Tuesday, June 24, 2008
by Wayne Besen
It is remarkable that Focus on the Family's James Dobson would accuse anyone of "distortions" considering his ignoble record. But, that is exactly what the right wing ideologue did this week when he said
on his daily radio show that democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama distorted the Bible.
"I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology," Dobson said." "... He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."
Why do people still listen to what this serial liar has to say? In the past two years, at least seven researchers have accused Dobson of manipulating or cherry picking their results to back his anti-gay teachings. Letters
documenting the concerns of these respected professors can be viewed at RespectMyResearch.org.
The first researcher to step forward was New York University educational psychologist Carol Gilligan, PhD. On Sept. 14, 2006 Gilligan wrote
a letter to Dobson that stated: "I was mortified to learn that you had distorted my work this week in a guest column you wrote in Time Magazine...What you wrote was not truthful and I ask that you refrain from ever quoting me again and that you apologize for twisting my work."
The most recent scientist to claim Double-Talk Dobson distorted his work
was University of Minnesota's Gary Remafedi, M.D., M.P.H. In a letter to Dobson, dated April 28, 2008, he wrote, "I want to draw your attention to a gross misrepresentation of our research at the website of 'Focus on the Family.'"
Other leading researchers who have taken issue with Dobson's use of their work include: Dr. Kyle Pruett,
Professor of child psychiatry, the Yale University School of Medicine; Dr. Robert Spitzer
, Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University; Angela Phillips
, Professor, Goldsmiths College in London; Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc
, Associate Professor, school of nursing, University of British Columbia; and Dr. Judith Stacy
, Professor of Sociology, New York University.
Never before has such an array of venerated professors courageously stood up and turned the ivory tower into a watchtower to protect scientific integrity. What each doctor has in common is that he or she was shocked and outraged when informed how his or her work was used and abused.
While the sheer number of professors who have already stepped forward is unprecedented, it is clearly the tip of the iceberg. James Dobson's bastardization of the truth is so immense and complete that one would have to build and staff a laboratory and a library to fully investigate and document his legion of lies.
Yet, the wonderful "liberal media" continues to treat this man as if he is a God-fearing grandfather. What disturbs me, is that the one time Dobson was truly exposed as a kook was when he suggested Sponge Bob Square Pants might be gay. This was worthy of laughs, but when some of the brightest minds in the world take Dobson to task for manipulating years of hard work, the media is largely MIA. Isn't it time the media paint a full and accurate portrait of a man who has had the ear of many presidents?
The reason Dobson is so facile with the facts and believes he can pick and choose who is a "real Christian" is because he has a God complex. The Associated Press' Eric Gorski reports that, "A McCain campaign staffer offered Dobson a meeting with McCain recently in Denver. Dobson declined because he prefers that candidates visit the Focus on the Family campus to learn more about the organization."
Can you believe this egomaniac? He tells John McCain, a possible leader of the free world, that he must take a detour from the campaign trail to Colorado Springs to bow at the feet of King James. What next, McCain has to agree to roll a red carpet and feed Dobson fresh grapes?
What is clear, is that the Democrat's strategy of more God talk, following John Kerry's defeat in 2004, is unnerving religious conservatives. Obama can speak the language of Scripture and is comfortable in the walls of a church. His genuine connection to people of faith will likely peel away a portion of churchgoers who are disillusioned by the broken promises and endemic corruption of the Republican party. Dobson's latest tantrum highlights his fear that the religious right is losing its grip as the face of faith in America.
Dobson is not an ordained minister, nor is he a religious scholar. His is just a loud mouth, self-righteous manipulator who screams and hollers. Until King James can explain why the world's top professors keep giving him F's in religion, ethics and science, the media should stop quoting him. While, I appreciate the need for balance, accuracy is the higher journalistic value - even when it comes to the charlatan of family values.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
by Wayne Besen
The United Arab Emirates has ambitions of being the New York City of the Middle East. Dubai already boasts the world's tallest building, the first indoor ski resort, the world's largest manmade island and upscale shopping malls that dwarf Super Wal Marts. Brad Pitt is even designing an eco-friendly hotel, one project in Dubai's $381 billion worth of new construction.
Abu Dhabi, UAE's capital, has designs on becoming a cultural center that rivals Paris. Pumping nearly 3 million barrels of oil a day at $120 a barrel, the city has the money to recruit the finest architects and museum curators in the world.
Abu Dhabi will soon feature its version of Paris' Louvre. Frank Gehry is designing a Guggenheim Museum. The Cleveland Clinic is building an outpost and New York University is constructing a campus.
Unfortunately, the gleaming skyscrapers and glitzy marketing can mask the harsh reality that the UAE still has medieval laws. While it has all the trappings of a modern nation, it is a place where one can be entrapped and imprisoned simply for being gay.
The UAE's stark contradictions came to the fore last year when Alexandre Robert, a 15 year old French boy, was gang raped with one of the assailants being HIV+. The government tried to cover up the crime and even threatened to convict Alexandre of homosexuality. The case caused an international uproar and strained relations between France and the UAE.
The spectacular rise of Dubai and Abu Dhabi raises several interesting questions. Can a city that looks economically forward remain culturally backward and still thrive? How can Abu Dhabi become a leading cultural center when openly gay people are such an integral part of such institutions? What will happen when a gay-themed play or art exhibit is proposed for one of their new theatres or museums?
From what I understand, gay life thrives in Dubai if one knows the right people and keeps a low profile. Unofficial gay nights are tolerated in Western hotels as long as no one actually acknowledges what is going on. (Sounds like the Republican Party)
As the cultural centers of the UAE expand, there will be gay couples who rightfully refuse to pretend they are just good buddies. When this occurs, how will the government respond? If they crack down, will Western corporations withdrawal their investments or will they tell the gay people to go back into the closet?
In the age of globalization these are important questions. They not only affect gay people, but women, immigrants and other minorities. It is one thing to suffer discrimination at the hands of developing nations, such as Poland, Jamaica or Myanmar. But, quite another to have futuristic cities of the 21st Century become "No Gay Zones" or treat women like pets.
A US News & World Report
cover story says that in Dubai there are swimming pools that offer ladies-only hours and the beaches are mixed with western women in bikinis and locals with full-length abayas. What will happen when some of these women rebel and decide bikinis are more comfortable in 110-degree weather?
The most important question is whether the rapid economic change is a harbinger for political and social transformation? US News & World Report
does point out that labor protests, which were once rare, "are becoming more common." Such unrest could lead to changes in other areas and foster greater democracy. However, there is some fear that too much change on social issues could lead to a violent backlash from Islamic fundamentalists.
The worry about modern states suppressing basic human rights isn't confined to the UAE. Amnesty International's annual report
said that people are tortured or abused in at least 81 countries, face unfair trials in at least 54 countries and are not allowed to express themselves freely in at least 77 nations.
Amnesty International said its report "reveals a world riven by inequality, scarred by discrimination and distorted by political repression."
China is another example of a quickly modernizing nation that lags on gay rights and other social issues. With the Olympics around the corner, the world will be watching China as closely as it watches its citizens. What concerns me is that misapplied technology has made it easier for governments to spy than for citizens to organize. This creates an environment where it is infinitely more difficult to start new movements that challenge the status quo.
The UAE has a unique opportunity to transform the Middle East. However, a country can spend all the money in the world on impressively molded concrete, steel and glass and still fail to be a modern nation. Democracy, intellectual freedom and human rights are the true building blocks for the future. For gay people and other minorities, all that glitters is still not gold in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.