Friday, February 5, 2010

Brian Fischer of American Family Association: Continued Attacks on LGBT Citizens


I blogged Wednesday about statements Brian Fischer of the American Family Association (AFA) made on his radio show at the end of January, and on which he expanded in a subsequent blog posting calling for legal sanctions against homosexual behavior.  In Wednesday’s posting, I noted that Fischer’s extremist views had not attracted much mainstream media attention—but that those of us concerned about the future of our democracy need to monitor such rhetoric carefully.

Fischer is now back in the news.  As Huffington Post reports yesterday, on Wednesday night, he called into Alan Colmes’ radio program to reiterate his position that homosexuality is akin to intravenous drug abuse, and ought to be subject to the same legal penalties as criminal drug abuse.  And as Right Wing Watch notes, Fischer’s position seems to rely on the fact that FDA policies ban both gay men and intravenous drug users from being blood donors:

Basically, Fischer's position is that if the law says that drug users get jail time and/or rehabilitation, then that is what should happen to gays as well.  And that view seems to rest entirely upon the fact that FDA policies banning gay men and intravenous drug users from donating blood.

Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin points out that Fischer’s attempt to criminalize gay citizens is part of a larger nexus of socially oppressive proposals targeting vulnerable minorities.  Fischer has argued that Muslims ought not to be permitted to serve in the U.S. military, because they are threats to national security.

And AFA is on record also pushing the meme that African Americans are responsible for a higher proportion of violent crimes in the U.S. than are Caucasians, yet are “under-represented” among those who receive capital sentences!

As Alvin McEwen reports at Pam’s House Blend, Fischer’s statements need to be read in the context of a growing new militancy of the religious right against LGBT persons. 

And what’s driving that militancy, I wonder?  As I noted Wednesday, the attempt to refocus public discussions on the dangers posed by gay citizens is part of a larger attempt to undermine the current administration’s initiative to abolish don’t ask, don’t tell.  International criticism of Uganda’s kill-the-gays bill, which both Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama echoed yesterday in their remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast, also undercuts the religious and political right’s strategy of demonization of gay and lesbian persons—and draws negative attention to the role of the American religious right in crafting the anti-gay legislation now being considered by Uganda’s legislature.

What we are seeing with both the call to end DADT and the international dismay at Uganda’s pending legislation is a shift in a cultural narrative that places LGBT persons in a stigmatized, marginal position in many cultures.  The religious and political right are now determined to craft—or better, revive and keep alive—a counter-narrative that reinforces the need for stigmatization and marginalization of gay and lesbian persons.

That counter-narrative centers—as it has long centered—on insinuations that LGBT people are dirty and promiscuous, a danger not only to public morality but to public health.  As Mary Douglas’s anthropological study of purity taboos in many cultures, Purity and Danger, notes, societies threatened by various cultural shifts including rapid social and economic change not uncommonly imagine a particular marginalized community in their midst as a polluting infection that needs to be expelled in order to cure the ills of the body politic.  This scapegoating mechanism, which originates among the privileged elites of societies undergoing rapid social and economic transformation, diverts attention from serious structural problems within a society experiencing change, and shields ruling elites from the effects of such structural analysis.

And as Hugh Trevor-Roper’s classic study The European Witch-Craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries notes, over the course of Western history, Jews (who were equated with witches during the witch-craze) were kept at bay and their oppression justified by claims that Jews were dirty, diseased, profligate threats to the civil order of Christian nations.  The rhetoric of Jews as filthy pollutants that need to be eradicated in order to bring society back to health powerfully undergirded the Nazi movement and its actions in Europe in the first half of the 20th century.

It is no accident that Brian Fischer is trying to equate homosexuality with intravenous drug use, or that he points to FDA restrictions on donation of blood by both gay men and intravenous drug users to bolster his case.  Nor is it any accident that another of the right-wing extremists who has raised his voice about these issues this week, Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media, claims that the Ugandan anti-gay bill is designed to protect Ugandan children against HIV infection.

Never mind that AIDS is a heterosexual disease in African, not a homosexual one.  The vast majority of cases of HIV infection in African are due to heterosexual contact.  And the Ugandan legislation does not criminalize heterosexual behavior at all—it selectively targets gays.

Kincaid and his cronies know this.  They are deliberately lying—in God’s name—about both the nature of the AIDS crisis in Africa and the purpose of Uganda’s kill-the gay bill.  They are doing so to continue a deeply-rooted cultural narrative of gay men as dirty, diseased drug users and child molesters.

They are doing so because that narrative is being challenged by influential cultural forces that no longer choose to see and frame gay lives in this way, as increasing numbers of people know and interact with openly gay family members, friends, and co-workers.  And they are doing so because re-focusing the attention of Americans on the culture-war issue of gay inclusion and exclusion diverts our attention from the really significant moral problems confronting all of us now—which have to do with the continued economic exploitation of all of us by an economic elite whose rapacious behavior is increasingly unrestrained either by law or cultural norms.