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Cartoon Superheroes Only Protect Cartoon Children

2010 December 5

Why have all my friends turned into Brak, Ms. Frizzle and the Biker Mice from Mars? If their Facebook statuses are to be believed, it is in order to protect children from violence: “Change your profile picture to a cartoon character from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same. Until Monday (Dec 6) there should be no human faces on Facebook, but an invasion of memories. This is a campaign to stop violence against children.” My head begins to hurt from so much scratching.

Why do human faces on Facebook fail to trigger memories? Are our Facebook friends people we’re unlikely to remember? Why should our memories of the television shows we enjoyed in our pre-teen years help to prevent violence against children? Are we talking about child abuse here? If we do not ourselves abuse children, then what good will remembering Doug do for this cause? If we do abuse children, will remembering Pepper Ann convince us to stop? If this thing can be shown to work, how dare we stop doing it on December 6th? Mysterious.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love me an internet meme, almost as much as I love me some cartoons. More than both of these, I love me some activism. But let’s not kid ourselves: this is not activism. It’s pacivism (nothing to do with pacifism).

Now, I should say that some causes benefit from public shows of support. The “It Gets Better” campaign, for instance, is designed to encourage gay teens to persevere through the bullying they are routinely subjected to. The anti-Apartheid movement in the 1980s was important, because the more awareness and care there was in the American population, the more likely American institutions were to divest from South Africa. Injustices whose victims are stigmatized for their victim-hood can be curbed by shows of solidarity. Violence against kids is not one of these things.

Changing your Facebook photo is therefore a facile gesture, in this case. After all, what less controversial position can someone take than being against the abuse of the weakest and most innocent? There is a danger, as there always is with these sorts of pseudo-activism, that people are comforting their consciences, deluding themselves into thinking they’ve done their part, that they’ve committed a noble act in public, and that they are therefore exculpated from having to do anything else.

If you wish to contribute to the cause, then do it. There are numerous organizations whose mission is to provide relief for the victims and punishment for the perpetrators of child abuse. Look them up, and ask what you can do. But don’t derive satisfaction because, to the Facebook community, you appear to be Ironman; no children are protected because of it. (This obviously does not apply to my Facebook friends participating in this “campaign” who devote their lives to empowering children; teachers, camp counselors, child psychologists, social workers, &c. really are doing their part.)

There is one aspect of the child abuse issue that could benefit from some public taboo-breaking. The rape and torture of children is routine and systematic in the care of Catholic clerics, and we’d all do well to state publicly that we will withhold such reverence as we feel and issue only contempt and derision for the Catholic Church until such time as it cracks down on this epidemic.

Perhaps a cartoon to that effect?

3 Responses
  1. December 8, 2010

    Well written! I’ve posted this on my facebook profile… maybe some of my friends will become humans again.

  2. December 8, 2010

    This is exactly what I said. You can’t show solidarity against something that no one is actively supporting. I used the same apartheid example when trying to explain this to people, but they didn’t seem to get it. What a bizarre, stupid thing.

    Although I did note that if it had been aimed specifically at the Catholic church’s policy of protecting pedophiles, it would be at least logical, as then you would be showing solidarity (even if it is in an idiotic way) against an actual policy of an actual institution. But that is not what this was.

  3. Colin permalink
    December 9, 2010

    I agreed wholeheartedly five minutes ago, and started searching for a spoof news article I read a few days ago on how this ended child abuse overnight to post… but I was stunned when I came across this first:

    “Children’s charities around the world received an unexpected boost in traffic and donations recently thanks to a popular Facebook trend that encourages members to switch out their profile pictures with images of their favorite childhood cartoon character as a way to raise awareness about child abuse.”
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20101207/sc_livescience/childrenscharitiesbenefitfrommysteriousfacebooktrend?cmp=fb&csShare=true

    ::double eyebrow raise::

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