To set a stage for an examination of The Pink Swastika, I want to review a bit the context for Lively’s arguments regarding gays and Nazism. In 1998, Arlene Stein, sociologist at the University of Oregon published a paper in Sociological Perspectives which pointed out the use of the Holocaust metaphor by both the right and the left. She noted that some gay activist groups have appropriated the victim status associated with the Holocaust and that far right groups have attempted to brand gays with the bad brush of the Nazis. Who is right?
Over the next month, I will be posting information which I hope will shed light on the issues. With the expert help of history professor and Grove City College colleague, Jon David Wynekin, I hope to demonstrate that gays were indeed victims of the Nazi ideology, even though some of the early Nazis were themselves quite likely homosexuals. Hitler used them as long as they served his evil purposes. They were not victims to the degree the Jews and other groups were but as Gunter Grau says about homosexuals in the book, Hidden Holocaust?,
They were all victims, whether they were interned in a concentration camp, imprisoned by a court or spared actual persecution. For ultimately, the racist Nazi system curtailed the life-opportunities of each and every homosexual man and woman. (p. 7).
It is worth pointing out that the book by Grau cited above is also cited by Scott Lively in The Pink Swastika. Lively cites the Grau book six times by my count. However, there are 104 documents in the Hidden Holocaust? Lively had to skip over sections which demonstrated clear victimization of homosexuals to get to the parts he cited. In uncoming posts, I will quote more from Grau’s book.
According to Stein’s 1998 paper, references to the holocaust theme appeared at various times starting during the 1970s gay liberation movement. Eventually, anti-gay Christian right advocates flipped the metaphor accusing gays of seeking to corrupt society and impose sexual lawlessness. In the early 1990s, anti-gay rights ballot measures were placed before citizens in various states. At the time, Scott Lively was Communications Director for the Oregon Citizens Alliance. According to Stein, both sides traded charges of Nazism. When gays accused the OCA of Nazi intent, the OCA turned it around and made similar claims. Stein documents instances, writing
During these initiative campaigns, the Christian right at times deployed rhetoric and imagery that echoed European anti-Semitism. The Oregon Citizens Alliance film, The Gay Agenda, closely resembled the 1940 Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew. Echoing traditional anti-Semitic propaganda which deliberately inflated the power of Jewish bankers, international Jewish conspiracies, and so forth, conservatives suggested that lesbians and gay men have higher incomes than others. A cartoon published by the Oregon Citizens Alliance showed a gay man manipulating the strings of the government and the economy. It was, one gay writer pointed out, “a virtual copy of a Nazi cartoon,” one that replaced “the stooped, hooknosed puppeteer with a fresh-faced gym boy (Solomon 1997:7).” At the same time, the OCA challenged the right of lesbians and gay men to align themselves with the victims of the Holocaust. In the 1994 campaign for ballot measure 13, which sought to deny civil rights to lesbians and gays, a rightwing group calling itself “Jews and Friends of Holocaust Victims” purchased space in the Official Oregon Voters Pamphlet (1994:79) arguing in favor of the ballot measure:
Who’s a Nazi? Americans are watching history repeat as homosexuals promote the BIG LIE that everyone who opposes them is harmful to society. It’s nothing new. They used this tactic in Germany against the Jews…Don’t buy the BIG LIE. Opponents of minority status for homosexuals are not “Nazis” or “bigots”. And homosexuals aren’t “victims” of your common sense morality. Protect our children!
Oregon in the early 1990s is the immediate context for The Pink Swastika. The arguments and misuse of history in that book were used in the political battles in Oregon. Here is the text of Ballot Measure 9 which failed in 1992:
1) This state shall not recognize any categorical provision such as “sexual preference,” and similar phrases that include homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism. Quotas, minority status, affirmative action, or any similar concepts shall not apply to these forms of conduct, nor shall government promote these behaviors.2) State, regional and local governments and their properties and monies shall not be used to promote, encourage, or facilitate homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism or masochism.
3) State, regional and local governments and their departments, agencies and other entities, including specifically the state Department of Higher Education and the public schools, shall assist in setting a standard for Oregon’s youth that recognizes homosexuality, pedophilia, sadism and masochism as abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse and that these behaviors are to be discouraged and avoided.
On that same day in Colorado, a similar measure passed which was later ruled unconstitutional in Romers vs. Evans. The Ballot Measure 9 link above is to a website for a documentary regarding the initiative. Below is the trailer for the video (Scott Lively is at 53 seconds into the clip).
In my opinion, the arguments used in The Pink Swastika were in direct response to victimization rhetoric used in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Specifically, in Oregon, the OCA needed a counterpoint to their ideological opponents. As I noted before this rhetorical situation is being played out in Uganda now with Scott Lively as an instigator.
Next, I will discuss Kevin Abrams, Scott Lively’s co-author and his work in revising the historical record regarding homosexuality and Nazism. Before The Pink Swastika, Abrams published a paper in Peter LaBarbera’s now extinct Lambda Report called “The other side of the pink triangle” which generated a flurry of activity at the time. Although I cannot find that article, there was a lengthy rebuttal and counterpoint from Abrams that I will provide. Along the way, look for contributions from Dr. Wynekin and a page devoted to this topic.
Other posts in this series:
June 3 – Before The Pink Swastika
June 17 – Does homosexuality lead to fascism?