As a former culture blogger for Commentary, I used to think it was creepy but also amusing that there were certain ideological constraints on what you could say in the magazine’s blog about non-ideological subjects. It was frowned upon, for instance, to suggest that W.H. Auden was a great poet even when he was going through a fitful and uneasy phase as a Communist. And did you know that the term "fossil record" is verboten in this once respected journal for New York intellectuals, even when used in defense of so worthy a figure as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and in defiance of so wretched a one as Osama bin Laden? I found that out the hard way, too. It’s not that the editors are creationists, you see. They just don’t like to upset the creationists.
So I don’t know why I registered even the mildest shock upon spotting an advertisement on contentions for an organization calling itself NARTH, which sounds to me like the name M. Night Shyamalan would give the otherworldly creature who brought democracy to the Middle East. NARTH stands for the "National Association for the Research & Therapy of Homosexuality." It purports to cure gays, in other words, using methods that have been discredited by the psychiatric community for decades. This is its mission statement:
We respect the right of all individuals to choose their own destiny. NARTH is a professional, scientific organization that offers hope to those who struggle with unwanted homosexuality. As an organization, we disseminate educational information, conduct and collect scientific research, promote effective therapeutic treatment, and provide referrals to those who seek our assistance.
NARTH upholds the rights of individuals with unwanted homosexual attraction to receive effective psychological care and the right of professionals to offer that care. We welcome the participation of all individuals who will join us in the pursuit of these goals.
I’d pay real money for a group that promised to end unwanted heterosexual attractions. But is this really what neoconservatism needs right now as ever breaker of misfortune crashes down upon it–pseudo-scientific bigotry?
Readers with long, macabre memories may recall that Norman Podhoretz, long-time editor-in-chief of Commentary, wrote an essay for Harper‘s in 1977, laying a heaping portion of the blame for the squalor of that era’s antiwar movement at the feet of queers. Actually, there wasn’t an Anglo-American conflict in the 20th century in which the Pod failed to find sodomites losing or debilitating the entire struggle. In World War I, he wrote, "the best people looked to other men for sex and romance," a compliment of sorts, but one that neglects that fact that Wilfred Owen and Sigfried Sassoon also found time for writing poetry. As for World War II, Norman’s ultra-masculine slights of the rank-and-file English soldiery led one angry correspondent to write in that he "had not previously realized that Winston Churchill fought the Battle of Britain almost singlehandedly while England’s ubiquitous faggotry sneered and jeered from below."
I’ve lost track of what numerical world war are we’re up to now in the Podhoretz encyclopedia. But when McCain loses in two weeks, can buggery be too far down on the list of reasons why?
UPDATE: Since this post went up, the NARTH ad has been removed from the contentions homepage.