Tuesday, January 28, 2014

John Corvino, What's Wrong with Homosexuality?: "A Risky Lifestyle"

Another nugget from John Corvino's book What's Wrong with Homosexuality? (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013) that stands out for me in the chapter discussing proposals to keep discrimination against gay folks alive because they are carriers of a risky lifestyle:

Why worry about a charlatan like [Paul] Cameron? Because he continues to get cited by serious scholars like [Christopher] Wolfe and [Robert] Gagnon. In this manner, bizarre myths about gays get passed around as serious research (54).

As Corvino notes, Paul Cameron's "research," which claims to prove that gay males enjoy a much shorter life span than do straight men because they live a risky lifestyle, has been widely discredited, and he was expelled from the American Psychological Association in 1983 for violating professional ethics (53). His research has also been discredited by the American Sociological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association. As the Southern Poverty Law Center concludes, Cameron "is an infamous anti-gay propagandist whose one-man statistical chop shop" (see also Right Wing Watch).

Corvino is addressing critics who maintain that Cameron and other purveyors of anti-gay junk science of a similar ilk are not worth worrying about, since their work is so clearly scientifically unfounded. Corvino demurs, and note his reason: people like Christopher Wolfe, emeritus professor of political science at Marquette University (with a Ph.D. from Boston College), and Robert Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburg Theological Seminary (with an M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary), persist in treating Cameron's junk science as if it's worthy of respect.

Wolfe and Gagnon cite Cameron as a bona fide authority in his field--despite the condemnation of Cameron's bogus research by major professional organizations in his field. As Corvino concludes, "In this manner, bizarre myths about gays get passed around as serious research."

John Corvino is absolutely right. As Greg Grandin has just noted, in the view of Noam Chomsky, the "really scary characters" of our time, the "terror of our age," are not the yahoos who shout their lurid proposals for this war and that waterboarding scheme on the cheap pages of tabloid journals. They're the "morally serious" scholars, journalists, politicians, and managerial types who control the "respectable" discourse of our society, and who are treated with deference by the mainstream media and many academic gurus.

It's they who make the disreputable ideas of obvious hatemongers like Paul Cameron appear reputable, as they package those disreputable ideas as acceptable academic discourse in books and journal articles full of gravitas. And it's they who spread the toxic lies of obvious hatemongers like Cameron in professional academic journals where those lies do serious harm precisely because they're presented as one respectable academic opinion among other respectable academic opinions.

When they're not in the least respectable or academically reputable, and weren't either respectable or academic reputable from the outset, when they were initially cooked up in pseudo-scientific studies whose sole purpose was to attack a vulnerable minority group . . . .

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