The "Great Circumcision Controversy" Trope
Audiences may not be aware at first glance, but media outlets
are perpetrators of what I call the "Great Circumcision Controversy"
trope. That is to say, that they are taking advantage of viewer
gullibility, not to mention the fact that circumcision, particularly the
circumcision of healthy, non-consenting infants, is a custom that is
already deeply entrenched in some cultures, to create "controversy"
where there is actually none.
How it works
In order to encourage the belief that male infant circumcision is
a surgery that is carried out for medical reasons, media outlets
present it as a controversial and ongoing "debate"
medical authorities, who pretend to vouch for
male infant circumcision as "disease prevention"
and "parental choice,"
and the resistance
of extremist "special interest"
groups who have nothing better to do than meddle in these affairs. This portrayal of
reality, however, is not at all consistent with the view of male infant
circumcision given in the position statements of world medical
Media Hype vs. Reality
While the media presents male infant circumcision as an "ongoing debate"
on between medical "experts"
and "angry activists,"
the reality of the matter is that the trend of opinion
on routine male circumcision is overwhelmingly
negative in industrialized nations.
The fact is that no respected medical board in the
world recommends circumcision for infants, not even in the name of HIV
prevention. All medical
organizations in the West state that the current body of evidence is
insufficient to recommend the circumcision of infants.
Though it may come as a surprise to some, this does include the AAP
Advocates of circumcision bandy about the line from the recent AAP statement
that "the benefits outweigh the risks,"
but they fail to mention that
the same statement said these self-same "benefits" were not great enough
to recommend circumcision for newborns.
Australian Media Perpetuates "The Great Circumcision Controversy"
media outlets continuously perpetuate the false delusion that there is
this "great circumcision debate"
going on regarding the circumcision
It always goes something like this; They
always claim that "a group of experts agree"
that circumcision has these
always being the same usual suspects.
The spokesperson is usually Brian Morris, whom they always present as
never actually mentioning his credentials, which would
reveal that he is actually not qualified in any way to talk about the
subject. He and other "experts" are put up against activists against
circumcision, which may or may not be better equipped.
is a tendency in most of the media, not just Australian media, to
misrepresent the circumcision issue. Placing the cart before the horse,
and beating around the bush, they focus attention secondary issues that
aren't actually being contested.
One of the latest Australian media outlets to push the "great circumcision
was the 60 Minutes television program. It follows the usual
format stated above, citing the same usual suspects, who are put up
activists who are angry about circumcision.
Asks 60 minutes:
The question in the above picture misses the point entirely. No debate on any other surgical procedure begins with such a loaded question. More than "wrong," or "right," is circumcision medically necessary? If it is a medically necessary procedure, there is no "wrong" or "right" about it.
Similar loaded questions are asked.
"Should parents be allowed to have their children circumcised?"
"Should it be banned?"
They all, either intentionally, or inadvertently, avoid the crux of the argument. If circumcision is not medically or clinically indicated, then asking whether circumcision is "wrong" or "right" is irrelevant. Nobody is debating whether or not doctors should be allowed to perform surgery where it is medically necessary.
medical or clinical indication, can a doctor even be
performing surgery on a healthy, non-consenting minor, let alone be
giving parents any kind of "choice?" Let alone be expected to be reimbursed by public coffers?
Media outlets do a very good job of circumventing the questions that actually need to be asked.
Circumcision "Experts" Strike Again
Articles fueling the so-called "circumcision debate"
are common fare at news.com.au, and they prop up Brian Morris and friends as a so-called "circumcision experts"
On this blog post, I will dissect their most recent circumcision article
, which opens with the headline:
"Experts call for reintroduction of circumcisions in NSW public hospitals"
Who are the "experts"
calling for said reintroduction? Australian media outlets may not be immediately forthcoming, but those who have been following circumcision in Australian media outlets know precisely who they are.
In tiny letters below the staple baby picture it is written:
"The circumcision debate is back on."
Well, at least on news.com.au it is...
In bold lettering, the first sentence of the article reads:
"INFANT circumcisions must be
reintroduced into NSW public hospitals as a necessary and cost effective
public health measure, according to an international panel of doctors,
lawyers and ethicists."
The suspense is killing me. An "international panel of doctors, lawyers and ethicists," we are told. Who called this panel to convene? Where was this panel held? Who were the said "doctors, lawyers and ethicists" it was composed of? But most importantly, why does it sound as if this said "panel" were taking a position against the most respected medical authorities in the West? (Hint: Because they are.)
Continues the article:
"And failure to do so violates a child's right to protection from
potentially fatal diseases and infections including penile cancer and
HPV and HIV viruses."
Many dubious premises abound here, the first being that circumcision is, in fact, a "necessary and cost effective public health measure."
in the aforementioned "panel"
but no medical organization in the world recommends the circumcision of infants, as such. In fact all of them, including the AAP, and Australia's very own RACP, say that the so-called "benefits"
are insufficient to do so.
Circumcision does not, cannot "protect"
against penile cancer, HPV, nor HIV. A circumcised man is still susceptible to these, and any disease an intact man is susceptible to. A circumcised man is still capable of developing penile cancer, and, he is still vulnerable to HPV and HIV, and any other STD. Circumcision FAILS to protect a man against any STD, which is why he must wear a condom.
Any "expert" that denies these very simple, irrefutable facts, can be dismissed as a quack.
University academics were among a panel of experts which on Friday
published an international critique strongly denouncing a Tasmanian Law
Reform report which proposed banning circumcision."
How absolutely disingenuous of Daniela Ongaro, "health reporter."
Let us read from the "critique" itself
. At the very top of the article, it reads:
"Corresponding author: Brian J Morris"
This should already be raising red flags.
Down, under the heading "Author's Contributions,"
"MJB and BJM drafted the manuscript."
MJB and BJM being Michael J. Bates, and Brian J. Morris respectivey.
Continues the passage:
"BJM, MJB, JBZ, SEK, AM, ADW, LSZ and AART made
substantial contributions to successive drafts and thereby the intellectual content
of this article."
It sounds as though Brian Morris would like to give himself credibility by association. He actually lacks the credentials necessary to be speaking about medical or legislative matters, as we will see later on, so he depends on the "substantial contributions"
from others who actually do.
"All authors read and approved the final manuscript."
Which was drafted primarily by Michael Bates and Brian Morris.
University academics were among a panel of experts"
tries to make it sound like Michael Bates and Brian Morris were "a part of" a so-called "panel of experts,"
when actually, they are actually the ring leaders. And "international critique"
tries to make it sound like entire medical boards of different nations have come together to denounce Tasmanian Law Reform, when actually, it's just Brian Morris with a little help from his friends.
Falsely lending credibility to a man with no medical credentials whatsoever, and with a known track record for promoting "compulsory circumcision"
for all males in Australia? And exaggerating his most recent paper, which is nothing more than more of the same pro-circumcision propaganda he writes as an "international critique?"
Seriously, Daniela Ongaro, who do
you think you're fooling.
Let's move on:
"It was feared the report could pave the way
for legislation which would criminalise the practice and potentially
jail doctors and parents if a child were circumcised."
This much is actually true. But "feared"
recommendations are illogical, pose potential dangers and seem
unworkable in practice," said author and legal expert Michael Bates.
Judging from the article itself
, Michael Bates may be the only legal expert of the group of 8. There would appear to be only one ethicist, and the rest seem to hail from medical schools. The phrasing "a panel of lawyers, doctors and ethicists"
hides these numbers.
"A legislative ban in Tasmania would fuel the vigorous campaigning against childhood male circumcision by opponents worldwide."
I think this is the fear that has Brian Morris' undies in a bunch; a legislative ban would put a definitive nail in the coffin to his pipe dream of "compulsory universal circumcision"
for Australian males.
Continues the article:
University's Professor Emertitus (Is this even a word?) Brian Morris said there is strong
medical evidence of the lifelong health benefits of infant circumcision
and called on all governments to make the procedure again available in
public hospitals with an increased Medicare rebate."
Medical evidence which was insufficient for the AAP, nor the RACP, nor any other respected medical board in the world, to endorse the practice.
"The O'Farrell Govenment should absolutely act
on this now - I have talked to them and nothing's been done which is
just appalling," Prof Morris said.
And who is Brian Morris? And why should anyone listen? We'll get to that in a minute, just as soon as I finish destroying this poor excuse for a news article:
"In NSW routine circumcisions of baby boys are not performed in public hospitals unless there is a medical need."
Which is usually the way medicine works.
Strangely enough, there is a lone sentence in bold, floating in the middle of the article that reads:
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Comment below
But it leads nowhere. There is no way to comment. Curiouser and curiouser...
Media outlets often present circumcision "experts"
as "objective," "impartial,"
the matter of circumcision, when, in fact, they are passionate
circumcision enthusiasts, quite a few who are members of circumcision fan clubs.
should strike viewers as odd that, rather than bothering to invite
someone from a reputable medical organization, such as the Royal
Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), to speak on the matter, Australian news outlets place more weight on what a few self-proclaimed "experts"
directly contradict the stance of Australia’s peak medical bodies have to say.
Who is Brian Morris? And why should he be given any credibility?
Brian Morris is the most vocal circumcision promoter in
Australia. Brian Morris is no expert on circumcision (though he likes to
market himself as one, and the Australian media has swallowed the act,
hook, line and sinker), but merely an enthusiastic
circumcision fanatic of long standing. He neither holds degrees (nor
genuine interests) in surgery, urology, pediatrics, nor epidemiology,
and his field of study is only remotely related to medicine (he is a
molecular biologist and professor of molecular medical sciences at the University of Sydney). He is
way an authority on circumcision, much less male genitalia, child care,
nor disease prevention, and much less, law.
And yet, Morris is constantly producing publications for parents
compelling them to circumcise their children, and the Australian media
is constantly giving him the spotlight, calling him an "expert" on the topic of circumcision, oftentimes uncontested by any
real authority on the matter. Furthermore, he is a prolific publisher of
"studies" and "appraisals" of circumcision, which are basically Brian
Morris quoting himself, and repeating inconclusive or flawed
circumcision "research," and calling for the RACP to instate "mandatory
circumcision" for all males in Australia.
Morris is (was?) also an outspoken member of Gilgal Society, a UK-based club for circumcision enthusiasts, known to be a meeting place for people who have a sexual fixation for the
circumcised penis, and/or derive sexual gratification from the act of
circumcision itself. Members, called "circumfetishists"
by some, discuss the erotic stimulation they
experience by watching other males being circumcised, swap erotic
fiction and trade videotapes of actual circumcisions, and justify
circumcision and their enthusiasm for it by wrapping it in
pseudo-scientific jargon. Gilgal has actually published circumcision erotica involving underage boys. The head of Gilgal Society, Vernon Quaintance
, was arrested not too long ago for the possession of child pornography.
Up until recently, Brian Morris' name could
be found in pamphlets, alongside the Gilgal Society logo.
Since the Gilgal scandal, he has tried to sponge out his ties to
Gilgal, by releasing new pamphlets without the logo. Gilgal Society no
longer seems to serve Brian Morris purpose of a functional club
for circumcision enthusiasts, so he decided to
start his own circumcision club in Australia
Brian Morris also runs a website
which he uses to promote circumcision, which
was at one point hosted on University of Sydney servers. He was
recently asked to move it elsewhere, as the University of Sydney found
content on it that was inappropriate. Brian
Morris links to Gilgal Society, as well as eight other "recommended"
circumfetish websites, and he also includes a list of places to get
Accusations of Libel
Brian Morris' favorite thing to do when he feels threatened by others revealing damning information about him, is to accuse them of "libel."
in google yields the following definition:
noun: libel; plural noun: libels
a published false statement that is damaging to a person's reputation; a written defamation.
|synonyms:||defamation, defamation of character, character assassination, calumny, misrepresentation, scandalmongering;|
are basically written and spoken ad hominem respectively, and Brian Morris might have a case, if
anything I have said about him on this blog were untrue. To my knowledge, everything I have written about Brian Morris in this blog post is verifiably true. If any corrections need to be made, I welcome them in my comments section.
Brian Morris does not hold medical credentials of any kind, he takes a position against the most respected medical authorities in the West, including Australia's RACP. He is, or once was, a prominent member of Gilgal Society, a club for circumcision enthusiasts, and a known publisher of underage circumcision erotica, and he consorts with members other similar circumcision clubs, such as CircList
. He is
way an authority on circumcision, much less male genitalia, child care,
nor disease prevention, and much less, law.
Some may yet argue that I am engaging in ad hominem. However, pointing out
conflicts of interest is not "ad hominem."
The following is an excerpt
from Wikipedia's entry on ad hominem (last accessed 9/15/2013):
Conflict of Interest: Where a source seeks to convince by a claim
of authority or by personal observation, identification of conflicts of
interest are not ad hominem – it is generally well accepted that
an "authority" needs to be objective and impartial, and that an
audience can only evaluate information from a source if they know about
conflicts of interest that may affect the objectivity of the source.
Identification of a conflict of interest is appropriate, and concealment
of a conflict of interest is a problem.
It ought to concern the Australian media, the University of Sydney, and
respected medical authorities, that Brian Morris lacks any credentials
to be speaking on the matter of circumcision, that he may be abusing the prestige of the University of Sydney for his own agenda, and that close inspection
reveals his connections to circumfetish groups. While he may outwardly portray an interest in child
well-being and public health, this seems to conflict with a perverted interest in
the circumcision of minors.
Points to note:
- The Tasmanian Law Reform Intstitute
findings follow the 20yr old findings of the Queensland Law Reform
Commission, where, as in Germany, they found circumcision to be an assault,
on a strict interpretation of the law.
- Circumcision is banned in Australian public hospitals.
- Fewer than 1 in 1,000 registered doctors will circumcise a heathy child.
- Two states are circumciser free.
Australian Doctor survey in 2012 found over half of respondents
consider circumcision "tantamount to child abuse and should never be
- In 2007, the Australian Medical Association 'backed a call for laws banning the non-essential circumcision of infant boys'.
- Circumcision was near universal for a few generations until the '60s and virtually abandoned in the '70s.
1993 Queensland Law Reform Commission report into Infant Male
Circumcision (following the death of a boy) found circumcision to
constitute "an assault", violating both the State's Criminal Code and
the Common Law.
- A 2012 Tasmanian Law Reform Institute report recommended a general ban on the practice.
'media doctor', Dr John Darcy, outlines the position of the Australian
medical community in 30 seconds flat in this YouTube video.
- Only a small number of people in Australia publicly advocate for circumcision. You can meet them here.