Let’s imagine that we lived in an alternative universe where some of the more noxious nineteenth century pseudo-science regarding ‘inverts’ and same-sex attraction had survived into the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Let us further stipulate that the editor of a nominally liberal opinion magazine had published one purported effort to ‘prove’ via statistics that same-sex attraction was a form of communicable psychosis, which invariably resulted in national degeneracy when it was allowed to persist. One of this essay’s co-authors had chased sissies in his youth, but claimed he had not realized that this was homophobic; he also had occasion to observe the lack of real men on the streets of Paris, and to deplore the resulting sapping of virility in the French national character. His efforts, and the efforts of fellow researchers (all of the latter funded by and/or directly involved with the Institute for the Suppression of Homosexual Filth) succeeded in creating a significant public controversy. Some public commentators embraced the same-sex-attraction-as-psychosis argument because they were, themselves, homophobes, others more plausibly because they were incompetent, or because they enjoyed being contrarians, or both. This, despite the fact that the statistical arguments on which these extreme claims depended were demonstrably incompetent.
Now, let us suppose that the same editor who helped release this tide of noxious homophobia in the first place still played a significant role in American public debate, and still refused to recognize that he might, actually, be wrong on the facts. Whenever people pointed out that these claims were statistically bogus, he refused to engage, instead treating cogent statistical criticisms as yet another reiteration of the left-liberal view. While continuing to maintain that the “data” on fag-psychosis need addressing, he resolutely refused to actually address the harsh statistical critiques of how this data had been analyzed, perhaps because he didn’t actually understand these critiques. Instead, he continued to worry that “political correctness” and “squeamishness” had stifled the study of whether gay people were, in fact, psychotic and could communicate their psychosis to others. This was a discussion that was “worth airing “a decade and a half ago” and it “was surely worth airing today.” Indeed, the topic was “fascinating in and of itself.” However, as the editor observed, those who sympathized with his own position found that the “chilling effect” of public disapproval, had gotten even worse, and was “playing havoc” with the careers of those interested in investigating the very important question of whether teh gay was a form of criminal insanity.
I wonder, if we lived in such a world, what Andrew Sullivan would think of that editor?