Recently, Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos published one of the more devastating pieces of attack journalism in recent memory. Specifically, he proved that a well-known Twitter social justice warrior alternately calling himself Sarah Nyberg (he’s transgendered) and Sarah Butts has a past as a defender of white nationalism and as a self-confessed pedophile.
Not much needs to be said about the white nationalism allegations beyond what Nyberg himself said in the chat logs Yiannopoulos unearthed: “I think white nationalists are ‘racist’ in the same sense that feminists are ‘sexist.’”
Nolo contendere, Nyberg. Nyberg is far from the only social justice warrior to be outed as a former Nazi. The pedophilia accusation, on the other hand, is in a class of its own, which makes that bit of the story particularly alarming. After the usual first few rounds of denialism and wriggling, Nyberg admitted the story was actually true, but said Yiannopoulos had misunderstood his apparently sincere expressions of desire for an eight-year-old cousin, which Nyberg claimed had only been “trolling” that got out of hand.
Of course. And Josef Fritzl was only trying to be a strict parent.
You would think even the most fanatical leftist would get off the crazy train here. You would be wrong. Not only does Nyberg still have defenders, but it appears that some corners of the Left have never really had a problem with pedophiles to begin with. Witness Salon’s recent article by a self-confessed pedophile proclaiming he’s “not a monster” and shouldn’t be “judged harshly.” Read it yourself if you want a headache, but this seems to be the main point:
It’s easy to assume that pedophilia is always the result of some early sexualization or abuse, and certainly there seems to be a connection in some cases. However, evidence suggests there’s no magic bullet that pedophilia can be traced back to. For every pedophile who was sexually abused as a child there’s another who wasn’t. Likewise, most abuse victims never manifest pedophilic desires. Some researchers surmise that pedophilia can be traced back to genetics. Others believe the cause is congenital, and still others that it’s environmental. Personally, I think the ultimate cause is likely some combination of those, and that it varies from person to person.
Earlier in the article, the author describes being a pedophile as being “the final insult the universe would deal me,” and treats it as similar to a birth defect (in this case, being born without a right hand), while also describing it as an “alternate sexuality.”
In other words, whatever the cocktail of nature and nurture that leads to pedophilia in other peoples’ cases, it’s clear that this individual thinks of pedophilia as a trait foisted on him without his control. When filtered into its most politically potent form, this comes out to “I’m beautiful in my way, ‘cause God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track, baby—I was born this way.”
Even in cases where pedophilia is an entirely inborn trait, however, that still doesn’t excuse it. In fact, one of the worst legacies of the gay-rights movement (which I otherwise regard positively) has been popularizing the “born this way” meme. However, when you analyze it, “born this way” is one of slipperiest slopes to social justice pugilism.
We Don’t Treat Traits Besides Race Like This
Typically, when someone tries to tie his victim status to an inborn trait this way, the first analogy he reaches for is other immutable traits such as race. At best, this analogy begs the question. Unless you happen to subscribe to the views of hard-Left sociologists or enthusiasts of human biodiversity, race is a purely cosmetic feature that carries no moral weight. In other words, it’s widely agreed that the melanin content of one’s skin has no bearing on one’s capacity for achievement, moral or otherwise. So when you start by analogizing any inborn trait to race to prove your trait has no moral content, the comparison to a morally neutral trait implicitly assumes your conclusion.
Race is actually unique in that society (at least today) tries to treat it as completely neutral, and tolerates no discrimination at all when race is its justification. So pervasive is this unwillingness to tolerate racially motivated discrimination that the only circumstance in which some people will tolerate such discrimination is to make up for it having happened in the past. That’s a very powerful statement that race should be socially irrelevant.
However, no other trait, not even inborn sex, gets treated this way. For example, we’ve yet to hear cries of sexism over diaper-changing stations not being placed in men’s restrooms, or over the lack of urinals in women’s restrooms (even though both plainly constitute discrimination in its literal sense). Maximum height is also a mostly inborn trait, yet we don’t hear cries of ableism over the hiring practices of the National Basketball Association. Facial beauty is entirely inborn, and while “body acceptance” seems to have gained steam regarding controllable things like weight, no equivalent “face acceptance” movement has spawned in the realm of makeup modeling.
Some mental disorders, including ones that can make one criminally insane, have a genetic component, yet hospitals for the criminally insane are not treated as civil-rights violations. The maximum size of your genitals is probably partially genetic, but no one would argue that implants are a human right (although I’ll give Tumblr time). And while I don’t wish to get into the massive debate over IQ, the fact that intelligence is at least partially inborn seems relatively noncontroversial, yet grades and test scores have yet to be outlawed.
We Do Judge Inborn Differences
In other words, the idea that someone should be treated differently because he or she was born different is a more or less ironclad principle of our society. The only debate that arises, then, is whether an inborn (or partially inborn) difference is meaningful enough to justify different treatment. Some differences, like race and sexual orientation, we’ve concluded are unworthy of different treatment. Most, like height, facial beauty, intelligence, mental health, sex, or even birth defects and disabilities, very much are. The alternative is a world of Harrison Bergeron-esque horror fiction.
Of these two categories—meaningless differences and meaningful ones—pedophilia very clearly falls into the latter. The reason is simple: Pedophiles are hard-wired to desire something of their targets which those targets are, by definition, unable to provide—namely, consent to sexual congress.
Some pedophiles argue that some children (or those legally designated as such) can consent, but even if one accepts this, the fact is that the further one gets from legal adulthood, the less likely such adventurous outliers will exist. Thus, even if one accepts North American Man/Boy Love Association talking points, the probability of a pedophile being almost literally built to victimize others approaches 100 percent the younger their preferred targets are.
We Have Good Reasons to Fear Pedophiles
Granted, not all pedophiles do actually take steps to victimize children, either directly or indirectly. But we still have reason to be wary. A man may keep a tame wolf as a pet, but if I own a sheep pen, I will have reservations about making him my neighbor—reservations I otherwise would not have if he owned a normal dog, or a cat. The appellation of “predator” to pedophiles is, thus, not a slur, but an accurate description. The most extreme pedophiles are built to prey on the weak, even if they never act on that predatory instinct.
Society has a right to fear those who are born worthy of fear, just as it has a right to offer intellectually demanding work to those who are born smart, or to want those with the most beautiful faces to show what products designed to enhance beauty can do, or to offer basketball contracts to the tallest and most dexterous. The principle that moral or practical obstacles cannot be set in the way of those with inborn traits that merit them is contrary to logic and justice, even if misguided empathy may blind some of our most sensitive fellow citizens to that fact.
It may be true, as Lady Gaga says, that God makes no mistakes. It may also be true that society does make mistakes. But the burden of proof is on those who seek to change society’s practices. Gays met that burden. However, for pedophiles, it remains comically insufficient to reply to our fears with “I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way.”