So I threw a rock into the DKos memorialization of Mike Wallace by bringing up his 1967 CBS Reports show on "The Homosexuals." For the most part, I was scolded gently because Wallace had apologized for it, which is fine, but then there was this:
We all wish we were as 'perfect!!' as some, now don't we!!It seems that all of us, regardless of where we are on the political spectrum, are willing to give certain types of behavior a free pass because the things they said or wrote don't really affect us personally. As we've seen from all the writing on Trayvon Martin and John Derbyshire over the past couple of days, the right's free pass is for racism, sometimes virulent; from the leftist perspective, it's really apparent that this free pass exists. In the more mainstream media and among the punditry, unfortunately, the free pass is for homophobia. There are, in fact, writers who still have exposure as if nothing has happened, as if they have no past when they said or wrote really offensive stuff. So below, a selective hall of shame, selected because what they wrote hurt me as a gay man in one way or another.
As you read this, please consider whether the liberal press/blogosphere would give any of these people a free pass if they were talking about or writing about Jews or Muslims.
Exhibit A. Joseph Epstein.
Well, now he writes for outlets like the Atlantic and the Weekly Standard. He writes essays, and has them collected in books like Snobbery and Envy and Gossip: The Untrivial pursuit, and has stuff like this said about him in the New York Times:
Epstein brings a journalist’s appetite for research and an essayist’s talent for reflection to themes that traditionally have been left to novelists. “Gossip” takes its place as the latest entry in his entertaining and idiosyncratic catalog of human nature.
There's one essay of his that won't be collected, though. The cover story of the September 1970 issue of Harper’s Magazine was an essay by Epstein, "“Homo/Hetero: The Struggle for Sexual Identity.” In it, among other things, he wrote
I HAVE SAID I THINK HOMOSEXUALS CURSED, and I am afraid I mean this quite literally, in the medieval sense of having been struck by an unexplained injury, an extreme piece of evil luck, whose origin is so unclear as to be, finally, a mystery. Although hundreds have tried, no one has really been able to account for it.and
It is not easy to find what, precisely, the psychiatric-psychoanalytic consensus on homosexuality is at the moment. From what I can gather, the vast majority of practitioners appear to believe homosexuality a sickness; and a somewhat smaller majority appear to side with Freud, as opposed to Bergler, on the extremely limited probability of its being cured.and
At one point, Elliot asked me what I felt about homosexuality for myself. I told him that, sexually, it repelled me. Even had I a desire for a man. I said, I would try my damnedest to fight it off, for knowing something of the mechanisms of my own mind, I know I should probably be made to pay a large measure of guilt and other complicated feelings which I do not now pay in the shabby heterosexual skin I have become rather happily accustomed to. Besides, I said, as long as I didn't have any desire for a man, I didn't feel I was missing anything. I did not put that high a premium on experience for its own sake. I am sure, I told him, that a whole cluster of interesting emotions go along with murdering a man, but I was not ready to murder to experience them. Elliot said that if he thought he could get away with it, he would murder for the experience of murdering.and, the punch line,
If I had the power to do so, I would wish homosexuality off the face of this earth. I would do so because I think that it brings infinitely more pain than pleasure to those who are forced to live with it; because I think there is no resolution for this pain in our lifetime, only, for the overwhelming majority of homosexuals, more pain and various degrees of exacerbating adjustment; and because, wholly selfishly, I find myself completely incapable of coming to turns with it.This article provided the nascent Gay Activists Alliance with the occasion for one of its first zaps, with a follow-up when Harper's refused to publish a rebuttal. Reading it, in the closet at the age of 19, I got the message "if you can't rid yourself of this SIN, kill yourself." As mudcub at I am a Wild Blue Beast notes:
Though Harper's was flooded with letters to the editor in subsequent issues (even up to the 1980s), the author Joseph Epstein never disavowed the article. If anything, he doubled down in a 2002 follow-up, claiming that people who called him a homophobe weren't capable of "textured thought".And yet, he still gets treated as if the article never existed. Free pass.
Exhibit B: Jeff Greenfield, who will represent a whole bunch of "liberal" columnists, all male, who (during the 1970s and 1980s) got themselves into a tizzy whenever the protection of gay men under the law came up. Here's Charles Kaiser, a gay journalist, writing on the tenth anniversary of Stonewall in June 1979:
People don't choose to be gay in America, as Nicholas von Hoffman would have it; they accept a reality within themselves that nine out of ten of their peers have pressured them to reject.Jeff Greenfield. CBS senior political correspondent until April 2011.
But for Mr. von Hoffman, Jeff Greenfield, Adam Wallinsky, and scores of other self-proclaimed liberals — not to mention supposedly enlightened conservatives like George Will — it remains perfectly respectable to oppose the formal extension of the 14th amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws to homosexuals. It is still O.K. to be liberal and anti-gay in America.
To take a not unusually extreme example, listen to the sentiments of self-described "liberal Democrat" Mark Henehan, who wrote the following in the letters column of The Times afer the defeat of the anti-discrimination ordinance in Miami:
"What the blatant gay activists who flaunt their sexual aberration really want is society's full approval of their perverted life style so that their recruitment of young boys and girls will be easier and less expensive."
Would The Times have printed such a letter even ten years ago if had suggested the only reason blacks wanted their rights guaranteed was to simplify the seduction of white women?
Greenfield, a very public newsman, wrote a piece in the Village Voice February 6, 1978 called "Why is Gay Rights Different from Other Rights?" I can't paste from Google News, but I can summarize. No, Gay rights is NOT like black rights or women's rights because there is no such thing as the right to be black or a woman in private, and what gays are really seeking is a right not to be judged for what we do in private. This, for him, is a condition every cultural minority has to endure for being different, and no, there is no civil right to feel comfortable about someone else's behavior.
I was going to say he had evolved, but on his PBS show he has entertained Tony Perkins to talk about the politics of resentment (10/14/2001). Free pass.
Exhibit C. Leslie Marmon Silko
The poet and novelist Leslie Marmon Silko was born on March 5, 1948 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.A. She is of mixed Laguna Pueblo, Mexican and white heritage and she grew up on the Laguna Indian Reservation in eastern New Mexico. As a child Silko attended the Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Later she commuted about 100 miles every day to attend a high school in Albuquerque. In 1969, she graduated from the University of New Mexico magna cum laude with a degree in English. She then enrolled in law school but soon left to pursue a writing career. Silko was influenced by the stories of her people that she heard while growing up on the reservation and they gave her a sense of identity and pride. She wrote poems, short stories and novels drawing on these traditions . . . While living in Alaska in the mid-1970s, Silko wrote Ceremony, the novel she published in 1977. It was one of the first published novels by an American Indian woman (a book by Mourning Dove was probably the first) and received critical acclaim. The MacArthur Foundation awarded her a "genius" fellowship which supported her work on the next novel, Almanac of the Dead, published in 1991. The novel contrasts the decay of the Western society with the culture of the Native American people.
Why is such an esteemed writer here? Because of Almanac of the Dead. I think if you've read so far you'll know who she uses to symbolize the decay of the Western society - white homosexual men.
I'll let the esteemed columnist Gene Lyons explain how in his review of the book for Entertainment Weekly, December 13, 1991:
To underline Caucasian iniquity, much of the narrative concentrates in considerable — one might even say loving — detail upon European penchants for dope snorting, murder, and buggery. Especially buggery. Judging by the number and variety of gay villains in Almanac of the Dead, Silko seems more than a little homophobic.I was assigned this book in my last semester of doctoral classroom work, Spring 2007. I read it with increasing amazement, trying VERY hard to convince myself that the homophobia wasn't gratuitous -- you know, genius grant and all. When I reached page 300, where the last incident Lyons recounts appears, I knew it wasn't, but I soldiered on through the remaining 200+ pages. It's an interesting novel which recounts the history of the American West using Mayan codes and the like, which is why it was assigned, but I made sure we discussed its use in pedagogy considering the likelihood of having a gay man in the classroom.
Of course, all the homosexuality is meant to be deeply symbolic of the white man's spiritual sterility: the bisexual who wins fame exhibiting art photos of his ex-lover's suicide; the gay racist who kidnaps and makes snuff photos of his lover's infant son; the federal judge who watches the activities at whorehouses, then races home to his specially trained basset hounds; the impotent, paraplegic ''bio-materials'' dealer who fellates homeless vagrants even as he murders them by draining their blood for resale. And on and on and on.
For the free pass, we have to look at how academe treats this. I went to the library today to make sure this was happening, and I found three examples (there are probably more, but these should suffice):
1) In an interview Silko gave to Laura Coltelli for a forum in Native American Literature (1992-3), she dismissed the few negative reviews as a "typical white male's response to an outspoken woman."
2) In Gregory Salyer's biography of Silko for the Twayne United States Authors Series (1997), he writes about the "[unmatched] decadence" of all the characters in Almanac, but goes no further.
3) Brewster Fitz, in Silko: Writing Storyteller and Medicine Woman (2004) has a 47 page chapter on Almanac in which he doesn't mention homosexuality at all.
Yep. Free pass.
There are examples in sports too, but I'm not going there this time.
EDIT: How churlish and inconsiderate of me. Feel free to post your own examples of homophobes who seem reasonable about everything else getting a free pass from the media and general public opinion in the comments.
Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 8:48 PM PT: Interestingly, according to High Impact Posts for 4/9 (this was 59th). 141 people viewed this. I wonder if that means anything with regard to the subject matter.