NYT on That Study of Homophobes With Gay Feelings
We talked recently about some current research indicating that those who are strongly anti-gay often have homosexual feelings themselves. The New York Times Sunday Review
this week has an article by one of the researchers who conducted this study.
An interesting new psychological measurement technique was used in this study, and the author explains it fairly well. BTW, the paper was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
, which is the most prestigious journal in social psychology. I will skip the introduction -- Larry Craig, Ted Haggard, Young Republicans, etc. -- and get to the theoretical part.
One theory is that homosexual urges, when repressed out of shame or fear, can be expressed as homophobia. Freud famously called this process a “reaction formation” — the angry battle against the outward symbol of feelings that are inwardly being stifled. Even Mr. Haggard seemed to endorse this idea when, apologizing after his scandal for his anti-gay rhetoric, he said, “I think I was partially so vehement because of my own war.”
It’s a compelling theory — and now there is scientific reason to believe it. In this month’s issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, we and our fellow researchers provide empirical evidence that homophobia can result, at least in part, from the suppression of same-sex desire.
Our paper describes six studies conducted in the United States and Germany involving 784 university students. Participants rated their sexual orientation on a 10-point scale, ranging from gay to straight. Then they took a computer-administered test designed to measure their implicit sexual orientation. In the test, the participants were shown images and words indicative of hetero- and homosexuality (pictures of same-sex and straight couples, words like “homosexual” and “gay”) and were asked to sort them into the appropriate category, gay or straight, as quickly as possible. The computer measured their reaction times.
The twist was that before each word and image appeared, the word “me” or “other” was flashed on the screen for 35 milliseconds — long enough for participants to subliminally process the word but short enough that they could not consciously see it. The theory here, known as semantic association, is that when “me” precedes words or images that reflect your sexual orientation (for example, heterosexual images for a straight person), you will sort these images into the correct category faster than when “me” precedes words or images that are incongruent with your sexual orientation (for example, homosexual images for a straight person). This technique, adapted from similar tests used to assess attitudes like subconscious racial bias, reliably distinguishes between self-identified straight individuals and those who self-identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
Using this methodology we identified a subgroup of participants who, despite self-identifying as highly straight, indicated some level of same-sex attraction (that is, they associated “me” with gay-related words and pictures faster than they associated “me” with straight-related words and pictures). Over 20 percent of self-described highly straight individuals showed this discrepancy.
Notably, these “discrepant” individuals were also significantly more likely than other participants to favor anti-gay policies; to be willing to assign significantly harsher punishments to perpetrators of petty crimes if they were presumed to be homosexual; and to express greater implicit hostility toward gay subjects (also measured with the help of subliminal priming). Thus our research suggests that some who oppose homosexuality do tacitly harbor same-sex attraction. Homophobic? Maybe You’re Gay
The implicit association test is unique in that it does not ask subjects to report how they feel about something, it measures their reaction time. The idea is that familiar ideas are processed faster than unfamiliar ones, concepts that are grouped together that appear contradictory take longer to react to, and so forth. People are often unaware of their real feelings or hesitant to report them, and the IAT is able to provide data about the strength of associations which can lead to understanding of the individual's cognitive state.
It seems like a sad self-reinforcing negative feedback loop. A person experiences some homosexual feelings, realizes that his environment will punish him for it, and so rather than expressing his positive feelings he joins up with the side that seeks to punish him for having them. I think that a lot of people actually think that everybody struggles with these feelings, and that's why you have to constantly fight against the mythical "gay agenda" and all that it supposedly stands for. It is hard for them to understand that there are people who are inherently heterosexual who simply do not have homosexual feelings or don't worry about them if they do, and that there are homosexually-oriented people who do not feel shame.
What leads to this repression? We found that participants who reported having supportive and accepting parents were more in touch with their implicit sexual orientation and less susceptible to homophobia. Individuals whose sexual identity was at odds with their implicit sexual attraction were much more frequently raised by parents perceived to be controlling, less accepting and more prejudiced against homosexuals.
It’s important to stress the obvious: Not all those who campaign against gay men and lesbians secretly feel same-sex attractions. But at least some who oppose homosexuality are likely to be individuals struggling against parts of themselves, having themselves been victims of oppression and lack of acceptance. The costs are great, not only for the targets of anti-gay efforts but also often for the perpetrators. We would do well to remember that all involved deserve our compassion.
So our assignment is to feel compassion for hateful people and oppose them.
Lesbian Pack Leader Kicked Out of Boy Scouts
Recently the Girl Scouts dealt gracefully with the issue of a transgender girl joining a troop. While they said they will determine membership on a case by case basis, the default position is that they will be inclusive and give all girls the opportunity to take part in scouting. They allowed the girl to remain and they stood by their decision against the expected whirlwind of faux controversy.
The Boy Scouts, on the other hand, just kicked a lesbian den mother out solely because of her sexual orientation.
The other parents are not happy about it.
The first-graders in Ohio Pack 109's Tiger Scouts didn't know or care their den mother was a lesbian - at least not until the Boy Scouts of America threw her out over the organization's ban on gays.
Now, parents who were aware of Jennifer Tyrrell's sexual orientation well before she took the boys on campouts and helped them carve race cars for the annual Pinewood Derby have rallied to her defense in a case that has re-ignited the debate over the Scouts' policy.
The Boy Scouts of America, whose oath calls for members to be "morally straight," maintains that as a private organization it has the right to exclude gays and atheists from its ranks.
That stance was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 but has led many state and local governments to deny support for the Scouts.
Male scout leaders who are gay have long been barred, but instances of women being excluded are not well-documented.
Tyrrell said she only reluctantly allowed her 7-year-old son Cruz Burns to join the Scouts in Bridgeport, where she lives with her partner and their four children. Told by the local cub master that it didn't matter that she is a lesbian, she was drafted to lead the pack in September.
Tyrrell told parents at their first meeting about her sexual orientation. Some already knew her because she had coached youth baseball and volunteered at school, organizing class parties and reading to children.
"She wasn't trying to hide anything," said Rob Dunn, whose son is among the dozen or so members of the boys-only pack. "Nobody I know of has ever made a single complaint against her." Scout parents rally around ousted pack leader
There are two questions here. One is whether the Boy Scouts should be allowed to do this, and the other is whether it is the right thing to do. It appears that the courts have ruled that anti-gay discrimination is permissible, I suppose someone could take it to court but at this time it is a legal thing to do. But what in the world do the Boy Scouts gain by being jerks about this? What message does this send to the boys in the pack? It doesn't make anything better in any way. It appears that these kinds of decisions will only make the Boy Scouts a thing of the past.
Improvements, I'm Sure
Just FYI, the Blogger service that we use to post this blog has been undergoing major changes for the past few weeks. You might have noticed inconsistent fonts, double-spacing between paragraphs -- the user interface for posting has changed drastically, too, it's even worse from this side!
I see that the most recent post is in a tiny font. I don't know why that is, apparently they have decided that is our "new look." I can't say I'm happy with Google products' recent hard-to-see scroll bars, wordy screens with too many options, and other so-called improvements, but that's what you get for free. I will try to work on our template and see if we can maker it readable again. Bear with us.
Big Ruling for Transgender Rights
This will be a big deal, a breakthrough for transgender Americans. HuffPo (among others) has it:
In what has been hailed as a "landmark" move, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled Monday that employers which discriminates against an employee or potential employee based on their gender identity is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex. Transgender Employees Now Protected By Anti-Discrimination Law After 'Landmark' EEOC Ruling
You can read the EEOC ruling HERE.
The Transgender Law Center had filed the complaint on behalf of a California woman who was denied employment by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). The TLC issued a statement that said in part:
Ms. Macy, a veteran and former police detective, initially applied for the position as male and was told that she virtually was guaranteed the job. Ms. Macy was exceptionally qualified for the position, having a military and law enforcement background and being one of the few people in the country who had already been trained on ATF’s ballistics computer system. After disclosing her gender transition mid-way through the hiring process, Ms. Macy was told that funding for that position had been suddenly cut. She later learned that someone else had been hired for the job.
In response to the EEOC’s decision, Ms. Macy stated, “As a veteran and a police officer, I’ve worked my whole career to uphold the values of fairness and equality. Although the discrimination I experienced was painful both personally and financially, and led to the loss of my family’s home to foreclosure, I’m proud to be a part of this groundbreaking decision confirming that our nation’s employment discrimination laws protect all Americans, including transgender people. I’m grateful for the help of Transgender Law Center, which believed in me from the start and helped guide me through this process. No one should be denied a job just for being who they are.”
The decision today follows a clear trend by federal courts in recent years holding that transgender people are protected by Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination. But it has even broader implications than a court decision, because the EEOC is the agency charged with interpreting and enforcing federal discrimination laws throughout the nation. The EEOC’s decision will impact every employer, public and private, throughout the nation. The decision is entitled to significant deference by the courts, and will be binding on all federal agencies.
Transgender Law Center’s Legal Director Ilona Turner explained, “It’s incredibly significant that the Commission has finally put its stamp of approval on the common-sense understanding that discrimination against transgender people is a form of sex discrimination. That’s true whether it’s understood as discrimination because of the person’s gender identity, or because they have changed their sex, or because they don’t conform to other people’s stereotypes of how men and women ought to be.” Groundbreaking! Federal Agency Rules Transgender Employees Protected by Sex Discrimination Law
2.6 million Maryland residents are currently covered by some kind of gender-identity nondiscrimination law, but our brave leaders in Annapolis failed to bring a statewide bill up to a vote in this year's legislative session, even though it had widespread support. I'm no lawyer, but to me it appears that while this ruling applies to employment specifically, the principle generalizes to other situations.
Levon Helm has died
Levon Helm came to fame in a rootsy rock group that featured three extraordinary voices. But you could always tell which was his: It was the sound of the lusty wildcat, the stern Southern preacher, the depleted Confederate soldier, the dirt farmer at the end of his day.
Helm, 71, who as a drummer backed a pair of legendary musicians and then became a star himself with The Band and as a solo artist, died today from throat cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
"Thank you, fans and music lovers, who have made his life so filled with joy and celebration," said his daughter, Amy, and wife, Sandy, in a statement released Tuesday before he died. "He has loved nothing more than to play, to fill the room up with music, lay down the backbeat and make the people dance! He did it every time he took the stage." The Band's Levon Helm dies at age 71
Saw him at Wolf Trap last year, a beautiful concert. The man lived for his music.
This song has been on my mind the last few days, since his family announced he was in the end stage of cancer.
Schools Consider Flyer Ban
There is something I have always called schoolteacher logic: "If I let you do it, I'd have to let everyone do it."
This kind of reasoning is simply a way of refusing to be responsible for deciding between two things. On the playground it may be arbitrary and make life bearable, but in matters of policy it is a kind of intellectual cowardice. There is no case to be made for a policy that states that if good things are allowed, bad things need to be allowed, as well. There is a strong case to be made for the school district setting an example for students and the community by making a decision to oppose something that even the Superintendent says is "reprehensible and deplorable," and promoting the things that lead to good health and happiness, and are also consistent with the curriculum that is taught in the district.
For years, Montgomery County, Maryland, public schools have been passing out flyers promoting Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX). These flyers try to convince gay students that they can change their sexual orientation. It's a slick angle, if people complain then PFOX can claim that there is horrible discrimination against "ex-gays," they can frame their hatred of gay people in terms of supporting those fictional individuals who have chosen, against their inherent nature, to become straight. It is like if the KKK claimed they are not racists, they just want to prevent discrimination against white folks.
The school district says they have to hand out the PFOX flyers. If we let the Girl Scouts do it, we have to let everyone do it. This, they say, is what their lawyers told them. If you're going to promote the Girl Scouts and little league you have to promote hate groups, too.
So after years of the schools sending PFOX flyers home with students, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), from whom PFOX stole their name, decided to blanket the school district with flyers. Last week they sent 50,000 flyers home with students in schools across the county.
Now the school district says they will consider not passing out flyers for nonprofits.
Montgomery County Board of Education Policy Committee will recommend at its April 30 meeting that nonprofits no longer be allowed to distribute fliers to middle school and high school students, according to school board member Patricia B. O’Neill. There would be three exceptions, for government agencies, such as the recreation department, the school system and the PTA, she said.
The committee was tasked by the board with reevaluating the school system’s policy on fliers distributed by organizations after a flier sent home in February by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays provoked outrage of some school officials and gay advocates.
The fliers stated that there is no “gay gene” and that sexual orientation is based on “feelings and is a matter of self-affirmation and public declaration.”
As it is, the schools put a disclaimer on all flyers that says they are not responsible for the message, as if that undoes the message or actually dissociates the school district from the fact that it is their paid staff who are handing these things out, good and bad.
If the best they can do is to block all nonprofits' flyers, then that sets a pitiful example but at least they will stop supporting PFOX. Of course they will punish all the positive groups that provide services and activities for students and families, but if this is the best they can do it is better than nothing.
Spitzer Retracts Findings
If you go to the PFOX web site right now, you will see prominently displayed on their home page a video of Dr. Robert Spitzer saying "I think that it's just not true" that homosexuals cannot change their sexual orientation. Spitzer's famous 2001 study was really the only peer-reviewed, published research they could point to that suggested that sexual orientation could be changed by therapy. Spitzer had used a kind of "unique" and controversial research technique where he asked around for names of people who had claimed to stop being gay, then he interviewed them on the phone and concluded that some of them had actually changed.
The individuals Spitzer interviewed had been recommended by anti-gay therapists and religious ministries. These were mostly people who had undergone "conversion therapy" in order to become straight, and a few of them were convinced at the time of their interviews that the therapy had been successful. Spitzer concluded that a small number of highly motivated individuals might be able to change their orientation.
Today American Prospect has a blockbuster article where Spitzer retracts his research. He says he contacted the journal that had originally published it, the Archives of Sexual Behavior, and they had not responded, so he asked a journalist to please publicize his disavowal of his previous research:
In 2001, the year I started college, the ex-gay movement’s claims received a significant boost. In 1973, Columbia professor and prominent psychiatrist Robert Spitzer had led the effort to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness. Four years after Stonewall, it was a landmark event for the gay-rights movement. But 28 years later, Spitzer released a study that asserted change in one’s sexual orientation was possible. Based on 200 interviews with ex-gay patients—the largest sample amassed—the study did not make any claims about the success rate of ex-gay therapy. But Spitzer concluded that, at least for a highly select group of motivated individuals, it worked. What translated into the larger culture was: The father of the 1973 revolution in the classification and treatment of homosexuality, who could not be seen as just another biased ex-gay crusader with an agenda, had validated ex-gay therapy.
An Associated Press story called it “explosive.” In the words of one of Spitzer’s gay colleagues, it was like “throwing a grenade into the gay community.” For the ex-gay movement, it was a godsend. Whereas previous accounts of success had appeared in non-peer-reviewed, vanity, pay-to-publish journals like Psychological Reports, Spitzer’s study was published in the prestigious Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Spitzer’s study is still cited by ex-gay organizations as evidence that ex-gay therapy works. The study infuriated gay-rights supporters and many psychiatrists, who condemned its methodology and design. Participants had been referred to Spitzer by ex-gay groups like NARTH and Exodus, which had an interest in recommending clients who would validate their work. The claims of change were self-reports, and Spitzer had not compared them with a control group that would help him judge their credibility.
This spring, I visited Spitzer at his home in Princeton. He ambled toward the door in a walker. Frail but sharp-witted, Spitzer suffers from Parkinson’s disease. “It’s a bummer,” he said. I told Spitzer that Nicolosi had asked me to participate in the 2001 study and recount my success in therapy, but that I never called him. “I actually had great difficulty finding participants,” Spitzer said. “In all the years of doing ex-gay therapy, you’d think Nicolosi would have been able to provide more success stories. He only sent me nine patients.”
“How’d it turn out for you?” he asked. I said that while I stayed in the closet for a few years more than I might have, I ended up accepting my sexuality. At the end of college, I began to have steady boyfriends, and in February of last year—ten years after my last session with Dr. Nicolosi—I married my partner.
Spitzer was drawn to the topic of ex-gay therapy because it was controversial—“I was always attracted to controversy”—but was troubled by how the study was received. He did not want to suggest that gay people should pursue ex-gay therapy. His goal was to determine whether the counterfactual—the claim that no one had ever changed his or her sexual orientation through therapy—was true.
I asked about the criticisms leveled at him. “In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct,” he said. “The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.” He said he spoke with the editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior about writing a retraction, but the editor declined. (Repeated attempts to contact the journal went unanswered.)
Spitzer said that he was proud of having been instrumental in removing homosexuality from the list of mental disorders. Now 80 and retired, he was afraid that the 2001 study would tarnish his legacy and perhaps hurt others. He said that failed attempts to rid oneself of homosexual attractions “can be quite harmful.” He has, though, no doubts about the 1973 fight over the classification of homosexuality.
“Had there been no Bob Spitzer, homosexuality would still have eventually been removed from the list of psychiatric disorders,” he said. “But it wouldn’t have happened in 1973.”
Spitzer was growing tired and asked how many more questions I had. Nothing, I responded, unless you have something to add.
He did. Would I print a retraction of his 2001 study, “so I don’t have to worry about it anymore”? My So-Called Ex-Gay Life After presenting his results in 2001, Spitzer told the Washington Post that the research "shows some people can change from gay to straight, and we ought to acknowledge that." The findings became the centerpiece of a particularly awkward branch of the anti-gay movement, the "ex-gay" movement, which claims that thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of gay people have become straight. Unfortunately, nobody can ever find one of those converted individuals, except for the leaders and spokespersons of the "ex-gay" movement itself.
I received an email saying that the editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior is now waiting for a formal statement from Spitzer explaining the nature of his retraction. This is a big event in the war against bigotry.
Groups Hand Out Positive Flyers in MCPS
The Montgomery County Public School District quarterly passes out PFOX flyers to students falsely suggesting they can overcome their homosexual feelings and learn to identify as straight people. The Superintendent of schools has said that the flyers are "disgusting and reprehensible," but the schools continue to distribute them to MoCo schoolchildren.
Starting today, a coalition of several prominent groups will be distributing positive flyers in MCPS schools with a message that is scientifically accurate and is in line with the school district's health curriculum.
Beginning this morning, PFLAG, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Equality Maryland Foundation will distribute nearly 50,000 flyers in all 25 Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) high schools. The flyer addresses issues raised by dangerous anti-LGBT materials previously circulated to students, and will be distributed to all high school students within MCPS as part of the school system’s flyer distribution program.
The flyers provide schools with resources for LGBT students, and also counter misinformation spread by a group known as Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), which recently distributed flyers in some MCPS high schools asserting that gay people "can seek help and information on overcoming their feelings." The PFOX flyers also urge readers to go to the PFOX website, which directs readers to therapies that purportedly can change one's sexual orientation.
“It is vital for young people in Montgomery County to have access to accurate information,” said Christine P. Sun, the director of SPLC’s LGBT rights project. “While spreading this kind of misinformation is dangerous to the well-being of LGBT youth, not having the facts is a threat to all students.”
The notion that sexual orientation can be changed has been rejected or highly criticized by every American mainstream medical and mental health professional association.
For example, the American Medical Association "opposes the use of ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon a prior assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation."
The mainstream groups “have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be ‘cured.’” 
As the American Psychiatric Association explains, the “potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.”
“There have been too many stories of suicide arising from such therapies for us to remain silent in the face of the PFOX flyers,” said Patrick Wojahn of the Equality Maryland Foundation.
MCPS Superintendent Joshua P. Starr has called the PFOX flyers "disgusting and reprehensible."
“We applaud the superintendent’s position. But it is unfortunate that the MCPS health education curriculum does not address this issue, nor does it permit health teachers to convey to students the conclusions of the mainstream medical and mental health professional associations that being gay is not an illness – unless a student specifically asks,” said David S. Fishback, of Metro DC PFLAG. “Fortunately, the Board of Education's Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development and MCPS's health education advisors from the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended the inclusion of this information in the health education curriculum, information that would counter the PFOX canards. We have urged MCPS to adopt these recommendations.”
The coalition formed by PFLAG, the SPLC and the Equality Maryland Foundation is distributing flyers with this information so that LGBT students will know they are being supported by the adults in the community, and to fill in the gaps currently existing in the health education curriculum. The absence of such knowledge contributes to bullying.
The coalition is working together to expose the dangers of conversion therapy and ensure that all LGBT youth are protected.
The two-sided flyer can be seen here and here.
10 Countries That Never Heard of Gay Marriage
Gay-Haters Are Secretly Gay, Do You Think?
Science Daily has a review this week of a set of studies showing something that will surprise no one. It seems there is a lot of scientific evidence showing that those who are most anti-gay are themselves attracted to members of their own sex and come from authoritarian homes.
Homophobia is more pronounced in individuals with an unacknowledged attraction to the same sex and who grew up with authoritarian parents who forbade such desires, a series of psychology studies demonstrates.
The study is the first to document the role that both parenting and sexual orientation play in the formation of intense and visceral fear of homosexuals, including self-reported homophobic attitudes, discriminatory bias, implicit hostility towards gays, and endorsement of anti-gay policies. Conducted by a team from the University of Rochester, the University of Essex, England, and the University of California in Santa Barbara, the research will be published the April issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
"Individuals who identify as straight but in psychological tests show a strong attraction to the same sex may be threatened by gays and lesbians because homosexuals remind them of similar tendencies within themselves," explains Netta Weinstein, a lecturer at the University of Essex and the study's lead author.
"In many cases these are people who are at war with themselves and they are turning this internal conflict outward," adds co-author Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester who helped direct the research. Is Some Homophobia Self-Phobia?
When I first got involved in the debate over the inclusion of sexual orientation in Montgomery County's sex-ed curriculum, I thought it was a low blow to accuse the opposition of having "issues" with their own sexuality. I believed them when they argued that their religion forced them to hold the attitudes they did, I thought there must be something un-obvious going on, maybe some obscure dogma that didn't make sense to me, and that the obvious explanation -- that they had personal issues -- was unkind.
But the obvious thing is just this: there is nothing about someone else's sexual orientation that should upset anybody. Unless you are considering dating a person, their sexual orientation is irrelevant. So there are gay people, maybe you can't imagine feeling like they do, so what? There really is nothing to get upset about. There is no rational way of looking at the world where one person's sexual orientation is another person's business, and that's all there is to it.
But we have been dealing since 2004 with people in our community who imagine grand conspiracies of gay people trying to recruit children into their "lifestyle," trying to take over the world and undermine democracy, not to mention Christianity.
And what motivates them -- love of God, faith in Jesus? I don't think so, no.
The paper includes four separate experiments, conducted in the United States and Germany, with each study involving an average of 160 college students. The findings provide new empirical evidence to support the psychoanalytic theory that the fear, anxiety, and aversion that some seemingly heterosexual people hold toward gays and lesbians can grow out of their own repressed same-sex desires, Ryan says. The results also support the more modern self-determination theory, developed by Ryan and Edward Deci at the University of Rochester, which links controlling parenting to poorer self-acceptance and difficulty valuing oneself unconditionally.
The findings may help to explain the personal dynamics behind some bullying and hate crimes directed at gays and lesbians, the authors argue. Media coverage of gay-related hate crimes suggests that attackers often perceive some level of threat from homosexuals. People in denial about their sexual orientation may lash out because gay targets threaten and bring this internal conflict to the forefront, the authors write.
The research also sheds light on high profile cases in which anti-gay public figures are caught engaging in same-sex sexual acts. The authors cite such examples as Ted Haggard, the evangelical preacher who opposed gay marriage but was exposed in a gay sex scandal in 2006, and Glenn Murphy, Jr., former chairman of the Young Republican National Federation and vocal opponent of gay marriage, who was accused of sexually assaulting a 22-year-old man in 2007, as potentially reflecting this dynamic.
"We laugh at or make fun of such blatant hypocrisy, but in a real way, these people may often themselves be victims of repression and experience exaggerated feelings of threat," says Ryan. "Homophobia is not a laughing matter. It can sometimes have tragic consequences," Ryan says, pointing to cases such as the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard or the 2011 shooting of Larry King.
Even if you are so big-hearted that you can think of these bigots and haters as victims of their own psychodynamics, I am not sure that is a safe way to look at them. In reality, they are responsible adults with an agenda and they must be stopped. Rather than feel sorry for them or sympathize with them in their confusion and self-conflict, I think it is still reasonable to see these rabid homophobes as dangerous elements of our society who campaign against decency, love, and goodness, and to oppose them at every opportunity.
But it's good to have this insight.
Fox: Neo-Nazis Are a Civil Rights Group
You have probably heard that Nazis have been patrolling the streets of Sanford, Florida, where young Trayvon Martin was killed by the local neighborhood watch patrol. It is not surprising that they would be attracted to a spot where racial hostility has the potential to boil over, they are trouble looking for trouble. But I was not really prepared to see how sympathetically the local Fox News channel would play it.
Here is the embedded video. There is a good chance they will take this down, but in the meantime I am linking to it, with the transcription following. The reporter is an African-American woman, standing outside the community where Martin was murdered. The story includes quotes from Jeff Schoep, leader of the National Socialist Movement.
Announcer: Group says it's stepping in now because people in Sanford concerned for their safety have asked them to come in. Fox 35's Jennifer Bisram live in Sanford now, Jen, you spoke to a member of this group, what are they saying tonight?
JB: Keith they say they're not a violent group but they are willing to fight for their people should a race riot break out here in Sanford. They actually tell us tonight that they've been patrolling certain areas in the city of Sanford since last week, including this community here where seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman.
Voice of Jeff Schoep: Now we're in the Seminole County area currently, doing patrol in the wake of the Trayvon, ah, shooting down there.
JB: There's another civil rights group in town, the National Socialist Movement.
JS: A lot of people in the community, in the white community down there have been contacting us out of concern for their safety, just because of racial tensions.
JB: Racial tensions after a seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman [screen shows smiling face of Zimmerman in a coat and tie]. Zimmerman is claiming self-defense and has been in hiding now for weeks.
JS: We're a white civil rights organization and, you know, we go into areas where we're needed, where white citizens need our help.
JB: The white rights organization is based in Detroit and have been around since the seventies. They say they're concerned for Sanford's citizens should a race riot break out.
JS: If they're going to get racially charged incidents going, we have to be down there to represent white people.
JB: At least ten Florida-based members, armed and dressed in all black, will patrol the city of Sanford every every day, everywhere from the retreated Twin Lakes community to city hall.
JS: Blacks have Al Sharpton, you know, the whites have an actual socialist movement similar. White Americans don't seem to have very many spokespeople, and whenever they do have spokespeople it's quite often you see the media refers to them as racists or bigots or hate-mongers.
JB: They say they're just a civil rights group trying to protect people in case things get out of hand.
[ Camera shot of frowning JB, long pause, waiting for cue ]
JB: They say that they intend to follow all the Florida laws while patrolling and they, most of them will be dressed in black military style uniforms. Reporting to you live tonight in Sanford, I'm Jennifer Brisram, Fox thirty five News.
It kind of takes your breath away. No mention that this is a neo-Nazi group, Fox News -- even a black reporter -- refers to them as a "civil rights group." American political rhetoric has drifted so far to the right that Barry Goldwater would now be a liberal and the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement can be described in the media as a civil rights group.
The Next Generation Beatles?
This is so crazy it just might work. Imagine if the four Beatles' sons started a band.
The Telegraph has it:
Sir Paul McCartney's son James said he would be willing to form a 'next generation' Beatles with the sons of the other band members.
The 34-year-old said he was "up for it" and John Lennon's son, Sean, and George Harrison's son, Dhani, had also shown support for the idea, although Ringo Starr's son, drummer Zak, was less keen.
James told the BBC: "I don't think it's something that Zak wants to do.
"Maybe Jason [another of Starr's sons and also a drummer] would want to do it.
"I'd be up for it. Sean seemed to be into it, Dhani seemed to be into it. I'd be happy to do it."
A little farther down in the story ...
James admitted that having the name McCartney was "a help" in the music business and it was "an honour" to be connected to his father.
He said that as a schoolboy he'd dreamt of "being better than The Beatles", adding: "I'm not sure if I can do that. If anything, I would love to be equal to The Beatles - but even that's quite tough."
Yes, I suppose a name like "McCartney" would basically mean that the guy will never know what it's like to play for the bartender and the furniture while a bar owner fumes in the corner, mad at the band for not drawing a crowd to his smelly dive.
I don't know about that last comment, though, do you really think it would be that tough to equal the Beatles? You just shake your hair and go "Yeah yeah yeah," don't you?
Women Voters Going Blue
I usually trust that the national political strategists know what they're doing. They might alienate one group of voters but they know they'll win another. Of course it's risky, if you play to the South you might lose votes in the North and so on -- to win the election you need a majority of the votes, it all comes down to that. And both sides want to win.
Sometimes it is difficult to figure out what the angle is, why a politician would pick a certain fight, but in time the pieces come together and you see what they had in mind. Or sometimes it just fails, they pick a fight and get their butts kicked. In any case, whenever a candidate for office says something you've got to perceive it in light of their effort to win the election.
And so I have looked with a curious eye at this phenomenon that has come to be called "the Republican war on women," even though I don't like that term. They can't be so stupid that they would intentionally offend and drive away fully half of the voting public, but it can't be an accident; they have very specifically targeted issues involving women with the intent in every case of taking rights away and punishing women for attempting to be equal to men.
This week's USA Today/Gallup poll of swing states demonstrates how effective this approach has been:
President Obama has opened the first significant lead of the 2012 campaign in the nation's dozen top battleground states, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, boosted by a huge shift of women to his side.
In the fifth Swing States survey taken since last fall, Obama leads Republican front-runner Mitt Romney 51%-42% among registered voters just a month after the president had trailed him by two percentage points.
The biggest change came among women under 50. In mid-February, just under half of those voters supported Obama. Now more than six in 10 do while Romney's support among them has dropped by 14 points, to 30%. The president leads him 2-1 in this group.
Romney's main advantage is among men 50 and older, swamping Obama 56%-38%.
Republicans' traditional strength among men "won't be good enough if we're losing women by nine points or 10 points," says Sara Taylor Fagen, a Republican strategist and former political adviser to President George W. Bush. "The focus on contraception has not been a good one for us … and Republicans have unfairly taken on water on this issue." Swing States Poll: A shift by women puts Obama in lead
Interesting use of the word "unfairly" there. You try to make it harder for women to get their birth control pills, you propose laws requiring that women should be raped with medical devices when they seek an abortion, you run down Planned Parenthood, you hold a panel discussion on birth control and only invite men, and after a while you are going to "take on water," and it will be perfectly fair.
The Republicans have told women they don't like them, and women are saying, fine, we don't like you either.
This is only April, of course, we look forward to seven months of campaigning. And it is possible that the GOP has a comprehensive strategy that reaches that far into the future, that they are alienating women now to set up a smart move later where they will win them all back again in an irresistible wave of last-minute enthusiasm. I wouldn't rule it out.
On the other hand, it may turn out that their disregard for women is so pervasive that they just can't help themselves, they are doing what they think is right and they will continue to do it. It will be a fascinating year.