Tuesday, October 21, 2008
by Wayne Besen
Weekly Column(The Radio Hall of Shame's Bruce DuMont, Left)
I once had a revealing conversation with an A-list news reporter, when I was trying to convince him to cover the scientific distortions of Focus on the Family's James Dobson. He declined to do so because he felt that Dobson lies so frequently that it wasn't news.
With the media inured to Dobson's Fib Factory and its assembly line of lies, it is difficult for the truth to gain traction. I believe, however, that the press has it backwards. Each nugget of nonsense peddled by ideologues, such as Dobson, should be on the front page of every newspaper and lead daily newscasts. Allowing falsehoods to fester has created a cynical political climate where truth is whatever a press release says it is.
This lack of accountability has allowed Dobson, and others of his ilk, to portray themselves as spokespersons for morality, even though they are regularly engaged in glaring examples of moral turpitude. Occasionally, they are even honored for their sinister "success" and showered with undeserved adulation.
For example, on Nov. 8, the Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC) is scheduled to induct Dobson into its Radio Hall of Fame in celebration of his unquestionable broadcasting achievements. He regularly appears on 3,000 radio stations across the world and has built a $150 million anti-gay empire in Colorado Springs.
The MBC says that Dobson's longevity and success qualify him for honors, even though they will essentially be bronzing his bigotry. In my view, the Radio Hall of Fame devalues its worth when it blithely honors a broadcaster with an amoral indifference to content and good character. Dobson's self-righteous ranting about gay people overrides his ratings and the prejudice he perpetuates overshadows his popularity. If Major League Baseball can keep superstar Pete Rose out of its Hall of Fame because of integrity issues, its broadcasting counterpart can rescind its invitation to Dobson.
The MBC takes the antiseptic, hands-off view that Dobson's red meat is meaningless blather that affects no one. They seem to believe that gay people are not harmed when the millions of devout listeners hear Dobson bellow that gay marriage will, "destroy the earth." Or, that no one will seek revenge on gay people after Dobson shrieks, "For more than 40 years, the homosexual activist movement has sought to implement a master plan that has had as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family."
Thanks to such inflammatory rhetoric, hate crimes against gay people still occur daily. According to 2006 FBI statistics, hate crimes based on sexual orientation constituted the third highest category reported and made up 15.5 percent of all reported hate crimes. Only race-based and religion-based prejudice crimes were more prevalent than hate crimes based on sexual orientation.
While Dobson does not outright call for violence, he does use his "ex-gay" ministry, Love Won Out, to portray GLBT people, as immoral reprobates who could choose to change if they weren't too stubborn to accept God. By positioning homosexuality as a behavior that can be prayed away, he is offering people a way to justify discriminatory and even violent behavior -- all in the guise of loving the sinner.
What Dobson fails to tell his listeners is that efforts to alter sexual orientation are considered damaging by the American Psychiatric Association, The American Medical Association, The American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
One also wonders why the MBC would honor Dobson until it had fully investigated serious allegations
that he distorted scientific research. In the past two years, seven prominent scientists have demanded that he stop citing their work because he misrepresented their conclusions on homosexuality. New York University educational psychologist, Carol Gilligan, PhD., appeared in a video saying that Dobson "was not truthful" and that he should "refrain from ever quoting me again." Dr. Kyle Pruett, a professor of child psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine claimed Dobson "cherry picked" his conclusions. University of Minnesota's Gary Remafedi, M.D., M.P.H. wrote a letter to Dobson that clamed he engaged in "a gross misrepresentation of our research."
Finally, Andrew Colvin, 16, contacted me a week ago. He had recently come out to his mother who he says listens to James Dobson's radio show. Instead of accepting her son, she gave Andrew Focus on the Family's anti-gay books. Thanks to Dobson, things became so tense that Andrew moved out of his mother's home
in Colorado to live with his father in Arizona.
Sadly, America is littered with stories, such as Andrew's, where Dobson has taken his microphone and turned it into a club to bludgeon families. The pain is raw and the scars are real. Yet, this cruel reality will be supplanted by a Disneyfied version in the Radio Hall of Fame, where Dobson's viciousness will be euphemized as "virtues" and "values."
The MBC should stop pandering to the right wing and do the right thing by dumping Dobson
from its Radio Hall of Fame. And, the media should start doing its job by holding Dobson accountable. Let's focus on the facts and stop peddling the fiction that James Dobson's actions are worthy of anything but condemnation.