anti-Circumcision documentary producer tried to discredit medical establishment

As various states in the U.S. were shutting down, the producer of the anti-circumcision documentary American Circumcision attempted to use the pandemic to discredit medical organizations that intactivists had long seen as adversarial to their agenda. Brendon Marotta wanted to refute the idea that medical information from medical experts is more accurate and reliable than information that is posted online by non-medics and shared via social media users. He published a tweet boasting, "My 'google search' better prepared me for #COVID19 than your 'expert' organizations. #Coronavirus has revealed that this argument is not only wrong, but dangerous. It costs people their lives." Three days later he wrote, "This is the greatest collapse of trust in the medical establishment in our time and many #i2 activists [intactivists] are sleeping on it."

The next day Marotta published a hysterical blog post warning that the medical establishment had made several false statements about the Coronavirus. He asked, "If a person with no credentials [Brendon Marotta] could see this issue clearer than them [CDC and WHO] and was better prepared than their organizations, of what use were their credentials? [36]

Marotta argued that since medical authorities have made statements about the coronavirus that turned out to be inaccurate, such authorities have lost all credibility and should not be trusted on other matters. In particular Marotta sought to discredit the CDC and WHO regarding the agencies' policies and statements about circumcision.

The current pandemic has seen a rapidly changing situation of global magnitude. New information was being released weekly, even daily in some cases. This information was based on the latest data available. The Chinese government censored medical information and punished Chinese doctors who had tried to sound the alarm. A lot of false information was spread by "independent sources." By contrast, researchers conducting most scientific studies, including studies about circumcision, do not have a sense of urgency. Consequently such studies can take weeks or months to complete, which allows a greater likelihood of accuracy. Published studies are then available for peer review, adding an additional layer of analysis.

Ironically Brendon Marotta's standard would discredit the intactivist movement. It's true that the Surgeon General initially said that masks don't provide protection. You know who else said that? Eugene Gu, whose January 6 tweet about a "growing cancer in the medical community" was retweeted by Brendon Marotta. Intact America's Dan Bollinger also said that masks don't work. The same Dan Bollinger featured in American Circumcision.

It gets worse. On March 22 Marotta bragged that he "was prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic back in February due to the work of independent sources like Chernovich and Balaji Srinivasan." [37] First, if Marotta was concerned about the Coronavirus, he never warned his followers about the looming pandemic before March 6. Not one Facebook post about the use of masks for protection. Not one tweet correcting the misinformation from WHO, the U.S Department of Health, or fellow intactivists Gu and Bollinger. [38]

Second, five days after his "I was prepared" tweet, Marotta complained that Amazon had cancelled his March 17 order for dust masks. If Marotta had been prepared for the pandemic, he wouldn't need to order them - because he would already have stocked up on a supply of protective equipment. [39]

Marotta's credibility was further destroyed based on a February 25 comment he posted on his Facebook page. When a commenter compared the death toll from the flu, Marotta replied that the issue "isn't the virus. It's the supply chains being disrupted." [40] This statement turned out to be absurd. Marotta was absolutely wrong. The issue was the virus - its exponential spread, its crippling effects on health, and the crippling effects of lockdowns on the economy. As of this article nearly 9 million Americans have been infected and more than 225,000 have died. Yet the supply chains that deliver food and medicine to the American public were never even threatened. Grocery stores and pharmacies remained full of most food and drug products. To use Marotta's own words, this evidence should cause the greatest collapse of trust in himself and the intactivist movement.

Blood Stained Men leader promotes bizarre conspiracy theory

Blood Stained Men director James Loewen was among those spreading a fringe conspiracy theory - known as QAnon - that billionaire Bill Gates and the pharmaceutical industry were using the pandemic to promote vaccines. [41] Loewen himself refused to wear a facemask, and he encouraged others to reject facemasks and social distancing. [42] He claimed that global health organizations were intentionally deceiving the public in order to create "a mandatory world wide vaccine, that digitally connects the recipient (victim) to a matrix." [43]