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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

 

Political correctness and the Schoenewolf controversy

Several brief reactions to the Schoenewolf article regarding political correctness:

Dr. Schoenewolf defines PC as 1) an ideology, 2) a culture, 3) a philosophy, 4) a lifestyle and 5) an extension of Marxist thought. He then discusses civil rights, feminism and gay rights as if they all are in the same intellectual tradition. This to me seems simplistic. It also seems to make an argument that many conservatives and civil rights veterans resist: gay rights are analogous to the Civil Rights Movement. I don't imagine this was his intention.

His analogy to families who seek therapy doesn't work for me (you'll have to read the article to understand this). I understand how therapists can remove their biases from work with families but I do not see how people in general can take a dispassionate view of slavery and oppression. Therapists are not responsible for how their clients turn out; however, people in a society have at least some responsibility to speak against injustice. Certainly, my religious tradition influences me to see my responsibility this way.

This sentence in the article puzzles me: "...various human rights groups began using his [Marx's] ideology to rationalize their movements, primarily in America. First came the Civil Rights Movement, which began in the 1850s and was one of the causes of the Civil War. " I cannot understand why the Civil Rights Movement needs to be examined as a rationalization. Slavery was a moral evil. We do not need to appeal to Marx or rationalizations to speak against evil. Many people needed and need courage to speak out. If there is rationalization, it is to quiet the internal dissonance between seeing an evil and being safe in silence. However, calling oppression what it is seems to me to be a response of compassion and service to God toward other bearers of His image. Many abolitionists approached the issue out of Christian compassion. The Golden Rule is not a Marxist invention.

Here is a passage that leaves me puzzled:

This is not to say that the Civil Rights Movement was or is wrong. Of course, racial discrimination does exist and many horrible things have happened to African-Americans; the question is not whether or not it exists, but how one interprets it and how one reacts to it. Civil rights leaders insist there is only one meaning and one way to react. The Marxist view is superimposed on the race issue: Only an absolute and simplistic view of the issue is allowed--one which divides people into good guys and bad guys--either you're with us or you're against us.

There is no attempt by civil rights leaders to see both sides of the conflict, to understand the complex sources of the problem, to view people on both sides as having both good and bad in them. There is no attempt to negotiate a win-win situation that would benefit all society; instead a win-lose scenario is forced on all of society, whether they like it or not. All whites are guilty of what was done to blacks, particularly all white males, and all must pay.

With all due respect, there is another way, or other ways, to look at the race issue in America. It could be pointed out, for example, that Africa at the time of slavery was still primarily a jungle, as yet uncivilized or industrialized. Life there was savage, as savage as the jungle for most people, and that it was the Africans themselves who first enslaved their own people. They sold their own people to other countries, and those brought to Europe, South America, America, and other countries, were in many ways better off than they had been in Africa. But if one even begins to say these things one is quickly shouted down as though one were a complete madman.

To his credit, Dr. Schoenewolf indicates that discrimination exists and horrible things have been done. However, I do not understand what both sides of the conflict are. It would certainly help me understand his meaning if he had pointed out what both sides are and what a "win-win" scenario would look like in this context. As far as I can see there is only one correct side to the issue of racial discrimination - it is wrong. Adding that Africans "were in many ways better off than they had been in Africa" makes this section incomprehensible to me. As it is worded, the passage trivializes a clear moral evil in an incredibly insensitive manner.

Another idea I do not understand is here: "The irony is that the Civil Rights Movement has been vehement about pointing out the hysterical lynchings that took place in the old South, but completely blind to its own hysterical tactics." This is the most egregious example of a kind of parallelism that the author seems to want to communicate. Lynchings are not called good by Dr. Schoenewolf, but somehow they are placed in parallel to "hysterical tactics" used by the civil rights movement. However, the tactics are not spelled out and the parallel is assumed. This is offensive on many levels but I will note one. Words mean something and lynching cannot be considered a parallel to name-calling or other forms of social disapproval, no matter how hysterical they may seem. This comparison again trivilizes unspeakable inhumanity to attempt to make a lynching parallel to anything that is not a lynching.

I cannot judge inner attitudes from this piece. However, there is enough wrong with it that it really should be pulled. That would not be PC, but it would be wise.

UPDATE (9/21/06) - This post is from the NARTH blog: "The offensive article has been removed from the NARTH site. The criticisms have been duly noted."

Comments:
A good dissection.

There is a difference between political correctness that constricts thoughtful analysis and thoughtless, and unbalance analogies which should be criticized.

Criticizing Schoenewolf's analogies is not a form of PC censorship; it is an example of thoughtful refutation of a poorly stated argument.

To quote him, his poorly constructed and thoughtout argument about slavery makes him appear "...as a mad man." Next time he writes, I hope he is more circumspect and provides sound documentation for his analogies.

David Blakeslee
 
I looked at the NARTH blog. They are still defending his comments.
 
Here's an interesting item -- a review of Schonewolf's book, "the Art of Hating", from Kirkus Reviews:

"In a dramatized version of one of his earliest cases, psychotherapist Schoenewolf reveals the complicated relationship that developed between himself as an inexperienced therapist and "Jennifer", a beautiful young patient with multiple personality disorder.

Schoenewolf admits to "occasional literary enhancements" and "a degree of license in order to heighten the impact" of his account; this may be an understatement. Liberties have definitely been taken with form--

Part III of the story is presented as a diary kept by Jennifer and her alter personalities during the final month of her brief therapy with Schoenewolf--and perhaps with substance, as Schoenewolf insists that as Jennifer's different personalities emerge, "not only is her personality different, but even the shape of her body and face."

Jennifer, the core personality, is a suicidal and depressive dancer whose other selves are frightened six-year-old Jenny; angry ten-year- old Tom; promiscuous Jess; hostile, competitive Margaret; mature, confident Mildred; and formal, stiff Mary.

Schoenewolf quickly learns how each is a response to a specific traumatic event in Jennifer's life, and in an astonishingly short time encourages them to become part of Jennifer's conscious mind as a first step toward integration. He attributes this amazing outcome to his "unusually intimate working alliance" with his patient.

As Jennifer moves toward health, however, Schoenewolf finds himself out of his depth, spending days fantasizing about her, even imagining marriage to her, yet finding her an unbearable burden.

Ultimately, he recognizes that he lacks the skills and objectivity to continue and refers her to another therapist".
 
Schoenewolf rehashes a longer piece written by William Lind which is posted over at www.freecongress.org. Free Congress is a conservative think tank leading the charge, I think they think, against PC-dom everywhere, although a quick round of googling found other orgs also intent on opposing PCness wherever/whenever. The upshot of all this fury is apparently to protect the power and legitimacy of white Christian anglo-saxon male (and straight) domination against a growing pluralistic and multicultural society. Lots of nervous folks out there. A British org suggests that a cultural, racial, gender sensitive approach to civil society actually "encourages" racism and sexism "especially in the job market -- encouraging people to be given jobs based on the color of their skin or their sex and not on their merit." Ummm. Well, it's the culture wars, and Schoenewolf manages in his own way to contribute to the literature via NARTH. Given all that, I'm inclined to think NARTH and EXODUS aren't a very good match,and I kinda wish EXODUS would get out of bed with them. The EXODUS folks I knew back between 1975 and 1986 had a cross section of political beliefs but most everyone kept those things to themselves because it wasn't pertinent to the goals at hand which were sharing Christ and offering help to people who felt that homosexual practice did not conform to their spiritual values.
 
Here's a passage I have trouble with:

"Subsequent to Marx, various human rights groups began using his ideology to rationalize their movements, primarily in America. First came the Civil Rights Movement, which began in the 1850s and was one of the causes of the Civil War. In this case, European-Americans (Caucasians) became the oppressors and African-Americans became the oppressed; European-Americans were demonized, and African-Americans were idealized; European-Americans who had practiced slavery or segregation were viewed as all-bad and African-Americans were seen as all-good.

African-Americans were urged by various leaders to unify and rebel against European-Americans and to demand special privileges as compensation for their suffering at the hands of the latter. Civil rights leaders, like Marx and Engels before them, believed that their way, and only their way, was the valid way to look at the issue. In the 1950s, the Civil Rights Movement went into high gear, and the leaders of the movement, just like Marx and Engels, began to punish anybody who was in any way critical of the movement or had any other point of view with respect to solving racial discrimination by labeling them "racists" and "bigots" and attempting to isolate and ostracize them."

Note the first sentence of the second paragraph. African-Americans were being "urged by various leaders to unify and rebel against European-Americans" and to demand "special privileges." Just prior to this he refers to the Civil Rights movement of the 1850s and just afterward to the movement of the 1950s, so which one was this sentence referring to? If it refers to the 1850s, then he's just said freedom for African-Americans is a "special privilege." If he's referring to the 1950s, then he is saying that European-Americans are the masters of African-Americans even after slavery was abolished. Either way, this is an exceptionally racist statement, and not one that can be explained away by someone simply being too blunt or unclear in trying to make a point.

I'm sure I also hardly need to point out that it is extremely disingenuous to reduce the entire gay rights movement to a "Gay Revolution Party Manifesto" he read on some website, and that he would be extremely hardpressed to find any gay rights organizations who claim that straight people per se are "evil."
 
Boo quotes Schoenewolf:

"In the 1950s, the Civil Rights Movement went into high gear, and the leaders of the movement, just like Marx and Engels, began to punish anybody who was in any way critical of the movement or had any other point of view with respect to solving racial discrimination by labeling them "racists" and "bigots" and attempting to isolate and ostracize them."

So, according to Schoneewolf we (1) SHOULD ostracize gender variant kids (those dangerous "boys in dresses", because they pose a threat to the "survival of the species") but (2) we should NOT "isolate and ostracize" those we perceive as "bigots" or "racists"?

Would someone PLEASE explain how boys in dresses are more dangerous to society and need to be ostracized more those we percieve to be "racists" and bigots????
 
Schoenewolf's article is an embarrassment to NARTH for at least three reasons.

First, it contains false information about history. As Warren Throckmorton has written, there is no evidence that the abolitionist movement had Marxist influences. The overwhelming majority of these mid-nineteenth century activists had a substantial religious and specifically a Christian motivation and world view.

Second,in line with David Blakeslee's comments, Schoenewolf incorporates sloppy reasoning. For example, he equates the civil rights movement, which among other things advocated for the enforcement of existing law, with political correctness which seeks to deprive people of their legal rights to free speech. His analogies seem to border on the absurd.

Third, Schoenewolf's comments come across as just plain hateful, discriminatory, perhaps even as racist. I am sure that this was not his intent. However, he seems to lack any appreciation of the extremely emotional responses generated by the controversies that NARTH addresses. Pieces that invite readers to cool their passions and engage their powers of reasoning are most needed here. Unfortunately, by defending outdated and totally unjust institutions such as slavery, he is inviting our critics (and perhaps even our friends) to associate their images of oppression and the anger it provokes with NARTH's message. In my opinion, this is sheer folly.

NARTH's message is an important one which deserves to be considered separately from other controversies of our time. The web site certainly is worthy of articles that represent carefully constructed analyses and sound arguments based on verifiable historical information. Schoenewolf's work fails to meet any of these criteria.
 
Ned,


Good to here from you.

David Blakeslee
 
"The offensive article has been removed from the NARTH site. The criticisms have been duly noted."

This was on the NARTH webpage today.

David Blakeslee
 
Schoenewolf's article is an embarrassment to NARTH for at least three reasons.

I can think of at least two more reasons.

First, and unfortunately I can't give direct quotes since the article was pulled, in at least two places the author states his frustration that anyone who brings up the kind of viewpoints he does is denounced as a bigot or a racist. There is a very good reaon for this. People who espouse bigotry tend to get called bigots. More than an emotional response, it's a matter of definition. Schoenewolf repeatedly talks of "the Civil Rights Movement" and "the Feminist Movement" and "the Gay Rights Movement" as if they are all monolithic entities bowing at the alter of Marxism. He claims that the entire gay rights movement can be summed up in one radical leftist publication he read on a website somewhere. This would be analogous to me saying the entire ex-gay movement can be summed up by, well, Gerald Schoenewolf. NARTH claims it exists to help homosexual individuals. Are homosexuals individuals helped by NARTH having an individual on their Advisory Board who makes sweeping claims about entire classes of people and movements being "Marxists" based off of... well, other than the one article he read on a website, he had no evidence whatsoever for any of the three movements he criticizes being influenced by Marxism. Are homosexual individuals helped by placing responsibility for their psychological care in the hands of someone who is predisposed to view them this way? If someone wants to change their orientation but still believes homosexuals individuals are entitled to protection from workplace discrimination, does Schoenewolf still view them as a Marxist?

Second, this article was put up on their website in 2005. This never would have come up if I hadn't happened across it and brought it to the attention of exgaywatch and Wayne Besen. This wasn't some off the cuff remark, this is a lengthy article that was drafted, revised, edited, and published. Presumably, some person or persons is responsible for the content of NARTH's website. Not only did Schoenewolf show, at the very least, remarkably poor judgement in writing this, but one or more persons of authority at NARTH read it and liked it enough to put it on their website. You'd at least think that after the Berger embarassment, someone would have gone through the site to make sure there was no more dirty laundry. To his credit, Dr. Throckmorton saw serious problems in this thing immediately. Why didn't anyone at NARTH?
 
I checked the NARTH blogs for "jjohnson" and found several posts on different topics from "Jeremiah Johnson". I assume this is the same "jjohnson" who posted the announcement that the Schoenewolf article had been "removed" and "criticisms duly noted". The only other reference I could find on line was for the movie: "Jeremiah Johnson", Directed by Sydney Pollack, Produced by Joe Wizan, Starring Robert Redford and
Will Geer, Distributed by Warner Bros. Release date September 10, 1972 (U.S. release)

Here's the plot: "Jeremiah Johnson (1972) is a film about the mountain men who hunted for furs, primarily beaver, during the first part of the 19th century. It was directed by Sydney Pollack, and starred Robert Redford as Jeremiah Johnson and Will Geer as Bear Claw. This movie is said to have been based in-part on the life of the legendary mountain man Liver-Eating Johnson. It is also based on the novel Mountain Man by Vardis Fisher."

Looks like "jjohnson" is a just a pseudonym for another cowardly NARTH member, like "sojourneer".

No one takes responsibility. How can anyone take NARTH seriously, when the person who retracts the offending article hides behind a screen name? Isn't anyone in charge at NARTH? Shouldn't an official retraction come from someone in authority who is willing to be named? Does Jeremiah Johnson have the authority to speak for NARTH and retract articles by official NARTH advisors?
 
I guess this is how NARTH gets away with never having to take real responsibility for what they publish: This was added to their website:

"Opinions expressed on this web site are the views and sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of NARTH. However, NARTH values diversity of opinions and freedom of speech, and encourages individual writers."

Maybe Wayne Besen could write an article for them since they are so interested in "diversity and freedom of speech from individual writers"? How are the readers to determine who represents NARTH's views and who doesn't?
 
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