Only the educated are free. – Epictetus, Discourses (II, i)
Every once in a while this site is discovered by someone from an online community which doesn’t overlap the sex work or libertarian circles to any great degree, and if that person goes out and “tells her friends” by linking me, there’s generally a huge increase in traffic for a few days or even weeks. Many who arrive via these mass migrations aren’t used to honesty and free thought unencumbered by dogma; some find the change refreshing and become regular readers, while others don’t like it, don’t “get” what I’m about and aren’t really interested in finding out. And that’s totally fine; humans are all individuals, and everyone has different opinions. I don’t even mind when someone dislikes my style or disagrees with my conclusions; most of my readers disagree with me from time to time, some always disagree with me on certain subjects, and a few have told me they disagree with me most of the time but still enjoy my writing or like my challenging their preconceptions. I think that’s absolutely fantastic; it shows me that my readers are largely intelligent people who know their own minds, individuals rather than herd-dwellers. But what annoys and saddens me is when ideologues decide that I’m so dangerous to their agenda they must go out of their way to misrepresent my writings to others, either by outright lies or by taking words and passages out of context. They do this to keep those others from hearing what I have to say by either A) scaring them away from reading me at all; or B) installing a preconception filter in their minds, like a preacher who tells his listeners what the “Satanic message” says before he plays the record backward and thereby ensures that the weak-minded will hear exactly that.
For any given issue there are three positions: Those who are strongly for it, those who are strongly against it, and those who don’t have a strong opinion either way. And no matter what fanatics and demagogues may tell you, the third is nearly always the largest group on any issue. When trying to sway public opinion, therefore, the wise writer or speaker targets that middle group, the “silent majority”. It’s silly to waste energy in trying to convince those who are already convinced (“preaching to the choir”), and pointless to argue with those who are dogmatically committed to the opposite view (one can’t reason a person out of a position he didn’t reason himself into). But the members of that third group, if they can be won, will decide the way the wheel turns. They are the ones who took it for granted that black and white people couldn’t live together peacefully, but now abhor racism; they’re the ones who accepted the claim that homosexuals were perverts, yet now agree with equal conviction that they shouldn’t be mistreated. And they’re the ones that in the United States believe that whores are pathetic losers, degraded victims or depraved criminals, but in most other Western nations disagree with that notion. They’re the ones the “trafficking” fetishists have drawn into their moral panic, and the ones who will drop that panic like yesterday’s fad once the majority recognize it as a lie.
Most activists spend a lot of time spinning their wheels, either by standing around agreeing with each other like a gaggle of “New Age woman” stereotypes, or by shouting at people who might as well be brick walls for all the good it will do. But the wise activists (and wisdom is found as frequently in the evil as in the good) understand that neither of those groups are the ones they need to reach, and so work on disseminating information (if pro-freedom) or disinformation (if anti-life). Since I’m in favor of free thought and free choice I encourage my readers to find out everything about the subjects on which I write; I accept disagreement and welcome correction, and I share the facts that might undermine my position alongside those that reinforce it. I trust in the capacity of human beings to make the right decision when they have all the information. Ironically, the prohibitionists feel that way, too, but since they want people to make the wrong decision instead, to choose the path of fear, darkness and submission over that of enlightenment and freedom, it’s necessary to ensure that they don’t have all the information. The easiest way to do this is by hiding it, but that doesn’t work too well in the internet era. So instead, they have to emit so much noise that their opponents’ message is drowned out, and the scholarly works are buried in vast mountains of propaganda leaflets. The most effective mask of truth is emotion; if a thought-controller can get his audience sufficiently angry or frightened or disgusted, its members will be unable to think clearly enough to recognize the truth when they hear it and may even attack those who try to share it with them.
One year ago today I described an interaction between pro- and anti-rights commenters on a sex worker rights article; the pro-rights people appealed to reason, provided links to facts, and pointed out that they had no desire to impose their decisions on anyone else but rather advocated that every woman be free to control her own body and sexuality. The prohibitionists, on the other hand, appealed to emotion, provided only unsubstantiated propaganda and insisted that they had a right to control other women’s sexuality due to their bizarre myth that all women are as interconnected as serpents growing out of some immense gorgon’s head. Because neither side had a clear majority, neither could drown out the other…and that’s fine, because it allows people to make up their own minds based on the arguments as presented. But when a column of mine was reprinted on Feministe last month, something entirely different happened: at first, there were both critical and non-critical comments, but soon a small group of neofeminists recognized my blog for what it is and took swift action to stop my message from getting through. They apparently went trolling to find passages they could spin in a negative way, recognizing that once they told the “true believers” what the “hidden message” was, they would see that and only that even if they went looking for themselves. In short order this blog was branded “racist, misogynist, fat-shaming and transphobic” despite the evident absurdity of each of those claims; I’m surprised they didn’t add “homophobic” for a grand slam.
But though nobody dared to protest for fear of being tarred with the same ridiculous (but to that crowd, horrifying) brush, nonetheless I picked up a dozen new subscribers by the time my traffic from Feministe subsided. Despite the vicious attempt to silence me, despite the wailing cacophony of PC terminology with which they tried to drown me out, I still found several members of my target audience: namely, sensible people who know the truth when they see it and appreciate those who let them make decisions for themselves rather than telling them what they’re allowed to think.