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?
David N. Friedman responds:
The lengths that some people go to make a smear never ceases to amaze me. If Michael Weiss or anyone else has some kind of a problem with people with unwanted attractions seeking a remedy–why not just say it? NARTH has treated hundreds of people successfully–what kind of bizarre intolerance would condemn a group seeking to help people?
Many people struggle with all kinds of ailments that are incredibly hard to fix and they are correct to search for help. In many cases, a "cure" is impossible but it can be manageable. My father smoked cigarettes for 20 years and then stopped easily and quickly–while others are so hooked they do not quit when doctors say they are going to die and even if someone paid them a ransom to stop. Some people beat alcoholism easily–others give up everything positive in their lives–knowing all the while what is happening–and cannot stop. Have some compassion, Michael. Homosexuality for some is a very fluid choice and many women go from straight to gay on a whim. For some men, it is also a fluid choice, determined by environment and made compelling by early experience that makes the attraction habitual so that it seems natural. And there are some men who feel so "hard-wired" in their same-sex attraction, it seems that nothing could shake it from them. What if one of these men hate the attraction and they desperately want to change– who among us really want to say to their face–stop looking for help!! Get used to it!
Is that really your position, Michael?