A college psychology professor's observations about public policy, mental health, sexual identity, and religious issues
How unaware can one be that something is offensive and out of line?
Richard Willmer –
I’m repudiating the idea that, as I think you are suggesting, we have reached some sort of tipping point and that most people will soon view gay-bashing as illegitimate. There is a large portion of the evangelical Christian community that continues to spew anti-gay invective as a misguided expression of moral disapproval (in the name of Christ no less!). This is not the fringe of the faith – it is the core of the largest denominations of the largest religion in the United States.
BTW, just seen this review: http://global.christianpost.com/news/god-loves-uganda-film-exposes-violent-evangelical-movement-targeting-gays-88896/
I too agree with SGM, as my comment above made very clear (and I quote what I said): “By contrast [re. the Obama-Hitler business], some of the anti-gay rhetoric (e.g. in relation to child abuse) is often carefully calculated by those who indulge in it to build on irrational prejudices and thus to stir up hatred – as was the case with much Nazi propaganda against Jewish people.”
I posted the CP review without comment. I’ve not seen the film, so cannot make an informed judgement about the review. The thesis that at least some of these ‘missionaries’ have stirred up anti-gay sentiment is, given other things I’ve heard, entirely credible.
Does that make my own position clear for you, Ford? (I have the impression – maybe quite wrongly – that you are worried about ‘where I stand’. 🙂 )
Sorry, anything Mr Barton says or repeats has to be fact-checked.
So really the ‘Hitler position’ seems to be ‘guns for everyone, except those arbitrarily selected on ideological grounds to be murdered’, or something of that sort?
I didn’t know that. Thanks, Zoe.
(I think it highly unlikely that anyone in the USA is going to propose anything remotely like this, or that might lead to anything remotely like this!)
Sorry, that last comment should be directed to MWorrell. Boo is tired.
“Are you unaware of how common this rhetoric is on the right?”
As if I didn’t hear Bush routinely compared to various dictators for 8 years. Come on. This is commonplace rhetoric on the right and the left for those prone to it. I once arrived at my local post office and was accosted on the street by war protesters handing out images of Bush as a monkey with the words “IDIOT” across the top. I lived in Kent, Ohio and went to Kent State, so no one can sell me on the superior decency and respectful rhetoric of the left.
(On the matter of the Iraq War: one must pay tribute to those who, in good faith and often with great skill, served in their respective militaries, and be mindful of the sensibilities of those who lost loved ones, or who now live with disabilities, as a result of the war itself and its all-too-bloody aftermath. My own reservations were always about the policy, which I, along with the majority of my own compatriots, considered from the outset to be seriously flawed. A more ‘gradual’ approach that showed a greater appreciation of the whole political context in that region might have worked much better, and cost much less in both resources and, more importantly, human lives. But one shouldn’t really ‘cry over spilt milk’, I suppose – rather learn the hard lessons of that whole sad episode.)
OK, OK, I admit it. I did compare some of the conditions in detainee camps under Bush to Auschwitz.
It strikes me that conservatives like Barton don’t have the least interest in establishing a dialogue, instead they treat politics as polemics. You can find similar persons on the Left, but they aren’t part of the Democratic mainstream, like Barton, Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, the NRA, etc. are part of the Republican mainstream, judging by the way they have been able to affect elections. This stonewalling has become the standard policy of the Republican Party, determined to lead by right of their presumed authority, rather than a collective will of the people.
It is true that there is still far too much homophobia from some quarters. However, the evidence to hand suggests that a majority of Americans disapprove of homophobia; and it is clearly the case that a majority of western Europeans find homophobia unacceptable. (Of course, one can easily cite numerous examples of homophobic speech and behaviour in both the US and W. Europe.)
The worst problems are elsewhere, and it does look as if some are exploiting this, mindful of the fact that they are losing the argument on their ‘home turf’.
In short, Ford, I don’t agree with you regarding the specific point you raise above, whilst sharing your concern in respect of evident homophobia among certain groups of people and acknowledging that ‘vigilance’ and activism are still necessary lest there be ‘backsliding’.
One of the most important theses of the late Karl Popper was: Truth is not obvious.
That’s why we must always sustain on arguments, and never can rely on mere indignation about “offensive” remarks.
You can find the arguments in this case for example in the work of Stephen P. Halbrook. The more statist, authoritarian or totalitarian a government is, the more do they fear armed opposition. And the more statist, authoritarian or totalitarian a government is , the more are they apt to construct an interior enemy, even if there is none or nearly none (like the Dept for Home Security under Obama).
May I add as a German: The Weimar Republic was intended as liberal, but was hampered by illiberal tendencies on both sides which led to a smallscale civil war and a government which wasn’t able to reintegrate people or to create mutual trust but which reduced its activities on rather voluntary and deliberate suppressive measures, some time against the rightwingers, some time against the leftwingers . In fact, those illiberal parts of Weimar lawmaking formed a block that was much helpful and often used by the Nazis (like the formula that “unreliable” persons mustn’t get arms in which “unreliable” had always been a code word for political opponents) . Insofar the final gun laws of 1938 were neither stricter nor laxer but only more selective (in favor of the government-supporting groups and in disfavour of possible opponents).
I happen to be a regular reader of Christian Post. IMO, their editorial slant is decidedly homophobic. They regularly suggest that gay people are harming society and threatening religious liberty. A quick search of the website offers myriad vibrant examples.
In foreign affairs, CP objects to attempts US diplomats to end the faith-based abuse of gay people. Note the fear mongering headline:
“In Pushing Homosexual Agenda Globally, Obama Admin Seeks to Co-opt, Marginalize Religion”
And look at this attempt to smear supporters of marriage equality as generally immoral. The researchers in the article suggest, once again, that gay people cannot commit themselves “permanently and exclusively”, and that equality supporters are OK with infidelity. There are SO many problems with this study. It is more junk science meant to stigmatize those who affirm gay relationships and to justify the marginalization of people who are gay.
Here’s an article that objects to anti-bullying policies in schools- particularly those that include sexual orientation and gender identity protections (note that those terms appear in scare quotes). According to the article, those protections are part of the gay agenda to sexualize children. It’s worth noting that there is no opposing view in this article.
So I still have to agree with Straight Grandmother. An Internet meme is offensive, but the continued homophobia from the conservative Christians – and the toxic environment it engenders for gay people – is far more dangerous.
FTR, I did say “more and more” (and not “all” or “most”), and I maintain that this is indeed the case, for example: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/09/gay-marriage-poll_n_2267594.html
That said, it cannot be denied that there is still much damage and distress caused by anti-gay propaganda.
(Of course, Ford, the comment of mine to which you refer was in response to, and in agreement with aspects of, SGM’s comment about the relative dangers of calling Obama names and of anti-gay propaganda of the kind favoured by the likes of the FRC.)
But, Ford, I do think that many people, even in the US, look at the FRC/AFA filth and think “this is rubbish!” (Certainly, such filth cuts increasingly little ice on this side of the Atlantic.)
As for the evangelical community’s responsibility to ‘hold accountable’ these organizations: I agree – the sooner this is done ‘on a grand scale’, the better. This will involve helping people to take personal responsibility (always a good thing!) for evaluating what they observe around them, rather than hanging on the every word of ‘Pastor So-and-so’. Some evangelicals are already doing this, of course – Throckmorton among them; ‘liberals’ like myself have been putting the ‘counter-position’ for years (though I’ve really become aware of the antics of outfits like the FRC and the AFA only in more recent times, since following closely events in places like Uganda).
You say: “Fortunately, it is now the case that, at least in our societies, more and more people are understanding the ridiculous nature of this subtle and insidious form of gay bashing.”
All I can say is “from your lips to God’s ears”. If you go to the website of the Family Research Counsel website today (not exactly a fringe group), you will find a pdf of a brochure called “10 myths of homosexuality”. In it you will discover that people who are gay are *really* mentally unstable, child molesters who are incapable of monogamy and are raising their children to be gay.
And each of these vile claims are supported by pseudo science – so it *must* be true.
I dare say that’s far more dangerous than an internet meme that compares a politician to Hitler. President Obama can take care of himself. What does the gay kid in Podunk, Pennsyltucky do when his parents, his church, and his classmates believe these lies from a “trusted” Christian organization?
When will the evangelical community hold organizations like the FRC and the AFA accountable for their insidious and not-so-subltle gay bashing? I’m praying the day arrives when your statement is correct.
As I remember, Bush was vilified for what he did: eg, authorize torture. And right after the World Trade Center was attacked there was widespread support for him. That he managed to turn that support into vilification was because of his actions. I don’t remember anyone on the left calling him Hitler. Certainly no one in any position of influence. President Obama has faced this torrent of filth since before he took office, before he’d had a chance to do anything, because of who he is not what he’s done. I’ll pause for a moment while we think what’s different. While it’s true that Bush was mocked for his seeming lack of mental acuity we are now seeing president Obama called the anti-Christ because a fly landed on his forehead.
Warren makes a very good point. No Democratic leader has ever indulged in this stuff. No Democratic congressman ever called president Bush a liar during the State of the Union.
I reckon them, while Barton might claim to be a ‘mainstream’ Republican, many Republicans would not see things that way, and not at all happy about being ‘burdened with a barton’! That said, it cannot be denied that the GOP does appear to have big ‘unity problem’ just now. Perhaps the leaders of the GOP need to have a very careful ‘think’ about their political philosophy and programme.
But I entirely take the point of your question …
RE: the comparisons of Bush and Hitler, I am trying to remember what group did that. Anyone know? My reason for asking is that I don’t think it was a prominent left group in the mainstream of the Dem party. Barton on the other hand is in the mainstream/right of the GOP and is a pretty prominent Christian right figure.
I wouldn’t describe the behaviour of B and S as ‘Christian’ (cheap, and untruthful, jibes, and crass generialzations are not consistent with the example of Christ).
(It would also be true to say that I, and many other Christians, would the most profound moral, philosophical and theological differences with the likes of B and S.)
These people are frightened. They see what they think gives meaning to their lives being taken from them by people who are (perfectly reasonably IMO) no longer prepared to be dictated to and/or sneered at.
Human society is in a constant state of flux, while the fundamental attributes (e.g. the need for meaning, for progress, for freedom and for love) of the human person are unchanging. In this context we need some kind of framework for understanding the proper relationship between the Church and the State, and much of what we discuss on this blog concerns, in the end, that relationship. I find the following way of thinking helpful:-
“The Church does not have technical solutions [regarding socio-economic policy] to offer and should not claim “to interfere in any way in the politics of States.” She does, however, have a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to the human person, and the dignity and vocation thereof. Without truth, it is easy to fall into an empiricist and sceptical view of life, incapable of rising to the level of praxis because of a lack of interest in grasping the values — sometimes even the meanings — with which to judge and direct it. Fidelity to the human person requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom (cf. Jn 8:32) and of the possibility of integral human development. For this reason the Church must search for truth, proclaim it tirelessly and RECOGNIZE IT WHEREVER IT IS MANIFEST. This mission of truth is something that the Church can never renounce. Her social doctrine is a particular dimension of this proclamation: it is a service to the truth which sets us free. Open to the truth, FROM WHICHEVER BRANCH OF KNOWLEDGE IT COMES, the Church’s social doctrine must receive it, assemble into a unity the fragments in which it is often found, and mediate it within the constantly changing life-patterns of the society of peoples and nations.”
(The EMPHASIS is mine, by the way.)
Of course, the difficult bit is putting this idea into practice, but surely a good place to start is to be honest about history (and therefore not say that someone is ‘like Hitler’ when it is abundantly clear that he/she is nothing of the kind).
It seems that Christians excel at this activity:
University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt explored this myth in depth in a 2004 article published in the Fordham Law Review. As it turns out, the Weimar Republic, the German government that immediately preceded Hitler’s, actually had tougher gun laws than the Nazi regime. After its defeat in World War I, and agreeing to the harsh surrender terms laid out in the Treaty of Versailles, the German legislature in 1919 passed a law that effectively banned all private firearm possession, leading the government to confiscate guns already in circulation. In 1928, the Reichstag relaxed the regulation a bit, but put in place a strict registration regime that required citizens to acquire separate permits to own guns, sell them or carry them.
The 1938 law signed by Hitler that LaPierre mentions in his book basically does the opposite of what he says it did. “The 1938 revisions completely deregulated the acquisition and transfer of rifles and shotguns, as well as ammunition,” Harcourt wrote. Meanwhile, many more categories of people, including Nazi party members, were exempted from gun ownership regulations altogether, while the legal age of purchase was lowered from 20 to 18, and permit lengths were extended from one year to three years.
The law did prohibit Jews and other persecuted classes from owning guns, but this should not be an indictment of gun control in general. Does the fact that Nazis forced Jews into horrendous ghettos indict urban planning?
Yes, I’m sure you are right that the use of ‘Hitler etc comparisons’ is often about avoiding the arguments (usually because one is thinking one will lose).
Tom Van Dyke- when you can pull out examples of Democratic congresspersons winking and nodding to 9/11 truthers the way some Republican congresspersons have winked and nodded at the birthers,a nd when the left begins building up multiple institutions whose purpose is to attempt to rewrite reality by fiat, then you might have a point.
Yes, there are crazy people on the extreme right and the extreme left. However, the left wing crazies have been isolated and irrelevant since at least as far back as the Reagan era. The right wing crazies, meanwhile, have taken over their party. At this particular point in history, this kind of thing is more common and more influential on the right. I do not think any objective honest informed person can deny that fact.
Y’all just fall off the turnip truck? This is old hat. And of course Dubya and the right have got more of this Hitler crap than the left. The left is accused of Stalinism. ;-P
Reductio ad Hitlerum, also argumentum ad Hitlerum, (Latin for “reduction to” and “argument to” and dog Latin for “Hitler” respectively) is a term coined by conservative philosopher Leo Strauss in 1951. According to Strauss, the Reductio ad Hitlerum is an informal fallacy that consists of trying to refute an opponent’s view by comparing it to a view that would be held by Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party.
According to Strauss, Reductio ad Hitlerum is a form of ad hominem or ad misericordiam, a fallacy of irrelevance, in which a conclusion is suggested based solely on something’s or someone’s origin rather than its current meaning. The suggested rationale is one of guilt by association. Its name is a variation on the term reductio ad absurdum.
Reductio ad Hitlerum is sometimes called playing the Nazi card, by analogy to playing the race card. According to its critics and proponents, it is a tactic often used to derail arguments, because such comparisons tend to distract and anger the opponent.
“As if I didn’t hear Bush routinely compared to various dictators for 8 years.”
Not sure I ever did. That’s not to say he wasn’t the object of lots of derisive comments, but they generally weren’t of the “Bush = Hitler” variety. Mostly he was criticized as a small-minded incompetent.
Well, SGM, I understand your point: certainly the comparison is so patently ridiculous that no sensible person will take it seriously, and therein lies its relative ‘harmlessness’.
By contrast, some of the anti-gay rhetoric (e.g. in relation to child abuse) is often carefully calculated by those who indulge in it to build on irrational prejudices and thus to stir up hatred – as was the case with much Nazi propaganda against Jewish people. Fortunately, it is now the case that, at least in our societies, more and more people are understanding the ridiculous nature of this subtle and insidious form of gay bashing.
Oh come on, saying Obama is like Hitler is chicken scratch compared to the persecution and verbal abuse that sexual minorities experience day in and day out in our country.
Of course it is appalling, yes it is, but in the grand scheme of things this is mild.
I think you have a point there, MWorrell: all kinds of people direct rhetoric at political leaders. In the case of the Iraq War, it can be argued that, relative to its declared aims (making ‘the West’ safer and improving the lot of ordinary Iraqis), it was a failure – so maybe ‘idiotic’ is a justifiable epithet for that war.
We should of course reserve any comparisons with the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Amin for those who advocate mass murder or arbitrary systematic persecution, or those who express support for them: people like Uganda’s David Bahati, for example.
On the specific matter of proposing laws that regulate the exercise of ‘the right to bear arms’: it is clearly ridiculous to suggest that someone who advocates such laws is in any way ‘like Hitler’, and it is perhaps this palpable absurdity that many on the centre-right of politics must find so irritating and undermining.
This kind of thing is one reason why the GOP lost the election by almost 5 million votes. It’s a complete ‘turn off’ for the average sensible American. (We over here don’t know whether to laugh or cry!)
Are you unaware of how common this rhetoric is on the right?
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