A Jewish reader of The Intactivist Guidebook writes:
I read the chapter on Opposition. It was a little hard for me to follow.
I tried so hard to apply your advice to the organized Jewish forces in my head, but I could not succeed, it was too complicated. They are too powerful. They have this huge advantage that they can call anyone, such as Iceland, anti-semitic for eg working to outlaw circumcision in their non-circumcising country. The fear of being called anti-semitic is the most powerful toxic force on the planet imo. Please give us a clear directive for how to defeat them!
I’ve edited the message a bit, but this was my reply:
If the Opposition chapter was hard to follow, let me try swapping real-world political groups for a more absurd situation:
Suppose you are part of a high school clique of mean girls. You want to get rid of a girl who is prettier than you because she might steal your boyfriend. How would you get rid of her?
One way is that you could approach her and tell her not to look at your boyfriend. If you were to do things the masculine way, you’d beat her up. But this is a clique of toxic mean girls. If you did that, you’d be seen as insecure, and everyone would know you think she is prettier than you. What would you do?
Well, the toxic mean girl way would be to spread a rumor about her. Tell everyone something about her that would lower her status (Ex: “slut”). Of course, you wouldn’t tell her directly. In fact, you might never have a conversation with the prettier girl. You might not even tell her friends. You’d tell your friends who are friends of her friends.
This way, what happens is: you tell your friend, who tells her friends, who stop hanging out with her. Now she has no friends and is unpopular, and your boyfriend won’t even see her at the parties where he might leave you for her because she doesn’t get invited.
This girl – if she is not socially savvy – might protest that the rumor is untrue. Many people might know that she is not a “slut” or whatever you’ve said about her – but they don’t want to be seen sitting at the table of an unpopular girl, lest they be seen as unpopular too.
If you saw this beautiful girl who was all alone, unpopular, destroyed by rumors, who could not get anyone to sit with her or invite her to parties, what would you tell her to do?
This is basically the process that opposition groups run when they fight Intactivists. They spread a rumor (“anti-Semite”) to their friends (coalition groups – politicians, media, etc.) who tell our friends (the public, audiences, platforms, businesses, parents) who stop being friends with us because they don’t want to be seen sitting at the unpopular table (associating with “racists”).
It’s just that their friends have a lot of reach. They are – in this analogy – an upperclassman who knows everyone, while we are a new transfer student freshman. I think the impossibility of this task that you feel is the relative difference in resources. The difference is so great that this girl even knows the faculty. There are even rumors about her that she secretly runs the school. Tough situation!
You could say ‘well, just don’t worry about it – you only want to be friends with people who see you for who you are anyway!’ – but this ignores the bullying, the unfair treatment, and the missed opportunities from not being invited places.
It also ignores the fact that the pretty girl can’t even get decent people to be friends with her because they are afraid of retaliation from the upperclassmen mean girl. She is so well connected friends of hers might attack your friends, just to prove their loyalty to her. The prettier girl would not only need friends who see her – she’d need friends you are so brave and loyal they are willing to stand up to the bullying of well-connected and more popular students.
What my book advises is to first build a coalition of likely allies. In this analogy, it would be the other people who would likely be your friend and don’t care what the popular girls call you. Maybe this is other people she has ostracized, been unfair to, people who just don’t care what she thinks. Maybe this is people who are naturally going to like you for who you are. But you want a circle of friends outside her influence. In the book, I give a list of likely allies, but I’m sure you can name more.
Second, you have to make sure you are your friends are aligned. You know that your opposition will spread rumors about them too. Plus, you and your friends might fight because that’s what friends do. High school girls are not known for their lack of drama, and political movements are even worse. I talk about this in Chapter 6: Needs and Chapter 7: Allies. You and your friends work together and don’t devolve into your own mean-girls drama where you just spread rumors about each other.
(Side-note: Every time you see activists engaged in infighting over petty drama, just imagine mean girls fighting over who is prettier. It is much funnier and does more to further the goals of the movement than infighting does.)
To avoid infighting, you might have to integrate, align, and heal your own insecurities. For example, suppose in our analogy a girl ever prettier than both girls agrees to help our social outcast become popular. Are you too insecure to work with her? What if you catch your man looking at her? You could get rid of her to fulfill your own need to be the prettiest, but it won’t get you closer to the goal of popularity. Having the prettiest girl on your side would help, but to work with her, you’ll have to get over your own ego.
Once you have your group, you work your way up. Say you want something she controls. Let’s say the yearbook editor is her friend. What points of leverage do you have to take that? Can you split their friendship with a rumor of your own? Can you make friends on the yearbook and get your agenda through anyway? Can you get leverage by talking to the yearbook advertisers who don’t go to your school and she has no power over?
This is an analogy, but you see the process. You’re not looking to get her. You’re looking to get everyone to stop sitting at her table. You want to make it so that if she won’t invite someone to her parties it isn’t social death and in fact that there is a social cost to being her friend. This will take time, but this girl has spread a lot of rumors about a lot of people, and many are starting to realize this is just a social tactic she uses against people she doesn’t like.
Of course, you’re talking to someone who never played these games in high school and just sat with the band kids, video production crew, and goths. But I always found goth girls hotter, so maybe I had a strategy of my own.