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Tilting at Windmills

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December 9, 2009

'I'M READING IT FROM YOUR BOOK, DUDE'.... If you're a regular viewer of "The Daily Show," you may remember a segment from nearly three years ago, in which correspondent Jason Jones interviewed a "sexual reorientation coach" named Richard Cohen. It was, of course, pretty amusing, and Cohen -- a man who claims to have "overcome" homosexuality -- looked pretty ridiculous.

What's not funny at all is is that Cohen's work is now being used in Uganda to justify support for legislation to punish gays -- up to and including executions for men who have sex with other men. Cohen, who says he strongly rejects the Uganda effort, was interviewed last night by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. The segment is definitely worth watching.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

It's difficult to summarize, but the portions that stood out for me were Rachel's direct quotes from Cohen's book, which he was completely unwilling to support. When he seemed incredulous -- as if Rachel were simply making up quotes -- she explained, "I'm reading it from your book, dude."

Steve Benen 10:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (40)

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these 'cures' for 'inconvenient' sexual orientations... analogous to that other 'inconvenient' truth... but i dont know, maybe a palin op-ed on the WaPo will make me change my mind.

and the rabid theo-nazis are sayin' "first uganda and then the world" i'm sure...

Posted by: neill on December 9, 2009 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

To quote Groucho Marx, "Who do you believe, me or your own two eyes?"

Posted by: pj in jesusland on December 9, 2009 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

For years I have been saying that we are feminizing our male population (and animals!) by flooding the environment with chemicals that "bend gender."

It makes the debate about sexuality tricky.

Folks can say that homo-sexuality is abnormal, but what if we are
fundamentally altering our own body chemistry by the exposure to a slew of human-made chemicals? In my mind, feminized males are a natural response to an unnatural environmental exposure of unknown levels. (usually in utero)

Until we address biological realities, no debate on sexual orientation is worth it.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 9, 2009 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Given that homosexual acts have been dated back into biblical times, I don't think you can justify shutting down the entire debate because of Teh Chemicals.

Posted by: royalblue_tom on December 9, 2009 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Homosexual activity has been documented in just about every animal species. In this sense it is not "abnormal." The most that can be said is that it is less common than heterosexual activity.

Posted by: Missouri Mule on December 9, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

What about the apostle that Jesus "loved"?

Posted by: Patrick on December 9, 2009 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Weren't the guys at the C Street House working on some program in Uganda regarding gays? Maybe I am confusing it with something else...

Posted by: Patrick on December 9, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Missouri Mule is correct--homosexual activity, like heterosexual activity and movement between sexes/sexual orientation during the lifetime of the animal/plant are the norm. Single sex, single mode of reproduction, single sexual orientation are not the norm--when you take into account all life forms on this planet. Homosexual activity, like every human activity, is displayed by some portion of the population and always has been. The fact that its a small portion of the population doesn't make it "abnormal" it just makes it relatively rare.

But i agree with Tom Nicholson--no debate on sexual orientation is worth it. Just as its not worth debating eye color. Or handedness. People prefer to sleep with people they are attracted to, and not with people they are not attracted to. That's all we are arguing about--whether some minority of religious bigots should get to decide, a priori, that a class of humans don't get to choose who they love and who they live with. That parents may not choose to keep loving the children they have but must reject them--or even (in the Ugandan case) kill them. That's sick, by any definition of sick. But it doesn't need any debate.

aimai

Posted by: aimai on December 9, 2009 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

I've read there's a decrease in sperm counts etc, which may be connected to environmental exposures. I don't think there's any research connecting chemical exposure to Teh Gay, or even anything reliable suggesting human homosexuality is increasing or decreasing.

OTOH given the oversupply of humanity on the planet, an increase in homosexuality wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Posted by: jimBOB on December 9, 2009 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks Tom Nicholson for the biggest laugh of the week so far!

You deserve a 21st century remake of Dr Strangelove and our precious vital bodily fluids or sumptin' -- in the immortal words of Mr. Slim Pikens..."Yee Haw"

Posted by: neill on December 9, 2009 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

People prefer to sleep with people they are attracted to, and not with people they are not attracted to.

Damn straight (ha, see what I did there?). That's why Cohen didn't "overcome" homosexuality so much as get kicked out of the club after no man on earth could be persuaded to do him. Unfortunately for him, he's now busy "overcoming" heterosexuality since the girls won't play ball with him either.

I may have had too much coffee today.

Posted by: shortstop on December 9, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Can someone -- ANYONE -- explain to me the right's fixation on teh ghey? Seriously.

I mean, I realize they use the Bible to justify their bigotry and willingness to deny basic civil rights to millions of people, but I don't see them bitching about, say, haircuts (which is also "banned" in Leviticus). Hell, there are literally hundreds of so-called Biblical "rules" they willingly ignore, so why the push to persecute the LBGT community?

The world would be a much, much better place if they spent more time actually living the true tenets of their beliefs (helping the sick and poor, turning the other cheek, etc.) and less time using it to be such disgusting pigs.

Oh, and while I love my wife and all, if I were single (and Rachael wasn't a, ya know, lesbian), I would so ask her to marry me.

She just kicks so much ass on so many levels ...

:-)

Posted by: Mark D on December 9, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see them bitching about, say, haircuts (which is also "banned" in Leviticus). Hell, there are literally hundreds of so-called Biblical "rules" they willingly ignore, so why the push to persecute the LBGT community?

Sexual issues affect us on an instinctual and visceral level, and the emotion connected with them is often impervious to rational examination.

Healthy people embrace that and use it to the end of having hotter, more primal sex. Unhealthy people fight it and use it to oppress other people.

Posted by: shortstop on December 9, 2009 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Well, just glancing at Cohen's smirking face has prophylactically cured me of any chance of my latent homosexuality.

Posted by: qwerty on December 9, 2009 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Healthy people embrace that and use it to the end of having hotter, more primal sex. Unhealthy people fight it and use it to oppress other people.

"Those who restrain desire do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained."

Posted by: William Blake on December 9, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

That's odd qwerty, because Cohen's smirking face has induced homosexuality on my part.

Posted by: Personal Failure on December 9, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

It's funny hearing Cohen refer to "unwanted" homosexuality. Who's putting the gun to anyone's head in this regard? It reinforces the fact that homophobes are latent homosexuals in denial.

If you don't want it, don't do it. Is it really that hard? Even if you had a choice (which you don't), then what's stopping people? Answer: nothing. Most gays I know are happy, well-adjusted people who just want to live their lives.

Cohen's "message" is pure sexual fascism.

Posted by: bdop4 on December 9, 2009 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

I could not watch the whole clip.
But I think that Cohen proves one theory: that one of these days your face is going to get stuck like that.

Posted by: pbg on December 9, 2009 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Can someone -- ANYONE -- explain to me the right's fixation on teh ghey? Seriously.

Because if you insist that the Worst Sin Ever is something that you yourself don't do, that means that you're better than those evil kitten burners over there and you don't actually have to do anything special in order to be superior to them. Otherwise, you might have to follow the actual teachings of Jesus and do difficult stuff like give to the poor instead of getting to sit back in your easy chair and declare your moral superiority.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on December 9, 2009 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

It's obvious that Mr. Cohen has found a way to make a lot of money as a sexual predator in that he exploits homophobia for his own gain. He tried manfully (oops) to disavow the draconian law being proposed in Uganda, but it's clear that whether or not he and his minions want to make the world into gay-free by selling nostrums and snake oil for people who think that being gay is something that needs to be cured.

If, as he claims, Mr. Cohen is no longer gay, then what I would say we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is the world's biggest cured ham.

(Is it me, or does the expression on Mr. Cohen's face look like he's been programmed: "Oh-yes-I-am-so-happy-to-be-straight...." It's creepy; like something out of The Manchurian Candidate. And I wonder how many of the "thousands" of people he has claimed to have cured still have their profiles up on MANHUNT.net?)

It would all be ridiculously funny if lives -- both here and in Uganda -- weren't at stake.

Posted by: Mustang Bobby on December 9, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

I found it on Wiki. I thought I had heard this before. The Family or C Street Assholes, or whatever you want to call them are pushing their corrupt agenda in Uganda.

In an interview in November 2009 with NPR, Jeff Sharlet alleged that The Fellowship's influence was behind the recent proposed bill in Uganda calling for the death penalty for gays infected with AIDS.[58]

Posted by: Patrick on December 9, 2009 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

What is most disheartening is the fact that you just KNOW that this loser will be found, sooner or later, in bed with farm animals and a banana peeler. Of course, the animals will be of the female persuasion, hence this will be okay. You know this will happen as sure as the sun sets in the west.

Posted by: Mario on December 9, 2009 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Cohen: " the thrust and jis..." -- LOL

Posted by: John L on December 9, 2009 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Tom Nicholson:

Homosexual males are not 'feminized'. Given this fact, little else in your post makes sense.

Posted by: Mithrandir on December 9, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Hah, of course he pulled out the victim card. He claimed to be the victim of a hate crime. Wonderful stuff.

Posted by: doubtful on December 9, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK
aimai@10:43: That parents may not choose to keep loving the children they have but must reject them--or even (in the Ugandan case) kill them. That's sick, by any definition of sick. But it doesn't need any debate.

I think what Tom Nicholson and aimai are saying is that, if you're dealing with someone who doesn't find this sick and horrifying, you're also dealing with someone who doesn't respond to "debate" at all; let alone, understand how to engage in it.

Posted by: JTK on December 9, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

"What about the apostle that Jesus "loved"?"

What about Sparta? the original circuit party.

I have a strange feeling this guy may have a Ted Haggert "situation" to deal with at some point.

Maddow sliced and diced him and exposed him a charlatan to his face, and I'm sure her fans loved it...but he never lost his cool, he remained unflappable, he never lost the oily smile and he was polite throughout, and if there's one thing HIS fans (religious conservatives) love it's a fraud, a huckster, a flim-flam man and this guy is a very skilled con man. I don't think he cared at all about the shellacking Maddow gave him. He was playing to a different crowd and he probably sold some books and tapes.

Posted by: SaintZak on December 9, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

If you don't want it, don't do it. Is it really that hard? Even if you had a choice (which you don't), then what's stopping people? Answer: nothing. Most gays I know are happy, well-adjusted people who just want to live their lives.

That's extremely, almost to the point of being offensive, simplistic. Not everyone has the emotional fortitude and outside support to overcome their upbringing, their cultural environment and their family. Not everyone is in a position or is willing to take that step and potentially have to walk away from everything they know (or put it all on the line in the face of certain rejection). Just because you know some people who have successfully gone through the process doesn't necessarily translate to everyone else. It's way way more a bigger deal and generally involves a whole lot more agony than "If you don't want it, don't do it. Is it really that hard?" - give people some credit for the circumstances that define their choices.

Posted by: andy on December 9, 2009 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK
Mark D@10:51: Can someone -- ANYONE -- explain to me the right's fixation on teh ghey? Seriously.

Their own Bible spends its 2nd "half" telling the story of a radical sociopolitical figure who, at least symbolically, spends his days speaking truth to power (both the religious and political kind). He is eventually made into a "scapegoat" for all the world's ills.

He was then tortured and murdered by those he came to "save" as a symbolic atonement for the sins of... the religious fanatics and political officials of the day.

The 'right' needs the fanatics (it doesn't care about "teh gays").
The fanatics need scapegoats (women, blacks/minorities, gays, liberal, the ACLU).

The problem is that the "Christians" don't understand their role in sucking the life out of everything their Messiah stood for.

Posted by: JTK on December 9, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

You know what? I wonder if "race" in Cohen's book wasn't a typo for "rape."

Not that such a mistake would make his larger argument any less distasteful, but it would make the text itself more coherent, and explain why he was unwilling to defend the text as printed.

Posted by: FearItself on December 9, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

I just loved watching the periodic shock tics cross Cohen's face when Maddow repeatedly revealed that she wasn't a Couric-type stenographer, but had actually researched his background and his books. It wasn't a pleasant sight, and the 1000 watt smile was considerably dimmer when he finished the interview. Points to him, though, for keeping up at least a fraction of his sleazy facade to the end. I hope Maddow sprayed down the television monitor that was showing his face after the broadcast.

Now if only she could get Ensign or Sanford on her show...

Posted by: Balakirev on December 9, 2009 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Feminization of males? Spare me! Have you seen John Aravosis (from AmericaBlog)? He's gay and one of the hottest (not to mention smartest) guys I have ever laid eyes on.

This clown, eh, not so much. I watched this last night and sorry, dude, my gaydar went off big time while you spent so much of your time shucking and jiving and distancing yourself from what you (or your ghostwriter) wrote. You're a snake oil salesman and nothing more.

As for this:

OTOH given the oversupply of humanity on the planet, an increase in homosexuality wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Oh, to be alive 100 years from now when mother nature creates a sudden and sharp rise in homosexuality to curb the too-many-non-stewards-of-planet-Earth and us breeders are fewer and farther apart...and...Teh Gay now control who is allowed to do any further populating. Poetic justice, eh? Coming to a Star Trek episode near you.

Posted by: MsJoanne on December 9, 2009 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Folks who wish to keep bandana peelers and snuggle with salmon are at least as happy as half the characters in the Brothers Grimm research . If there were no such thing as cooties would you sleep with sickly dick chaehney ?

Speaking personally , though it is a serious subject , it irks me past sputter to spit that it is necessary to coordinate mine or our genitals with something other . This jerk Cohen is going to be a hero to the worshipers of this sort of nonsense . His brave , brave , courage in facing the Maddow will eke him a purple heart amongst the propagandists . Cohen whose cadres will care less that he appeared washy wishy weak with a usurped , insupportable mission . Cohen will be hauled before the hannities of insane inanities and presented in just the right light to display his heroic chin as a "Freedom Fighters" or some such .
That folks are murdered because of Cohen's personal absurdities makes this person angry enough to spit .

Posted by: FRP on December 9, 2009 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Keep slaying those dragons, Rachel. You go, girl.

I often ask myself two questions when I see or hear people who want to restrict/legislate the lives of LGBTQ persons or anyone else:

Why are they so concerned about other people's business?

Why are they neglecting taking care of their own business to investigate someone else's business?

Posted by: majii on December 9, 2009 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

At some point we're going to have to get past the infantile debate we have in this country about gays:

CHURCH: "Homosexuality and lesbianism is a SIN! The Bible says so! They should be punished, shunned and kept away from our children lest they be corrupted by the works of Satan!"

GAYS: "We can't help it! We were born this way! We should be accepted for who we are and not discriminated against!"

CHURCH: "Yes you CAN change! There are lots of former sinners who have accepted Christ and mortified the flesh and abjured their sin!"

GAYS: "They're just self-denying freaks! We can't change and we don't want to! It's time you accepted us for who we are!"

America: "Well, I guess they can't help it, so it's sorta o.k. We can accept that homosexuality is like a kind of birth defect and our children won't catch it!"

When will society just say:

"It IS a 'lifestyle choice' for a lot of people and it's a perfectly acceptable 'lifestyle choice.' We're not going to try and force people to be one way or another or control their sexuality for "their own good."

IN reality there have been societies in which homosexuality and lesbianism was ENFORCED by law and custom (ancient Sparta for instance), and EVERYBODY in the upper classes was gay. They drafted young boys into the Spartan army where they became catamites to older soldiers. That was how their society was run. And it was NORMAL and everybody accepted it as "moral" and most people conformed and were happy being "gay".

In ancient Persia they had a saying: "a woman for duty, a young boy for pleasure, a melon for ecstacy!" All kinds of kinky stuff the ancient Persians got into. And it was acceptable because Christians weren't around yet to tell them how sinful it all was.

Later the Church came along and societies arose where it was punishable by death, (e.g. medieval Europe under the influence of Catholicism and later Islam). And THAT was considered "normal". And most people conformed and were happy being "straight".

And there has been everything in between.

IN truth we can't even say what the "natural" percentage of homosexuality really is because we live in a society that severely stigmatizes such behavior. There's a terrible cost in being "gay" such that only people who are strongly homosexual and just CAN'T conform will define themselves as "gay."

So, what happens to bi-sexuals and people who might be gay if they were given a free choice with no stigma attached, but who aren't as strongly self-identified as homosexual? In short, the vast majority in the "middle."

5,000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia -- as far back in history as we have written records, we find them writing about: homosexuality, lesbianism, prostitution, bondage and discipline, bestiality, and fetishism.

Every sexual practice we have today existed 3,000 years before Christ and as far back as we can see (and probably a LOT farther than that).

So, what exactly is "normal"? And what role does society have in socializing people?

Why can't we accept the natural (and seemingly long-term) natural range of human sexuality as "normal." And if that means telling the Church to "sod off" then I for one would be fine with that!

Posted by: Cugel on December 9, 2009 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Nice post, Cugel.

FRP, on the other hand ... um ... uh ... wowza. I have no idea whatsoever what the hell you're trying to say, but I get a sense it's negative toward Cohen.

So you've got that goin' for ya.

Posted by: Mark D on December 9, 2009 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Seriously, dudes. Check out Creepy Cohen in this Daily Show clip - there are two parts. He's a seriously messed up, deeply closeted guy. I'd feel sorry for him if he wasn't doing such damage out there in the world.
http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-march-19-2007/diagnosis--mystery-pt--1

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-march-19-2007/diagnosis--mystery-pt--2

Jason Jones, though, is his usual brilliant self.

Posted by: sw on December 9, 2009 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes it's really that simple, isn't it? I feel a little stupid for not thinking of this myself/earlier, though.

Posted by: roulette spielen on December 28, 2009 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

I cannot believe this is true!

Posted by: Tip Tricks on January 12, 2010 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

This brings me to an idea:...

Posted by: systemy na ruletke on January 21, 2010 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK
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