GUEST POST: Maggie and Keith Vs. Facts and Reality

In a post this week for her side project, the Culture War Victory Fund, National Organization For Marriage co-founder Maggie Gallagher treads territory that is so familiar these days that I'd imagine it has to be getting Description: for her.  I know it's getting boring for me.

Namely, Maggie pushes that persistent (and insistent) far-right meme that pretends free speech somehow also includes the freedom from any and all scrutiny or criticism of that speech.  

In her column, Maggie cites three different subjects, all of whom chose to take some sort of a public stand that calls into question the benign worth, placement, and/or equality granted (or denied) to LGBT people and their families. Then she acts as if all three are being unfairly denied their freedom of speech, because they made those comments in a public response space that also grants freedom of speech to those with dissenting opinions.  Maggie cites things like Twitter and online comment forums (both largely unpoliced rhetorical outlets where free reign rules the day on all sides), as if our density-rich and viewpoint-scattered population's desire and ability to have its own say constitutes a "silencing" of those who share her viewpoints.

While that theme, based on its rote typicality and glaring intellectual dishonesty, is enough to annoy me in the abstract, there is one particular part of Maggie's piece that I really want to focus on: her take on and defense of Fox News commentator (and fellow #GLAADCAPper) Keith Ablow:    

He recently reported for Fox News on the New Family Structures Survey, an analysis of which by Prof. Mark Rengerus was published in a respected peer-reviewed journal, Social Science Journal.


Ablow said that the disturbing results indicate “we’ve got to look more at it,” adding: “And it’s such a controversial thing, I’ve got to tell you, that I hesitate to write the blog [on the topic], because every time I do you know I get threats.”

The Fox News reporter interviewing him tried to reframe Dr. Ablow’s disturbing comments to say, “Well, we’ll get letters,” the Fox host.

“No, I get threats, I get threats!” responded Ablow. “People are going to come to my office, they’re going to burn down my house, it’s incredible.”


This is a stunning look behind the veil of silence beginning to close around gay marriage.  A distinguished psychiatrist is afraid to mention a study published in a peer-reviewed journal on television—because he will get threats.

FULL PIECE: [Culture War Victory Fund]

So as per usual, Maggie is making her subject seem like nothing more than an innocent victim, a mere voice of "traditional marriage" or "values"—someone who has simply engaged in a political conversation on par with any other debate.  And of course Maggie, like Ablow, focuses on the truly extreme responses that exist on all sides of any conversation, which all reasonable commentators of any viewpoint obviously and strongly reject.

Maggie conveniently neglects two things. First, that the paper Ablow was talking about was absolute garbage, and defined “gay parent” incredibly broadly and in a way that seemed to purposely MOSTLY include parents who had extramarital same-sex affairs—not same sex couples who were committed to each other and decided to adopt or foster, or any other scenario in which a stable household headed by a same-sex couple would be raising children. That's one. 

The second thing that Maggie neglects is the fact that this conversation is far from political for far too many of us, with the disinformation stream attacking us quite fully and quite personally.  But more than that, Maggie also overlooks the reasons why this man in particular, Keith Ablow, has faced what she inaccurately calls a "veil of silence."  So let's do Maggie the service of filling in the gaps.  Let's do the exact opposite of silencing her friend, and take a close look at Mr Ablow's GLAAD CAP profile:

- Claimed out lesbian Hilary Rosen has "chosen and alternative lifestyle" and is "anti-gender" because of it:  "Hilary Rosen vilifying women who choose to be stay-at-home wives and mothers is particularly ironic, given that she has chosen an alternative lifestyle raising twins with a female partner, meaning no father-figure is present in her home. To enjoy the benefits of her alternative lifestyle while denigrating the lifestyle of Ann Romney shows that her seemingly infinite bandwidth for alternative lifestyles flows in one direction: only alternative"...."These 'anti-gender' women have it in for anyone who embraces her femininity, maternal instincts and capacity to nurture as their highest priority -- postponing or passing up other laudable opportunities to work at, say, a law firm or as a marketing executive.  They despise the notion that some women may indeed be drawn -- instinctively and happily -- toward creating special and loving environments in which to raise their children, while spending all their available time sustaining and enriching those environments and those children.  They despise the parts of themselves that may be drawn to such roles, as well."

- Said he considers Chaz Bono's transition "a psychotic delusion--a fixed and false belief," adding that there is "nothing substantially different from a woman believing she is a man than there is about a woman believing she is a CIA agent being followed by the KGB (when in reality, she is, say, a salesperson at J. Crew)." 

- Instructed parents to keep their kids away from "Dancing with the Stars" when Chaz Bono appeared: "The last thing vulnerable children and adolescents need, as they wrestle with the normal process of establishing their identities, is to watch a captive crowd in a studio audience applaud on cue for someone whose search for an identity culminated with the removal of her breasts, the injection of steroids and, perhaps one day soon, the fashioning of a make-shift phallus to replace her vagina"..."Chaz Bono should not be applauded any more than someone who, tragically, believes that his species, rather than gender, is what is amiss and asks a plastic surgeon to build him a tail of flesh harvested from his abdomen."

- Compared being trans to a person pretending he or she is a farm animal: "Here's an analogy: If a person came to me tattooed as a zebra - Zebraman... go on TV, but if you want me to agree with you that you're a zebra, well now you're invading my reality... It's dancing with a woman as a man. I'm not going to have my kids watch a show in which people pretend to be farm animals."

- Said the Benneton clothing company's ad pro-acceptance ad campaign declared "psychological warfare" on religion, culture, and heterosexuals: "Make no mistake, this series of images published and posted along streets by Benetton is a declaration of psychological warfare on religious tradition and cultural mores and one that elevates narcissism and sexual gratification above intelligence and leadership. It is a direct message to the young people targeted by Benetton marketeers that theirs should be a generation defined by indulging in erotic pleasure above all else, and without regard to one's religious vows, or moral standards, or respect for one's office and public face, or one's word."..."If you are heterosexual, if you are a leader who believes your position demands decorum, if you are a person of substance who believes you should be valued for your mind, not just your sexuality, if you think that countries and religion deserve respect, not ridicule, you were attacked today by Benetton. You felt it. And you shouldn't be talked out of your outrage."

- Responding to an ad in which a mother playfully painted her child's nails, wrote: "This is a dramatic example of the way that our culture is being encouraged to abandon all trappings of gender identity--homogenizing males and females when the outcome of such "psychological sterilization" [my word choice] is not known."..."[E]ncouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones that they got at birth, can throw our species into real psychological turmoil--not to mention crowding operating rooms with procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts? Why not make race the next frontier? What would be so wrong with people deciding to tattoo themselves dark brown and claim African-American heritage? Why not bleach the skin of others so they can playact as Caucasians?"

- Claimed lesbian parents need to be studied to see if they "turned" their child transgender: "We have two women raising a child. He's adopted. And he's come to believe that he too is female. That argues for a complete psychological evaluation, not just of the boy, but of his parents as well to see whether psychological forces are at play here to make him say such things" 

- In an 8/11/2011 column, conflated homosexuality and pedophilia as both being orientations; in scientific fact, pedophilia is a paraphilia, not an orientation. 

- Claimed same-sex marriage is a step towards the wholly unrelated matter of polygamy: "Well, three people can love each other, so polygamy has to be close behind.  How can you have same-sex marriage and not believe three people can fall in love, which they absolutely can?" (4:39–4:50)

- Leant credence to a widely discredited study suggesting gay parents are not ideal: "What we should avoid at all costs is silencing such research and such discussion because it is seen by some as politically incorrect. Where optimizing the well-being of children is involved, no stone should be left unturned." 

Keith Ablow [GLAAD CAP]

First and foremost, let me remind Maggie (as I've had to remind so many who've weighed in on this GLAAD CAP project) that none of us who cite Mr. Ablow's record are interested in "silencing."  The very reason why we haul out the words that he, per his own volition, has chosen to put into the public is so that we can have a more honest debate about what a pundit has and has not said, and where his or her statements come from.  That is not less speech—it is more.  And it's more than fair.

That out of the way, let's now turn back to how Ablow and Gallagher address this particualr situation.  Keith claims he gets "threats." Maggie gives the doc credit for daring to speak out despite his critics.  Keith labels the whole thing a product of a "politically-correct insane environment."  Maggie calls the treatment against Keith "stunning."  Jointly, they make it sound like a one-way stream of persecution.  

In truth, Dr. Ablow has said some patently unfair, harshly mean-spirited, and dangerously misrepresentative things about LGBT people.  And let's not forget that he is paid handily to disseminate these views.  Contrary to that other persistent far-right meme, paid on-air punditry is actually not a constitutional right.  Keith Ablow is one of the "media elites" who is lucky and privileged enough to get this kind of public face time.  That public face time always comes with public response.  Always.  And rightly so.

Keith Ablow has chosen to use his salaried role at Fox News to tell viewers that LGBT people are any number of things other than normal parts of our humanity's spectrum.  Yes, those of us who were born within that spectrum, as well as our allies, have a thing or two to say about a man who says all of the things that I have rounded up above.  We also have a thing or two to say about a person who builds the larger part of her career around civil discrimination for same-sex couples.  If Maggie Gallagher wants less silence about the true and fully fleshed out record, then most of us on the equality side are more than ready to have that conversation.  But this noise about supposed "silencing" and this continued victimization strategy?  It's not doing anyone any favors—least of all the side that forced us into this overwrought "culture war" in the first place.