Discover more from Hegemon Media
New Ideas Require A New Approach
Applying Children's Justice ideas might require a new approach to activism.
Many of the misconceptions I’ve seen around applying Children’s Justice ideas come from applying new ideas using an old model of activism.
The dominant model of activism involves persuasion. In The Intactivist Guidebook, I refer to this model of activism as the “share the message” model. Activists have a message and they share that with others in the hope they will be persuaded by that message. Often, this persuasion “share the message” model of activism takes the form of street activism, talking directly to members of the public, or even protesting outside the events of those engaged in harm and wrongdoing.
Activists trying to apply Children’s Justice ideas using this model are often unsure how to do it. For example, one of the criticisms I’ve seen of the concept of systemic pedophilia is that this concept will be too polarizing to use for person-to-person street activism. I agree. However, it’s not for that. It’s for understanding and pressure. The model of activism I’m using that idea in is entirely different that person-to-person street activism.
Consider for a moment the concept of systemic racism. Do racial justice activists approach random people on the street or members of racist organizations to try to convince them that we live in a systemically racist society? Have you ever had an activist approach you and say, “Hello, can I talk to you about why racism is bad?” Probably not. Yet the concept of systemic racism has been incredibly useful for racial justice activists.
Those activists aren’t using the concept of a systemic issue for persuasion, but understanding and pressure. The success of this concept has as much to do with the model of activism through which they apply it as the concept itself. If the activism of the racial justice movement consisted entirely of standing outside the events of racist organizations and trying to persuade the people entering those events to “stop being racist,” they likely would not have had the massive social impact their movement has had.
Instead, racial justice activists use the concept of systemic racism to understand the problem they are facing. Likewise, the concept of systemic pedophilia provides a different understanding of children’s issues. The implications of this new understanding are so great that it would require a whole separate article or even book just to explore them. If you want an idea of how significant these changes are, look at how transformative the concept of systemic racism has been to society.
The other way that racial justice activists use the concept of systemic racism is through pressure. Pressure campaigns are not about convincing the target through arguments, but getting them to change their behavior in the face of social stigma. If someone is called a racist by an activist organization, they face significant pressure. They might lose other connections in their life who fear being associated with someone who has been called a racist, even if they know the label is false. In the face of pressure, many people and organizations will cave to activist demands in the hope that those activists will relieve the pressure put upon them by calling them that name.
The concept of systemic pedophilia could be used in a similar way. If pressure campaigns often involve labeling a person or organization with a socially stigmatized name, “pedophile” is one of the most stigmatized labels there is. The concept of systemic pedophilia opens the possibility of pressure campaigns similar to those racial justice organizations have used. Which is more likely to change the behavior of organizations that harm children? “If you do this, we will stand outside your event and try to convince you to stop” or “if you do this we will label you a pedophile and turn everyone around you against you.”
By the way, pressure campaigns are the preferred tool of those against children’s activism. Those who oppose my work and others like me rarely debate our ideas. Instead, they call us names. Often opposition will reach for the worse names they can imagine, no matter how false or defamatory because they know pressure campaigns are effective. When they use bad labels, they’re not trying to convince us but to turn others against us. The reason Children’s Justice scares them so much is that they know that if you started using the tactics they actually use, instead of the persuasion-only tactics they tell you to use, you’d win.
Many Children’s Justice ideas have uses beyond the previous model of activism most are familiar with. By analogy, a hammer is an incredible tool, but if you try to use it to make dinner, you’ll break your dishes. Likewise, using the ideas in Children’s Justice require you to expand your idea of what is possible and explore a new way of thinking about social change.