Putting MAPs on the map, notably through building up Newgon.net as a rich source of quality information, has been just one achievement of today’s guest blogger, Jim Burton. In his thirties, his activist contribution from the mid-noughties onwards has included funding and submitting large amounts of information to Wikipedia and Newgon. He is the current Strategic Lead for the latter. More recently he has invested in MAP networking websites, and spent some time organising disruptions on X (Twitter) from a chat server he funds (chat.yesmap.net). This involved the creation of various false identities such as Andy Parkinson and Jamal Ross. Today he deftly tackles a tricky strategic issue, nimbly navigating the minefield.
Potential allies, or guilt by association?
The perils and profits of associating MAPs with other outcast groups
For civil rights movements, the debate over what may or may not be a productive alliance is time-honoured. In today’s era of online censorship, conspiracy theories and antagonistic “groomer” and “TERF” smears, the downside risk of guilt-by-association reaches far beyond traditional strategic alliances, and now has implications for any kind of association between particular groups – especially the marginalised.
With the association fallacy firmly in play, there has been a lot of debate recently within the MAP Community about two controversial groups – namely Paraphiles (other people with supposedly “non-normative” sexual desires) and Fascists. This debate has been particularly visible among the younger MAPs on Fediverse social sites.
Fediverse sites, for those unfamiliar, are a series of independent servers (i.e. websites) that selectively link up with and block other such servers, to create a unique (generally Twitter-like) social experience for their users. Touted as the future of social networking, this model intends to eliminate the risk of censorship by central authorities such as Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter) and Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook. Naturally, the Fediverse has attracted a variety of marginalised groups, from the zoophiles and paedophiles to anime/lolicon fans and people with multiple “alters”. Even self-identifying psychopaths, rape fetishists, race role-players and unhinged neo-Nazis have found a home on Fediverse, with fresh-faced young activists such as Greta Thunberg awkwardly adjacent.
So, on the fringes of Fediverse, we end up with a strange situation wherein Nazis on their one server, deem the other server of rape and animal abuse fetishists to be, in their time-honoured words, “degenerate”; blocking them as a result. In turn, the rape fetishists respond by blocking the Nazis for harassment, or because according to their doubtless refined sensibilities, they find them offensive or vulgar. In this sense, each Fediverse server’s federated content stream (hence the name) is dynamically curated according to the wants of its administrator/s and its wider user-base’s prejudices.
The Nazi Smear
This year, I personally became the target of a similar kind of respectability politics when anti-c MAP/Paraphile activists alleged that conversations taking place on a chat-based MAP Fediverse server I fund (chat.yesmap.net) were “problematic”. In a campaign of malicious and disruptive disinformation, I was accused not only of tolerating Nazis and rampant transphobia, but normalising sex between adults and babies – something my server members were said by the accusers to uniformly relish with gay abandon. After a short internal review (I do not immediately read everything posted on the server), I found these allegations to be unsubstantiated. I also found that my moderators had acted as per my wish – repeatedly removing ethnonationalists on vacation from other servers. Usually, this was because of their insufferable behaviour towards other users, but was otherwise enforced at the point where their all-consuming, and off-topic obsession with “race” became tiresome or started to rub other members up the wrong way.
It appears the smear was in fact the brain-child of a few highly political individuals – primarily two young, self-identifying “psychopathic” anti-c anarcho-communist MAPs who had migrated from Tumblr, via Twitter to Mastodon (itself a Fediverse protocol) three years ago to evade bans. This group had long been pushing for the wider online MAP community to be curated according to their own radical politics, expunging any trace of its previous intellectual diversity. Since their criticisms were aired, the two principal instigators have been discredited, after further information regarding their involvement in malicious conduct (doxxing – sharing of personal information) against other MAPs emerged. But their changed personal situation aside, the argument these two made is still wholly unacceptable, for if we were to submit MAPs to a monolithic model of identity politics, we would be at risk of confirming one of the Radical-Right’s worst misrepresentations of MAP visibility. This is namely the myth that MAP acceptance is solely a project of Liberal-Left, “postmodern” and/or “woke” politics.
During these trials, a few matters raised by MAPs and paraphilia activists on Fediverse forced me to clarify my own positions, which clash strongly with theirs:
- I do not personally agree with the tactic of copying verbatim the model of queer/trans identity politics seen from the 2010s onwards, at least in the case of MAPs. Our situation is one of extreme invalidation, and theirs is one of seeking recognition and validation within an already assimilated identity group. Therefore, a multi-pronged strategy would be more appropriate in our case.
- I do not argue that MAPs are just one small part of a “Paraphilic” spectrum, comprising of perhaps over 500 diagnoses/identities. I’d rather see MAPs treated as a special case; far more numerous, and with a rich history unrivalled by other such groups. A “strong” identity here is key; we will not win by playing the victim forever, nor will we gain considerable ground by validating the outdated politics and imagery of victimhood and trauma that compounded our situation from the late 70s and 80s on.
- Nor do I argue that MAPs ought to stay “degenerate”; that liberation is an absolute “false ideal”, since it entails “assimilation” into a norm. This argument would be deemed absurd, if applied, e.g. to the liberation of youth or ethnic minorities.
- Finally, MAP-inclusive paraphilia activists, in responding to other MAPs’ valid concerns about associating their already invalidated identity with some of the more fringe paraphilias, sneeringly chastise their “assimilationism”. This is intellectually dishonest and completely unsatisfactory, since there are forms of assimilationism that must absolutely be avoided (i.e. explicitly anti-paedophile rhetoric), but also forms that might be inevitable and/or advantageous if used in the right way (i.e. normative historical arguments). But as proven by the recent paedophobic attacks on Trans people, political adjacency is also a complex dynamic; peoples’ situation (and personal safety) varies greatly, and thus any association with other groups must never be by compulsion. Attempts to purity-spiral the MAP Movement are short-sighted, and will only give undeserved ammunition to the worst kind of assimilationists.
Further, if seeking assimilation wasn’t a serious strategy in civil rights organizing, homosexuals wouldn’t have made early gains using unsophisticated civil libertarian arguments based on privacy, to the temporary exclusion of unapologetic queerness. Nor would they have made further, and substantial gains appealing to the state, military, nuclear family and corporations while distancing themselves from MAPs. If bad optics weren’t a concern for MAPs engaged in real-world activism, the otherwise radical David Thorstad would not have felt compelled to complain about the NAMBLA Bulletin becoming a soft porn rag for paedophiles, nor would Tom Reeves have had to stress the same organisation was fundamentally about teen boys rather than children.
Nevertheless, the breed of Paraphile activism I address above, is a considerable and growing online trend. Putting aside the implausibility of classifying attraction to legally defined minors as a diagnosable paraphilia, there are apparently individuals in our community who need to feel this way, and will sadly only become mobilised under a mantra of minority, deviancy, victimhood, shared suffering and trauma. Call it placation, but in my opinion, vainly rejecting paraphilia-based MAP and ally activism and radical inclusionism as a parallel strategy would be foolish and counterproductive, as would any considerable investment of time and energy directly arguing against it.
Fascist and Paraphile MAPs: Harm vs Acceptability
One question we have faced on Fediverse, is whether it is ever acceptable to platform Fascist MAPs, or those who identify as e.g. child rape fetishists or psychopaths.
Take the idea of allowing Fascist MAPs to speak, while suppressing the words of an unapologetically “psychopathic” MAP. The rebuke to this is of course that the Fascist has chosen their own path, while the person who finds him or herself attracted to the young and/or nonconsent/violence has little or no control over it. While I do see it as simplistic and glib to imbue political inclination with a dynamic free will not afforded to sexual inclination, this I find irrelevant to the debate at hand. For me, rather than naive ideals and theory, the strategy and optics of the situation are far more important – realpolitik for MAPs, if you will. When we look at the comparison from this purely pragmatic standpoint, it is the same fact – i.e. most people believe the Fascist is expressing free will, that makes his or her fleeting association with MAPs less potentially compromising to them, as opposed to, say the rape fetishist MAP. While the presence of the occasional Nazi in most communities is pretty much a given, and can be easily ascribed to bad “personal choices”, a MAP who identifies as being attracted to the rape of small children is a considerable negative publicity risk, in that he confirms some of the most dangerous stereotypes propagated by the Radical-Right concerning the supposed innate violence and degeneracy of paedophiles. No equivalent harmful stereotype of the “Fascist MAP” appears to exist, with the “normalisation of paedophilia” instead being dishonestly cast by the media as a project of the political left.
Of course, as readers here will be aware from years of research, the harmfulness of something does not necessarily correlate with its acceptability among a particular group. Most online MAPs, particularly of the younger generation, strongly reject ethnonationalist ideology and wish not to be associated with it in any way, nor even to share a space with it. At the same time, the often-heard slogan Attraction ≠ Action (attraction does not equal action) provides a rallying point for both MAPs and Paraphiles, meaning that even an abstinent rape fetishist might be a far more comfortable ally than a Nazi – or for that matter any follower of usually hostile ideology.
Still, it remains an obvious irony that most Fediverse users cannot acknowledge a person’s ability to hold hateful beliefs while not acting on them, decrying even non-violent white identitarianism as “invalid” freedom of conscience while permitting open celebration of identity for virtually every other group – historical oppressors included. At the same time, the history and present of free speech rights (e.g. paedophile-tolerant Fediverse servers using the same host as the Daily Stormer) tells us that free expression for the Fascist is analogous to free expression for the sexual deviant, whatever trite slogans both groups may hurl around in dismissing one another’s claim to those rights.
One last note should concern the fact that until very recently, the anti-c MAPs who rallied around attraction=/=action in the 2010s were also ignorant or wilfully blind to the fact that for pro-c’s, attraction does not equal intention. Instead, they chose to scapegoat writers such as Tom as illegalists, or “pro-abuse” until the work of researchers belatedly put paid to those attempts.
My approach to moderation
In drafting a set of moderation guidelines for social communities I invest in, I have continued to err on the side of outright excluding Fascists, rather than fringe paraphilias – even those that disturb me. This would appear to mirror views in the community as to the unacceptability of platforming ethnonationalist MAPs, rather than my own personal approximation of, say the relatively harmless optics of allowing one to speak, vs. the potential benefits of de-radicalising them. Still, as community builders in an expanding frontier, we must also be on the look-out for those who seek to portray MAPs as rapists and psychopaths by creating false identities, as was the case with FST earlier this year.
In conclusion, while Paraphiles might today or one day in the future, be naturally invested in a more thoroughgoing alliance with us, no good has come (or will come) from a strategic association with card-carrying Fascists.
This is something to which I suspect we can all agree.
- De Orio, S (2017). Punishing Queer Sexuality in the Age of LGBT Rights. (A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University of Michigan).
- Denizet-Lewis, B (2006). “Boy Crazy”. Boston Magazine.
- Naedele, W (1982). “Boy Love Convention Is Protested”. Philadelphia Inquirer. See also, e.g. The Advocate, 1994.
- Jahnke, S and Malón, A (2019). “How pedophilic men think about adult-child sex: effects of child gender and physical maturity”. Psychology, Crime & Law, 25:1, 90-107, DOI: 10.1080/1068316X.2018.1503665.
“Furthermore, participants with stronger liberal attitudes were found to be more likely to defend the sexual act, as were participants with a preferential interest in pre-pubescents. There was no link between attitudes towards adult–child sex and sexual offending, replicating the non-associations reported in previous community surveys.”
- Bailey, J. M., Bernhard, P. A., & Hsu, K. J. (2016). “An Internet study of men sexually attracted to children: Correlates of sexual offending against children”. Journal of abnormal psychology, 125(7), 989–1000. DOI:10.1037/abn0000213.
“In contrast, permissive attitudes regarding child-adult sex and frequent indulgence in sexual fantasies about children were not significantly related to offending.”