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May 15th, 2007

Holding Hate Accountable…Paul Cameron Edition…

I’ve told this story before, but those of you who’ve heard it will just have to bear up. In the 1992 election when I was making volunteer calls for Clinton, Mary Matalin made a major gaffe she had to apologize for quite publicly. (Doesn’t matter what it was.) I was riding down in the elevator with a high level political consultant (who didn’t know me from Adam, of course) and I smugly mentioned that Matalin had really stepped in it. He looked at me like I was a moron and said, "she got it out there, didn’t she?"


There is a naucent movement happening out in the gay blog world, to hold anti-gay groups like Focus On The Family and their Ex-Gay puppet organizations like Exodus and Love In Action accountable for the use of hate propaganda in their materials, and in their rhetoric.  Specifically, their use and promulgation of the anti-gay junk science of Paul Cameron. 

Cameron’s bogus factoids, like the greatly shortened life span of gay males, have become so thoroughly embedded in the political discourse that you almost cannot have a discussion about homosexuality in America, without that discussion stumbling over one of his filthy lies about homosexuals and homosexuality.  But if Paul Cameron is the source of the lies, it’s been people like James Dobson, William Bennett, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and other right wing luminaries who have worked diligently to give them life. 

As Cameron has gained greater notoriety, and his deceptive practices given more exposure, the routine for anti-gay groups now is to either use his data second-hand, or without direct attribution.  When confronted with unmistakable evidence that they’re citing something of his, the pattern is to first say that Cameron isn’t the only person saying it.  When backed into a corner with proof that, in fact, Cameron is the one and only source of the data, they sometimes simply take down the cite, and claim it was just an honest mistake.  But They Got It Out There.

It’s time we get something of our own out there…something that, unlike Paul Cameron’s junk science, is actually true.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has identified Paul Cameron’s group as an active hate group, ranking it right up there with the Ku Klux Klan and various white supremacy groups that actively spread fear and hate toward minorities.  They based their findings on a careful study of the whole of his work and career and it is not hyperbole to compare his attitude toward homosexuals with that of the Nazis (Mike Godwin take note), because, as Jim Burroway over at Box Turtle Bulletin shows us, that comparison actually comes from Cameron himself

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report saying, “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany in that these disparaging descriptions of homosexuals are reminiscent of themes found in the ugly history of anti-Semitism…” It turns out that the SPLC didn’t know half the story.

You need to go read Burroway’s article, Paul Cameron’s World. It is a careful gathering together of Cameron’s pronouncements on homosexuality, and his March 1999 report, Gays In Nazi Germany, into one very dark and grim whole, where his thinking, and his approval of the Nazi solution to homosexuality, becomes clear and unmistakable for what it is. 

Burroway begins by underlining, using Cameron’s own papers and statements, just what it is he believes about homosexuals, and homosexuality.  Unlike even many anti gay groups nowadays, Cameron categorically rejects the idea that there is any biological component to homosexuality at all.  It is a choice, he insists, and a corrupting one both to the individual and to society.  Therefore, it must be contained.  And to do that, it must be not only criminalized, homosexuals must be driven from public life, and kept under quarantine.  Homosexuals operate in secret societies, according to Cameron, surreptitiously placing themselves in positions of power or areas where they can recruit new homosexuals to their ranks.  Homosexuals according to Cameron, are parasites on society, draining it of resources, and contributing nothing in return.

And it doesn’t necessarily end with quarantining homosexuals.  In Cameron’s world, extermination is worth considering too.  Yes…you read that right…

And how can we forget this, which Mark Peitrzyk reported in 1995?:

At the 1985 Conservative Political Action Conference, Cameron announced to the attendees, “Unless we get medically lucky, in three or four years, one of the options discussed will be the extermination of homosexuals.” According to an interview with former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, Cameron was recommending the extermination option as early as 1983.

A year later, when Paul Harkavy asked Cameron whether he endorsed extermination, Cameron replied, “That’s not true. All I said was a plausible idea would be extermination. Other cultures have done it. That’s hardly an endorsement, per se.”

But where on earth does he get the idea that extermination would ever be “a plausible idea”? In all of Anglo-American history, I can find no precedent whatsoever for extermination for medical reasons. He says “other cultures have done it,” but we know there is only one other western culture to have sunk to such depths of criminal depravity. Nazi Germany provides the only precedent for such an idea in all of Western Civilization — the very same example that Cameron upheld in 1999 to lend credence to his theories.

Emphasis mine.  Burroway makes a clear and utterly matter-of-fact connection between Cameron’s beliefs regarding homosexuality, and his 1999 article where he cites the Nazi persecution of homosexuals as evidence that he is correct.

And remember too, that Cameron proposed that everyone who was HIV-positive should be tattooed — just as everyone who entered Höss’ concentration camps were made to bear the indelible marks of their “undesirable” status.

But now it all seems to come together, doesn’t it? Cameron’s description of Höss’ accounts casts a dark shadow on his own fascination with exterminations, quarantines, tattoos and capital punishment. And yes, while his recommendation for recriminalizing sodomy omitted capital punishment (just as Germany’s Paragraph 175 did), he nevertheless invokes it twice in his manifesto alone. First, there’s this:

An excellent — but by no means isolated — example of the long-term decline is provided by the District of Columbia. When the District was established in 1790, sodomy was a capital crime. Today, homosexuals have more legal rights in D.C. than non-homosexuals.

And again later:

It took 300 years for the Christian paradigm to triumph and express itself in social policy. A law punishing homosexual activity with death appeared in A.D. 342. About 50 years later, the emperors Valentinian II, Theodosious, and Arcadius decreed that “All persons who have the shameful custom of condemning a man’s body, acting the part of a woman’s… shall expiate this sort of crime in avenging flames.” …

… But over time, the Christian truths about God’s hatred of homosexual activity, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc., diminished in the law. As well, punishments for same-sex activity declined in severity — from death to imprisonment to fines.

Burroway has followed this article up with the beginnings of a list of organizations that use Paul Cameron’s data in their anti-gay political campaigns.  This follows in the footsteps of work that Ex-Gay Watch has done in the recent past, castigating Ex-Gay groups like Exodus for their use of Cameron’s junk science.  It’s time to call all these groups to account for their spreading the lies of this one man, for embedding them so deeply in the political discourse.

To repeat: The Southern Poverty Law Center put Paul Cameron’s group in the same league as the Ku Klux Klan, Neo Nazis, and other active hate groups in America.  It’s time, it’s long past time, to call citing Paul Cameron for what it is: pure and unadulterated hate mongering, no different from burning crosses, and painting swastikas on people’s houses.  If groups like Focus on the Family, NARTH,  Evergreen, The Family Research Council, The American Family Association, Renew America, and others who use Paul Cameron’s data in their political campaigns against gay equality, want to keep on using it, then they need to know they are doing nothing more noble then burning crosses, and painting swastikas.  In Paul Cameron’s own words, the Nazis had it right when it came to homosexuality.  In Paul Cameron’s own words, the extermination of gay people is a "plausible idea." 

When the SPLC said, “Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany,” I dismissed that statement as mere hyperbole even though I found the rest of the report informative. Whenever anyone is compared to Nazism, they all too often wind up diminishing the horrors of what really happened there. The truth is, there was only one Hitler, and there was only one Holocaust. The world looked Evil in the eye during those darkest of hours, and history since then has rendered its just judgment on that unimaginable scourge. So whenever someone invokes Hitler or the Nazis while expressing their outrage over something, it’s usually a good indication that they’ve run out of ideas for their argument.

But what I didn’t know then (and apparently neither did the SPLC, since they didn’t mention Cameron’s newsletter article), was that Cameron himself drew a direct line between his own theories and those of Nazi Germany. I didn’t do it, and neither did the SPLC. These are Cameron’s own theories, expressed in his own words and backed by examples of his own choosing.

Cameron is neither a Hitler, Himmler nor Höss. He’s not even close. He is his own man, and he bears his own unique responsibility for the vile agenda he proposes for our nation.

But that responsibility doesn’t rest with him alone. If no one else were to spread his messages or cite his “research,” he’d quickly disappear into the fog of irrelevance. But that hasn’t happened. He continues to be quoted by anti-gay activists and the conservative press. His reputation is built on the fact that others find his bogus statistics useful to feed their anti-gay animus.

No more excuses.  Citing Paul Cameron is like burning a cross.  It’s time for the religious right, for the virtuous warriors for Christ, for the noble crusaders for morality and virtue, to decide to either wear the hood proudly, or denounce it.  They get it out there, they own it.  No more excuses.

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