Thursday, December 10, 2009

Doesn't the guy have a right to be wrong?

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Okay, I keep getting directed to this video in which a cable news talk show host (?) "demolishes" one of these "ex-gay" writers, by linking him to anti-gay laws in Uganda. I take it that people like this interview because they find it exhilarating and hard hitting. I'm a bit bothered by it actually.

I do get that the guy is a bit of a charlatan. He's one of these people that publishes pseudo-psychological books with little to no evidence supporting their claims. In his case, he has a degree in clinical therapy, as well as having once lived a homosexual lifestyle, since disowned. He thinks that qualifies him to promote himself as an expert in "reforming" homosexuals. He's apparently been disbarred for some sort of fraud and he, indeed, sounds like a bit of a snake oil salesman.

As for "reforming" gays, my sense of it is that there are just a lot more bisexuals in the population than anyone wants to admit. When someone lives in a heterosexual marriage for decades, gets divorced, and then settles down with a same sex partner, I just assume they were always bisexual, although I know plenty of people who assume they were "living a lie" before and have "come out" now. Similarly, when someone goes the other way, I just assume they're bi; not that they have been "cured". I think sexuality is probably pretty fluid; something that many monosexuals are frankly way too close-minded about.

So, as for "curing gays", yes, I think the guy is wrong on that count. But, in the first place, I'm not sure that he doesn't believe what he's saying. The interviewer seems to think that he's a con artist, and maybe he is. But I get the feeling here that he's fully bought the con. I think he's trying to convince others of something that he has convinced himself of. It's a small difference, but it's important.

With people like that, I think you have to use reason to try to show them where they're wrong, or at least, why you disagree with them. Instead, the interviewer is really trying to cast as much doubt on him as a person as she can. I think her hope is to dissuade the people who believe what he has to say. But, I'm not sure that the end result isn't that people who already agree with his nonsense will continue to believe in it, because she really just seems to be trying to shame the guy, as opposed to persuasively arguing that he's deluded. But, if he is deluded, what's the point in trying to shame him? How will that change his mind? Or the minds of any of the deluded people who agree with him? What is the point here?

I think the point is to rile up those people who already think that "ex-gays" are deluded. Okay, sure. Great. But where I think she goes over the line is in holding the guy responsible for the horrifying anti-gay laws in Uganda. 1. This guy goes around claiming that gays can "reform themselves"; and 2. the psychos in Uganda are using that to bolster their case that gays should be jailed or executed for not going straight. All of that is evident. But does that mean that the deluded guy is directly responsible for what the psychos are doing in Uganda? Because that's how I take it when she says that he has "blood on his hands", and I don't get the sense that the anti-gay extremists in Uganda really needed the imprimatur of US evangelicals and ex-gay ministries to do what they're doing. And I don't actually think the deluded guy was trying to give them his imprimatur to do those things. Maybe I'm just giving him the benefit of the doubt here.

I realize this is a hair-splitting and vague point I'm making, but I think there's a real difference between saying that the guy is wrong and deluded, which I agree with, and saying that he shouldn't be expressing his deluded opinions because other people with those opinions are trying to get their state to kill homosexuals, and it might encourage them. I think the attempt here is to put his deluded opinions beyond the pale by conflating them with other people's far more extreme opinions. And that's what bothers me.

Does anyone else see that? Am I being too kind? What are you supposed to do when you think that someone else's beliefs are deluded and wrong?

5 comments:

Min said...

If the Ugandan government is using this guy's book as EVIDENCE that gay people are that way by choice, and therefore should be executed, he should feel somewhat responsible for that. It could have been anybody else's right wing, homophobic delusions they could have ben using as an example, but Uganda is holding up this nutter's book as the BASIS for kill the gays law . If people do end up getting executed for being gay in Uganda, everyone that spouts lies like this guy should feel at least a twinge of guilt for spreading the infection. It's pure hate wrapped up in pseudo-psychology self-help self-enlightenment crap that I deplore.

Talking about the gay.. Have you seen Bruno? So hilarious.

Rufus said...

No, but I would definitely pay to see Sacha Baron Cohen interview that guy. Actually, I've been meaning to rent that movie. Borat was, of course, really, really good.

I could be too nice about that guy. I guess what I'm thinking is that he says, "If gays try really really hard, they can be straight," which does seem pretty ridiculous. But the people in Uganda are saying, "We need to lock up the gays for the good of whatever." Since I can't see how the first logically necessitates the second, or how it would lead any sane person to that second idea, I'm not so down on him.

But, yeah, I'd feel pretty shitty if people were using my words to justify killing anyone. And, in general, it seems like smaller countries like Uganda do respond to scorn from the bigger countries, so it certainly couldn't hurt for public figures in the US speak out strongly against human rights abuses in other countries.

I wonder if there's a connection between acceptance of homosexuality and income level. It seems like the really anti-gay countries are always places that are relatively poor like Jamaica. Ah well, it makes no sense to me.

Incidentally, do you find the Kids in the Hall funny?

Rufus said...

I noticed something else when I watched this again- she's saying the guy donated a bunch of his books and a speaker to the group that subsequently used them to push the psycho anti-gay law. I thought she was just saying they cited his books; not that he actually sent them a bunch of support. So, it really is possible that this guy is full of shit. I didn't catch that the first time.

Min said...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/29/uganda-death-sentence-gay-sex

This gives more insight into why the evangelical Christrians have some responsibility in this. Now they're whining they didn't mean for Ugandans to take their lies and take it SO FAR. The gays want to convert your children into loving anal sex! Kill them all! Isn't that the jist of it? Ignorant fools.

That Richard Cohen guy isn't just saying "if gays try really really hard, they can be straight," He's also making up false statistics about how the gays are 12 times more likely to molest children which obviously will turn all the molestees gay. Ugandans(Christian ones, of course--the missionaries really did their job over there) use these "books" to justify their homophobia.

Religion.. it really does poison everything.

Now Kids in the Hall--why do you ask? Emily and I used to sit around watching that in high school. Don't you remember us going around and squishing people's heads? There were a lot of heads to squish in Centreville.

Rufus said...

Eh... people do tend to fuck everything up for themselves, and I just don't get the evangelicals really. But, I remain agnostic about the value of religion. The people who live quiet lives that are strengthened by their faith tend to make a lot less waves than the douchebags, but I've known a lot more of them. When I think of religion, I think of my grandmother, who would have also thought these people are douchebags; or the Jews whose faith got them through a lot of the same kind of persecutions in the Middle Ages, waged by the same sort of power-mongers.

With these sort of charlatans, I think it's about power, not faith. If I was a Christian, I'd want to punch that guy in Uganda. If I was Jesus, he'd get the lightning bolt in the head. The evangelicals have, I think, done more harm to their religion than anyone else alive because they've made faith seem stupid and avaricious.

But, my grandma seemed to get something worthwhile out of her books on the saints, and unlike a lot of evangelicals, she actually acted like a saint. So, I'd rather focus on that side of religion and figure that, if the Bible is true, it's pretty clear about what happens to people like that guy who bear false witness against their neighbors.

As for the Kids in the Hall, see above- they're coming back to TV here in the Spring.