Friday, October 31, 2008

HATE THY POLITICAL NEIGHBOR

Why are some folks so eager to brand political opponents as hateful bigots? And what follows, logically, from the widespread acceptance of this practice?

One thing that follows from viewing adversaries as ranting haters is sign vandalism—as numerous statewide stories about the disappearance of “Yes on Prop 8” signs indicate. The rationale one enthusiastic North County sign-snatcher gave for her actions was that government should only be in the business of giving rights, not taking them away.

It didn’t occur to this speech-suppressor that she was violating someone else’s First Amendment rights or that the issue in question is precisely what rights California should recognize when it comes to marriage.

I’d be surprised if this petty political thief would cling to her rights-only logic if the topic were smoking cigarettes on the beach or allowing her Carlsbad neighbors the “right” to do whatever they please with their property. In those critical cases (as opposed to the question of changing a basic, millennia-old social institution) pros and cons would surely need to be discussed.

The real beauty of branding political opponents as haters is that one doesn’t have to deal with specific arguments. Mere declarations of rights and ad hominem invective are all that’s required. By stigmatizing the other side as less honorable than pond scum, one can ignore arguments as smokescreens.

A common inference made by advocates of same-sex marriage was that Prop 8 supporters fell in the same class as individuals who denied rights to black Americans or interned Japanese-Americans during World War II. By this logic the reasonable assertion that male-female marriage reflects natural law and promotes the optimum child-rearing framework was transformed into hate-speech—not a category of discourse that voters need to accord a respectful hearing.

It’s ironic that the lion’s share of negative epithets in the marriage campaign came from the supposedly “tolerant” side of the debate. Just check the Letters page and review the TV ads for derogatory terms that concerned personal character.

Moreover, while I’m sure that some “No on 8” signs were snatched or defaced by Prop 8 proponents, every indication I’ve seen (including a prominent YouTube video) is that most of the vandalism came from the side that was utterly convinced it occupied the high political ground.

That’s because traditional folk tend to honor long-established ethical rules (like “Thou shalt not steal”) and are somewhat less likely to violate mom’s oft-repeated injunction against name-calling. “Progressives,” on the other hand, are more likely to embrace an “ends justify the means” philosophy, to view personal morality and f-bomb language as flexible conventions, and to impute the basest of motives to political enemies—all for the sake of political goals that are embraced with religious fervor.

The future of democracy isn’t bright when half the voting population are routinely labeled as bigots. After all, bigots deserve no respect, and trivial democratic procedures needn’t be observed by partisans whose political ideas (like religious dogmas) are considered beyond questioning.

23 comments:

maurile said...

Two comments, one nitpicky and one substantive:

1. The sign thief was violating someone else's property rights, not someone else's First Amendment rights (since sign-stealing is a purely private activity).

2. Whether Proposition 8 passes shouldn't affect any religious organization's tax-exempt status. Religious organizations (when engaged in religious activity) are specifically exempt from anti-discrimination laws. Churches may currently refuse to perform interracial marriage ceremonies without risking any change to their tax status. And besides, domestic partnerships are already fully legal in California. If a church would lose its tax-exempt status for refusing to perform marriage ceremonies after Prop 8 fails, it would also presumably lose its tax-exempt status for refusing to perform domestic partnership ceremonies after Prop 8 passes. Prop 8 affords no protection and presents no danger to religious organizations in that respect. The tax issue is a red herring.

Anonymous said...

You are right that the anti-8 side is too quick to use ad hominem attacks, but you fail to recognize the obvious reason anti-8 supporters are so quick to recourse to such unfortunate language. One small difference between cigarette-smokers-at-the-beach and gays is that latter have been the victims of sustained and significant forms of personal and institutional discrimination qualitatively different form the experiences of the former. If gays perceive opponents of gay marriage as "bigots" it is because in fact the latter's rhetoric, beliefs, and desires to maintain legal discrimination (in the narrow sense) seem to echo that living tradition of hate and discrimination. If nothing else, this legacy should be a powerful reminder to all those who are against marriage to ask themselves if their own views are impervious to such evil influences – and to empathize with, if not excuse, the anger of gays and lesbians. Why haven’t you acknowledged that legacy in your discussions of prop 8?

RKirk said...

To Maurile
1. If the courts can rule that nude dancing is among our First Amendment rights, then I think it is safe to regard printed speech on a sign in a political election a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment--along with freedom of the press, assembly, and petition.

2. Below are some legal examples that involve the near-removal of tax-exempt status for the Boy Scouts of America and the removal of tax-exempt status for Bob Jones University. In my article I argued that the equating of same-sex marriage with racial discrimination would lead to the same non tax-exempt results as happened, in fact, with Bob Jones University.

http://www.bsa-discrimination.org/html/bsa-taxexemptiom.html

Months after the Supreme Court's June ruling in Boy Scouts of America, et al. v. Dale, upholding the Boy Scouts of America's (BSA's) ban on gay troop leaders, questions linger about tax-exempt status for groups that exclude homosexuals.

Background

BSA's tax-exempt status became an issue in August 1999 after James Dale, an avowed homosexual and gay rights activist, won an earlier bout with BSA before the New Jersey Supreme Court. Only a few days after the state court ruling, an online participant in washingtonpost.com's live discussion of the ruling voiced his opposition to the court's holding, commenting that BSA "should not be forced to [accept gay members]," but should "give up all public funding [and] tax-exempt status," in exchange for its right to exclude gay people.

According to a series of press releases issued by one of Dale's legal representatives, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund (Lambda), Dale's battle with BSA began in 1990 when he was expelled from the Boy Scouts after BSA officials read in a newspaper article that Dale was gay. Attorneys for Dale argued in New Jersey courts that BSA had violated the state's public accommodations law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination.

The state supreme court ultimately ruled in Dale's favor in August 1999, reasoning that BSA's access to significant support from the state and local governments precluded the organization from attempts to exempt itself from compliance with New Jersey's civil rights laws.

But the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision reversed in June 2000. The issue before the Court was the application of New Jersey's public accommodations law in light of BSA's claim to a First Amendment right of expressive association.

In its analysis, the Court addressed whether BSA's First Amendment "freedom not to associate" was outweighed by any compelling interest New Jersey had in eliminating sexual orientation discrimination. Ultimately, the Court determined that the state's law was similar to other "government actions that may unconstitutionally burden . . . [the] freedom . . . not to associate."

In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens noted that "the public perception of homosexuality in this country has changed." The majority responded by rejecting "societal acceptance" as an argument for "denying First Amendment protection to those who refuse to accept . . . [society's] views."

The Court's position on the impact of societal acceptance was, in the end, a far cry from the position it took in Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983). That case involved the IRS's revocation of the university's tax-exempt status on learning of the school's policy forbidding interracial dating. In Bob Jones, the Court found the governmental interest at stake more compelling than the burden that loss of tax-exempt status placed on the school's ability to exercise its religious beliefs.

The influence of societal views on race discrimination was an important factor in Bob Jones University because, according to the Court, to be tax-exempt a charitable institution "must demonstrably serve and be in harmony with the public interest . . . [and] must not be so at odds with the common community conscience as to undermine any public benefit that might otherwise be conferred." The Court in Bob Jones further reasoned that denial of tax benefits would not "prevent [the organization] from observing . . . [its] . . . tenets."

In light of the Court's rationale in Bob Jones University, some scholars have queried whether BSA's sexual orientation-based discrimination is so at odds with the "community conscience" on homosexuality that it would serve as a legitimate reason for revoking an organization's tax-exempt status.

RKirk said...

To anonymous:

The degree of discrimination a group has endured in the past (and in the present) does not affect the merits of any particular piece of legislation--unless that legislation is specifically and narrowly tailored to redress specific harms done in the past (e.g. affirmative action). The Mormon Church has suffered a great deal of discrimination in the past, but no sensitivity to their past or present sufferings moved those who vilified the Church in Los Angeles.

In the last twenty years homosexuals in the popular culture and in the political culture have come to occupy a highly favored status. From "Will and Grace" to Ellen Degeneres, it is now "cool" in the pop culture to be gay. The "Gay Pride Parade" in San Diego is an event attended by political dignitaries, including the "conservative" mayor. Indeed, public assets (such as fire-engines) as well as reluctant draftees from the Fire Department have been part of the "celebration."

In another vein, the slimey governor of New Jersey avoided devastating political fallout for cheating on his wife (and giving a government position to a paramour) by playing the "gay" card. Many years ago Barney Frank's cozy relationship with a "gay" sex procuror saved him from what would have been an impeachable offense if straight sex were involved. You can look up Gerry Studds for another example of the favorable gay sex double-standard in Congress--especially when Democrats are involved.

On the other hand, one group you can reliably count on TV and major media journalists to bash are evangelical Christians and Catholics. Compare the parodies and the media bias exhibited toward Sarah Palin and her faith with the press's sympathetic treatment of Gov. McGreevey when his homosexual affairs were revealed. On TV, can you imagine a cartoon series in which a gay individual is portrayed as unsympathetically as the religious Flanders on The Simpsons? Look at recent counts of the number of gay characters and gay relationships on TV series. The only surprise occurs when, in perhaps one in ten cases, the gay individual is portrayed in other than a totally sympathetic light. By contrast, religious leaders and religious individuals are shown in an overwhelmingly negative light. Michael Medved's book HOLLYWOOD VERSUS AMERICA provides a litany of examples from the early 1990s. Bill Maher's RELIGULOUS is only one of a host of recent blatant attacks. I frequently switch from channel to channel to channel in the vain attempt to escape one insulting portrait of religion after another. But then perhaps you don't find these insulting and onesided portraits particularly problematic, and thus pay little attention to them.

Back to the main point, Evangelical Christians and Mormons and Catholics are not right because they have been and are presently being maligned. Nor are
homosexual groups right because of the discrimination gays have suffered--much more in the past than presently. The issue is simply whether it is good public policy to maintain the definition of marriage the way it has been since the beginning of civilization. My articles have consistently focused on the reasons why that is good policy--namely, that it maintains the intimate connection between marriage and childbirth / childrearing and because the optimum environment for a child is to have parents of both sexes.

My writings do not, as those of my opponents regularly do, cast aspersions on the character of those who disagree. Least of all have I used hateful epithets--which regretably became commonplace during the NO on 8 campaign and which has continued to be the case in its aftermath.

Anonymous said...

You are right, of course, that there are parts of society that gladly embrace homosexuals and homosexuality. But "Will and Grace" and the other evidence you adduce is hardly proof that homosexuals are no longer targets of discrimination. Let's remember that it was only thirty years ago when Californians seriously considered banning gays from being teachers; twenty years ago when Reagan could hardly bring himself to mention the word AIDS on TV. If homosexuals have such a "highly favored status" in political culture, then why are there so few open homosexuals in prominent public offices? Do you really believe that "Will and Grace" indicates such a broad acceptance of homosexuals in places like Wasilla, San Diego, and the Deep South? Though your writings want to seem to deny it -- or at least not admit to it -- homosexuals are discriminated against and treated as anathema in all sorts of ways, from Bishop's to the everyday culture of much of the business world. But perhaps treating homosexuals that way is something about which “reasonable people” can disagree.

I ask again, why, in your treatment of this issue, have you been so neglectful of a fuller understanding of the dynamics at play here, including the persistence of discrimination and hate against homosexuals. I fear it is because your point in your writings is hardly the sort of careful analysis a philosopher should provide, but rather something almost purely polemical. It is all too convenient in marshaling your argument against gay marriage to forget about that living tradition of hate and discrimination. After all, your defense of marriage is so inclined to your own normative definition of marriage, masquerading as a descriptive definition drawn from timeless history (“since the beginning of civilization”), that it is best to forget about any of the messiness of life, and the multiple meanings and contexts of marriage – such as love, commitment, and civil rights -- that might impinge on such Kantian philosophizing. (Do you consider Romeo and Juliet, in its emphasis on love as the basis of marriage rather than child raising, as subversive?)

It is also curious that you choose to ignore the heated rhetoric and aspersion-casting character of so much of the pro prop 8 side, especially certain evangelical groups, who have made so many inflammatory comments against gays, this year and years past. And I presume you'd understand and empathize with the great sensitivity gays have to such positions that threaten to equate homosexual sex with the perversion of civilization, especially when in previous years the same people who this year adopted, for the sake of political efficacy, more cautious and narrowly targeted rhetoric focusing on children (always the easiest way to cloak nefarious implications under the guise of innocence), unleashed vitriol on homosexuals in years prior. Even the mainstream arguments from this year in favor of prop 8 come dangerously close to echoing the typical rationales people have used to legitimize their treatment of gays: gays as threat to society, gays as threat to children, homosexual sex as unnatural, gays as the epiphany of sexual desire run amock, etc. Treated as a threat to civilization itself, subjected to institutionalized discrimination, victims of the hate of their own parents, forcibly kept in the closet until recently, treated as insidious agents of godless Communism in the 50s, nominated as the sin for which God destroyed the Twin Towers, “punished” by that same God for their sinfulness through AIDS -- no wonder then that homosexuals feel under attack and stigmatized as anathema.

But I entirely agree with you that gays are not the only victim in society. I, a gay man, can entirely admit that the Mormon Church faces much bigotry from parts of the nation (though the irony of the recent alliance between evangelicals and Mormons is almost too much to bear!), including much of the press and yes, the gay community, and that such bigotry is deeply problematic. Indeed, I suspect that the Mormon campaign against gay marriage is in part a result of the discrimination Mormons have faced: a way to integrate themselves more into American society by beating up on another marginalized group – this, as any student of modern history knows, is the oldest trick around.

RKirk said...

I never said that homosexuals are no longer targets of discrimination--just as I would never say that blacks are no longer targets of discrimination. However, as you may have noticed, a black man (as black author and scholar Shelby Steele has noted) has been elected President of a predominately white country for the first time in human history. (The Jesse Jackson civil rights establishment, however, whose status is based on grievance leverage, will not admit that this historic fact demonstrates that racism in America is not as pervasive and widespread as they continually insist for political advantage--cf. Tavis Smiley.)

Suspicions should rise about the quality of a person's argument when that individual attributes to his interlocutor patently absurd assertions that he never made.

Concerning the basic issue, nothing follows logically about the definition of marriage, child rearing, and homosexuality itself from varying estimates about how much or how little homosexuals have been persecuted--now or in the past. (Just FYI, San Diego's conservative mayor supported "No on 8," the city council of San Diego voted 6-2 to support "No on 8," and the District Attorney of San Diego, Bonnie Dumanais, is gay and has a partner. Also, the fire chief of San Diego, Tracey Jarman, is gay.)

The gist of the arguments you have been making can be reduced, in my view, to the following propositions:

Gays have suffered discrimination, therefore, same-sex marriage is the correct legal and social policy. (The last part of the argument is implied, not argued.)

R. Kirk disagrees with gay marriage, therefore he suffers from some psychological derangement--as does also the Mormon Church.

To say that these arguments are tenuous is to grossly understate the case--they are clear logical fallacies (the first being an argument from pity and the second a pseudo-intellectual ad hominem argument).

If I were to employ the same "logical" tactics, I could assert that gays desire to marry for the same kind of reasons that you employ to explain the Mormon Church's opposition to gay marriage. (Dostoevsky in THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV notes in a legal scene, the trial of Dmitri if I recall correctly, that psychology is a two-edged sword.)

I could also assert that people who disagree with me are somehow psychologically deranged, filled with personal guilt and eager to have that guilt politically and socially absolved.

I prefer to ignore "arguments from pity" and "psychological ad hominem" arguments. I do, however, reserve the right to reject and highlight arguments of the other side that are based (to put it bluntly) on hate and character assassination.

My arguments, I reiterate, can be summarized as follows:

1. Marriage as an institution is essentially related to child-bearing and child-rearing. Marriage, as the historical institution that it has been in Western civilization, would not exist were not for the reproductive consequences of male-female sex. This reproductive link is 100% absent from same-sex liaisons. Consequently, the consequences of promiscuity among same-sex partners are basically limited to matters of disease.

2. The ideal for child-rearing is a male-female married couple. I find the PC sociological assertions to the contrary unreliable and unbelievable. (What is believeable and historically demonstrable is that "social science" regularly comes up with whatever conclusions are popular within the intellectual community--from the idea that single-parenthood was only problematic because of social stigmatization, an idea touted in the 60s and 70s, to the enthusiastic embrace of racist eugenics in the 1920s.)

3. The social-psychological consequences of homosexuality (in terms of disease and life span) are significant (cf. the Vancouver study that found an 8 to 20 year reduction in lifespan).

4. The social embrace of homosexual marriage will result in increased sexual confusion among kids and adults. The idea that people just are what they are sexually and that education and broader social attitudes have no effect is implausible. No one has ever explained why homosexual relationships, if society has no impact and if it is a purely biological consequence, were vastly more common in ancient Greece than they are in modern Western societies.

The sociological dogma that society has no effect is now being traded for a more politically useful dogma, that homosexuality doesn't matter, even if household composition does make a difference. The intuitively obvious view that environment makes a difference is now being admitted by sociologists after analyzing the sexual activities of same-sex households. Of course NOW, mirabile dictu, this doesn't matter.

5. If marriage is essentially about feelings of affection, the essential link to child-rearing is undermined--as are the reasons for forbidding polygamy.

6. The persecution analogy between gays and blacks only serves to distract attention from the profound difference between a sexual activity and race. Black males and white males, black females and white females are only different because of a clearly genetic trait that concerns skin pigmentation. Males and females, by contrast, are profoundly different in ways that any idiot can observe. Taking into consideration profound differences is something that the law does, and should do, all the time.

None of these points rests upon the degree of persecution that gays, Mormons, conservative Christians, or blacks have endured.

Anonymous said...

1. I never claimed that you said gays were no longer the target of discrimination. Rather, I pointed out how you have refused to openly admit and address that point, and that the ¬_implication_ of this hesitation combined with your emphasis on the allegedly “highly favored status” of gays in popular and political culture, is to greatly down play and diminish such discrimination. You attack gays for their reactions to the prop 8 campaign without contextualizing their reaction in the history of prejudice they have faced and continue to face. Why are you so steadfast in your critique of prop 8 opponent without even so much as mentioning – look at the evidence: it has taken two postings challenging you on the issue before you even grudgingly admit it rather than going on a diatribe against popular culture – this key context? (This resembles – but well could be different from; you alone can answer that -- the tactics of many religious-cum-political institutions like the Mormons and evangelical churches who have cloaked their hatred of homosexuals for political expediency. As if many people who think homosexuality is an “abomination” are any more likely to tolerate the legalization of other sins, say, abortion.)

2. You completely misinterpret my posts. I made little effort at trying to dissuade you of your opinions about gay marriage. I know that’s a hopeless task. But I had hoped to try to deepen your engagement with homosexuals as humans. In fact I never argued, nor implied, that the fact that gays have suffered discrimination should therefore necessitate gay marriage, nor did I suggest you suffer from “psychological derangement.” Unlike you, I’ll be intellectually generous and assume that your misinterpretation was accidental and understandable rather than likely evidence of the suspicious about the quality of your arguments.

I did suggest that the history of (often religiously backed) hate rhetoric that demonizes gays and treats them as anathema is 1) a necessary factor to understanding why _some_ gays and their supporters have handled the prop 8 in an inappropriate way; and 2) that the living tradition of such rhetoric should not only sensitize anti-gay marriage advocates into the ways in which their rhetoric can marginalizes and demonize gays even if not intended and in contexts outside of marriage, but that it should give them at least a moments pause to reflect on their own thoughts and feelings to determine to what extent their politics are based on problematic commitments. Asking people to reflect on the history (of arguments against gays/gay sex, etc) for a moment of introspection to improve their decision making seems like something a conservative would find entirely laudable.

3. I like how after attacking social science you immediately turn to the “Vancouver study” as an authority on the “social-psychological consequences of homosexuality.” A nice performative contradiction. And you and I both know that such studies need careful interrogation and analysis rather than mere citation as proof. Perhaps you should interrogate why it is that homosexuals suffer from such consequences? Perhaps the higher suicide rate among gay teenagers, for instance, has little to do with the depravity of homosexuality than the depravity of a society that teaches gays to hate themselves. Or does gay promiscuity have something to do with the mutilated social development the closet imposed on gay men for so long?

4. Yes, I do suffer, due to my sexuality, from “social-psychological consequences,” and from remnants of “personal guilt,” and yes, I am “eager to have that guilt politically and socially absolved.” The guilt and self-hate that was imposed on me by by many peers and teachers in high school (including an episode in a class in which your close colleague, now such a fan of arguing against the intrusion of “bias” into the classroom, while dramatazing the unnatural and sinful quality of gay sex, declared -- in an English class! -- that itwas like “planting a tree upside down”), during my experience at college and in business world. Just as blacks were taught by their ostensibly Christian masters, as Jews were by anti-Semitic Europeans, so American culture teaches gays to hate themselves. Is it so unreasonable to ask society to heal the “social-psychological” wounds it has inflicted?

Anonymous said...

Correction: As if many people who think homosexuality is an “abomination” are any more likely to tolerate the legalization of other sins, say, abortion

should read as:

As if many people who think homosexuality is an “abomination” are any more likely to tolerate it than they do the legalization of other "abominations," say, abortion.)

Heterosexualmale said...

I can see Mr. Kirk proposing marriage to a woman and explaining in great detail....how he would normally not go through with this process but he fears that after he has sexual intercourse with her, it might result in offspring.

Mr. Kirk prefers to discriminate against homosexuals and that is his choice. He undoubtedly can find studies, scholars and other sources to back up his opinion, regardless of their validity or logic.

Clearly, 48% of California disagreed with Mr. Kirk when put to a vote and he is scared. Fear is a strong motivator against change. It is only a matter of time before the support grows and California has marriage equality. Be patient and keep fighting the good fight.

maurile said...

Mr. Kirk:

1. The First Amendment bars the government, and only the government, from limiting others' speech. The sign thief was not acting in a governmental capacity, so the First Amendment is not implicated. (I told you this point was nitpicky.)

2. The Boy Scouts and Bob Jones University are not religious organizations engaged in religious activity. Churches (when performing weddings as opposed to holding bake sales) are. Church weddings are thus specifically exempt from anti-discrimination laws, and their tax status can't be effected by whether they'll accept business from same-sex (or interracial or whatever) couples.

maurile said...

affected

RKirk said...

My article, "Hate Thy Political Neighbor," is directed at people who vilify "Yes on 8" supporters. I never mention "gays" as the source of the hate. It is a leap of bad faith to assume that the hatred being expressed by the "No on 8" crowd comes primarily from homosexuals. Inasmuch as a "group" is identified in my piece, "Progressives" are the target in view of their tendency to subordinate personal moral imperatives to larger political goals.

Proponents of the "No on 8" side wished (and still wish) to use past discrimination against gays as a "compensation" argument to justify a policy that, in my view, is detrimental to children (because it undermines important aspects of family structure). Using space in a 500-word article that doesn't mention "gays" to genuflect toward their historical mistreatment is a "requirement" that I think is unreasonable. What I do is argue my case without invective or even indirect slurs. Such isn't the case, typically, on the other side--which resorts to f-bombs, insults, and "psychological analysis" of opponents.

Thirdly, if one is unwilling to acknowledge the clear preferential presentation of gays in the popular and political culture (Will and Grace was a single example of which there are hundreds upon hundreds of examples in TV show after TV show after TV show) then that individual is unwilling to concede the obvious and is beyond reasonable discourse. The fact of this preferential treatment, however, no more means that anti-homosexual hatred doesn't exist than the pro-Oprah, pro-Obama affirmative active mentality in the pop- and political culture means that racism doesn't exist.

Concerning the Vancouver study--mortality statistics are hard to fudge, over against ersatz MMPI bubble-in-your-feelings surveys of 50 to 100 individuals (which are the diminuative size of many or most of the non-longitudinal "studies" used by the "it makes no difference" crowd).

Concerning my "fear," it doesn't bode well for an argument when its proponent engages in psychological analysis at a distance. I'm not in the least personally "afraid" of homosexuals or homosexual marriage. On the contrary, I'm willing to use my moral senses (despite the "fearful" opprobrium I regularly receive) to advocate what I think will, eventually, be seen as the most constructive child-rearing policy. I could use employ "devastating" psychological slurs if I chose to arrogate to myself the ability to place myself in the soul of critics. Their strident language suggests a less balanced psychological state than mine. (But then, maybe I'm "repressing." LOL.)

Concerning Bob Jones and religion and tax status, lawsuits have already been filed to undermine the tax-exempt status of "discriminating" religious institutions. The First Amendment's original intent hasn't meant much to the court since Everson (a totally incoherent Hugo Black opinion that introduced the phrase "wall of separation" into the judicial record--see the analysis of this opinion in TEN TORTURED WORDS by Stephen Mansfield). Appealing to the clear meaning of a "living document" means about as much as relying on the words of a contract written with disappearing ink. One must rely on the shifting political winds to decipher "Constitutional" jurisprudence nowadays--which declared a right to abortion (at first through viability, then based on the psychological preference of the woman, Doe v Bolten, I think); and, in California, declared a hidden 4-3 right to marry individuals of the same sex.

It was in the 1950s when Senator Lyndon Johnson put through a bill that limited the speech rights of religious institutions so that if they chose to support specific political candidates they would lose their tax-exempt status. That legislation has been upheld by the court for over fifty years.

Anonymous said...

"then that individual is unwilling to concede the obvious and is beyond reasonable discourse."

Talk about ridiculous.

If anyone is "beyond reasonable discourse," it is someone who reasons from anecdotal evidence about sign stealing to a critique of liberalism.

Or someone who cites a study carried out during the heights of the AIDS epidemic as proof of "the social-psychological consequences of homosexuality." (Notice Kirk's signature erasure of history and context so that he can invent absolutes.)

Or who implies that because homosexuals have been ravaged by at this particular moment is history an epidemic, therefore homosexuality itself is something bad for individuals and for society. As if it is being gay, that is the problem, not the disease.

RKirk said...

A person interested in discourse would admit the obvious rather than changing the subject.

A person interested in discourse would have some statistical data at hand that contradicts the Vancouver study. Or perhaps he could present evidence showing that anal sex is not, even now, the primary method of HIV transmission.

The "historical" background of the AIDS disease is revealed quite well in David Horowitz's intellectual biography, RADICAL SON. He notes that the epidemic would have been hugely diminished if it weren't for the fact that San Francisco's gay community for an extended time refused to accept the connection between sex at the bath houses and the spread of the disease.

That deadly denial of reality was followed by the lie that AIDS was an equal opportunity disease. (Doubtless I will be told that transmission is possible via heterosexual sex and pointed to Africa. The point, however, is that in the context of American health standards, HIV is vastly more likely to be spread, as the history of the disease shows, via anal sex and shared drug needles.)

Those open to reasonable discourse might peruse Michael Fumento's work (early 90s or late 80s) THE MYTH OF HETEROSEXUAL AIDS--a work that has been vindicated by subsequent history.

What is sad is that the history of the disease and the primary means of its transmission in the U.S. (cultural context) have been distorted or ignored for the sake of "political correctness."

Anonymous said...

I can hardly be accused of “changing the subject” when you are the one who attempted to cut off discussion exiling me “beyond reasonable discourse.”

Furthermore, your claim that homosexuals have a “have come to occupy a highly favored status” in the “popular culture and in the political culture” was itself a change of subject. My original claim was simply that in order to fully understand the rhetoric of those against prop 8, you need to understand the climate of discrimination they have faced. I made no claims about popular culture, about whether gays are currently in vogue on sitcoms, etc. Nor do your points about popular and political culture, even if true, in any way invalidate my point: after trying to sideswipe the conversation into a polemic against the corrupted media, you only grudgingly and after much provocation, admit the persistence of discrimination against gays. I think your characterization of this “highly favored status” is significantly oversimplified and misleading, but I don’t care to argue the point with you as I see it having little bearing on either (1) your one-sided attack on the rhetoric of some anti-prop 8 protestors, (2) the debate about marriage.

I’m glad, however, that we’ve getting to the specifics of your guilt by disease argument. Because a population has been ravaged by a particular disease in a particular moment in time is not proof that they are either (1) (your overt argument) bad for society as whole, which is therefore justified in trying to minimize their numbers, (2) (a potentially implicit argument, and one that underlies much of the gays-and-their-sex-are-bad-for-society position) bad or morally culpable/corrupt/degenerate in having gay sex. The “AIDS is God’s [or nature’s] punishment to homosexuals” argument (whether or not the Reagan said it). Would you finish your thoughts for us and specify why it is that you feel that (1) (and (2)?) are justified conclusions?

And also please enlighten: what are you trying to get at with Horowitz’ claim (I believe a similar argument is made in the THE BAND PLAYED ON – so its hardly a secret known only to right-wing activists like Horowitz)? Does the behavior of some members of the gay community in the 80s somehow bear directly on gay marriage debates? And so what if HIV is not “equal opportunity”? I’m not arguing here about liberal media bias, so I’m unclear as to why these claims about the alleged tyranny of “political correctness” are at all relevant to our discussion.

RKirk said...

The comments about the media were apropos the status of gays in contemporary culture, a point raised by you or by one of the other participants in this discussion thread. The insistence that I verbalize past injustices against homosexuals in the context of a respectfully written 500 word column about sign theft and the presuppositions of democratic discourse led to my pointing out the obvious fact (still viewed as uncertain by folks who are outside the realm of reasonable discourse) that the status of gays in contemporary political and pop-cultural circles does not require such compulsive genuflecting toward past injustices--since the cultural animus is now directed largely in the other direction. (As my most recent blog posting illustrates, one can lose his job for supporting Yes on 8, at the California Musical Theater, whereas a similar employment loss for a No on 8 political stance is hard to imagine. No on 8 supporters are quick to play the "bigot" card and to send hate-messages to opponents, whereas someone using a hateful epithet to describe a pro-gay position would never get published on a newspaper's letters page. Perhaps I should demand that anyone criticizing a position of mine that is also advocated by a long-standing religious tradition should acknowledge that religious individuals are constantly disparaged in the mass media-- both via news and entertainment programs. Without such an acknowledgement, might I safely assume that the individual in question was a religiophobe?)

It would be easier to discuss past injustices if those injustices weren't used as "arguments" or "justifications" for doing whatever the aggrieved party now wants to do--a la the racial extortions of Jesse Jackson.

You introduce terms that I don't use to transform an argument about the differences between male-female sexual relationships and same-sex relationships into a moral argument about who is "guilty" of what. I simply point to empirically verifiable (or empirically disprovable) facts that are related to significant differences between the two types of relationships. The most obvious difference is that males are different from females and that children are the product of male-female relationships and are (in my view) best served by being raised within the context of a married, male-female couple.

The other "tangents" you note in your post were by-products of that basic argument about "relevant" differences.

Anonymous said...

"I simply point to empirically verifiable (or empirically disprovable) facts that are related to significant differences between the two types of relationships?"

How do these facts support your argument? They must do so somehow, since you cite them as a separate claim in your summary of your argument. And how are the beliefs and behaviors of some gays early in the AIDS epidemic relevant to your argument against gay marriage? I fail to see the connection and would appreciate your clarification.

I won't pursue our stale discussion of popular and political coverage any further than to reiterate one last time my main contentions: past discrimination is not justification for gay marriage, but it is important context for understanding the type of reactions that the passage of prop 8 has elicited. To not acknowledge this history is to hide an important context as well to fail to fully acknowledge the humanity of gays as people who, given historical precedent and in the real world outside of sitcom, understandably feel themselves on the receiving ends of marginalizing discourse and social practices. Not that gay-marriage advocates often acknowledge the humanity of their opponents either. I'm not trying to defend them. Rather I am calling on you to raise the discussion to a higher level than 500-word polemics.

RKirk said...

The Vancouver study was done in 1997, not during the "early stages" of the disease. The reference to the study had to do with one of the threads of the discussion that concerned differences between male-female relationships and same-sex relationships.

It is my general opinion, however, that if one is not persuaded that male-female unions deserve to be placed in a separate legal category from same-sex relationships--based on the biological differences between males and females and based on the social recognition of those differences throughout civilized history--then that person will not be persuaded by ancillary arguments.

I point to the conclusion of Walker Percy's book, LOST IN THE COSMOS, for his view of a society that hasn't lost its way. The critical component, the fictional voyagers inidicate, is the union of one male and one female. Percy employs the corresponding symbols for male and female and suggests other possible, but ultimately unsatistory, combinations.

Stat-man said...

Actually, the Vancouver study (Hogg) was published in 1997 but the team used infection and mortality data from Vancouver (not the United States) and for the period 1987 to 1992. This study only applies to men and has no relevance to lesbian or bisexual women.

In general, a quote of "homosexuality cuts 20 years off your life" or "homosexuality is more dangerous than smoking" is usually attributed to this paper; particularly as the use of a parallel claim by the virulently anti-gay (and disreputable) psychologist Paul Cameron has been exposed as a fiction and fallen into disuse.

(As a general rule: when the term "20 years off your life" or similar is used, the claimant is referring to this work by Hogg and his colleagues. Use of words such as "the average age is only 42 years" points to Paul Cameron. Hogg's paper was valid, although now clearly out of date and sorely misused -- it requires a considered response. Cameron's scurrilous work is without any merit, and needs only be rejected out of hand.)

Using 5.2% as the proportion of adult men that are behaviorally homosexual, as reported by Laumann et al (1994), the revised calculations using data from 2002/2003 indicate a difference of 1.2 years -- some 14 months -- as the average loss of life expectation for gay and bisexual men when compared to their heterosexual peers. This is the impact of sexually acquired HIV. If you assume that gay and bisexual men make up 9% of the population, the number drops to 0.7 years and if you use 3% it rises to 2.2 years.

Today, with improvements in HIV prevention and HIV/AIDS treatment, the number may in fact be lower.

RKirk said...

I hope the optimistic statistics you cite turn out to be accurate. The numbers in the various studies are largely predicated on the percentage of the population that is estimated to be homosexual. The 5.2% figure seems a bit high based on several studies that put the U.S. figure between 3 and 4%, but Vancouver, Canada (and environs)may have a disproportionately high gay population. I do find it a bit "suspicious" that this basically non-partisan study (published in the Journal of Epidemiology) soon received flack for its findings and was more or less renounced by its authors--then was trimmed down to more acceptable figures. (By the way, I've never used Paul Cameron's materials, which are obviously as biased as the bogus but often cited "studies" of Charlotte Patterson--according to whom "6 to 14 million" children are from homes with homosexual parents. The latter figure would represent 20% of all children.)

In view of the prevalence of AIDS among the homosexual community (a fact for which I was previously chided for using a study done "at the height" of the AIDS epidemic)I find it unlikely that the "lowball" lifespan estimates are accurate.

Given the decrease in life-span due to AIDS (even with life-saving drugs) and given the number of homosexual males that have suffered and died from the disease, and given that, by most estimates, no more than 4% of the U.S. population is homosexual--the estimate of a 1 to 2 year loss in lifespan seems implausible to me.

Here are some relevant 2002 CDC numbers:

Through the year 2002, of the individuals diagnosed with AIDS since the beginning of the
epidemic.

877,275 of these cases are adult and adolescent males, 159,271 are adult and adolescent females, and 9,300 were children under age 13.

The CDC estimates that among the adult and adolescent males,
• 420,790 cases were exposed through male-to-male sexual contact
• 59,719 cases were exposed through both male-to-male sexual contact and injection drug use
• 172,351 cases were exposed through injection drug use
• 50,793 cases were exposed through heterosexual contact
• 14,350 cases were exposed through other means, including hemophilia, blood transfusion,
perinatal exposure.

Among the adult and adolescent females,
• 67,917 were exposed through injection drug use
• 84,835 were exposed through heterosexual contact
• 6,519 cases were exposed through other means, including hemophilia, blood transfusion,perinatal exposure.

AIDS is obviously the most serious disease associated with male-male sexual encounters, though there are other health consequences that I'll not discuss here.

Given the "political" nature of the issue, I tend to distrust statistics from any "side" unless the material amounts to an "admission against interest"--which is why the Vancouver study stood out. (The Vancouver study, not Paul Cameron, was the source of the "8 to 20" year estimate that I mentioned.) But these statistical matters are subject to revision--including, I hope, Charlotte Patterson's figures.

Stat-man said...

As with any study of life expectancy, there is no actual method to determine the exact effect of a particular disease on the length of a life on a minority population. There are only recognized methods that are broadly accepted to "attempt" to ascertain this information.

I do not dispute your statistics. These are the very same statistics used to calculate the information in my prior posting.

The statistics I provided are simply an update to the Hogg model used in the Vancouver study.

Hogg assumed that 95% of Vancouver's HIV-related deaths were within the deemed population of gay and bisexual men. This was a valid assumption in the late 1980's, but even at that time researchers anticipated that this proportion would fall as this new disease moved outwards from the groups first affected. An assumption of 95% is certainly not applicable today.

The statistics you have presented that are relevant to the analysis are:

• 420,790 cases were exposed through male-to-male sexual contact
• 59,719 cases were exposed through both male-to-male sexual contact and injection drug use

Total Men Infected from M-T-M Sexual Contact: 480,509 (includes IV Drug Use)

Total Men Infected: 877,275

Percentage of HIV Infections resulting from male to male sexual contact: approximately 55%, not 95% as the study used.

This has a tremendous impact on the calculation. Thus the effect on life expectancy is surprisingly lower than you might have thought by previously relying on the now outdated study. These types of calculations can be very sensitive to certain variables.

The trends are headed in opposite directions. i.e. The percentage of homosexuals diagnosed with the disease is going down and the percentage of heterosexuals is going up.

The irony of the argument that AIDS is a "homosexual disease" is that as of the end of 2003, an estimated 37.8 million people worldwide - 35.7 million adults and 2.1 million children younger than 15 years - were living with HIV/AIDS according to the CDC. Approximately two-thirds of these people (25.0 million) live in Sub-Saharan Africa; another 20 percent (7.4 million) live in Asia and the Pacific. I think we can both agree these high numbers are not a result of homosexual sex. They are a result of a lack of education on the issue and failure to use prophylactics such as condoms when engaging in sexual activity.

Stat-man said...

Oh, and I forgot to address your point regarding the percentage of the population that is homosexual male.

The Vancouver study decided to do the calculation using the variables of 3%, 6% and 9%. They decided rather than select a specific number, the reader can select what they believe to be the population percentage which is why the conclusion cites the range of "8 to 20 years" in shorter lifespan.

5.2% is not a number related to Vancouver. It is from Laumann's study in 1994. Measuring such a statistic is very difficult - getting people to tell the truth in that kind of survey is no easy task.

RKirk said...

Two final notes:

1) On the precarious nature of statistics and the AIDS epidemic, I note that the number of people who openly admit homosexual relationships is probably understated, and thus the number of AIDS fatalities associated with same-sex relationships is probably understated. Stat-man implies the former point in his final post but makes the observation in a context where the understated figure served to make his point--not the contrary point I'm making. Given that the male homosexual community is probably no more than 3 to 5 percent of the U.S. population, the fact that "at least" two-thirds of AIDS deaths fall within that demographic is reason enough for me to doubt the minimalist mortality figures in revisions of the Vancouver study.

2) The African AIDS epidemic has little to do with the American epidemic--as transmission via various lesions (due to vastly inferior health standards) do not generally apply in America. The scientific analyses put forth by Michael Fumento in THE MYTH OF HETEROSEXUAL AIDS in 1990 has been substantially vindicated by the continued concentration of the disease among male homosexuals, drug users, and prostitues--a demographic scenario that would not have obtained if AIDS were, as advertised, an equal-opportunity disease. Indeed, the lesions that promote the spread of HIV in Africa have as their American counterpart the lesions that are regularly produced via anal sex. Obviously HIV/AIDS can be transmitted via heterosexual sex, but as Fumento points out (in great medical and statistical detail) the odds of transmission are vastly less in vaginal heterosexual encounters--especially for otherwise healthy males.