Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them…
From “After the Ball – How America will conquer its fear and hatred of Gays in the 90s.” – Penguin Books, 1989 pp. 147-157.
By Marshall K. Kirk and Hunter Madsen
“PUSHING THE RIGHT BUTTONS: HALTING, DERAILING, OR REVERSING THE ‘ENGINE OF PREJUDICE’ ”
In the past, gays have tinkered ineptly with the engine of prejudice. Is it possible to tinker more favorably? We present (in order of increasing vigor and desirability) three general approaches [which are vastly better than what we’ve tried in the past].
These approaches, once understood, will lead us directly to the principles upon which a viable campaign can be erected.
From the point of view of evolution, prejudice is an alerting signal, warning tribal mammals that a potentially dangerous alien mammal is in the vicinity, and should be fought or fled. Alerting mechanisms respond to novelties in the environment, because novelties represent change from the usual, and are, therefore, potentially important.
One of two things can happen: (1) If the alerting mechanism is very strongly activated, it will produce an unendurable emotional state, forcing the tribal mammal to fight the novelty or flee it. (2) If, however, the novelty is either low-grade, or simply odd without being threatening, the alerting mechanism will be mildly activated, producing an emotional state that, if other environmental circumstances militate against it, will be too weak to motivate any actual behavioral response. In the latter case, the mammal may peer curiously at the novelty for quite some time, but will not do anything about it, or to it.
As a general physio-psychological rule, novelties cease to be novel if they just stick around long enough; they also cease to activate alerting mechanisms. There are excellent evolutionary reasons for this: if the mammal either has no good reason to respond, or is for some reason incapable of doing so, it is actually hindered in its normal activities if its attention continues to be taken up by an irrelevancy. You’ll have noted this in your own life: if you hear a protracted, earsplitting mechanical screech, you’ll either be so alarmed, or so annoyed, that you’ll be forced to take action; if you hear a softer–though, perhaps, nonetheless annoying–sound, like the ticking of a clock, and can’t shut it off, you will, eventually, shut it out, and may cease to hear it altogether. Similarly with a rank odor, smelled upon entering a room; if you can’t get rid of it, you eventually cease to smell it.
Franz Kafka wrote a delightful fable (“The Animal in the Synagogue”) that might almost have had Desensitization in mind. His story–never finished-deals with a peculiar animal, the only one of its kind, which has been living, since time immemorial, in a synagogue. The elders take a dim view of this state of affairs; though quiet, the animal emerges from its nook during services and distracts the women (who sit at the back) from their devotions. Moreover, there is no telling, with so very odd an animal, what its habits might eventually prove to be. Suppose it bites? There is talk of mounting an expedition to catch and kill it. But the synagogue is very large and very old, with a thousand bolt- holes in which the animal might hide, and it is capable of climbing high and running fast. Any such expedition would be difficult, and would run the risk not only of failure, but of damaging irreplaceable artwork. The upshot is that the elders call the whole thing off; and, as the animal never gives anyone the least trouble, they get used to its presence, and eventually cease to think about it at all.
Apply this to the problem of homohatred. If gays present themselves– or allow themselves to be presented–as overwhelmingly different and threatening, they will put straights on a triple-red alert, driving them to overt acts of political oppression or physical violence. If, however, gays can live alongside straights, visibly but as inoffensively as possible, they will arouse a low-grade alert only, which, though annoying to straights, will eventually diminish for purely physiological reasons. Straights will be desensitized. Put more simply, if you go out of your way to be unendurable, people will try to destroy you; otherwise, they might eventually get used to you. This commonsense axiom should make it clear that living down to the stereotype, a la Gender-Bending, is a very bad idea.
We can extract the following principle for our campaign to desensitize straights to gays and gayness, inundate them in a continuous flood of gay-related advertising, presented in the least offensive fashion possible. If straights can’t shut off the shower, they may at least eventually get used to being wet.
Of course, while sheer indifference is, itself, vastly preferable to hatred and threats, we would like to do better than that. We turn next to more difficult, but also more vigorous and rewarding, tactics.
The engine of prejudice can be made to grind to a halt not only by Desensitization, in which it is simply allowed to run out of steam, but also by the more active process of Jamming. As the name implies, Jamming involves the insertion into the engine of a pre-existing, incompatible emotional response, gridlocking its mechanism as thoroughly as though one had sprinkled fine sand into the workings of an old-fashioned pocket watch. Jamming, as an approach, is more active and aggressive than Desensitization; by the same token, it is also more enjoyable and heartening.
Jamming makes use of the rules of Associative Conditioning (the psychological process whereby, when two things are repeatedly juxtaposed, one’s feelings about one thing are transferred to the other) and Direct Emotional Modeling (the inborn tendency of human beings to feel what they perceive others to be feeling).
Turning Associative Conditioning and Direct Emotional Modeling against themselves, we Jam by forging a fresh link between, on the one hand, some part of the mechanism, and, on the other, a pre-existing, external, opposed, and therefore incompatible emotional response. Ideally, the bigot subjected to such counterconditioning will ultimately experience two emotional responses to the hated object, opposed and competing. The consequent internal confusion has two effects: first, it is unpleasant– we can call it ’emotional dissonance,’ after Festinger–and will tend to result in an alteration of previous beliefs and feelings so as to resolve the internal conflict. Since the weaker of the clashing emotional associations is the more likely to give way, we can achieve optimal results by linking the prejudicial response to a stronger and more fundamental structure of belief and emotion. (Naturally, in some people this will be impossible, as prejudicial hatred is the strongest ) element in their beliefs, emotions, and motivations. Without resorting to prefrontal lobotomy–ah! sweet dreams!–these people are more or less unsalvageable.) Second, even where an optimal resolution does not occur, the internal dissonance will tend to inhibit overt expression of the prejudicial emotion–which is, in itself, useful and relieving.
The ‘incompatible emotional response’ is directed primarily against the emotional rewards of prejudicial solidarity. All normal people feel shame when they perceive that they are not thinking, feeling, or acting like one of the pack. And, these days, all but the stupidest and most unregenerate of bigots perceive that prejudice against all other minority groups-e.g., blacks, Jews, Catholics, women, et al.–has long since ceased to be approved, let alone fashionable, and that to express such prejudices, if not to hold them, makes one decidedly not one of the pack. It was permissible, some forty years ago, to tell the vilest ethnic jokes at the average party, and, if the joke was reasonably well told, the joker could expect to receive applause and approval from his or her roistering confreres. (Should you find this hard to believe, read 2500 Jokes for All Occasions, a popular 1942 compilation by Powers Moulton, which will surely stand your hair on end.) With the exception of certain benighted social classes and backward areas of the country, this is quite generally no longer the case.
The trick is to get the bigot into the position of feeling a conflicting twinge of shame, along with his reward, whenever his homohatred surfaces, so that his reward will be diluted or spoiled. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, all making use of repeated exposure to pictorial images or verbal statements that are incompatible with his self-image as a well-liked person, one who fits in with the rest of the crowd. Thus, propagandistic advertisement can depict homophobic and homohating bigots as crude loudmouths and assholes–people who say not only ‘faggot’ but ‘nigger,’ ‘kike,’ and other shameful epithets–who are ‘not Christian.’ It can show them being criticized, hated, shunned. It can depict gays experiencing horrific suffering as the direct result of homohatred-suffering of which even most bigots would be ashamed to be the cause. It can, in short, link homohating bigotry with all sorts of attributes the bigot would be ashamed to possess, and with social consequences he would find unpleasant and scary. The attack, therefore, is on self-image and on the pleasure in hating.
When our ads show a bigot–just like the members of the target audience–being criticized, hated, and shunned, we make use of Direct Emotional Modeling as well. Remember, a bigot seeks approval and liking from ‘his crowd.’ When he sees someone like himself being disapproved of and disliked by ordinary Joes, Direct Emotional Modeling ensures that he will feel just what they feel –and transfer it to himself. This wrinkle effectively elicits shame and doubt, Jamming any pleasure he might normally feel. In a very real sense, every time a bigot sees such a thing, he is un- learning a little bit of the lesson of prejudice taught him by his parents and peers.
Such an approach may seem much too weak to work, yet bear these thoughts in mind: (a) the procedure is exactly that which formed the prejudicial complex to begin with; (b) the majority of casual bigots do not, in fact, see themselves as unpleasant people and would hate to think that others see them as such, let alone that their hatred has caused suffering and death; (c) there has, in fact, been a major turnaround in the acceptability, in this country, of prejudice against other minority groups, due, in our opinion, in no small part to exactly such counterconditioning and linking; and (d) such an approach has actually been used in TV advertisements, most memorably in an antidrinking ad showing a teenage boy drinking at a party, but not meeting with approval: indeed, as he gets more and more drunk, his behavior becomes more and more obnoxious, and he is regarded by the other partiers with disgust; ultimately, his head turns into that of a heehawing jackass. One can readily see how this sort of thing could be adapted to our own purposes.
Note that the bigot need not actually be made to believe that he is such a heinous creature, that others will now despise him, and that he has been the immoral agent of suffering. It would be impossible to make him believe any such thing. Rather, our effect is achieved without reference to facts, logic, or proof. Just as the bigot became such, without any say in the matter, through repeated infralogical emotional conditioning, his bigotry can be alloyed in exactly the same way, whether he is conscious of the attack or not. Indeed, the more he is distracted by any incidental, even specious, surface arguments, the less conscious he’ll be of the true nature of the process–which is all to the good.
In short, Jamming succeeds insofar as it inserts even a slight frisson of doubt and shame into the previously unalloyed, self- righteous pleasure. The approach can be quite useful and effective — if our message can get the massive exposure upon which all else depends.
Desensitization aims at lowering the intensity of antigay emotional reactions to a level approximating sheer indifference; Jamming attempts to blockade or counteract the rewarding ‘pride in prejudice’ (peace, Jane Austen!) by attaching to homohatred a pre-existing, and punishing, sense of shame in being a bigot, a horse’s ass, and a beater and murderer. Both Desensitization and Jamming, though extremely useful, are mere preludes to our highest –though necessarily very long-range–goal, which is Conversion.
It isn’t enough that antigay bigots should become confused about us, or even indifferent to us–we are safest, in the long run, if we can actually make them like us. Conversion aims at just this.
Please don’t confuse Conversion with political Subversion. The word ‘subversion’ has a nasty ring, of which the American people are inordinately afraid–and on their guard against. Yet, ironically, by Conversion we actually mean something far more profoundly threatening to the American Way of Life, without which no truly sweeping social change can occur. We mean conversion of the average American’s emotions, mind, and will, through a planned psychological attack, in the form of propaganda fed to the nation via the media. We mean ‘subverting’ the mechanism of prejudice to our own ends–using the very processes that made America hate us to turn their hatred into warm regard–whether they like it or not.
Put briefly, if Desensitization lets the watch run down, and Jamming throws sand in the works, Conversion reverses the spring so that the hands run backward.
Conversion makes use of Associative Conditioning, much as Jamming does–indeed, in practice the two processes overlap– but far more ambitiously. In Conversion, the bigot, who holds a very negative stereotypic picture, is repeatedly exposed to literal picture/label pairs, in magazines, and on billboards and TV, of gay- explicitly labeled as such!–who not only don’t look like his picture of a homosexual, but are carefully selected to look either like the bigot and his friends, or like any one of his other stereotypes of all-right guys– the kind of people he already likes and ` admires. This image must, of necessity, be carefully tailored to be free of absolutely every element of the widely held stereotypes of how ‘faggots’ look, dress, and sound. He–or she–must not be too well or fashionably dressed; must not be too handsome–that is, mustn’t look like a model–or well groomed. The image must be that of an icon of normality–a good beginning would be to take a long look at Coors beer and Three Musketeers candy commercials. Subsequent ads can branch out from that solid basis to include really adorable, athletic teenagers, kindly grandmothers, avuncular policemen, ad infinitem.
The objection will be raised–and raised, and raised–that we t would ‘Uncle Tommify’ the gay community; that we are exchanging one false stereotype for another equally false; that our ads are lies; that that is not how all gays actually look; that gays know it, and bigots know it. Yes, of course–we know it, too. But it makes no difference that the ads are lies; not to us, because we’re using them to ethically good effect, to counter negative stereotypes that are every bit as much lies, and far more wicked ones; not to bigots, because the ads will have their effect on them whether they believe them or not.
When a bigot is presented with an image of the sort of person of whom he already has a positive stereotype, he experiences an involuntary rush of positive emotion, of good feeling; he’s been conditioned to experience it. But, here, the good picture has the bad label–gay! (The ad may say something rather like ‘Beauregard Smith–beer drinker, Good Ole Boy, pillar of the community, 100% American, and gay as a mongoose.’) The bigot will feel two incompatible emotions: a good response to the picture, a bad response to the label. At worst, the two will cancel one another, and we will have successfully Jammed, as above. At best, Associative Conditioning will, to however small an extent, transfer the positive emotion associated with the picture to the label itself, not immediately replacing the negative response, but definitely weakening it.
You may wonder why the transfer wouldn’t proceed in the opposite direction. The reason is simple: pictures are stronger than words and evoke emotional responses more powerfully. The bigot is presented with an actual picture; its label will evoke in his mind his own stereotypic picture, but what he sees in his mind’s eye will be weaker than what he actually sees in front of him with the eyes in his face. The more carefully selected the advertised image is to reflect his ideal of the sort of person who just couldn’t be gay, the more effective it will be. Moreover, he will, by virtue of logical necessity, see the positive picture in the ad before it can arouse his negative ‘picture,’ and first impressions have an advantage over second.
In Conversion, we mimic the natural process of stereotype- learning, with the following effect: we take the bigot’s good feelings about all- right guys, and attach them to the label ‘gay,’ either weakening or, eventually, replacing his bad feelings toward the label and the prior stereotype.
Understanding Direct Emotional Modeling, you’ll readily foresee its application to Conversion: whereas in Jamming the target is shown a bigot being rejected by his crowd for his prejudice against gays, in Conversion the target is shown his crowd actually associating with gays in good fellowship. Once again, it’s very difficult for the average person, who, by nature and training, almost invariably feels what he sees his fellows feeling, not to re-spend in this knee-jerk fashion to a sufficiently calculated advertisement. In a way, most advertisement is founded upon an answer of Yes, definitely! to Mother’s sarcastic question: I suppose if all the other kids jumped off a bridge and killed themselves, you would, too?
We’ve now outlined three major modes by which we can alter the itinerary of the engine of prejudice in our favor. Desensitization lets the engine run out of steam, causing it to halt on the tracks indefinitely. Jamming, in essence, derails it. Conversion– our ambitious long-range goal–puts the engine into reverse gear and sends it back whence it came.
These modes are abstract–we’ve only hinted, here and there, at how they can be harnessed and put to work for us in a practical propaganda campaign . . .
Our goal, being high, is also difficult. The bottleneck in reaching it, however, isn’t lack of knowledge of the psychological principles . involved, nor lack of efficacy in the methods available; the principles are known, and the methods work. The bottleneck is purely and simply achieving a sufficient scope for the dissemination of our propaganda. Success depends, as always, on flooding the media. And that, in turn, means money, which means man-hours, which means unifying the gay community for a concerted effort. Let’s be blunt: those who aren’t with us in this effort, either because they have better ways of wasting their time, or because they think we’re politically incorrect, are most decidedly against us, against unification, and against the best interests of the gay community as a whole.
NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107,
this material is reproduced for non-profit educational
purposes only. For more information go to: