Villains: Linda Harvey
There is a litany of right-wing Christian movements in the United States of America perfectly obsessed with homosexuality. There are, frankly, far too many to keep track of. I first heard of Linda Harvey and Mission: America for the first time back in October after she attacked “evil bloggers” for misrepresenting her work to the “mainstream homosexual on the internet”.
In a radio broadcast in August, Harvey reached the extraordinary conclusion that the homosexual person simply does not exist: “There is no proof that there’s ever anything like a gay, lesbian or bisexual or transgendered child, or teen or human”, she thundered. There’s no proof that God exists, either, Linda. Honestly, the best you can say is that it’s circumstantial. That doesn’t seem to matter though. In tune with her pals the Creationists, facts are only something the other side is under obligation to provide. This frees them up to paint pretty pictures of dinosaurs and people frolicking around together, which are dated 2000 B.C., labelled fact, and then mounted on the walls of the Creation Museum.
Who is Linda Harvey? Harvey founded the militaristic sounding ministry Mission: America in 1995, and hosts a regular radio show on, rather ominously, the Salem Network station. There is also a book, Not My Child: Contemporary Paganism & New Spirituality, in which she warns parents of the dangers of the occult and “pop spirituality”. She is a self-professed Crusader for Truth. Yet as the wily Greek philosopher Anaxagoras pointed out, there is no such thing as truth except from a single point of view.
Harvey’s background is in PR and marketing. What else? Thus do the pieces start to fall into place. This is not about the search for truth, or Truth, but the neat packaging of pre-existing, unquestioned ideas. It’s the job of PR and marketing hirelings to believe whatever they need to believe – and that would be just about anything. It’s not their job to ask questions; it’s to deflect questions. Thus Harvey assumes the mantle of Jesus’ PR, a role to which she adds her own particular insights, although I’m not sure that she has workshopped her thoughts with the Boss.
And so Harvey has her product. Her job, or so it would seem, is to sell that product. And she uses whatever she finds at hand, whether it warrants use, or whether it is plainly untenable. When did such petty concerns bother the marketing executive? Never. And so on she strides, Colossus-like – but minus the finesse – knowing that the average consumer thinks no further than the tag-line in front of them.
There is on the Mission: America website, of course, a “statement of purpose” about homosexuality. Note how this is worded to furnish it with a legal air; unless of course Harvey was fretting about the repeat of the word “mission”, and how grammatically clumsy that would be. Writing can be just so darn tricksy!
So, what can this statement be about, especially as there is “no proof” that homosexuals exist? It’s about “homosexual activists” – a group that, of course, doesn’t exist – forcing good Christians to accept homosexuality as “a viable option”. One of the decisive lines from the statement has to be, “We oppose coercive, deceptive messages communicated to children”. Absolutely. Rebel Scum could not agree more. And what better reason to banish religion from public debate? But of course what she means is that she opposes messages she does not already agree with. Not for nothing did Harvey rise through the ranks of advertising executives and oversee multi-million dollar campaigns.
It’s this skill for selectivity that sets the tone for the increasingly shrill statement. Take the first point.
“No biological cause for homosexual or gender-variant desires or behaviour has been found in humans. Claims to the contrary are founded on wishful thinking, not scientific fact.”
Isn’t that the modus operandi of the right-wing Christian, to found all claims on wishful thinking, not scientific fact? How else could there have been an era in which dinosaurs and mankind were in coexistence, a conclusion supported by the apparent “gaps” in the fossil record?
The statement would be laughable if it didn’t then get downright offensive:
“There is much evidence that homosexual desire and identity develops, although usually not consciously, out of one’s life experiences. Child sexual abuse is frequently a factor.”
There is no scientific or sociological evidence to back this last claim up, but then, like a good New-Right Christian, she invokes scientific fact only when she wants to refute something she does not believe in. And it goes on and on in this cavalier style, burying unhinged prejudices under a rancid mound of contradictory prose.
The crux of the argument is, as usual, the spectre of choice.
“Because of the great risks involved, and our concerns about the welfare of ALL students, every student who reveals homosexual attraction deserves to know that he or she has a choice. This is both humane and sound public health policy.”
At first I thought this was a statement designed to make it seem like Mission: America in fact cared about the aforementioned students. But then I came to my senses, which had been clearly disoriented from reading paragraphs of this harangue, and realised that she meant the kids could choose not to have homosexual feelings. The choice is to submit, and say yes to homosexuality, or to be strong, and say no. Harvey was clearly forged in the School of Nancy Reagan.
Choice is the axis on which this wizardry spins. If homosexuality can be considered a choice it’s easy to dismiss it as a lifestyle – that other favourite buzzword – and not a fact. Thus proving that, ergo, the homosexual person does not exist. There’s only the devil’s choice to turn from Jesus and engage in homosexual acts.
Harvey ultimately believes in a warring Jesus and she is a humble foot soldier under the pressure of a battle that “threatens to divide Christianity as nothing has since the Reformation”. This is standard fare for the rhetoric for the Christian Right. And thus she takes to the airwaves, the favoured medium of both Mussolini and Hitler, to warn against the Gaystapo, who are out to get the kids and enforce submission to an anti-family tyranny. Harvey markets this as a struggle of freedom against oppression. She is unaware of any irony in her increasingly unhinged ranting.
Thus does the bully accuse others of bullying. For Harvey, the struggle to attain basic rights is proof that the homosexual (who does not exist) wants nothing more than to take rights away from the poor heterosexual (of which there is no other type of human being, of course, as all other types are no more than bad choices). It’s obtuse to the level of being utterly ludicrous.
The Christian Right is adept at taking cover behind the rhetoric of the freedom fighter. As Chris Hedges pointed out in his book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, “this cultivated sense of persecution – cultivated by those doing the persecuting – allows the Christian Right to promote bigotry and attack any outcry as part of the war against the Christian faith.” Language is twisted beyond reason, and the laws of marketing are the only ones that apply.
The problem is that it that this sort of blustering has an audience. In an uncertain world the condition of most people is reactionary. They are looking for someone to blame. And Harvey provides it to them. Nevertheless, I have seen many a post online claiming that nitwits like Harvey only reinforce the fight against discrimination. This seems like a consolatory fiction.
Reading about Harvey and her battle against homosexuality, it is apparent that there is no reasoning that can resolve the conflict. It is not based on reason. It is based on prejudice and fear. The only proof it offers is that religion has no place in public policy.