Suppose that humans happen to be so constructed that they desire the opportunity for freely undertaken productive work. Suppose that they want to be free from the meddling of technocrats and commissars, bankers and tycoons, mad bombers who engage in psychological tests of will with peasants defending their homes, behavioral scientists who can’t tell a pigeon from a poet, or anyone else who tries to wish freedom and dignity out of existence or beat them into oblivion. - Noam Chomsky
When I was writing That Was the Week That Was (#3) I started thinking about the name of “The Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine”, and how it cleverly forces its opponents to give it a compliment and essentially promote its own propaganda just by saying its name. As I explained in that column, the PCRM is “a fanatical animal-rights group with ties to PETA which relies primarily on scare tactics and gross-out ads in its continuing attempt to impose veganism on everyone, and less than 5% of its members are physicians.” But because its name contains these positive, respectable words, one can’t speak of opposing them without sounding to the uninitiated as though one opposes physicians or responsible medicine.
This is of course the same tactic employed by the prohibitionists; they call themselves “abolitionists” or “anti-trafficking activists” or the like, to imply that anyone who is against them is in favor of slavery. It’s a cheap trick, but it does put one’s opponents at a subtle disadvantage; that’s why I refuse to use such terms. When it’s an actual name I use initials wherever possible, and when it’s a common descriptor I substitute my own; thus I call them “prohibitionists” rather than “abolitionists” (because they do in fact work for prohibition of something), and anti-prostitute or anti-sex worker activists rather than “anti-trafficking” or “anti-prostitution” activists. As Furry Girl rightly points out, anti-sex worker activists try to pretend they’re not against people but rather practices and concepts, but in reality the laws and policies they advocate result in the persecution, marginalization, imprisonment, rape and death of actual human beings. They claim to be against ideas, but are really against people, and should be so labeled.
The day after I wrote that column, another good example of it turned up; an Anne Summers essay entitled “There is No Such Thing as a Pro-Life Feminist” appeared in The Age, and as I saw that title “tweeted” over a dozen times it began to sound ever more bizarre to me. Yes, I understand that Anne Summers was using the anti-abortion people’s own preferred term, and that by “pro-life” she really meant “anti-abortion”, so why didn’t she just say “anti-abortion”? Why give them what they want? People who want something banned or outlawed (whether it be meat, prostitution or abortion) need to be described as “anti” whatever it is, not “pro” some vague positive concept like “responsibility”, “equality” or “life”. Summers’ title makes it sound as though she’s actually calling her fellow feminists mass murderers or something. If feminists aren’t pro-life, what does that make them? Anti-life?
The late, great Jack Kirby was a prolific comic book writer and artist from the 1930s to the 1980s who created many well-known characters including Captain America, the Hulk, Iron Man and the Fantastic Four. But one of his most intriguing creations was the godlike supervillain Darkseid, ruler of an evil planet named Apokolips. All of Darkseid’s complex machinations were aimed toward one end: the discovery of a mysterious formula called the “Anti-Life Equation”, which he believed was somehow hidden in the minds of humans. Despite what you might think, this equation was not a death ray or anything like that (Darkseid already had one of those, the “Omega Force”), but rather a means of destroying all free will and controlling every sentient being. Kirby understood (as “pro-life” fanatics, opponents of assisted suicide and others of their ilk do not) that for a sentient being, “life” is not mere biochemical function but rather the capacity to make one’s own decisions. To “live” in the biological sense while being denied volition, agency and the control of one’s own body and mind is not to be a man or woman; it is to be the equivalent of a cabbage or a sponge, a thing without freedom, dignity or humanity. It is not life at all, and anyone who opposes the right of human beings to make their own choices, no matter what lying excuse he gives, is therefore anti-life.
Kirby is said to have intended Darkseid to be the apotheosis of every power-mad tyrant there ever was, so one might say there is a little bit of him in every petty dictator on Earth. Every prohibitionist, moralist, crypto-moralist, lawhead, control freak, cop and politician; every censor who wants to prohibit certain substances, sex acts, ideas, tools, words, images or types of clothing; every busybody who wants to deny others the right to privacy, self-defense, profit, free movement or free association; every official or “concerned citizen” who thinks it’s his job to tell others what to eat, watch, read, think, say and do; and every costumed ape who thinks he has the right to brutalize the bodies, steal the property and control the movements of those without a costume, has in his mind a minute fragment of the anti-life equation. It doesn’t matter whether they claim to be “pro-life”, “pro-woman”, “pro-law”, “pro-safety”, “pro-family”, “pro-health”, “pro-morality”, “pro-equality”, “pro-Homeland”, “pro-nature”, “pro-God” or pro-anything else, because in reality they’re all anti-choice and anti-freedom, and therefore anti-life.
One Year Ago Today
“An Educated Idiot” presents a study of street prostitution in New York City by a sociologist who, while he seems to sincerely want to get at the truth, has to be among the most credulous people on Earth.