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01/11/2012

In which I use Bryan Fischer's obviously crazed fanaticism to make a finer 'culture war' point

by Jeremy Hooper

In response to the outcry over his deeply dangerous claim that HIV does not cause AIDS, the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer has written a followup. He titles the riposte, "Gays should love the theory that HIV does not cause AIDS," and works under the basic premise that LGBT activists should be applauding his Screen Shot 2012-01-11 At 9.17.59 Amclaims, because "if HIV is a harmless passenger virus, there is no reason to lock people up for transmitting it." Read as much or little as you want right here.

But the point I want to discuss actually has little to do with Bryan's ridiculous junk science and everything to do with the clear-cut, constantly reinforced difference between our side of this "culture war" and the side that both declared and propagates it. Because through this new response, Bryan has not only continued his destructive embrace of savage ignorance: He has also ably highlighted one major difference between the anti-gay and pro-equality sides. That difference: That on our side, we don't typically let our need/want to be right, vindicated, or verified trump our compliance with facts. While on the other side? It's most always the inverse!

What Bryan and his ilk fail to understand is that the vast majority of equality activists don't give a flipping flapjack about how they see us. We don't typically care about their personally-held beliefs, their personal support for patent untruths, their myopic limitations of our vast society, or any of the many ways that they, as individuals, might wish to steward their lives, their learning, their families, or their "values." As a generalization, the pro-equality movement is typically quite okay with letting people like Bryan Fischer think, pray, and judge however they may, both privately and publicly. We typically support this, the true version of religious freedom.

What we do find MAJORLY problematic? The pushing of these personally-held views -- from offensive to unfortunate to downright dangerous -- onto society at large. In fact, the only reason why our side is even engaged in this "culture war" is because folks like Bryan and groups like his AFA are trying to foist their own theories onto 6A00D8341C503453Ef01676011D6Bd970Beveryone else, at the expense of fundamental rights and protections that do (or should) exist within the realm of civil law. As a movement, we've arrived at our positions because of a long, learned study of the world as we know it. We have looked at reality, as it truly exists, and looked at our country, as it was intended to be, and have arrived at a place that says LGBT people must be equal if we are to move past what divides us and onto what unites us. Sure, LGBT people of prior generations started from the goal of wanting to change society so that it accepted their lives and loves. However, this goal was carved from the life experience of knowing, loving, and/or living as LGBT people, not a contrived goal like discrimination. Our side didn't set an unnecessary benchmark and then concoct whatever path might help us achieve it. Instead, we started with an organic endgame and then worked to open the necessary eyes that were blinding the natural travels.

Which brings us back to Bryan's "HIV doesn't cause AIDS" advocacy. His response to the obvious and deserved outrage that he is facing is to say that his claims make him the gay community's "best friend." He suggests that this theory would somehow "absolve" LGBT people (gay men, specifically) of their "role" in the AIDS crisis. His intended point: That his cockamamie theorizing deserves acceptance because of a perceived "vindication" that he places upon it.

My point is that regardless of the countless other deep and destructive issues contained this and most all of Bryan's work, we, as a movement, simply do not work like this. In this case, Bryan's dangerous game is unsupportable for a number of reasons that extend well beyond LGBT rights. Although even if he were making a more grounded, less hazardous point about something like marriage equality or employment nondiscrimination, we still wouldn't embrace something that might be rhetorically/politically helpful if the point itself were patently untrue! Some might; but generally, as a movement, this is just not how we operate.

Though it is how the far-right social conservatives tend to operate. They carve out some goal (e.g., proving they "love the sinner, hate the sin") and then concoct some sort of way to "fulfill" their endgame (e.g., financially supporting so-called "ex-gay" programs to make it seem like homosexuality is "changeable," and therefore make their work seem like it's directed at a "sin" and not a "sinner"). Or they set up some sort of talking point (e.g., same-sex marriage indoctrinates kids) and then scour the land for any minor incident they can find (e.g., kids attending a teacher's same-sex wedding with their parents' full permission) to lend some "validation" to their spin. It's how they work. It's their game. Hell, this, their long-held playbook, is the reason why I even feel inclined to use words like "game" when referring to this civil rights conversation!

So yeah, I find Bryan's reactive response extremely telling, just in terms of where his mind goes in regards to strategic thinking. Of course it's obvious to him that a movement should embrace a lie because of its perceived sociopolitical benefits, since this is the common practice within his cherished "culture war" circle. What he fails to realize is that this is not the common practice within ours. We've placed as much of a premium on the accurate, reasoned, careful, and productive embrace of reality as our opposition has placed on fibs.

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