Pedophiles, Cancel Culture, and How Extremism Took Root in the Activist Left
There is only one shameful moment in my 20+ year writing career, and it was all about racism.
Years ago, I wrote a story titled For the Digital Green Fields of Aldamar, about subliminal messaging being used in Massively Multiplayer Games to control society. One of the main characters was Skazz, a lanky black kid with purple spiked hair who was based on Franklyn Dawson, my best friend from high school, and somebody whose family had immigrated to Canada from Zimbabwe. But you wouldn’t have known that the character was black from reading the story when it was first published.
The editor handling it at The Escapist took issue with the word “black” in the sentence that described him. When I fought to keep it in, he hit me with a tactic I was not expecting. “Isn’t specifying that he’s black kind of racist?” he asked. I was stunned enough that I had no reply, and with the deadline for publication approaching fast, I reluctantly conceded the point and agreed. The word was removed.
It didn’t take long before I realized I’d just been suckered by somebody who was probably a racist. With a rhetorical trick, he had used my own desire to avoid racism to carry out a racist act and erase the ethnicity of one of my characters.
As bad as that was, the only real damage done was my brused ego. Although Skazz was based on a real person, he was still an fictional character — causing him any harm was and remains a physical impossibility.
The same cannot be said for the many children who will be harmed as pedophiles attempt the exact same trick on the activist left. And at the moment, they seem to be succeeding.
Unfortunately, what I just wrote is true: pedophiles are seeking to normalize child molestation. Using the language of inclusivity, they are reframing pedophilia as a sexual orientation in a victim narrative. The progress they have made on this is terrifying, particularly when, like me, one is the parent of a small child.
This is not about that the details of that campaign. Far more knowledgeable hands than mine have covered this (and one should take any trigger warnings when reading them VERY seriously). What I’m going to look at is why this sickening stance has been able to succeed in infiltrating an activist community that is, in theory, dedicated towards social justice, with justice being the operative word.
And this is far from the first time something like this has happened. Both racism and anarchism have found homes in the activist left, along with mainstream support. And the key to this, I think, was the rise of cancel culture.
Although there are still many who would attempt to deny its existence, cancel culture is very real, and many live in fear of it. It is used to enforce an ideological purity test on everybody from public figures to occasional posters on Twitter, with an online mob descending upon anybody who falls short. The backlash for statements against ideological dogma can be career- and life-destroying. Call out a given stance as being wrong or harmful, and one can be painted as a racist, misogynist, homophobe, or transphobe. In the worst case scenario, the recipient of this treatment can be driven to suicide, which has happened far too many times.
That this is so fear inducing should be no surprise. The tactics of the online activist mob map onto the tactics used in emotional and psychological abuse. Of the list of warning signs of emotional abuse provided by Psychology Today, only one (refusing to allow a person to spend time alone) has not been normalized on social media and used to enforce the ideological purity test:
- Monitoring and controlling a person’s behavior, such as who they spend time with or how they spend money.
- Threatening a person’s safety, property, or loved ones
- Isolating a person from family, friends, and acquaintances
- Demeaning, shaming, or humiliating a person
- Extreme jealousy, accusations, and paranoia
- Delivering constant criticism
- Regular ridicule or teasing
- Making acceptance or care conditional on a person’s choices
- Refusing to allow a person to spend time alone
- Thwarting a person’s professional or personal goals
- Instilling self-doubt and worthlessness
- Gaslighting: making a person question their competence and even their basic perceptual experiences.
If one wishes to see this in action, one only needs to see what happened to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling when she took the stance that biological sex was not a social construct. This stance is based in hard science — how biological sex works has been understood since the beginning of the 20th century. Chromosomes were identified and enumerated by 1924. Today, we understand the genetics so well that it is possible to use hormone therapy and surgery to transition a person from one sex to another. To take the stance that biological sex is a social construct is not only factually incorrect, it is anti-science.
And yet, despite making no anti-transgender comments whatsoever, Rowling has been labelled a transphobe and dragged through the dirt in a massive act of gaslighting aimed at undermining the scientific foundation of biological sex. And this is only one of the more public examples. To have the attention of the leftist activist movement, particularly on Twitter, is to become the victim of emotional and psychological abuse. Fail to meet the psychological purity test, and thousands of people can and will descend upon you to inflict abusive coercion and control.
(To protect the many people with the name “Robert B. Marks” who are no doubt posting on Twitter right now, I am going to point out that I have never had a Twitter account, nor do I ever plan to get one. Rest assured, if you find somebody on Twitter using the name Robert B. Marks, it is NOT me.)
If you are a member of an extremist group, the establishment of these abusive mechanisms of maintaining ideological purity also provides a perfect opportunity. If you can make your movement appear to meet the ideological purity test, then all that coercion and control will also be applied to anybody who stands against you. Both racism and anarchism have turned this into a reality.
During the administration of Donald Trump, Antifa was a darling of the activist left. On its face dedicated to fighting growing fascism (which many saw as embodied by Trump) in the most literal possible sense, they made the news by taking to the streets wearing masks and rioting in places like Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon.
Supporting the Antifa movement proved a tightrope act for the mainstream left, which gave a pass to the anarchist statements and property damage because their ally was against Donald Trump. In claiming to be against fascism and white supremacy, Antifa passed the purity test, and gained the mainstream left’s cloak of protection. But, when Trump was voted out of office, the rioting didn’t stop. Instead, the rioters simply shifted focus to the new Democrat party-led government. It could no longer be denied that their focus was not the prevention of fascism, or the end of the Trump administration, but the violent end of any government control at all.
It is tempting to suggest that had Antifa shown its true anarchist colours from the onset, the activist left would not have supported them at all, but there’s plenty of evidence that Antifa never really took great pains to hide what they were. However, at the same time, they were able to create the appearance of passing the purity test — at a time when the main focus (and test) was opposition to President Trump, that is how they presented themselves. And once the left accepted them, they received continued protection, right up to the point where it could no longer be denied that Antifa was, in reality, no real ally in making society a better place at all.
The most insidious addition to the ideology of the activist left was full-fledged racism, which gained acceptance under the guise of fighting it.
It is important to distinguish between Critical Race Theory — a framework for understanding how societal structures and institutions have, in past and present, reinforced systemic discrimination — and anti-racism, a form of activism ideology that presents itself as the implementation of Critical Race Theory to end racism in society. The first is a useful analytical tool for exploring situations such as harsher sentencing in US criminal courts against defendants of colour and the measures taken in the 1950s to prevent people of colour from purchasing houses in white neighbourhoods. The second is a Trojan horse that has been steadily rolling back the gains of the Civil Rights Movement under the protection of leftist activism.
Anti-racism uses all of the right language to pass the purity test — anybody in opposition to it can be easily painted as a racist attempting to undermine diversity. However, as many who have taken a close look at what the anti-racism creed actually preaches have discovered, it is, in fact, incredibly racist.
Anti-racism defines everybody by the colour of their skin — those who are “white” are labelled as oppressors, while those who are not are labelled as victims. Under anti-racist ideology, people of colour are not capable of participating to their fullest in society, but must instead live in suffering and oppression due solely to the colour of their skin. “White” people (I use quotation marks not only because ethnicity does not work that way, but also because due to the fact that I am a Russian Jew there is no white supremacist who would ever accept me under the category of a “white person”) must take on a new “White Man’s Burden” — self flagellation for being an oppressor, regardless of who they are or what their circumstances are. Strip away the excuses and there is little difference between this stance and the racism of the 1950s and 1960s that Civil Rights luminaries such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks fought to end — “people of colour can’t succeed because they are victims” has replaced “people of colour can’t succeed because they are inferior,” while “white people need to bring civilization to the world” has been replaced by “white people need to apologize for their skin colour.”
The end result is the same: segregation. Having been fought against tooth and nail by the Civil Rights Movement and been declared to be unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in Brown vs. Board of Education, it is today being implemented under the guise of anti-racism in American schools in districts that would never have contemplated such a thing 70 years ago. This has even emboldened attempts to prevent the mixing and socializing of races in people’s private lives. This rolling back of progress that members of the Civil Rights Movement fought and suffered to achieve is done under the full support of leftist activism, with those would dispute it facing potentially devastating retaliation under cancel culture — all of which was made possible because anti-racism was able to present itself as passing the ideological purity test, even as it was the antithesis of working towards a less racist society.
It is not a surprise that pedophiles are now attempting to use the language of gender inclusivity to normalize their abhorrent behaviour and gain the protection of the activist left — they are following a trail already blazed and mapped out by racists and anarchists, who both succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The question now is whether they will continue to succeed.
The answer, I think, is both a “yes” and “no.” The path to hoodwinking the activist left into supporting extremist positions is well-charted, tested, and proved. It is entirely possible that the activist left will embrace pedophilia as a cause worthy of protection so long as those advocating it can use the words that make them appear to pass the purity test.
However, I also think that there is a high probability that should this happen, it would be a death-blow to the viability of the activist left as a movement worthy of public support. Modern society will tolerate many absurdities — one need only look to the culture wars to see this — but child molestation is not one of them. Supporting pedophilia can only have one long term result: the discrediting of everybody involved.
Robert B. Marks is a political centrist and a member of the Liberal Party of Canada