Theories of rights are going to the dogs!

I don't write about the gay issue as much as I should. The reason, I am sorry to say, is that people feel so strongly about the issue on both sides that it really isn't capable of rational discussion. A perfect example can be found in the comments to this post by Dr. Helen Smith about the American Psychological Association's attempt to silence advocates of so-called "reparations therapy" for homosexuals seeking to change their sexuality. For what it's worth, this "reparative therapy" business strikes me as hokum, but it's not my business to tell other people either what to do with their penises or whether to enlist professional help if they don't like what their penises are doing.

Dr. Helen is also skeptical, but asks whether this is the client's business:

Personally, I'm skeptical about turning gay people straight. But shouldn't the client be the one to choose, not the APA? The APA has decided that the answer is no.

Not only did the APA deny CE (Continuing Education) credit to professionals attending the annual NARTH conference in November, stating that "The program content is not consistent with APA policy" but the APA is attempting to declare therapy to modify sexual orientation unethical (National Psychologist, March,April 2006). Nicholas Cummings and Rogers Wright, authors of Destructive Trends in Mental Health,talk about the APA's attempt to silence those who disagree with their positions...

Because of this thoughtful post, a relentless commenter descended upon the blog, among other things calling Dr. Helen a "closed minded conservative bigot" who "thinks gay kids committing suicide is something that should be encouraged." And threatening litigation:
How many years have gay people spent trying to "change" their sexuality to no avail?

I myself spent 15 years.

It's about time we started a lawsuit against these phonies at Narth. And I think Dr. Helen should be included in that lawsuit.

This shit has been forced on us. We were lied to as well. The "success" rates they tout have been proven to be bogus crap.

Fine - try to convert us all you want. But when it fails - you have every right to be held accountable for destroying people's lives. It's called malpractice.

It's time to sue Dr. Helen and make her defend this hocus pocus crap in front of a jury of her peers.

Time to sue Dr. Helen? For allowing that clients might have a right to seek "reparations therapy" even though she's skeptical of the idea?

I left a comment echoing what I've said in this blog for years:

If there is such a thing as sexual freedom, well, doesn't that mean the right to be free to choose what you do sexually? If there's a right to be gay, isn't there just as much right not to be? This intolerant attitude reveals major insecurity on the part of gay activists -- it's as if the idea what other people might do sexually is a threat to their own sexuality. Even their existence! Yet wasn't the gay movement originally started to combat intolerant and intrusive views of human sexuality?
The issue was once whether there's a right to be gay. Over the years that has morphed into the crazy idea that if you are gay, you must always remain gay because it is your identity, and that the slightest disagreement with this idea constitutes the direst threat, and actually causes harm. This makes no sense, and I think it's a form of intolerance motivated by a type of insecurity similar to (although not as extreme as) what we've been seeing in the case of people who went ballistic over the Muhammad cartoons.

Anyway, the commenter* became more and more ballistic, until he finally declared (after having left 19 comments) that the blog bored him -- but he'd be back after Dr. Helen's (whom he calls "Dr. Laura") "next heart attack":

This blog bores me.

I'll come back when Dr. Laura has her next heart attack to give my condolences . . .

I can think of few things more vicious -- and yes, evil -- than gloating over the prospect of someone with a heart problem having a heart attack. (I can only wonder what the commenter's reaction would have been had someone said "I'll come back after you die of AIDS." BTW, he's also targeted Eugene Volokh.) That kind of insulting ad hominem invective is simply outrageous. It's one of the reasons I started this blog.

I was feeling especially daring this morning, so when I read the attacks I was emboldened to leave another comment (even though it might have been very insensitive of me):

Helen, I'd like to really stick my neck out here and take issue with the preposterous assertion that you are a "closed minded conservative bigot" who "thinks gay kids committing suicide is something that should be encouraged."

Insulting and outrageous remarks like those illustrate why most people hesitate to discuss the gay issue, as well as any other identity politics issue. Intimidation often works. I'm glad it doesn't in your case.

Unfortunately, the hurling of threats, insults and ad hominem invective has become an inherent feature of identity politics. Anyone who disagrees with any of the premises is fair game. Reasonable disagreements can result in charges of "encouraging suicide." Or even "genocide."

Jeff Goldstein has another excellent post on the mechanism, and warns about the risk of not standing up to it:

Until we begin doing so, we’ll be cowed into making apologies we don’t mean to people or groups who don’t deserve them. Such is the power of the conditioning we’ve received in this country—through years of schooling and a culture of PC “tolerance”—that our greatest fear is to be labeled racist or homophobic or misogynistic, which is a most powerful weapon against intellectualism, inasmuch as it is able to put the apostate to PC orthodoxy on the defensive, and so forestall substantive debate. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
The irony, of course, is that identity politics arose as a reaction against bigotry. Over time, that has morphed into the redefining of bigotry as disagreement with identity politics.

Increasingly, rights no longer mean the right to do or not do something or the right to be left alone to do it or not do it. They have come to mean some sort of immunity from criticism or even disagreement.

I don't mean to change the subject too drastically, but in a number of posts, I've taken issue with the idea that people should have the right to sterilize my dog in the name of "animal rights." (According to AR theory, domesticated animals are a product of human "exploitation," and should not be bred.) I've had dogs for many decades, and I have seen a form of "animal PC" (in which it is now assumed that you are evil or ignorant if you haven't cut your animal's nuts off) metastasize incrementally to reach its now full ascendancy. According to those who claim to be speaking in the interest of animals (I think they're power seekers who want to tell us what to do) it is in the best interest of animals to neuter them. The ultimate goal -- that there be no more breeding of domestic animals -- is a canon of the animal rights mentality. The spay-and-neuter mantra is so widespread that I could easily imagine a push to declare it a breach of veterinary "ethics" for any veterinarian to counsel against neutering a perfectly normal dog. For all I know, that's already the case.

In light of the activists' claim that animals and people are of equal moral worth, I'm tempted to ask why physicians shouldn't be urging the routine castration of boys, but fortunately, that's an issue ahead of its time. So I'll stick with the present.

Just as my dogs' genitalia are not someone else's business, what I do with my genitalia is not someone else's business.

(Rights theory once meant stuff like that.)

UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, here's Carol Iannone on the effectiveness of intimidation:

I can't tell you the number of people who assured me through the years that all the left wing propaganda, and Marxist and quasi-Marxist theorizing and indoctrination that was going on in universities was just a fad that would soon pass, would be rejected by students, not be tolerated by parents who had to spend so much money on tuition, and so on. I can't tell you all the professors who might have joined in the movement to rout the radicals but could not rouse themselves to do so because they wouldn't take it seriously (I'll be there waiting when these fads have passed, one professor said to me. He's still waiting). In some cases, moderately liberal professors with a traditional bent who should have joined in the anti-radical movement shrank from it, for fear of being called "right-wing." That's why radicalism always wins out over liberalism, as Solzehenitsyn pointed out.
For more see also "Why Activists Win," and "Why Activists Win, Part II." Another factor is the I-don't-want-to-sit-here-and-listen-to-these-people-all-night attrition factor.

The problem is, even now, after all I've been through, I still don't want to listen to these people until two in the morning! In fact, I don't want to listen to them at all. Ever!

(Can this be cured?)

* The commenter is an anonymous ex gay gay ex blogger known as "downtownlad."

posted by Eric on 03.13.06 at 10:41 AM


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Tracked on March 14, 2006 4:13 AM


"I'm tempted to ask why physicians shouldn't be urging the routine castration of boys, but fortunately, that's an issue ahead of its time."

You can make it more offensive by suggesting the castration of chinese, indian and african men and giving horny pills to Europeans, to balance out the population ;-) ;-) ;-)

Is anyone really taking animal "rights" seriously?

Gabriel Mihalache   ·  March 13, 2006 12:15 PM

Definitely incurable!
Great post.

bird dog   ·  March 13, 2006 8:46 PM

Thank you! You're the first person I've found who agrees with me that the spay/neuter movement is completely incompatible with standard animal rights rhetoric. The only plausible explanation is the extinction one--that PETA et al. want to wipe domestic animals from the face of the planet because they find them morally offensive. How else they could justify depriving a being with "equal rights" to a human of a meaningful sex life is beyond me.

BTW, I'd love to know if Dr. Peter Singer from Princeton has ever commented on this issue. Any ideas?

Aaron Davies   ·  March 13, 2006 10:50 PM

Thank you. Your posts on this subject are always a wonderful breath of fresh air. I think homosexuality is perfectly okay, but I'm regularly aggravated by the behavior of people that are ostensibly on my "side."

And I'm not particularly surprised that this kind of thing is coming from downtownlad. I've seen him over at Althouse's, complaining about the Catholic Church's stance on homosexuality; if I recall correctly, he wanted the doctrine changed because... well, because it's just not very nice. I'm not even religious, and that strikes me as an intellectually dishonest position to take. Sort of like demanding that physics textbooks be rewritten because you really, really want to fly.

Stephanie   ·  March 14, 2006 12:46 AM

It's unclear how rights are supposed to obtain--by some divine being's impetus or by conference among the elected to prevent mass tyranny. Perhaps one opts for godless laws that somehow exist out there, separate from our earthly existence, yet binding on our moral fiber. Wherein is the right to cream in one's pants for this or that sex?

Cyberpets   ·  March 15, 2006 11:43 PM

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