Jimmy “the screamer” Cantori, notorious hit-person of the Toronto mob, has gone to ground after a dramatic shoot-out last week when he was sensationally injured in a verbal battle with “heretic” Tommaso Caroli and “sex queen” Judith Levine, goodtime girl and slayer of child-protection racketeering. Cantori is thought to be nursing a badly-wounded ego.

The rumble broke out in a seedy speak-easy called Sexnet, where clients claim to “exchange information and ideas” about so-called “sex research”. Hostilities began after Cantori had bragged of an ambitious scheme to beef up the mob’s muscle by recruiting thugs on the street to press-gang men into “therapy”.

Seriously! James Cantor, a research psychologist whose hissy fits, dubious science, egotistic self-promotion and evangelical moral entrepreneurship in “support” of paedophiles have featured previously on Heretic TOC (see “Scientific egos as fragile as eggs” plus here, here and here for my engagement with him on his research), has now come up with a wheeze to use a vigilante outfit called Creep Catchers to “persuade” their victims – guys looking for sex who are tricked into a meeting they think will be with a minor – that they should seek treatment.

This came to light when James – which I will call him from now on because I’m a hopeless hater and he may well actually be sincere in his misguided aims – alerted Sexnet to a TV documentary about Creep Catchers by the appropriately named VICE News. James, who was interviewed on the programme, said he thought VICE did a great job, and I readily agree it was very slick and totally compelling.

J. Michael Bailey, moderator of Sexnet and himself a leading academic psychologist, also agreed, but then added that he thought James’s contribution had been “very, very good”. Usually, I find myself in agreement with Mike (it helps to agree with a moderator! 🙂 ), but not this time. So I said as much, although Judith Levine got in first with a fine one-liner, saying she thought the vigilante was the one who needed therapy – meaning a bully calling himself “Justin Payne”, a name possibly intended to evoke the idea of meting out pain in the name of justice. He was the guy actually confronting his entrapped victims, taunting and shaming them while his partner in a two-man team captured the confrontations on video.

My response was to say that:

…yes, James is very, very good at fulfilling a culturally assigned role, which is why the media lap him up.  Where paedophilia is concerned, he is the velvet glove masking the iron fist. He makes it possible for educated, civilised liberals to believe that essentially coercive therapies are necessary.

That alone would have been a red rag to a bull on Sexnet, where a substantial chunk of the membership are paid to develop and implement such therapies: most of them are well-meaning but their careers are built on oppression, including “therapy” within “civil confinement” prisons in the US from which there is virtually no prospect of release, despite treatment courses designed to make offenders safe for life outside.

What would have enraged James even more, though, was my response, and Judith Levine’s, to news he gave about a further development. He posted to say he was scheduled to be on a panel discussion with Justin Payne in February and was “hoping to use the opportunity to call on Creep Catchers to funnel victims into therapy instead of harassment”.

I replied saying “Not sure how encouraging thugs to bully and press-gang people into treatment would play with a medical ethics board. If something else is intended, what would it be? Is complicity with the leopards expected to change their spots?”

Judith posted swiftly in support:

…does Cantor really want to wave a magic wand & combine entrapment with enticements to therapy? How about just getting rid of mandatory reporting?

James is actually on record as being against mandatory reporting laws, which require doctors and other professionals to report to the authorities anyone coming to them for advice or therapy if they disclose any offence. His objection is that such laws deter paedophiles from seeking help – a very strong point because some people are genuinely desperate or even out of control and really do need it. Nevertheless, Judith was right to propose focusing on the reporting issue rather than going down the maverick route of colluding with thugs. As I said in a follow-up, the police wouldn’t touch Creep Catchers with a bargepole and neither should he – though the forces of law and order would do well to challenge the vigilantes over their harassment and intimidating behaviour.

Back to the VICE documentary itself. In one of James’s televised interview points he claimed, as he has done elsewhere, that paedophilia is characterised by crossed wiring in the brain. He said that  instead of having parental or avuncular feelings towards children, paedophiles identify them as sex objects.

Where, I asked, was this  “instead of” coming from? Why would it be one or the other rather than both? I pointed out that at least 20-25% of “normal” men show significant sexual arousal to children in lab-based psychological tests. Most of these guys would presumably be family men, with nothing to suggest they are anything other than loving parents in the socially approved sense of loving. If they can be kind, caring, and affectionate, with an element of erotic attraction in the mix, why would this double response not also apply to preferential paedophiles?

Unfortunately, Mike Bailey seemed blinded by the hostile tone of my post, saying he had been “taken aback” by my attack on James Cantor, whom he described as a humane person who just wanted to stop paedophiles’ lives being ruined.

Right! Sure! As someone whose experience of James’s humane concern has been experienced through nothing but his icy refusal to acknowledge anything I have ever said on Sexnet, through to his cold, dismissive references to “O’Carroll’s” lack of professional standing and expertise, to screaming fits of outright abuse and demands that I be kicked off the forum, I begged to differ. After seven years of this from him since my forum membership started in 2010, I had concluded that nothing would make him happier than to see this particular paedophile’s life ruined; or, better still, terminated! I suspect I must have been murdered in his dreams a number of times and I’d rather not dwell on the methods he might have come up with.

And not just me: any other Kind person on the forum who dared to utter so much as a squeak of modest dissent against his self-enforced towering authority would face a blast of withering scorn. He must have verbally murdered half a dozen of us over the years, leaving me as the last man standing. All the others have either wisely kept a low profile (two or three continue to do useful work through private contacts with key forum members) or else retaliated by giving  James a defiant blast of their own, followed by their swift demotion to non-posting status for failing to know their station.

I have huge respect for Mike and I could see no mileage in antagonising him by pursuing a vendetta on the forum against a colleague he has known for decades without, it seems, being troubled by his obvious volatility. Far better to row back a bit, then try a careful re-casting of my argument, this time without ruffling feathers. So, I apologised for my hostile tone but continued to maintain my original scientific point about “normal” men’s sexual response to children in lab tests. The information I had given was not only correct, which Mike admitted, but also relevant, which he had denied. This time, after my further explanation, he conceded I had a point, albeit he felt James did not really believe paedophiles never feel parental-type love for children. My reaction: no, maybe not, but that is effectively what he said in public and it is pure poison because it suggests that Kind people are wired up to be unkind – selfishly interested only in their sexual expression and callously indifferent to children’s feelings and best interests.

I carefully spelled out that the “crossed wires” analogy presents paedophilic mental experience as a polar opposite of the norm, rather than part of a continuum in which most paedophiles have a great deal in common with others. Thus “the paedophile” is presented in a dehumanising way as a freakishly different being. This, I said, seems to me to be on a par with the equally false and damaging claim (now largely corrected in the literature) that paedophilic “offenders” lack empathy.

It was hard to gauge what other sexnetters were thinking at this point. Posts by established academics on less controversial topics, such as a thread today on “copulatory vocalisation”, tend to be followed up quickly with colleagues chipping in further information, often with friendly banter and jokes thrown in. My posts used to be met with brusque dismissal or patronising little lectures on where I was going wrong – until both types of response were met with clear evidence that I know my way around the literature and can back up my arguments with facts. After that they tended to shut up, except for James as the ranting voice of determined hostility on one side and a few brave souls on the other who have broken ranks occasionally to offer respectful dialogue on friendly first-name terms, or even support.

Mike has always been one of these. And now he came to the rescue again. Pleased by my change of tone, he turned his mind to my argument, and this time readily agreed I had a point. Most of the others maintained what I take to be a grudging, resentful silence. Someone started a purely theoretical discussion with Mike as to whether paedophilia is or is not taxonomically distinct; two or three others called for a halt to the personal spat. James got a bit of support for his efforts to “help” paedophiles, notably from Dan Watter, president of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research; but these were very brief contributions that neither attacked me nor addressed my arguments. And that was about it. Except for Judith Levine.

She had said vigilantes such as Creep Catchers tried “to scare the living bejesus” out of people and their activities could not be condoned. James disagreed, saying “Whether we here like it or not, their actions have great public support and attention.” Opposing them directly would not work: “This method, history has shown time and again, will only fuel the fire and add to the anti-intellectual fervor of the day.” Judith came back strongly. She wrote:

…as a political tactic, every movement needs radicals to stand not only for what we might get now but what we really want & really believe in. Current “sex offender” policies and practices are not only ineffective and counterproductive…. They are wrong. Legal hyper-punishment is unjust, and vigilante violence is immoral. No one should condone them, even obliquely.

This prompted Richard Green to enter the fray in support of Judith’s record, citing not only her well-known book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex, discussed in comments here last time, but also her service as a Director of the National Center for Truth and Justice, which campaigns against what he called “problematic sex laws” and supports those falsely accused of child sex abuse.

Now into his eighties, Richard has a long and distinguished record of radicalism of his own as a leading academic psychiatrist who successfully campaigned against homosexuality being treated as a mental illness, and who made a bold bid to do likewise for paedophilia in a far less sympathetic political climate. As president of the International Academy of Sex Research he even stuck his neck out by inviting me as his guest speaker at the academy’s annual conference in 2000 – which is where I first met Mike Bailey.

Amazingly, by the time of Richard’s intervention on the Creep Catchers thread, it looked as though peace was breaking out. James posted in a remarkably emollient tone, even calling me Tom, which he has never done before. Wonders never cease! Alas, it didn’t last long. Like so many tactical ceasefires in so many conflicts, it would only take a single disaffected sniper to wreck the prospects of peace.

This time it was Nick Devin, Virtuous Pedophiles founder, who weighed in with a highly personal attack on me, saying I had always been mean to him despite his best efforts to hold out the hand of friendship. He had a point. I do not possess an effigy of Nick, but if I did it would be stuck so full of pins it would look like a hedgehog. Have I been unreasonable towards him? Maybe. But it’s hard to see clearly through a miasma of visceral loathing and contempt. Did I say I am not a good hater? Perhaps I should think again. Or maybe not. My view of Nick is not set in concrete, whereas a good hater’s would be.

Be that as it may, Nick’s “contribution” seemed to set James off again. Certainly, I cannot otherwise explain why he unexpectedly came back into the fray, like one of those horror-film monsters you think has just been despatched but suddenly stirs…

I won’t dignify what he said by repeating any of it. It was all utter crap, which I rebutted immediately, calmly and in detail, in a 2000-word volley that included reference to the opinions of sexnetters who have commended my contribution to the forum, including this, from transsexuality expert Anne Lawrence: “If Sexnet gave an award for clear, eloquent, well reasoned analysis, Tom O’Carroll would get my vote.”

The last word went to Mike Bailey:

There is no thought to excluding Tom O’Carroll from SEXNET. He knows a lot about some important topics, and SEXNET would be poorer intellectually without his presence.

That said, both Tom and his critics sometimes–too often–can’t keep themselves from digging/insulting each other. This is to their own detriment. The only people that appeals to is themselves (for retributive purposes) and the people who already agree with them. It is mostly annoying to others, and keeps others from reading their reasoning carefully. Which is a shame, because all are very thoughtful and taking important, mostly reasonable, positions.

I would be a fool to argue against any part of this, which is why, despite one or two ceasefire-breaking little salvos of my own, here, I do not rule out reconciliation with both Nick and James. But it has to be on a basis of intellectual and personal respect. Mutual, of course. They have both been invited to comment and will be treated courteously by me if they do so and, I hope, by other heretics.