Via Pam's House Blend, I learn that the Washington Post's remarkably poor decision to post Tony Perkins's falsehood laden, anti-gay screed on their On Faith blog (on National Coming Out Day nonetheless) was because they felt they needed to “cover both sides” of “bullying and gay suicide.” No, really, they're serious. Apparently they hosted a Live Q & A chat with Dan Savage to discuss “bullying and gay suicide” and his "It Gets Better Project," which is a You Tube channel Savage created in order to reach out to gay youths to prevent suicide. So, to balance Savage, the Post turned to Perkins to respond. Apparently to the Post, gay suicide is a two-sided issue.
GLAAD and the Washington Post had an exchange over Twitter, in which the Post responded to criticism over publishing Perkins' column, by saying, "[W]e're working to cover both sides. Earlier, we hosted Dan Savage of It Gets Better in a live chat." GLAAD rightly replied, “There are not 'both sides' to this issue. Teen suicide isn't a debate-it's a tragedy.”
Need I remind you that Perkins's argument was that gay suicide, which often is prefaced by homophobic bullying, was caused not by the bullying, but because “homosexuals experience higher rates of mental health problems in general, including depression,” and that the “homosexual movement and their allies” teach kids “that they are 'born gay' and can never change. This--and not society's disapproval--may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.” To back up this insanity, Perkins linked to studies that showed exactly the opposite of what he claimed. While Perkins is right, “Several studies suggest that gay men, lesbians and bisexuals appear to have higher rates of some mental disorders compared with heterosexuals,” he's just wrong that this is pathological, and he's equally wrong that there's no link between this and discrimination. Indeed, the article to which Perkins himself linked immediately goes on to report that "[d]iscrimination may help fuel these higher rates." The article further reported: “In a study that examines possible root causes of mental disorders in LGB people, [Susan] Cochran [PhD] and psychologist Vickie M. Mays, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles, explored whether ongoing discrimination fuels anxiety, depression and other stress-related mental health problems among LGB people. The authors found strong evidence of a relationship between the two.”
The article also reported that the researcher who conducted several of these studies was “concerned that these findings may give ammunition to people who want to falsely promulgate the argument that gay people are by nature mentally ill.” The article added:
For one thing, she says, “these are certainly not levels of morbidity consistent with models that say homosexuality is inherently pathological.” For another, the data simply don't prove either pro- or anti-gay arguments on the subject, whether it's that the inherent biology of homosexuality causes mental illness or that social stigma provokes mental illness in LGB people, she says.
It seems that Perkins counted on the fact that people wouldn't click through his links, and apparently the On Faith blog editors obliged.
Joseph Stiglitz once wrote of the 2004 elections:
Most of the media not controlled by the right wing tried to play the role of honest broker, giving equal weight to each interpretation. If one side said the sky was blue and the other said it was orange, journalists would work hard, for the sake of appearing balanced, to find some academic, even a color blind one, willing to say that the sky was indeed orange.
Unfortunately, the same still holds true today, and the Post feeling the need to balance a conversation with a gay man about how to prevent gay suicide with a homophobic rant from a crazy man who blames the gays for the suicides, is just the latest sad example of this fallacy.