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Tonight we’ll be talking about two sets of extremists, both alarmingly similar and both thankfully defeated for now.

They share one tactic in common: they are targeting children now to force adults to do what they want.

Whatever adults fight about, they should do it away from children. Children shouldn’t have to deal with adults’ craziness and animosity. They didn’t consent to get dragged into that mess. But extremists stop at nothing. They don’t care about the truth; they don’t care about facts. They don’t care about decency. They don’t care about protecting the very children they claim to be doing all their extremist acts to protect. All they care about is winning, and they will stop at absolutely nothing to achieve those goals. They are like that dude in Taken and the Terminator all rolled together and then doused in an acidic mixture of wild-eyed conspiracy theorizing.

They have a particular set of skills. (Credit: Georgia National Guard via Elizabeth Pearson, Operation Sandbox, and CC license.)
They have a particular set of skills. (Credit: Georgia National Guard via Virginia Pearson, Operation Sandbox, and CC license.) I was a Campfire Girl but this looks so rad to me. Go GSA!

The other day I ran into a Christian lady who seemed very nice on the surface, but when we touched on the topic of her particular extremist opinion (which in this case was opposing reproductive rights for women, a position which she quaintly phrased as “pro-life” though it certainly wasn’t very respectful of the lives of the women she’d force into unwilling gestation if she only could) she very readily and quickly conceded that she wasn’t in the least interested in any of the facts a friend of mine and I were bringing to her attention that directly refuted and contradicted her well-worn talking points because she had decided long ago that she was never changing her mind on the topic.

I told her I appreciated her honesty and I did; it’s not often one runs into an extremist who really doesn’t care about facts if they get in the way of a cherished opinion and will admit it up-front.

Someone can be really excited about a topic and not fall into extremism, but once that tipping point is hit, then a few things seem like they begin happening. An extremist seeks only confirming statements, ignores or rationalizes away contradictions, encloses him- or herself in an echo chamber, refuses to examine opinions in light of confirmed facts, and starts rationalizing behavior and actions that would be reprehensible to anybody not in the extremist’s echo chamber.

For example, a forced-birther will sometimes concede that yes, illegal abortion kills women. Some will even concede that criminalizing abortion doesn’t actually change abortion rates at all–such laws just make them an exponentially more dangerous procedure (to the tune of 13% of all maternal deaths, which amounts to about 75,000 deaths a year) and expose women to a host of other human rights outrages. But forced-birthers don’t care. The women dying and getting hurt were seeking abortions, and forced-birthers don’t care about desperate, largely poor women harming themselves to get unwanted fetuses out of their bodies. Hell, they’re all convinced that if they can only find some way to make abortion even more risky, then maybe women will quit having so much unapproved sex so they don’t face the terrifying specter of being punished for their conduct with unwanted pregnancies–which means these deaths and misery are part of the overarching strategy to terrorize women out of having unapproved sex. And if one is too far gone, then one might start thinking it looks totally reasonable to murder and terrorize abortion providers too. The ends justify the means. If one views oneself as a holy warrior for a great and noble cause, then nothing is off-limits if it achieves the goal. Holy warriors are righteous and untouchable, so whatever they do, by definition, is too.

That feeling of righteous untouchability was clearly the mindset of the anti-vaxxer zealots who began threatening the children of their enemies to spook the kids’ parents. This extremism started as perfectly reasonable concern for children, but it warped and morphed over time in the echo chamber.

Yes, that’s what’s begun happening. That’s a thing now, and worse besides. Anti-vaxxers have finally evolved into their final form as domestic terrorists.

The Anti-Vaxxer Tipping Point.

If you didn’t know, California just tightened up its exception clauses to vaccination by passing a new bill saying that parents there actually need a medical reason to exempt little Emma and Ethan from their shots if they want them to attend public schools, rather than the old exemption policy that let parents refuse vaccinations for any reason. A lot was at stake: California’s a huge state, and the setting seems ripe for other states to follow suit in the wake of some high-profile disease outbreaks that we know now were caused by plummeting vaccination rates.

Right before the vote, anti-vaxxer lunatics opposing the bill began threatening and harassing anybody openly supporting vaccination.

Look, folks, if someone’s opinion makes it start looking reasonable to harm or even just harass or frighten people on the other side, that person has tipped over into extremism and even perhaps terrorism and has officially become the Bad Guy in the story. Such people don’t have a legitimate reason at that point to sway opponents; they’re just trying to bully them into silence. Therefore, they’re on the wrong side of whatever issue it is they’re excited about.

But then these people went after the bill supporters’ kids.

They wrote an eleven-year-old girl on Facebook pretending to be her aunt and slamming the child’s mother, calling the child’s mother “a fat ugly lazy piece of shit who tried to murder you” and going on to smugly threaten the child with the loss of her mother and home: “I hope you like your new home. You can thank me when you’re older.”

Who the HELL talks to a child that way?

There were loads of other threats made against other bill supporters, threatening to call Child Protective Services on them to take their own children away, harassing them, doxxing them (that means publicly exposing their personal information so they can be harassed), threatening them, following them around, taking photos of them to put up on social media, insulting the bodies of female bill supporters, spraying them with “unknown liquid,” and it just goes on and on.

I wonder if they realize that they have doomed their entire movement?

Americans don’t tend to react well to bullies, and with these tactics anti-vaxxers have just confirmed that they are in fact dangerous extremists willing to go to any lengths rather than either a) harmless, panicked but ultimately tragically misinformed parents or else b) weird, overly-privileged, flippy-dippy narcissistic snowflakes convinced that their majickal Indigo Children are the second coming of Saint Germaine and Jesus combined. They are neither; they are far worse. If I actually were an anti-vaxxer, I’d be doing some serious distancing right around now away from these nuts. Or, I dunno, totally reconsidering my opinion once I realized who I’d thrown in with, like I did with forced-birthers some years ago.

The extremists were fighting to scare away pro-vaccination voices and silence them, but those voices spoke up anyway and California passed the bill.

The anti-vaxxers lost this time, and they lost bigger than usual.

Here’s Another Win for Human Progress/Loss for Extremists.

The Girl Scouts of America (GSA) are a famously inclusive organization. They sound like they’re part of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), but they’re not formally affiliated. If you want a group that is, then here are the American Heritage Girls, a group which unabashedly parades its religious fervor, partnership with the Boy Scouts, and deeply conservative outlook (but see this Reddit post regarding their possible non-Mormon status).

The Boy Scouts are Mormon-dominated, with all boys in the religion apparently forced to register with the organization. There are rumors that its founder might–very might–have been gay himself and so deep in the closet he could see Narnia, but as you could imagine from a group run by the Mormons, they not only deny that idea quite vehemently but also are hugely anti-gay themselves.

When the Boy Scouts wrote a rule that specifically disallowed gay members, they took a lot of flak and saw a serious nosedive in numbers, causing them to amend that position somewhat last year, finishing their change of heart with a vote on it last month which allowed gay leaders too, though I couldn’t find much about them accepting transgender folks (this letter makes me think they don’t). Yes, the change has angered a lot of their more religious associates, but I’m sure the loss in revenue and street cred was starting to outweigh the jolly feelings of shunning and smugness that warmed the cockles of these bigots’ hearts.

The Boy Scouts always been a bit behind the loop progress-wise, though, much like their religious overlords. While the Girl Scouts was so inclusive that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., called them “a force for desegregation” when they integrated in the 1950s, the Boy Scouts didn’t follow suit until 1974. It sounds really regressive until you remember the Mormon connection.

The Girl Scouts never actually forbade gay girls from their ranks, and specifically allowed transgender girls to join in 2011 after a miscommunication issue almost kept a transgender girl from joining. Last month, they formally announced and publicized the policy change. They publicized it because the very religious and conservative American Family Association found out about the inclusion policy, freaked out, and started a petition to force the GSA to exclude transgender girls because of rather overdramatic-sounding (and baseless, but like you needed me to say that) fears they had.

Saying “Luckily, we don’t serve our critics,” the GSA’s leadership decided to send a definitive rejection to the bigots trying to strong-arm them into discrimination by giving them some Beyonce-level schooling. (HOORAY GSA!) They’ve decided that they are there for all girls, and that it isn’t their place to obsess about and police the gender identity of little girls.

That’s an ickie task they’ll leave to the sex-obsessed, puritanical, controlling fundagelicals.

A funny thing happened on the way to the cookie warehouse…

A donor contacted the Girl Scouts of Western Washington right after this publicity thing happened, offering them a very-strings-attached donation to help poor Girl Scouts afford the group: $100,000, but only if they would guarantee that they’d only let cisgender girls use the money.


“Cisgender,” incidentally, means that the person identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth; transgender people identify as a different gender than whatever they were assigned at birth. Children typically know if they were assigned an incorrect gender early on and can be quite vocal about stating their case. It’s not a phase and these kids are not “confused,” which was the argument made by the SPLC-designated hate group American Family Association, which oddly seems interested only in promoting and protecting certain families they like, during its freakout. (Edited slightly for word choice; nobody’s the “wrong” gender.)

So the demand was out of line to begin with, and betrays a rather viciously nasty, punitive mindset to boot on the part of the donor, who the GSA won’t identify but who Mr. Captain immediately surmised had to be Fuckface von Clownstick based on that set of descriptors.

Now, charities have a right to decline donors and volunteers if that donor or volunteer runs very contrary to the group’s mission statement or would alienate existing donors. That’s why most forced-birthers’ fake clinics typically bar atheists from serving; they are about re-Christianizing America by force, deception, and manipulation, not saving babies or helping women (how sad that so many people erroneously think otherwise!), and atheists run contrary to that unstated goal. And that’s why the American Cancer Society rejected a half-million-dollar donation from an atheist organization; it sounds confusing until one sees their huge outreach program to churches.

Leaving aside the cruelty of the gesture and the humiliation that this donor’s demand of the GSA would create for the transgender girls rejected for help, and ignoring the sheer spectacle of someone who could be so purely nasty toward girls who–even in conservative thinking, if not in reality–are just “confused,” accommodating that request would likely create some logistical nightmares of its own.

But the GSA’s leaders weren’t thinking about the logistics.

They were thinking of the devastating cruelty they’d be showing to the girls who would have to be rejected for help.

The donor might be cruel, humiliating, and nasty, but the GSA is not. The money was dirty as hell, tainted by vicious transphobia, and a direct bribe to get them to violate their own charter and long tradition of inclusiveness.

So they turned the donor down.

And then they turned to Indiegogo, a Kickstarter-type of crowdfunding site, to ask people to help them make up the money.

Not only did they almost immediately get that $100,000 made up by caring donors, they are now rounding up on $250,000 as of this writing.

Screengrab of IndieGogo campaign for Girl Scouts of Western Washington, taken way too late Tuesday night 6/30/15.
Screengrab of IndieGogo campaign for Girl Scouts of Western Washington, taken way too late Tuesday night 6/30/15.

$250,000, people. $250,000. And 29 days to go before the fund drive closes.

The Girl Scouts organization is a force for good in our country. They are adamant about their mission statement and they have shown now that they are not for sale at any price. They’ve certainly never had a sex abuse scandal in their ranks, which is odd considering right-wing hate groups routinely accuse the GSA of “encourag[ing] promiscuity” and causing excessive abortions–which itself is laughable; it is better self-esteem, sex education, empowerment, and self-reliance that bring girls to an awareness of the importance of consistently-used and reliable contraception, which significantly lowers the risks of an unintended pregnancy. Maybe that’s the key; maybe these anti-GSA people are ultimately upset that the Girl Scouts do not sell a Christianist-extremist-approved message of puerile sex obsession, body policing, shame, ignorance, docility, compliance, and dependence so they feel they must fight it at all costs. (It always seems to come back to owning and controlling people–especially women–with those sorts.)

I hope the transphobic donor sees this campaign and has one of those teachable moments.

I’m glad we’re moving away from these two faces of extremism, but I also want us to be aware of these tactics– so we can see them in others and in ourselves. The second people tip over into attacking kids or terrorizing anybody, they’re in the wrong. Period. If they were in the right, they wouldn’t need to do morally reprehensible things to persuade anyone. If someone can’t win fairly, then they don’t deserve to win.

To paraphrase something said by a person I respect greatly, Richard Wade, if we were to stoop to these extremists’ measures and win, then all we’d be doing is perpetuating that evil–it’d just be wearing a different mask on its face and calling itself something different in its next incarnation.

And that kind of a win is simply not good enough for me.

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...