Posted on Mar 4, 2011 by Tom Gilson
Gay-rights activists scored a coup by injecting the language of “homophobia” into our national conversation. They may regret it, though. It’s poised to come back and bite them.
From one perspective, “homophobia” is a truly marvelous term, as strategic as it could possibly be. We who disagree with homosexual practice aren’t just wrong, we’re sick. No need to talk about whether there’s merit in what we believe: our very position on the issue proves we’re mentally and emotionally deficient. Game over.
Thus gay cultural insurgents have used “homophobia” as part of an open strategy to subvert rational discourse. Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen wrote in their 1989 strategy manual After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear & Hatred of Gays in the 90′s (pardon the language, please; it is theirs, not mine):
For us to attempt to argue with homohaters is to risk carrying the argument onto their turf, which gives attention and, implicitly, credence to many of their basic assumptions…. we’d better have a strong emotional appeal in our back pocket. (p. 140)
Propagandistic advertisement can depict homophobic and homohating bigots as crude loudmouths and assholes—people who say not only ‘faggot’ but ‘n___,’ ‘kike,’ and other shameful epithets—who are ‘not Christian.’ … Our effect is achieved without reference to facts, logic, or proof. (pp. 151-153)
(The bold emphasis in all quotes is mine.)
Emotions, not reasons, are at the core of their persuasive strategy. The following comes out of a slightly different context, but it continues to illustrate the non-rational approach these strategists promoted:
The objection will be raised… that we would ‘Uncle Tommify’ the gay community; that we are exchanging one false stereotype for another equally false; that that is not how all gays actually look…. It makes no difference that the ads are lies; not to us, because we’re using them to ethically good effect…. the ads will have their effect on them [straights] whether they believe them or not. (p. 154)
Lest you think these quotes exaggerate their propagandistic intent (or its effect), I invite you to read this short article the same authors wrote two years before the book. (Madsen used a pseudonym for that piece.)
The phobia suffix became an effective tool in creating and managing a strong, non-rational, non-logical, cultural attitude adjustment; a way to achieve a result without needing to be overly concerned about truth. The problem is, like the “gate” suffix, “phobia” turned out to be flexible enough to use anywhere. Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent, analyzes how that has happened:
This successful linking of a hostile attitude towards gays with the emotional disorder that is ‘phobia’ has encouraged others to define themselves as the victims of phobia, too. The coining of the term ‘Islamophobia’ is the most successful recent attempt to customise the homophobia tag for a new group of people: Muslims. The Islamophobia tag gained currency in the 1990s. In 1996, the UK Runnymede Trust’s Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia played a key role in framing anti-Muslim prejudice as a form of irrational sentiment….
[B]y drawing on the successful creation of homophobia, the advocates of the new term of Islamophobia could appeal to an established consensus around identity politics and multiculturalism. Moreover, the constructers of Islamophobia, like those who rewrote the phrase homophobia, could draw on the powerful therapeutic outlook that dominates Anglo-American societies today….
“Homophobia” was the lexical parent of “Islamophobia.” Odd, isn’t it, that the one would have given birth to the other?
I wonder whether someday some gay-rights advocate might feel threatened by Islam. It’s a realistic enough scenario, especially in Europe. We can be sure he would be emphatically opposed to Islam’s extreme social restrictions (far more extreme than evangelical Christianity’s). His strong opposition to Islam would make him “Islamophobic,” diseased with the “irrational sentiment” of “anti-Muslim prejudice.”
I wonder if he might object to being labeled that way. “This is no irrational fear, and I’m not mentally ill,” he would want to say. “I’ve thought this through, and I have reasons to believe there are some things actually wrong with Islam. Don’t just set me aside with a label like that. Let’s at least talk about it.”
And I wonder if he would recognize the irony in that.
“Homophobia” bites back.
Also posted at First Things: Evangel