Saturday, September 14, 2013

AUSTRALIA: "Circumcision Debate" - Australian Sensationalism?

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" between altruistic "expert" 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 authorities.

Media Hype vs. Reality
While the media presents male infant circumcision as an "ongoing debate" going 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"
Australian media outlets continuously perpetuate the false delusion that there is this "great circumcision debate" going on regarding the circumcision of infants.

It always goes something like this; They always claim that "a group of experts agree" that circumcision has these "medical benefits," the "experts" always being the same usual suspects. The spokesperson is usually Brian Morris, whom they always present as an "expert," 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.

There 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 controversy" was the 60 Minutes television program. It follows the usual format stated above, citing the same usual suspects, who are put up against "non-expert" 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.

Without 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, and they prop up Brian Morris and friends as a so-called "circumcision experts" regularly.

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 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." The "experts" in the aforementioned "panel" may "agree," 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.

Let's continue.

"Sydney 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," it says:

"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.

"Sydney 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" by whom?

"The 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:

"Sydney 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," and/or "dispassionate" authorities on the matter of circumcision, when, in fact, they are passionate circumcision enthusiasts, quite a few who are members of circumcision fan clubs.

It 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" who 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 in no 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 circumcision devices.

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."

Typing "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;

"Libel" and "slander" 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 in no 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.
  • An Australian Doctor survey in 2012 found over half of respondents consider circumcision "tantamount to child abuse and should never be performed".
  • 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.
  • A 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.
  • Australian '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.

Related Links:
WASHINGTON POST: The "Great Controversy" Strikes Again

NYTimes Plugs PrePex, Consorts With Known Circumfetish Organization

CIRCUMGATE: UK Circumfetish Czar Finally Caught Red-Handed


  1. The Australian media, like the popular mainstream media elsewhere in the world,
    will quite happily bring on charlatans, quacks, imposters and self-promoting “experts” in order to create a “controversy” where there is none. The media like nothing better than a public fight to attract readers and viewers.

    At the same time they seem to be stuck in a pre-internet world where the real debates are occurring. Just look at the number of intactivist organisations’ websites, individuals’ tweets, Facebook pages, blogs and comments underneath articles to see the growing opposition to forced infant genital mutilation. Compare all this to lame newspaper articles quoting some circumcision advocate’s list of supposed benefits. At the end of the article, if you are lucky, you might get a brief mention of someone’s opposition to the procedure. It’s as if the web did not exist – even though the article is published on the web.

    It’s up to intactivists to keep posting their comments wherever they see such nonsense and to link to blogs and articles such as this to show up these circumfetishists for what they are.

  2. are serial offenders. The last time they published Morris' missives, I wrote a letter to the editor, chastising them for the uncritical view, and giving Morris free reign to espouse his fringe views. I probably did the time before that, as well. I have posted the article widely, and requested that others write the editor.
    Morris thrives because he is given this uncritical access, and because people don't seem to be able to spot the (to you and me) obvious holes in his logic. This needs wider exposure, to get discussed, disputed, and disproved. Only then, will this kind of though become marginalized.
    Joseph, thank you for an excellent and dispassionate recounting of events.
    That is much needed, and often I am too angry to provide it. You've done humanity a service.

  3. Thank you for exposing the despicable conniving that aids and abets widespread genital abuse of children.

    The documented behaviour of child circumcision enthusiast Brian Morris needs to be fully exposed.

    Keep up the great work Joseph, your work is helping greatly to expose those who tamper with, violate, and mutilate children's genitals, and those charlatans and sick perverts who advocate for such abuse.

  4. Let's also remember that Morris authored the book "In the favour of circumcision" (1999 - available in Amazon) and a lot of that information is also available on his website,

    When someone supposed to be an expert promotes the treatment with no regards to the presence of diseases or abnormalities, one has to question the person's real motives.

    It's also important to important that Morris has described himself as "a happily married circumcised heterosexual male with children". Some studies show that circumcised doctors (he's not a doctor but the same principle would apply) are more likely to recommend circumcision, which seems indicative of a personal bias ("what is good for me is good for others").

  5. Thank you, Joseph, for exposing Brian Morris's background and intentions. It is hard to believe that so-called Health Journalists do not get at all the facts before writing. It is obvious that too many journalists only read the abstracts of publications in medical journals, and either fail to read the entire article, or are unable to understand the difference between evidence and suggestion or the way statistics are manipulated to give more substance to the author's preconceived views.

  6. "Professor Emeritus" is a real term for a professor who has retired with honour, and it usually has to be conferred by the university. In this case it seems to have been, since it is used on the University of Sydney website:

    One has to wonder though, whether he jumped or was pushed, after the continuing embarrassment to the University of Sydney of his outrageous and exaggerated promotion of the genital cutting of healthy (male) babies, as you correctly point out, quite outside his field of expertise. Perhaps the Professorial Board felt it had no option after his major contributiions to other fields where he IS an expert. They may be rueing the day, now that he can continue to flaunt their name with no restraint.

  7. Some facts of interest:

    * The Gilgal Society's logo is a river.

    * Gilgal is a place mentioned in the Old Testament: “The main mention of Gilgal is when the Book of Joshua states that the Israelites first encamped there after having crossed the Jordan River… According to the biblical narrative, Joshua then orders the Israelites who had been born during the exodus to be circumcised. The Bible refers to the location this occurred as Gibeath Haaraloth; some English translations of the Bible identify Gibeath Haaraloth as the name of the place. However, since the place is elsewhere identified as still being Gilgal, and since Gibeath Haaraloth means hill of foreskins, some scholars now think this is simply a description, and some modern translations follow their lead.”

  8. From the medical literature standpoint, the goal is simply to build a collection of articles that can be cited to support claims that have no basis in reality. Morris and his buddies have taken advantage of the trusting nature of medical editors. Authors of medical editors are expected to accurately cite their references and only make claims that are based established facts. Instead, articles have been submitted and published that are fast and loose with truth. These articles have slipped passed the peer-reviewers either because they could not devote the time to determine if the articles were factually accurate or because they are sympathetic with Morris's goal to circumcise the planet. Regardless, once an article is published in one journal, it is cited in the next submission as if it were Gospel Truth. A colleague was recently asked to peer-review an article from one of the "experts." He asked one of his research assistants to pull all of the articles cited in the submission. They they went on a fact-checking mission and found that only a handful of the 180 or so references were cited accurately. Many were opinion pieces that were cited as though they were actual research. But with each dubious publication, the next submission, with essentially the same content, will have one additional citation. As the numbers increase, the number of citations increases, and this makes each subsequent submission look more plausible.

    Regarding libel, I am quite surprised, given the baseless attacks that Morris has made on those who question his mission, that he has not been sued. Stating the facts is not an ad hominem attack. Making the facts up as you go along and mixing in unfounded personal attacks, should only undermine Morris's credibility. Why does anyone pay attention to what he says?


  9. A wash cloth before and after sex or a clean mouth are equally effective and leave the pleasure zones intact! Or castration! That would eliminate any kind of danger from that source!

    Making it a taboo to compare male with female sexual mutilation is the biggest scandal of the controversy. In both instances the most sensitive and most erogenous zone of the human body is amputated and severely damaged. In both instances, what counts primarily is the cutting of human sexuality. The imposition of control by the patriarchy. A good look at a book on embryology will show the development of the nerves and tissue and how they are the same.

    What is lacking in all the talk about circumcision is discussion of its archeological dimension - that it is the left over of human sacrifice. What kind of god is it that demands that of an infant? If the Bris constitutes the identity of the male, what about the identity of a Jewish girl? Or is this an entirely homosexual ceremony?

    Also, unfortunately it is / has been circumcision that has MADE for no end of anti-semitic sentiments. Freud found that it was the chief reason for unconscious anti-Semitism. And the myths surrounding it are at the core of the “blood libel.” Thus, it's time to eliminate the Brit Milah because if that is the chief reason for being anti-Semitic or anti-Abrahamic [Islam too practices the rite] then why hang on to this left-over of human sacrifice? that traumatizes the child, cutting off 5,000 nerves, that is the equivalent of female circumcision in the sense that it eliminates everything but the clitoris,and only serves the Ultra Orthodox to maintain their power? After all, reform Judaism sought to eliminate the rite in the 19th century, and Jewish identity depends on being born by a Jewish mother, or converting. Here a link to an archive of the entire German and then some debate, note especially Michael Wolffsohn's two pieces . Circumcision has been controversial also within Jewry forever.