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IntactWiki creates a page dedicated to me

Andrew Gross

July 10, 2021 Last month Ulf Dunkel created a page about me for his Intact Wiki website. My first reaction is - I'm flattered. You know you've made it when your adversaries consider you important enough to publish a page dedicated to tearing you down. I can take pride in the fact that my entry on IntactWiki is 30% longer than the entry for Bill Gates, the Microsoft cofounder and philanthropist who has promoted the procedure and has donated $50 million to circumcise the continent of Africa. [1]


Typical of Dunkel's articles, his post about me contains mostly false information, irrelevant details, and ad hominem fallacies.

Inaccuracies and Logical Fallacies

Dunkel began by calling me a "Jewish circumcision advocate." Identifying an adversary by his religion could be considered ad hominem - because a religious belief has no bearing on the validity of a person's argument. [2] Based on a cursory search of his website, I was unable to find a single entry for a pro circumcision or pro parents choice supporter whom Dunkel identified as Muslim, Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist. It seems that he is obsessed with identifying Jews - and only Jews. [3-5] Since intactivists cannot defeat circumcision defenders on the facts and evidence, they invariably resort to ad hominem attacks. They reflexively discount the research and views of circumcision defenders based on immutable characteristics (neonatally circumcised men, women, Jews, Muslims, native-born Americans) and occupations (physicians, nurses, mohelim.)


The "circumcision advocate" label is not accurate. Dunkel himself defined the term as "a person who vehemently advocates in favor of medically not necessary, non-therapeutic genital mutilation in children." I have never defended genital mutilation. I oppose all mutilation - male genital mutilation and female genital mutilation. Anyone who mutilates a child should be in prison. Nor have I ever advocated (vehemently or otherwise) in support of circumcision. It’s telling that Dunkel failed to provide any evidence that I have encouraged even one parent to choose circumcision. I support a parent's right to choose for or against circumcision for her infant son. Providing accurate information does not equate to advocating for the procedure, just as defending free speech does not mean that one endorses every controversial message expressed.


Dunkel escalated from ad hominem to defamation by categorizing me as a “circumcision fetishist.“ He has defined a circumfetishist as "someone who has a sexual fixation for the circumcised penis, and/or derives sexual gratification from the act of circumcision itself." Again, he provided absolutely zero evidence for this baseless and malicious accusation.


He revealed my city of residence and the name and location of my local synagogue. There could be no valid reason to share such specific information with his international audience. By way of comparison the only identifying details about Dunkel in last year's Circumcision Choice article are his age, occupation, and nationality. Dunkel may be trying to intimidate me by posting these details. But it's more likely that he simply has a habit of posting any and all trivial facts he can find. [6]


His third sentence contains the only information in the entry that is both relevant and accurate. Dunkel copied the information about my Circumcision Choice roles from my 2015 op-ed that was recently republished on this website.


The second paragraph began with another false assertion - that I am "obviously the only contributor to the Circumcision Choice blog.“ Only contributor? I’m not even the owner of the website. What would be obvious to even a simple mind is that I cannot have written several posts authored and published by a physician. Either Dunkel is accusing me of anonymously portraying a doctor, or (more likely) he is displaying his failure to do even basic research. While I’m identified as the author of several posts, we have guest posts that were clearly written by other people, and an anonymous post could be written by any member of the Circumcision Choice team. [7]


At this point Dunkel conducted a straw man sleight-of-hand. First he said that this website "claims to 'supporting [sic] choice not misinformation.'" [8] Then he said that "neutral information is always a good idea" but Circumcision Choice "is not interested about [sic] neutral information."


We at Circumcision Choice promise to provide accurate information. Nowhere have we promised neutral information - whatever that means. We have never claimed to be neutral. We openly declare our bias. I'll say it again: we support a parent's right to choose for or against circumcision for her infant son.

Circumcision Choice is about “combatting intactivism” - as he put it. Intactivism isn’t just about opposition to the procedure. Intactivists routinely harass, bully, and threaten anyone who dares to disagree with them. Intactivists promote facts that are false, misleading, or out-of-context. We support parental choice and we expose intactivist lies and their evil behavior.


Dunkel committed another common intactivist fallacy when he accused me of having cognitive dissonance. He claimed that I suffer mental conflict between the belief that a child’s parents won’t harm him and the fact that my parents authorized the removal of my foreskin, which he described as a “healthy, most sensitive and protecting part.”


“Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of mental discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance.” [9]


Since cognitive dissonance requires a set of conflicting beliefs, the accusation that I’ve experienced cognitive dissonance presumes that circumcision is harmful. Yet Dunkel provided zero evidence that circumcision is harmful in general, or specific in my own case. [10] Our 16 Functions article dismantles the claim that the foreskin protects the glans. Our 15 square inches and 20,000 nerve endings articles refute the claim that circumcision reduces sexual pleasure. And our 1 in 16,667 article documents the inconvenient truth that foreskin can cause significant harm.


The unfounded cognitive dissonance accusation mirrors a common pushback addressed in our Mental Disorder Q&A - that happily circumcised men are in denial. Denial is a psychological coping mechanism that involves avoiding a confrontation with a problem or reality by denying the existence of the problem or reality. Rather than consider the possibility that circumcision isn't always harmful, intactivists explain away the prevalence of happily circumcised men by accusing them all of being in denial of the harm. This self-serving accusation is dependent on the premise that circumcision is harmful - which is the very issue in question. Denial and cognitive dissonance are closed circle arguments, “where there is no possibility of convincing [intactivists] that they might be wrong. They are right because they’re right." [11] A closed circle argument, one that is unproven and unfalsifiable, is meaningless.



Conclusion

I've written extensively about circumcision here, and my letters have been published in the New York Times [12] and the Washington Post. [13] In his 230-word entry Ulf Dunkel failed to refute anything I've written about the subject. He didn’t contest a single word. He can't. Everything I and other contributors post is accurate and well-documented. On the rare occasions that we make a mistake, we issue a prompt correction.


Intactivists cannot refute the facts about circumcision, which is why they obsessively focus on an opponent‘s religion, sex, or other personal characteristics. Dunkel‘s article provides a valuable demonstration of this dishonest practice.

When a group of doctors, nurses, parents, and other concerned citizens started Circumcision Choice almost five years ago, intactivists dismissed us as "insignificant." [14] Now they seem to be taking us at least somewhat seriously. We won’t be intimidated by the attention, and our focus won't change. We will continue to provide accurate information about the benefits and risks. We will continue to expose the malicious actions of the intactivist movement. And we will continue to support parents, doctors, nurses, and circumcised men. RELATED German intactivists projects tactics on Circumcision Choice



[1] Andy Cochlan; "Bill Gates helps fund mass circumcision programme"; New Scientist; Just 15, 2009

[2] For this reason Circumcision Choice seldom identifies a subject's religion. Even in an article about an FGM defender whose own religious appeals made clear her faith, we didn't explicitly identify her religion.

[3] Dunkel has claimed that a circumcision defender's Jewish identity is relevant because a Jew may have a religious bias that "may pre-dispose one to view the practice of circumcision in a positive light, to welcome evidence that it is medically beneficial, perhaps even necessary or required, and to dismiss arguments and research to the contrary." In making this argument, Dunkel presumes that any Jew by nature has a religous bias that could render him incapable of considering arguments and evidence that reflect negatively on the procedure. This is a classic example of the ad hominem fallacy, because - as I mentioned above - a person's motivation or agenda has no bearing on whether his argument or evidence is true or false.

[4] Bear in mind that intactivists claim (albeit falsely) that circumcision is unchristian and a forbidden practice for Christians. Thus by Dunkel's fallacious reasoning, one could preemptively dismiss the argument of any Christian intactivist - or at least consider it suspect - on the pretext that Christians are predisposed to view circumcision in a negative light, to reject evidence that it is medically beneficial, and to dismiss arguments and research to the contrary. Mind you, I am not saying that the opinion of any Christian should be considered invalid. Rather, a presumption that a Christian cannot set aside a religious bias when examining circumcision evidence would logically follow from his presumptions about Jews.

[5] This could also be considered a form of Poisoning the Well, "a preemptive ad hominem (abusive) attack against an opponent, [using] adverse information about the opponent from the start, in an attempt to ... discount the credibility of your opponent’s claim." Normally poisoning the well involves negative information about the opponent. In this case Dunkel considers Jewish identity to be a negative, since he assumes that a Jew will not or cannot set aside any religious considerations and review circumcision evidence in an unbiased manner.

[6] An entry for British researcher Stephen Moreton begins with Moreton's city of birth and his precise birth date. An entry for American Jake Waskett, a software engineer no longer active in the circumcision debate, includes extremely trivial details about online aliases and post editing.

[7] Intactivists commonly assume that I am the one person behind Circumcision Choice because I am the only one who writes under my own name. The actions of intactivists - issuing threats and contacting relatives, employers, and medical facilities - have made it necessary for many contributors to remain anonymous.

[8] In fact we do support parental choice, and we do expose misinformation, such as the false and misleading statements that are prevalent throughout the IntactWiki website. [9] Saul McLeod; “Cognitive Dissonance”; Simply Psychology; February 5, 2018

[10] Without going into details, I am enjoying a lifetime of sexual, medical, religious, and cultural benefits of circumcision. I am grateful that I was circumcised in infancy, such that I have no memory of any pain, discomfort, or embarrassment. Not once have I envied an uncircumcised man or wondered what it would be like to be uncircumcised. On the contrary, I would be pleased to learn that my severed foreskin had been used to treat burn victims or develop cosmetics and beauty treatments for celebrities. And if technology to regerenate foreskins were available, I wouldn't take it. Not in a million years.

[11] David Didau; "The closed circle: Why being wrong is so useful"; Learning Spy; October 30, 2015

[12] Andrew Gross; "Whose Choice Is It?" New York Times; July 2, 2012

[13] Andrew Gross; "Myths about circumcision"; Washington Post; January 8, 2014

[14] Georganne Chapin; Facebook comment; October 25, 2016



#LogicalFallacy #LogicalFallacies #AdHominem #StrawMan

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