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Jun 17 2012

New Yorker does profile on Bryan Fischer. He then LOSES. HIS. SHIT.

Via Right Wing Watch, apparently The New Yorker did a huge in-depth profile on Bryan Fischer after his successful campaign against an openly-gay Romney staffer.

Fischer was clearly excited by the national attention. On his next show, he said, “They went to look for somebody to talk about Governor Romney’s homosexual hire, where did they come? They came to AFR talk network!”

He began a long disquisition about homosexuals, and suggested that they were more prone to domestic violence than straight people. He then denied, as he does routinely, that H.I.V. causes AIDS, calling it a “harmless passenger virus.” It’s a theory derived from Peter Duesberg, a professor of molecular and cell biology at Berkeley, who has been widely criticized. Duesberg has been a guest on Fischer’s program. (Fischer told me, “He has a seven-hundred-page book—I read that thing through from the beginning to the end of it, and was persuaded.”)

Fischer returned to a favorite theme: that homosexual behavior is “always, always, always a matter of choice.” He told his listeners that a scientific study had shown the concordance of homosexuality between identical twins to be only six per cent. “If one of them is gay and it’s genetically caused, the other one ought to be gay one hundred per cent of the time!” he said.

Fischer cites such evidence with ease; he has impressive recall for everything from Bible quotations to academic articles. Yet he draws his information almost exclusively from like-minded sources, and ignores contrary statistics.

Doesn’t sound particularly uncharitable to me, given how the article goes on to list contradicting evidence pointing to heritability of sexuality. How does Fischer respond, though?

Some other highlights of the New Yorker article as summarized at RWW include:

  • “Fischer declared that ‘homosexuality gave us Adolf Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine, and six million dead Jews.’
  • “Like the saying goes, ‘I’ve never met an ex- black, but I’ve met a lot of ex-gays.’ If one person can do it, two people can do it.”
  • “He then denied, as he does routinely, that H.I.V. causes AIDS, calling it a ‘harmless passenger virus.’”
  • “Obama, he has said, ‘despises the Constitution” and “nurtures a hatred for the white man.’”

I remember seeing all four of these on your radio show, Fischer. And that ain’t even the start of your extremist rhetoric. I don’t think pointing out your actual words is in any way “shoddy”, “laughably bad”, “juvenile” or “deceptive”. I stand with the New Yorker’s journalist Jane Mayer and her outstanding work. Your religiously motivated bigotry should earn you all the scorn you deserve, now that someone mainstream is pointing it out.

21 comments

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  1. 1
    SallyStrange

    Yeah, I heard the Fresh Air interview Jane Meyer did in the wake of publishing the article. The guy is a loose cannon, as my grandfather would say. Of course he went ballistic; how could he not? Someone is telling the truth about him. He’s in the business of lies. Truth is toxic.

  2. 2
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Wait, his main point of critique was exclamation marks? I mean, if the article was that bad, sure there’d be better evidence of her shoddy journalism…

  3. 3
    frankb

    Ah, Giliell, you beat to the exclamation points. Why couldn’t he list one lie and deny it. Bryan could have challenged Jane Meyer to prove he said all those lies. That video was all empty hand waving.

  4. 4
    kraut

    who is Brian Fisher? Never heard of the guy. A disciple of Limbaugh?

  5. 5
    Jason Thibeault

    What does it matter, kraut? I was under the impression nothing matters but Obama’s corporate cronyhood.

  6. 6
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    I’ve listened to this clown before. He’s at least as bigoted as the New Yorker piece makes him out to be. I’ve heard him go from “I don’t hate the gays” to “no gays should be allowed to be judges” to “no gays should be hired by the government” to “gays should be deported or locked up… not executed though, even though I’m sympathetic with the position,” all in the space of about 5-7 minutes.

  7. 7
    kraut

    “What does it matter, kraut? I was under the impression nothing matters but Obama’s corporate cronyhood.”

    Are we talking about Obama here? I was under the impression it was about some guy called fischer.

  8. 8
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    You see, what is wrong with the New Yorker article is that it played to a general audience, not the audience that goes looking to hear such crap. This is what bug people like Fischer: They know that their crazed rhetoric doesn’t fly everywhere.

  9. 9
    tim gueguen

    Fischer might want to study the history of non-white Americans a bit more. The African-American equivalent of ex-gay would be passing, where people who looked sufficiently white enough could pretend they were in fact white, or at the very least of a heritage that didn’t face the same level of discrimination.

  10. 10
    jamessweet

    I’ve got that very article sitting in front of me right now, by coincidence, and I’m about halfway through. I’ve got to quibble with you slightly; this article is not kind to Fischer. It’s never unfair, of course. The tone is very even-handed. But the author is engaging in that “questionable”* journalistic tactic of noting when your subject makes factually incorrect statements. As a result, the article definitely makes Fischer looks bad.

    * I joke, as I hope is clear from the scare quotes. This ought to be Journalism 101, but it’s fallen out of fashion lately. I applaud the author for getting it right.

    And anyway, all of this aside, Fischer agreed to be profile be the New Yorker. Perhaps he’s never read it — perhaps that is even a safe bet — but the New Yorker has a well-deserved reputation for both a) being pretty liberal, at least by American standards; and b) kinda being dicks about the subjects they profile. Even when they like a person they are doing a bio on, there is a certain level of snark and cattiness. Some people hate that; others find it charming (I usually do, though I sometimes wonder if the occasional non-sequitirs about personal appearance do disproportionate harm to their female subjects). But it’s what the New Yorker does. If Fischer really though he was going to get a glowing, uncritical profile, he’s even crazier than I thought.

  11. 11
    jamessweet

    On a side note, there is a passage in the article I read this morning (before I spotted this post) which I thought for sure he was going to get flak for, but I did some Googling and haven’t heard a thing. Specifically, he says that his father’s divorce was “akin to” surviving the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Yes, he seriously said that his dad going through a messy divorce was like being a Jew in the holocaust.

    I’m kinda surprised nobody is freaking out over that. Maybe the ADL hasn’t caught wind of it yet?

  12. 12
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    But the author is engaging in that “questionable”* journalistic tactic of noting when your subject makes factually incorrect statements. As a result, the article definitely makes Fischer looks bad.

    The New York Times describes that as being a “Truth Vigilante” and they are apparently at best ambivalent about the practice.

  13. 13
    Composer99

    Fischer’s practice of denying his own statements/positions seems to be a staple of his co-ideologues.

    What do you call someone who essentially accuses people citing his own words in proper context as playing “gotcha” journalism?

    Nothing complimentary, I dare say.

    (And actually, what’s wrong with “gotcha” journalism if it is conducted honestly?)

  14. 14
    Jenora Feuer

    Hmm, my understanding (from a Scientific American article several years ago) is that if one of a pair of identical twins is gay, the probability of the other being so is closer to 50%. Fraternal twins lower than that, non-twin siblings lower still, but still much higher than the general non-related probabilities. There’s little doubt that it is largely genetic, along with some epigenetic effects.

    And really, given the level of abuse that has been heaped upon people with any sort of homosexual tendencies, anybody who thinks that large numbers of people would choose that is obviously lying, operating in their own little world, or both.

  15. 15
    kagerato

    @Jenora Feuer :

    No, there’s little doubt that sexual orientation develops unconsciously through a vast series of influences. Genetics and epi-genetics play a role, but neurology, hormonal balance, social programming, and yes, personal decisions do as well.

    Many gene-centric twin studies have one substantial flaw that is rarely dealt with because it’s nearly infeasible: in order to have complete causal separation, the twins must be raised apart and have no contact. Otherwise, the shared environment cannot be eliminated as a factor.

    However, the separate environments cannot be too different, or the possibility of an extreme outlier case occurs. In other words, while the environment would otherwise have not been a significant influence, it becomes one due to the extremely rare context chosen.

    Meeting both of these conditions simultaneously and getting a large sample size is next to impossible. Researchers do the best they can, but the results typically prove little beyond reasonable doubt.

    It can, however, be an excellent starting point for analyzing what genetic similarities contribute to what you’re studying. Migrating those findings to the general population, if they hold, does prove something.

    So far, the relevant data on sexuality shows only modest contribution from any particular factor. Indeed, the lack of strong and reliable predictive power from any of the influences is itself evidence that sexuality is far more complicated than most people are willing to admit. Laying it down on genetics, or the environment, or choice, or half a dozen other things is pretty much guaranteed to be wrong. You will find people that defy such simple explanations.

    In any event, the facts of sexuality are completely irrelevant to morality. I find it bizarre that so many of the people I find discussing this do not separate facts and values. Assuming that it were a choice, it would still be immoral to discriminate on such an arbitrary characteristic. Assuming that it were fully genetically determined, likewise. Yet in the latter case, we have removed literally all agency from people in sexuality, and that has some disturbing implications of its own.

    For an example of the dumb things that can come of conflating facts and values, I’ve run into people who actually claimed that it wasn’t racist to have little to no sexual attraction towards people who appear a certain way (along perceived racial lines, though not necessarily actual racial breakdown). Well, it’s a fact that certain physical characteristics are more common among some races than others. That’s no justification for discriminating against them, no matter how personal or deeply held your view is.

    A very similar kind of nonsense gets used regularly (by both extremists and “regular” people) against trans women, to marginalize them and misgender them, too. If you allow arbitrary facts to creep into the value system, without questioning them, you can support literally any kind of preposterous belief.

  16. 16
    Jacqueline Homan

    Bryan Fischer and another extremist fellow traveler Jay Townsend, the spokesman for Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY), are glittering jewels of colossal assholianness. Townsend sent the message to all the “lone wolves” out there that escalating violence against women, to the level of promoting the acid attacks against American women that are so common in the theocracies the US invaded to “spread democracy” — had this to say: “My question today… when is Tommy boy going to weigh in on all the Lilly Ledbetter hypocrites who claim to be fighting the War on Women? Let’s hurl some acid at those female democratic Senators who won’t abide the mandates they want to impose on the private sector.” [emphasis mine]

    It took Nan Hayworth a whole whopping four days to figure out that Townsend had to go because his cheese slipped off his cracker. The thing is, it doesn’t take much to spark a misogyny inferno and women like Gabrielle Gifford (D-AZ) have been targeted — and the “lone wolf” who shot her in the head also gunned down and killed a few of her constituents, including a 9 yr old little girl, who were attending the public Meet n’ Greet that Gifford was holding.

    What passes for acceptable, normalized misogyny and threats of violence against women, which are all too often carried out, would have been unthinkable in most other developed countries. Yeah, American women have EVERY reason to feel that their safety is jeopardized because one false step in trusting someone as a “good guy” can spell disaster. And there are PLENTY of men who take it as a personal affront if they get told “No” by a woman.

  17. 17
    Jason Thibeault

    Someone said something in comments somewhere recently — that homophobia is a specialized subset of misogyny. They hate gay men because gay men do things the way women do. Like have sex with men. Therefore, they’re evil because they WANT to be like women (notwithstanding “want” being wrong), even though everyone knows women need to be controlled by men.

    And their religion props every one of those sentiments up. It’s really a horrifying nexus of stupidity.

  18. 18
    Jacqueline Homan

    I was thinking the same thing myself. My take on it is that the virulent homophobes have two major issues: even though they hate women, they view women as their property, their fuckholes and “breeder livestock” — as decreed by ‘divine right’ (the subject matter and title of my fourth book which got me the bomb threat and several death threats) — they view gay men as a threat to them because gay men are still men, and thus, on average, are harder to beat up on and push around than women who are smaller and physically weaker on average. Gay men are not as easy to physically dominate and control, on average, as women. The reason why this is a problem for them is because their world’s worst nightmare is being emasculated. They tend to have this fear of being anally raped (which they equate with losing their manliness) even though the majority of rape victims are women. And since they hate women, the worst thing for them is to “be made somebody’s bitch” (which they fear gay men will try to do to them. That might explain the viciousness in the targeting and murders of gay men like Matthew Shepard, and their complaining about homosexuals “pushing their lifestyles on others.” So they use the Bible to give their position legitimacy, but even if this hyper-misogynistic country went secular tomorrow, these problems would remain because religion is merely a vehicle used to carry out the enforcement of patriarchy — the “gift” that keeps on giving.

  19. 19
    Jason Thibeault

    Ye nonexistent gods, yes, that’s why they rail so hard about homosexuals fighting for the right to exist, because they think it means they’re recruiting new people to the cause, and they are afraid that they’ll be next.

    I’m not a violent person but this shit makes me want to hit things.

  20. 20
    jamessweet

    Hmm, my understanding (from a Scientific American article several years ago) is that if one of a pair of identical twins is gay, the probability of the other being so is closer to 50%.

    The New Yorker article went on to point this out a couple of paragraphs after the excerpt here.

    As I said, a big reason Fischer is so pissed off is that the author of this piece engaged in the (apparently) radical and subversive journalistic tactic of calling out your subject when he makes a factually false statement.

  21. 21
    kagerato

    @Jacqueline Homan :

    Good posts. There’s definitely substantial influence of fear in the right-wing authoritarian mind set. It’s disproportionately unjustified fear and entirely without proper evidence, but authoritarians don’t need evidence by definition.

    @Jason :

    Shouldn’t their rather high failure rate in converting others to their cause (be it religion, heterosexuality, right-wing politics, or something else) suggest that maybe it’s not so easy to just trample over people? Perhaps they are so blinded by righteousness that they never manage to even assess whether their efforts are successful at all.

    One other thing… if you fear being converted, how strong is your faith, really?

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