Pushing Hard and to the Right

Jane Mayer has a new article out in The New Yorker in which she profiles the current mouth piece for the American Family Association, Bryan Fisher. This is, I think, the first in-depth coverage of Fisher in the mainstream media.

Mayer’s focus is on the flap over Richard Grenell, an openly gay and committed man who was appointed to a high position in Mitt Romney’s campaign staff. Fisher was one of the first and most vocal attackers who turned on Romney and eventually caused the campaign to drop Grenell.

I’ve know about Fisher for years, largely through the coverage of Right Wing Watch, who are probably the most dedicated group covering the excesses of people like Fisher. They’ve blogged countless clips of Fisher being his extreme, homophobic self.

What I didn’t know is just how much crap Fisher believes. From Mayer’s article:

He began a long disquisition about homosexuals, and suggested that they were more prone to domestic violence than straight people. He then denied, as he does routinely, that H.I.V. causes AIDS, calling it a “harmless passenger virus.” It’s a theory derived from Peter Duesberg, a professor of molecular and cell biology at Berkeley, who has been widely criticized. Duesberg has been a guest on Fischer’s program. (Fischer told me, “He has a seven-hundred-page book—I read that thing through from the beginning to the end of it, and was persuaded.”)

Fischer returned to a favorite theme: that homosexual behavior is “always, always, always a matter of choice.” He told his listeners that a scientific study had shown the concordance of homosexuality between identical twins to be only six per cent. “If one of them is gay and it’s genetically caused, the other one ought to be gay one hundred per cent of the time!” he said.

Fischer cites such evidence with ease; he has impressive recall for everything from Bible quotations to academic articles. Yet he draws his information almost exclusively from like-minded sources, and ignores contrary statistics. For instance, in 2003, psychologists at the University of London performed a meta-analysis of six studies involving the concordance rate of homosexuality between identical twins, and reported a range from thirty to sixty-five per cent—far greater than the average occurrence of homosexuality in the population at large. The evidence, they concluded, strongly suggested a “heritable component.”

Fischer has similarly cited a 2001 study by Robert Spitzer, the retired Columbia psychiatrist, suggesting that homosexuals could successfully undergo “reparative” therapy. But Fischer has not mentioned that the American Psychiatric Association publicly disavowed the study at the time. Spitzer himself recently renounced the paper, and apologized for making “unproven claims.” (Fischer dismissed this, saying, “He just caved to the gay lobby.”)

Basically, if it’s even remotely anti-gay, then Fisher believes it. Mayer’s point, which she also lays out in a Fresh Air interview, is that Fisher has managed to push Romney’s campaign farther to the right. In this quote, Mayer sums up the Romney campaign’s relationship to Fisher:

“They don’t love him. They view him to some extent as a pest, but the reason they have to pay attention to him is because of the listenership that he’s got and the voter bloc that he’s a part of. They are playing with fire when they play with somebody like Bryan Fischer because he’s so radical. But the Romney campaign needs to get evangelicals to the polls in November. In the Republican primaries so far this year, according to Ralph Reed, over half of the voters in the Republican primaries so far this year have been self-described as ‘white, evangelical Christians.’ This is a tremendously important voting bloc in the Republican Party, and Romney cannot get elected without them.”

  • Custador

    I genuinely and honestly think that the only explanation for homophobia that strident is self-loathing and denial.

    • Len

      Many people making such a noise probably really do see it as a choice. One that they have made for themselves: to deny that they have any feelings which could be considered gay. They choose to be (or at least, to act) super-straight, which – sadly (and ignorantly) – they equate with being anti-gay. That also explains why so many are caught out when they finally admit it to themselves. Being honest and letting people see that you are gay is a choice: choose to stop pretending, choose to be yourself.

    • Terradea

      Mr. Fischer overcame his strong homosexual desires and chose to be heterosexual. Good for him (I guess). Now he can continue to call himself a devout Christian with a clear conscience (I guess).

    • http://leavingfundamentalism.wordpress.com Jonny Scaramanga

      Possibly, but it might also just be consistency with what he’s always believed. Most people with these views were raised to have them. It’s very difficult to think your way out of beliefs you were raised to have. I don’t think that excuses any homophobia – once you’re an adult, you’re responsible for your opinions and actions – but I do think it partially explains it. The desire to act consistently with past behaviour is an extremely strong human urge, while considering that you might have been wrong about something so important for so long is an extremely difficult thing to face.

      • Raymond

        When you’re born, by default, you’re an atheist, and as families teach kids how to count, speak &read their native language, they are also taught the family religion. as kids we are not told what info we actually need to know but instead we soak it all up as being important while most parents in families don’t attempt to help in the matter usually(they allow us to remain gnorant). I think we as kids should be/have been taught how to count and be educated about the world on everything, BUT religion until age 21 when the brain by then is physically mature and more capable of discerning facts we’ve been taught, and as far as religion it will be new to us, and therefore, less chance of bias. I know it is unrealistic for kids to be taught religion only after age 21, due to shit like Jesus Camp and Muslim Madrassas which are , completely religious indoctrination centers. What the hell, I can dream can’t I, having been in a Pentecostal orphanage for a time and gone to church sometimes as many as 3 times a day while there, and often physically having it beaten into me that ‘god is love’(I’m not kidding).

  • UrsaMinor

    I will grant that homosexual behavior is always a choice, as is any sexual behavior. One can always choose to do X, or to abstain from it, and disregard for one’s personal feelings on the matter for whatever reason. Sexual orientation and desire, however, are quite different matters. They don’t go away because you choose not to act on them.

    • Ken

      Indeed, isn’t the subverted desire a thought crime in itself. If one is always coveting his neighbor sexually, they’re screwed even if they never act upon it. It’s a no-win situation, even if it is a choice about the acting out part. Not really much hope from the Evangelical or Mormon side — sin is sin.

      • UrsaMinor

        Whether or not thoughts which are not acted upon count as sins depends entirely on the religion.

        I’ve heard of at least one Mormon man who makes no secret of the fact that he is homosexual, but who has never had sex with men and is married to a woman and raising a family because that’s what he thinks God commands him to do regardless of his sexual orientation. His wife is okay with it- she married him knowing that he was homosexual. Don’t know what the Mormon church hierarchy thinks of it, but he has committed no material sin according to their doctrines.

        • FO

          This is impressive.

        • http://thesacredgrove-nathair.blogspot.com Sam

          Based on the information you have given, he is entirely within the Law of Chastity as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He would also have the option of celibacy.

      • FO

        One could always become a preacher or a priest.
        In the latter case, you can even rape people and will be sanctioned and protected by your congregation and superiors.

    • Raymond

      When a guy gets a boner looking at another guy, in the same way I do looking at a woman, I’ll never believe it to be a ‘choice.’ Sex is a biological urge, and sexual attraction is more of an imperative than a ‘choosing’ to be turned on a particular way. Eating is a biological urge, again, not a choice, but like me, to be a Vegan, IS a choice due to a biological urge. LGBT people to me have no choice in the matter(the B in LGBT may indicate a kind of choice, but I rest my case on my first statement.)

  • Sandra Parsons

    I seriously wonder, if homosexual behaviour is always a choice, why anyone in the world would subject themselves willingly to being physically and verbally abused, outcast, defamed and prohibited to getting married?! Or how treatment would make the ‘condition’ better, for that matter. Strange thinking indeed.

    • trj

      Indeed. I’ve never heard an answer to the question of why someone would voluntarily choose to be gay when it’d be so much easier to be straight. I’m guessing the answer involves blaming Satan, or sume such drivel. That’s the most likely answer I can come up with.

      • Kodie

        I can’t say for sure, but I think it’s a combination of wild orgies and the lack of women. If you are an “unmarried” young man, you may find that women (the virtuous) won’t accommodate all the lust so you’ll just join in with a gang of other men, you don’t care who you have sex with, or what sex they are, that you’ll have it any way you can get it.

        I was thinking this recently about a toddler, I had a hypothetical conversation in my head about the question “what if he’s gay?” Is he already gay? He is too young to know what he is, he may know in retrospect if those feelings were always there, but if he’s straight or gay is not known. Most people do not decide to be heterosexual, but are they heterosexual when they are a toddler? Or do they grow up around heterosexuals and follow the model they see as “right” or “natural”? I think religious people think this is something that occurs later, if you are raised right, you will automatically assume yourself to be heterosexual. A lot of homosexuals probably raised in this way cannot say to anyone “I might be gay.” They try to be straight, they assume that’s what they are supposed to do but it doesn’t feel as natural as everyone else assumes it should be, and they were raised “right” or, you know, in that atmosphere of heterosexuality. What is wrong? They don’t choose not to be heterosexuals, they may get married and lie to their spouse and their families and themselves for a long time. But he is attracted to other men still. He is trying to fit in.

        Or he could go find a place where people accept him, a place where he was warned not to go but he went anyway. And he found what he was looking for. That’s a choice. Those people are perverts who will fuck anyone, if that means only guys are available, that’s whatever. It doesn’t occur to anyone else that these communities form for and from all the loose ends who don’t fit in their own families, who find each other and help each other. If it were up to a religious community what, the gay guy should be an isolated case, and possibly isolated from their community, punished from fitting in, not rewarded by finding another community in which to fit. He’s supposed to think of his “sin” and loneliness and want very much to go back to the loving arms of his church and community, and promise to conform. All the publicity that homosexuality gets now, which used to be underground, is that people can see that homosexuals as something other than sexual. They don’t wear fake eyelashes and assless chaps at the office, they don’t adhere to some flamboyant dress code, they can have a family, they can be downright cornball or stuffy, they are smart, interesting to talk to, funny, not having sex on a parade float people. They can be your neighbor, in essence, and you wouldn’t bat an eye.

        It was probably easier when it was hidden for them to make up all kinds of stories and warnings, like danger, sin, fringe weirdos to warn kids about. Who would choose to be denied rights? It doesn’t “look like” so much fun anymore, it’s not that intriguing or mysterious or a cool, rebellious phase anymore, but it’s dangerous because they can be your neighbor and you wouldn’t bat an eye. It’s very important for some folks to keep pushing the stereotypes, so that none of their kids could assume that it’s perfectly normal or equally natural as being straight.

        • Kodie

          Additionally, for lesbians, let’s assume they hate men, full stop. They choose to be gay because of some abuse or irrational hatred of men and so men aren’t allowed in the club, and only have each other to have sex with. That’s the stereotype. Rebellion, not knowing their place beside and under a man’s control – being too haughty and arrogant for their gender. Which is why girls are raised differently than boys, to not get such a strong head or lofty ambitions that they may turn gay, or be so unattractive to men from having power or intelligence or money that they won’t want children and leave themselves only one choice, to be gay.

          I don’t agree with it, I’m just posing from the perspective of how it can be seen as a choice (or a last resort).

          • trj

            I think regarding lesbians, you’re straight on. Lesbian = strident feminist = man hater is a sadly prevalent stereotype, outside Christianity as well. To a Christian mind steeped in patriarchy it’s natural to further associate it with rebellion against traditional family values (the ever-reliable Christian phrase for a cardboard version of a wholesome family headed by the husband). If only those women would come to their senses and learn to not hate men, then they’d happily discard their confused thoughts about other women.

        • Raymond

          Bullshit, lack of women or not, I really don’t think I’d have sex with a man, sorry, not built that way(not that it’s bad, it is just not for me.)Even if I were in prison with only males, I can’t see myself with a man( 1 boner to a room). As a former teenager with a high sex drive like most males with the copulation imperative operating at that time, I did without many a time(there was always self stimulation), and didn’t seek out sex with whomever available. Sorry, your argument FAILS.

          • Kodie

            It’s not really MY argument. So of course it fails. People don’t be gay to rebel or to have as much non-marital fucking as they can get, any way that’s available. Social sanctions and denial of rights in essence is to freeze out the “sin” of gayness to bring those people back to the traditional way – or suffer. It does bring some back, it’s very much more important to them to belong to the group, and they also suffer.

            I was speculating in what way it seems to be a choice, in what mystery homosexuality lies for them, what it’s worth to a gay person to live without rights, and being assaulted, in order to miss being part of the group. It is parental or tribal. They can’t stop thinking about sex and how there’s only one way to have it.

    • UrsaMinor

      We are reviled and have fewer legal rights than anyone else. Those are big selling points when we’re recruiting Naturally Straight People™ to the homosexual lifestyle.

    • FO

      Reality.
      Religion exists to combat it.

  • vasaroti

    I love the way these homophobes keep saying “Teh Gay is not genetic!” when the scientific community hasn’t been claiming genetic origins for homosexuality for years. Meanwhile, they continue to ignore and/or suppress the research that links at least some homosexuality to what happens to the fetus in mom’s uterus. The wikipedia article is a place to start to get some idea about this complex field of research:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prenatal_hormones_and_sexual_orientation

  • Revyloution

    Interesting article, but one thing struck me:

    “University of London performed a meta-analysis of six studies involving the concordance rate of homosexuality between identical twins, and reported a range from thirty to sixty-five per cent—far greater than the average occurrence of homosexuality in the population at large.”

    If they conducted a study, wouldn’t they get a more solid number? Why is the range so broad? A 35% swing seems pretty huge, doesn’t this raise any red flags to anyone?

    • Yoav

      Without reading the study my guess will be that the large margin has to do with a small sample size. I don’t know how many pairs of identical twins, where at least one is gay, are out there but it can’t be a very large number, you can also have a situation where both are gay but only one of them is out so the other twin will be counted as straight introducing more noise into the data.

    • UrsaMinor

      Small sample size + hey, this is biology! = this sort of range is not at all surprising.

      The take-home lesson is qualitative rather than quantitative. An identical twin is way more likely to be homosexual if the other twin is, than is the case for sibling pairs in the population at large, and this can’t be explained by random chance. It means that you want to look at both genetics and environmental factors in utero, but doesn’t point to either one in particular.

    • Noelle

      Also, a metanalysis compares multiple studies . Multiple studies=multiple results=a nice plump range. 30-65% is not an unusual range for these sorts of studies. You may find the same with population studies on autism, schizophrenia, type 2 diabetes, and other stuff.

  • mikespeir

    I don’t care even if homosexuality is altogether a choice. I don’t see any good reason why people shouldn’t have a right to that choice.

    • http://fugodeus.com Nox

      “I don’t care even if homosexuality is altogether a choice. I don’t see any good reason why people shouldn’t have a right to that choice.”

      Exactly. This is the more important point and is often overlooked. The only reason the question of whether people choose to be gay comes up at all is because those saying it is wrong need it to be something someone chooses so they can rationalize saying it is wrong (otherwise they’d be blaming people for something they didn’t have a choice in).

      But regardless of the choice vs orientation framing, the bigger issue is that there isn’t even anything wrong with being gay. If for whatever reason a straight person decided that they wanted to choose to be gay, they should have that right.

    • FO

      This.

    • Brian K

      People certainly choose to be religious. If being a fundamentalist Baptist is a choice protected b, no clebrated by our culture and the State…why not this?

  • FO

    LOL.
    Awesome that our mad preacher cites “scientific studies”.

    What about the scientific studies that confirm evolution?
    These people just exploit science’s hard-earned authority.

    • Len

      If they cherry-pick the bible, why not also cherry-pick the science?

  • diego…

    “over half of the voters in the Republican primaries so far this year have been self-described as ‘white, evangelical Christians.’ This is a tremendously important voting bloc in the Republican Party, and Romney cannot get elected without them.”
    I don’t follow Americans politics much, but, please help me understand… Romney has to put up with this guys and his followers or else… they will vote for Obama? or is it just that they won’t go out and vote?

    • Bill

      The fear is that they won’t vote at all.

  • Cassandra

    Fisher can believe any craziness that he wants. The problem is that he tries to push his beliefs down society’s throat. I understand why Romney is playing along to get votes, but this may be a dangerous game for those who don’t share Fisher’s extreme Christianism.


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