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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Conservative Fears of American Queers

[via ThinkProgress]
Discussing his opposition to the Uniting American Families Act -- “which would allow gay Americans the same right straight Americans have to sponsor a foreign partner for citizenship” -- Family Research Council Vice President Peter Sprigg recently offered rhetorical support for exporting gay men and women from America. “I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe homosexuality is destructive to society,” said Sprigg.

Dreams of forced emigration and pogroms for the skeery less-than people. Fascists and fundamentalists always read from the same script, don't they, though? More of those "New Ideas" from the Big Thinkers of Movement Conservatism.


JM Inc. said...

Maybe I had a sheltered up-bringing or something, but every once in a while I hear something like this and it absolutely blows my mind every time. It's... profoundly... bothersome that there are people who.... well, let's rephrase that - there are people out there who believe all sorts of incredible things, but it beggars belief (my belief, at any rate) that some people can come up with the gall to voice such odious opinions publically. How in the contemporary world do you forget that these sorts of things have stopped being socially acceptable outside cross-lighting ceremonies? Whatever happened to, at least, paying lip service to manners and respectfulness?

It reminds me of an opinion piece I read lately in which a woman called to arms her fellow Christians, urging them finally to “kick out” all of the atheists, asking if it wasn’t about damned time they all stopped putting up with such bullshit? It is, after all, a Christian nation (isn’t it?), and though it didn’t matter how you worshipped God, be you Catholic, or Pentecostal, Anglican, or whatever else (notice the respect for diversity), the important bit was that you did worship Him. Well gee, I guess I never realised I was eroding civilisation from within – do I get to pack a suitcase before I get on the train, or will the man with the dog just show me to my place?

jfehlinger said...

> Maybe I had a sheltered up-bringing or something, but. . .
> it absolutely blows my mind every time. It's... profoundly...
> bothersome that there are people who.... well, let's rephrase
> that - there are people out there who believe all sorts of
> incredible things. . .

I was once naive enough to believe that only stupid people
are bigoted. Getting Web access cured me of that. There was
once a document called the "Net Legends FAQ" which collected
the antics of some of the, shall we say, more vociferous
of the participants in the Great Usenet Conversation.
( )

Here's an example from Part 2:

"Mikhail Zeleny (That goes completely against the categorical imperative!):
Russian philosopher wanna-be; *his* objection to homosexuality (yes, I know
I have about six in a row here, but *honestly*, it's one of the big nut-
subjects, no pun intended, on the Net...) seems to be purely abstract: he
can't imagine Kant (I think) approving of it. . ."

This gentleman tangled publicly with Mike Godwin (erstwhile legal counsel
fo the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), and the result of their,
er, conversation made it into the _Wall Street Journal_.

From a blog:
( ):

"In the miscellanea I keep in my standing files I have a letter I printed
from Usenet news in 1992. It was related to a transcontinental cyberspace
tiff. I’m working from memory right now, so I don’t have the names (except,
I think, one: Michael Zeleny), but this letter was a message from one party
to the other inviting him to a duel. Yes, a real live duel, with pistols.
The first party believed that the second party had publicly libeled him
and that the second party was unwilling to stand behind his words with his
honor. This situation had arisen due to some Usenet discussions (regarding
homosexuality, I think) being picked up by a major newspaper for a story that
painted one of the two (probably Zeleny) as an internet crazy. At the time
I thought it was remarkable because cyberspace was something new, a public
square that seemed to have no consequences. The challenged party offered
to resolve the dispute with a game of chess, but the challenger scoffed
that that must be what the other’s honor was worth. . ."

To which the man himself replied:

"Michael Zeleny Says:
December 15th, 2005 at 9:36 am

You got my identity right in recalling the challenge solicited from me by Mike Godwin,
who subsequently backed out of our duel, insisting on substituting a game of
Trivial Pursuit. You can read all about it on Google Groups.

My late teacher Alonzo Church, one of the greatest logicians of our time, set the
standard of discourse in the journal he edited, by articulating his belief that
"the eighteenth-century custom of dueling should be reinstated for this one thing, --
that a man who has been insulted in print should have the right to challenge to a duel;
[for] that would make the writers a little more careful about trying to blow up their
own ego by being sarcastic." Of course, what constitutes a genuine duel is a matter
of definition. The historiography of dueling often subsumes mensur, and up through
the Weimar period the participants in that custom (inter alios, Max Weber and
Erich von Stroheim) thought of it as contiguous in principle with contemporaneously
practiced life and death combat. The point remains that the custom is an educational
rite of passage that I, in my collegiate presumption of fourteen years ago, sought
to establish online as a check on noxious verbiage Usenetters are apt to emit. It
has been my experience that properly administered and arbitrated exchange of blows
is by far the best means of gracefully resolving disagreements that arise between
querulous windbags exemplified by your humble servant. Needless to say, any rules
would do, from the Marquess of Queensbury to the Irish Code Duello, even if, by giving
Godwin his choice of weapons I ensured his survival, though unpardonably taking wicked
Schadenfreude in causing and witnessing his unwarranted tremors. Alas, with his choice
of Trivial Pursuit and water pistols, my chubby nemesis evinced his determination to
shirk, and I had neither the means nor the desire to force his compliance. Still,
life must go on."

I guess!

Here's an example of a long (455 messages total), erudite Usenet thread from 15
years ago entitled "Zeleny and Homosexuality":

(BTW, Zeleny has very sensible opinions about the prospects for artificial
intelligence. Like I said, he's far from stupid.)

Anonymous said...

"They mean getting outside a man and studying him as if he were a gigantic insect: in what they would call a dry impartial light, in what I should call a dead and dehumanized light. They mean getting a long way off him, as if he were a distant prehistoric monster; staring at the shape of his ‘criminal skull’ as if it were a sort of eerie growth, like the horn on a rhinoceros’s nose. When the scientist talks about a type, he never means himself, but always his neighbour; probably his poorer neighbour.
“There are two ways of renouncing the devil,” he said; “and the difference is perhaps the deepest chasm in modern religion. One is to have a horror of him because he is so far off; and the other to have it because he is so near. And no virtue and vice are so much divided as those two virtues.”


“You may think a crime horrible because you could never commit it. I think it horrible because I could commit it. You think of it as something like an eruption of Vesuvius; but that would not really be so terrible as this house catching fire. If a criminal suddenly appeared in this room — — ”
/G.K. Chesterton, on different subject/

There are really no THEM. Not even "bigoted fundamentalists" are THEM. They are you. And that's really can scare you once it sinks in.

Dale Carrico said...

There are really no THEM. Not even "bigoted fundamentalists" are THEM. They are you. And that's [what] really can scare you once it sinks in.

There's a real force in what you say here. I mean, of course there really is a THEM, indeed there are innumerable THEMs, but one discovers that our USes are no less riven by THEMs, and that, in the Freudian parlance "the ego is not master of his own house," that even my I is riven by something like innumerable THEMs, unconscious motives, irrational passions, evolutionary inheritances, fragments of authoritative influences, unexpected activations of discursive entailments that enable our agency while at once bedeviling it and so on.

But it of course true that there are organizations and social formations and communities of interpretation and identification that are discernible and describable as such, with (porous, dynamic) boundaries, with characteristics that differ from others. So too there different (even if only partially and contingently so) factions in the context of historical struggle to achieve collectively very different instrumental or ethical ends. So too there is the basic alterity of instrumentally describable objects, and the different alterity of subjects that compels responsibility whatever our intentions in the matter. One needs a sense of the force of THEM to get at these things, even if it is also true that the THEM has the troubling tendency to sink inside US the closer one scrutinizes it.

I think it is important to grasp that rationality plays out in at least five different registers -- the instrumental, the moral, the aesthetic, the ethical, and the political -- that these registers indispensably (and also interdependently) substantiate wordly selfhood, and that beliefs are warranted in each according to different criteria and practices. I talk about this more here, but this is something about which I really need to write more, in greater depth. Be that as it may, each of these registers also differently constitutes a THEM -- the object, the outsider, the audience, posterity, the peer -- that functions as something like a "constitutive outside" (as vulgar deconstructionism would have it) materializing subjecthood.

The long and the short of it, you are right in what you say about THEM, but we cannot do without THEM, and once this sinks in, the already scary scarring reality you mentioned gets its even more appalling sequel.

By the way, to the extent that you are pointing out that however sanctimonious we may be, there is in almost all of us a betrayed and traumatized child hungry for revenge and capable of anything, that there is in almost all of us a trace of the face we seem most to abhor, that we are all of us prone to error, vulnerable to corruption, oversensitive to abuse and overeager to rationalize our misconduct, well, yes, that is also quite true. The price of liberty, as the saying goes, is eternal vigilance -- and one must direct that vigilance as much within as without.

larvatus said...

In response to backhanded compliments profferred earlier, I would like to clarify my position on exporting gay men and women from America. I generally agree with Justice Antonin Scalia dissenting in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), that state laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are sustainable only in light of validation of laws based on moral choices per Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986). However, I disagree with his conclusion, preferring that laws based on moral choices be restricted as much as possible from interference in the private life of individual citizens. In particular, I object to state interference in mutually agreed upon choices sexual practices. In my country a man has no right to disagree with another man's preferences, on the pain of infringing his neighbor's right to pursue his happiness. I do not approve of the way my gay neighbor deploys his private parts, but my disapproval gives me no right to disagree with his deployment. On the other hand, I reject all state interference in my right of free association and reserve the right to shun in every way those I regard as morally deficient.