Politics & Policy

Are Gays Fair Game?

I'm not a big fan of going deep into people's motives, except when they "drip with phallic tension."

In yesterday’s column about David Brock’s ongoing fire-sale of his own credibility, several readers insisted that I failed to mention two relevant items. First, I missed an opportunity to use an apt Simpsons line. After Bart sells his soul to Millhouse for five dollars, he says to his sister, “Well, if you think he got such a good deal, I’ll sell you my conscience for $4.50. I’ll throw in my sense of decency too. It’s a Bart sales event, everything about me MUST GO!”

That would have worked even better than my pig joke.

On a more serious note, quite a few readers noticed that I declined to mention that David Brock is gay. I didn’t mention it, not because I think it’s irrelevant, but because to mention it at all would sound like a cheap shot (I know, I know, hardly a novelty for someone who regularly describes Sid Blumenthal as a succubus suffering from severe coprophagia).

If I had offered my opinion that Brock’s professional misfires have a significant relationship to the “personal” fact that he bats for the other team, it would distract readers from my essential argument. Moreover, it would feed the bogus arguments of people — like Sid Blumenthal and David Brock — who believe that conservatism is really just a lot of fancy or folksy words used to gussy-up homophobia.

For example, as long-time readers of this column know, Blumenthal wrote a piece for The New Yorker (in kitten blood no doubt) a few years ago in which he suggested that Cold War conservatism was largely a homophobic ruse to cover up the latent homosexuality of right wingers. “Conservative anti-Communism,” Blumenthal lamented, is “an anachronism. What endures is the fear of the enemy within: the homosexual menace.”

In fact, this is part of a whole school of thought in academia today: Social conservatism is really just a cover for prudishness and overcompensation of sexual hang-ups. We heard this to no end during impeachment days, when almost every day some tenured radical or social-critic wannabe defended Bill Clinton by saying that Ken Starr does dirty things with the J. C. Penney Junior Miss catalog or some other ridiculousness.

Just one handy example:

Back then, Diane McWhorter wrote in Newsday: “Perhaps the most striking theme connecting the witch-hunts — including the original 17th-century depredations in Salem — is masculine insecurity. McCarthy railed against ‘Communists and queers’ in the State Department. Yet, he also doted on his subcommittee counsel, the young homosexual Roy Cohn…”. McWhorter continued, “the Army-McCarthy set-to fairly bristled with phallic tension, punctuated uncannily by the senator’s trademark giggle.” She then ties the knot: “Today’s McCarthyism is also about embattled manhood. Starr’s constituency is the Christian right. … His supporters smugly cast the blame for the witch-hunts on ‘radical feminists’ — an updated version of the Cold War’s stereotypical female Communists…”.

Usually when I hear or read this stuff, I feel like one of the passengers forced to sit next to Ted Stryker (played by Robert Hays) in Airplane! Stryker’s stories are so dull and stupid that the only rational course of action is for passengers to disembowel themselves.

Because I find this sort of thinking so repugnant and idiotic, I also find it impossible to employ it against the Left — even though it would be just as easy to say that liberals support certain policies simply because they’re a bunch of wife-swapping, buggering deviants determined to remove every last bit of opprobrium from all but the most bizarre and heinous activities. But that would be wrong.

But, is homosexuality relevant to an individual’s politics? I got to thinking about this when I read Andrew Sullivan’s take on David Brock this morning (I got to it late). Sullivan, who’s also gay, has several theories about Brock and this is one of them:

Brock is a gay man who simply cracked under pressure. Knowing he was gay in the first place made him do things far more extreme than he was comfortable with in order to impress people he believed were homophobic and would only accept him if he were not just right-wing — but a right-wing hero. Hence his over-compensating attack-dog pyrotechnics. Note that this was largely in his own head. What matters is not whether his conservative allies actually were, as he charmingly puts it, “racist, homophobic Clinton-haters.” (Some probably were, but many were not.) What matters is that he thought they were and acted accordingly. So his original deceit was really a function of his homosexual insecurity in a right-wing world. With his Hillary book, Brock tried to see whether his conservative friends and allies would appreciate him for himself and his talents. When his book met with conservative indifference (actually, it met with universal indifference), he went off the deep end. It’s far easier to believe, after all, that you’re a victim of racist homophobes than that you simply wrote a not-too-interesting book….

No offense to Andrew, but this is hardly a unique view. In fact, if you had read my column yesterday, you would have found a similar analysis. But I didn’t mention the gay angle, even though most of the people I’ve ever talked to about Brock believe it is extremely relevant to everything he does and says (and to be fair, I can think of a significant number of conservatives in good standing whose homosexuality is very relevant to their politics as well).

But Andrew Sullivan has a certain luxury (and plenty of hardships) that I don’t have: He’s gay. Therefore he can speak freely — or more freely — about other homosexuals. Moreover, as a matter of political principle he thinks gays who don’t speak freely about their homosexuality are making a moral error of some kind.

In fact, in December of 1999, Sullivan wrote a lengthy essay in the New York Times admonishing many people who are probably, maybe, best-guess, sure-seem-to-be gayer than road rash on velvet for not admitting it. He suggested that Janet Reno, Rosie O’Donnell, Ed Koch, and a host of other people should ‘fess up at once that they, shall we say, use the phrase “Disco diva” without irony.

But Andrew is dedicated to moving homosexuality into mainstream culture and hence he is eager for more gay role models. Suffice it to say, that’s not my number one issue.

So when it comes to people like David Brock, conservative writers are left in a bit of a bind. Take another gay public figure whom we should take as seriously as Brock: Tinky-Winky the Teletubby. When Jerry Falwell’s group noted in a newsletter that the children’s show critter was gay, the gay-rights crowd and sympathetic journalists in the media (i.e. the media in its entirety) mocked Falwell mercilessly.

“Jerry Falwell’s paranoia about gay people has reached a new and ludicrous high-water mark,” said the spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. “Jerry Falwell says the Teletubbies are weird. You know what’s weird?” asked Jay Leno in the setup to his own joke. “A grown man who spends his time looking at children’s shows trying to figure out if fictitious characters are gay.”

That’s true, I guess. But the fact was that the only reason Falwell & Co. had figured out that Tinky-Winky practiced the love that dare not speak its name, was because homosexual dudes all of the world had declared Tinky-Winky one of their own (“See Sex, Drugs & Teletubbies“). When gay guys bring Tinky-Winky lunchboxes (admit it, that sounds dirty) to discos, it’s high camp. When conservative Christians point out that the triangle-headed Proust lover is a gay dashboard ornament, it’s a sign that they’re repressed and homophobic. That’s not fair.

Let’s get back to Brock, who makes a great deal of the fact that his old friends are nothing more than “racist, homophobic Clinton-haters.” People who read the New York Times as scripture believe Brock — and others like him — are motivated purely by abstract principle when the reality is that their homosexuality is the 800-pound gorilla of the story.

Actually, Tim Burton could have cast many in the Times’s newsroom as extras for his upcoming Planet of the Apes remake, it’s so full of 800-pound gorillas. As Richard Berke of the New York Times noted when he spoke to a gay journalists’ conference, “there are times when you look at the front-page meeting [of the New York Times] and … literally three-quarters of the people deciding what’s on the front page are not-so-closeted homosexuals…”. Could that have anything to do with the fact that so many people call the paper the Gay York Times now? (I have met the Gray Lady and she is a lesbian!)

I’m not a big fan of going deep into people’s motives, even though I know I do it sometimes. But sometimes their arguments are so disingenuous, it’s difficult not to nod to the “significant silences,” especially when, in the case of Brock, they “drip with phallic tension.” I just wish I could do it without being called a prude, a bigot, a homophobe, or the kind of guy who likes his winky tinkied.


1. My apologies for the tardiness, but I had to tape an appearance on CNN’s Reliable Sources. Check it out this weekend — and tell them to have me back!

2. Thanks very much to the Montgomery Advertiser in Alabama for picking up my syndicated column. Anyone in the vicinity so inclined to give them an “attaboy” should do so. And why doesn’t your newspaper run it?

3. I know I promised not to do any more libertoid stuff in this space, but two quick notes. The American Spectator Online apparently has a piece coming out about the whole brouhaha. And, for those of you who have long fretted the rise of a pernicious “Goldbergism” in the conservative movement, I must refer you to this hilarious — though in many ways accurate — paleoconservative, nativist screed about yours truly. But be warned, it’s not really for people who simply enjoy reading.

4. I leave Sunday for Alaska and ANWR, so I cannot promise there will be a G-File Monday. But there were four this week so who are you to complain?


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