Associated Press Opts Out of Smearing Conservatives as ‘Homophobic’

November 30, 2012

From National Review Online’s Charles Cooke I learn that the Associated Press will no longer use the term “homophobia”:

Homophobia especially — it’s just off the mark. It’s ascribing a mental disability to someone . . . .

I agree.  I have been concerned for some time (see, e.g., here, here, and here) about poisonous attempts to silence one’s opponents or delegitimize dissent.  Yes, those attempts overwhelmingly come from the left.  “Homophobia”, for example, implies that only a pathological, irrational fear could explain holding on to the traditional understanding of marriage when a novel understanding has come into vogue.  (If you can’t see that this is a problem overwhelmingly of the left, perhaps you could remind me what equivalent term the right uses to delegitimize the other side of this issue?)

Read further discussion from Charles Cooke.

The Associated Press’s November announcement that it will cease conflating “phobia” and “criticism” is a welcome one, and both other news outlets and the general public would do well to follow its example. . . .

Liberals’ reactions have been mixed.  On the one hand, America Blog Gay criticizes the AP’s decision, but along the way basically concedes my point:

I don’t know anyone who uses the term “homophobia” to mean that someone is clinically insane, or mentally unstable, or whatever other pretzel AP would like to tie itself into over this word.  Having said that . . . to call the fear of gays and our civil rights “irrational,” and based on an “uncontrollable fear,” strikes me as spot on.

In other words, By using the term “homophobia”, we’re not literally accusing all who disagree with us of pathological, irrational fear, but we should!

The entry also quotes George Weinberg, apparently the one who invented the term “homophobia” (in 1972), who basically says that people shouldn’t stop using the term to silence their opponents, because it works (“It made all the difference . . .”).

On the other hand, Andrew Sullivan (via The American Conservative) says,

I don’t like the word myself. There’s a smugness to it that doesn’t sit well with me.

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9 Responses to “Associated Press Opts Out of Smearing Conservatives as ‘Homophobic’”

  1. Snoodickle Says:

    So if a person actually does have an irrational and uncontrollable fear of homosexuals, what should we call it?

    As to your question about conservatives delegitimizing the other side of this issue, are you aware that the Family Research Council has referred to homosexuals as “deviants” and has openly compared them to pedophiles? I honestly think you are living in some kind of deranged bizarro universe where everything is the polar opposite of reality.


  2. If you think “deviant” is equivalent to “homophobic” (or would be if its use were similarly widespread, which it’s also not), then I don’t think you’ve understood my point at all. Can you articulate what I think is wrong with using the term “homophobia” or “homophobic”?

    • Snoodickle Says:

      We’re talking about delegitimizing the other side of an argument. If you don’t think that saying “the other side supports the rights of people who are akin to pedophiles” is delegitimization, I can’t help you.

      I’ll ask you again, if a person actually has an irrational fear of homosexuals, what should we call that person?


  3. It does not seem to me so much a fear as disgust. The homophobic person- best word we have- looks at a gay person, not even holding hands with another man or anything- and feels disgust.

    That disgust is as wrong as feeling disgust for other races. All sorts of rational-sounding arguments are built upon it, but it is an irrational foundation.

    I think that revulsion is very close to the feeling which phobia commonly describes, as in arachnophobia.


  4. Replying to both Miss Flourish and Snoodickle:

    Thanks for proving my point? It’s still not clear to me whether either of you has understood my point in the first place.

    If the right and the left in the United States are going to have a conversation with each other about the issues we disagree on (e.g., whether we should change the legal definition of marriage), then we have to talk about the issues. To the extent that conservatives try to advance arguments about the substantive issues themselves (e.g., making an argument about why we have a legal institution of marriage in the first place) but liberals decline to make such arguments, and instead only discuss conservatives’ motives (real or imagined)—to that extent, it’s impossible to have a conversation about the underlying substantive issues.

    Snoodickle, “deviant” is not a word usually used by conservatives today, but even if it were, no, it would not be the equivalent of “homophobic”—the former is talking about one of the underlying substantive issues (homosexuality), while the latter delegitimizes everyone on the other side. For you to have found an equivalent, you would have had to identify a term that conservatives use, not for homosexuals, but for everyone who thinks homosexuality is OK. It would have to be a word that smears that whole half of the country as not even legitimate participants in the conversation. As I think you’ve demonstrated here, there is no such term, because disproportionately conservatives are trying to have a conversation; disproportionately liberals are opting to cancel the debate before it begins.

    • Snoodickle Says:

      Ok, so calling homosexuals pedophiles doesn’t delegitimize the liberal side of this debate. Noted.

      I’ll ask you again, if a person actually has an irrational and uncontrollable fear of homosexuals, what would you have me call that person?


    • I feel delegitimated by your suggestion that I might not understand your point. I am quite capable of understanding arguments you are capable of making, I assure you.

      If you support traditional marriage, why on Earth would you not be delighted that a couple would seek to pledge themselves to each other life long, even if they were both men?

      Actually, I think it immature to dislike something because it is an innovation; there has to be some reason. What damage could equal marriage possibly do?

      So, yes, I think it is a matter of disgust or fear, rather than sensible argument, that opposes equal marriage.


  5. […] view as “hateful” or otherwise beyond the pale.  (I discuss this dynamic a little more here and here.)  Demonstrating that it’s never too early, too late, or in too bad taste to call […]


  6. […] tells them over and over again that anyone who thinks otherwise must be a bigot or motivated by irrational fear or […]


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