Alex Blaze

Unfiltered homophobia in the New York Times

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 20, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: education policy, iowa, Kevin Jennings, New York Times, rightwing noise machine, schools, steve king

We started in the "exploratory outrage" phase back in June. By late September, it turned into a full-blown hissy fit, with everyone on the right jumping up and down, stomping their feet, and demanding their demands be met without really even knowing what they're talking about, and Democrats reflexively apologize. About a week later, everything they were saying was debunked. One week after that, the right made up newer, more nebulous charges that harkened back to the original "scandal," but don't really make sense on their own. Last week, Republican lawmakers jumped on board.

And today, we've reached the "Mainstream journalists photocopy the right's faux outrage" phase in the "Kevin Jennings wants pedophiles to rape your boys" scandal. It's only two steps away from the end: now the Very Serious punditry has to join in the shame fest, and then Democrats cave into whatever the right wants, hoping that it'll make this all go away.

Media Matters picked up on this fairly amazing New York Times article on the homophobic hissy fit:

"As the founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Mr. Jennings has played an integral role in promoting homosexuality and pushing a pro-homosexual agenda in America's schools -- an agenda that runs counter to the values that many parents desire to instill in their children," the lawmakers write.

They cite as evidence the foreword Mr. Jennings wrote for a book titled "Queering Elementary Education: Advancing the Dialogue About Sexualities and Schooling" (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999).

The article does not go on to describe what Queering Elementary Education is actually about, which is important. The entirety of the right's argument about why this book is so terrible is the title. That's it. Just repeating the title (with publisher!) and not even taking the three seconds Amazon did to describe what the book is actually about, the Times does the same thing the right wants to do by talking about the title only, which is to imply that the book is a manual to properly molest elementary school students so that they turn out gay.

The Times goes on to talk about the "Brewster" incident, without mentioning the fact that the teen in question was at the legal age of consent, that Jennings didn't encourage him to have sex so much as encourage him not to commit suicide, and that Brewster is a happy adult today who's thankful for what Jennings did for him:

Mr. Jennings has expressed regret over one episode that has enraged his critics. He has recalled in a memoir and speeches that as a teacher he once responded encouragingly to a teenage boy who told him of a sexual encounter with a man he met in a bus station restroom. Mr. Jennings said he advised the teenager to use a condom.

"Twenty-one years later, I can see how I should have handled the situation differently," Mr. Jennings said in a statement. "I should have asked for more information and consulted medical or legal authorities."

He added: "I would like to see the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools play a bigger role in helping to prepare teachers" for such situations.

So is the Times really now saying that telling people to use condoms while having sex is tantamount to encouraging them to have sex? Condoms lead to sex?

They are literally saying that almost every peer-reviewed study on sex education is incorrect, in one fell swoop, without so much as presenting evidence that promoting condom use leads to sexual activity. Just so we know how stupid what the Times is saying is.

But it's not really that they thought too much about those three paragraphs. I'm sure someone in the newsroom didn't feel like doing the four seconds of the Google necessary to show that the right was lying about the Brewster story, so she or he instead just looked at the White House's response and copied it in there. One side says X, the other says Y, so who knows where the truth is? It's probably somewhere in the middle.

It's not like it's a journalist's job to seek the truth.

This sort of behavior is meant to destroy Obama's credibility, bit by bit, as each of these little rumors floats around and the mainstream begins, not necessarily to believe them, but to just get the impression that there's something wrong going on here.

But I'm more worried about Kevin Jennings as this hissy fit goes mainstream. The administration has already shown that it isn't adverse to jumping ship on an appointee just because the right targets them, and Kevin Jennings is more than qualified for the job. He's in charge of making schools safer, so I can't think of a better person than someone who has devoted his career to finding real solutions that make LGBT students safer in schools.

And that's the other point of this hissy fit: make sure that everyone knows that there is a political downside to helping LGBT people out. Even the New York Times picked up on that, although they made it sound like a good thing:

Mr. Jennings's critics say his career's focus on gay students ill-equips him for the broader portfolio of his job as deputy assistant secretary of the safety office, which oversees initiatives against guns and other threats.

And they disagree more broadly with his approach to talking about homosexuality, especially among pre-pubescent children. To some, Mr. Jennings's efforts to combat bias sound like encouraging homosexuality.

In his laudatory preface to "Queering Elementary Education," Mr. Jennings wrote, "We must address antigay bigotry and we must do it as soon as students start going to school."

Keeping sissies from getting beaten up on the playground. The horror. Everyone knows that the moment a boy can hop-scotch or a girl can play flag football without fear of violence or social ostracism, that Western civilization has already gone down the tubes.

Thanks a lot, New York Times.


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Many pre-pubescent children have homosexual parents. Am I not supposed to talk with my son about the fact that his other mother and I love each other very much, and that's why we are a couple (and even--gasp!--got married)?

I know, I'm preaching to the choir here. The whole "don't talk about with young children" thing just disgusts me. We're not discussing sex, we're discussing families.

Yeah, I know. Their position is literally that we should lie to kids because they're too young to know about certain families, when it's obviously just the grown-ups who have a problem. That and they don't like to read books, so they just make fun of the title. Don't we tell kids not to judge a book by its cover?

I read the article and didn't really feel like it was homophobic. It was a news article reporting on what the Republicans were saying. However, I am tired of the right being able to throw anything out there and not have it counteracted with the facts. Is it the NYTimes' job to do that? Maybe in editorials.

This whole thing is sickening to me, though, especially as someone who will begin teaching next year. I guess to the Republicans, I'm not mainstream either.

gregorybrown | October 21, 2009 10:25 AM

Isn't it Common Knowledge that condoms DO lead to sex? No lad would ever think about sex until he say one of those mysterious seducers rolled up and waiting to slide with alluring lewdness onto his otherwise purely urinary-functional penis.