AIDS hysteria II: incitement to violence?

The witch hunt has begun in earnest, and we won't be the only ones hunting. The most insidious aspect of what is already taking on the appearance of a coordinated media campaign is the fact that it will be so difficult to fight back. The victims of ignorance and fear are put into a position where almost any response looks like it's merely a defense of the right to use recreational drugs, fuck like rabbits and murder the innocent.

Obviously responding to the media's recent hysterics over the first, sketchy report of a more virulent form of the AIDS virus, linked invariably with stories about promiscuous gays, Richard Cohen writes today in the Washington Post [I shouldn't be too surprised, since this is a paper which also thought the Iraq war would be a good thing] that the buggerers must be condemned.

For too long now heterosexuals have kept out of this debate. Many of us have been protective of gays, seeing them primarily as victims of discrimination.

. . .

But while gays clearly have their enemies, that should not mean they are immune from criticism. The fact remains that a portion of the gay population -- maybe 20 percent, [Charles] Kaiser estimates -- conducts itself in ways that are not only reckless but just plain disgusting. Unprotected, promiscuous sex in bathhouses and at parties and using drugs such as crystal meth to prolong both desire and performance are practices that should be no more acceptable for gays than for heterosexuals. Gays don't get some sort of pass just because they're gay.

. . .

They are entitled to their own sexuality, but not to behavior that endangers others, costs us all plenty and, too often, entails a determined self-destruction that too many heterosexuals overlook.

. . .

Back in the 1970s William Ryan of Boston College popularized the term "blaming the victim." It gave voice to a needed concept, but it also silenced critics who saw that sometimes the victim needed to be blamed. This is the case now with gays when their behavior is both stupid and reckless. When they're victims of discrimination, they need to be defended. When they're victims of their own behavior, they need to be condemned.

Why was this piece written? What's his purpose, since he gives no helpful advice, offers no proposals? While I have no reason to think it's not his intention, Cohen's venomous piece sounds to me like an incitement to violence.

Finally, and this isn't a rhetorical question at all: If the "carriers" are just gay men, why are he and his straight colleagues so worried about our health? I don't have a good answer.

This makes me think of parallels with the abortion rights movement, where we are still fighting the same fights more than 35 years after it was first begun. I feel like we've had these conversations before about harm reduction. We never get through to some folks because I believe their agenda is not actually about making people safer in the case of AIDS, or about making the need for abortion less, their agenda seems to be to make others over into themselves, to limit others, to generally repress. I get tired, but know we have to go on, just as folks before us did. Thanks for pointing out the hypocrisies. It helps to crystalize why we need to stay involved.

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Published on February 17, 2005 9:18 PM.

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