Thursday, October 14, 2010


One of the words I keep coming back to in NY gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino's speech last Sunday was the word "brainwashed." As in:

I just think my children, and your children, will be much better off, and much more successful getting married and raising a family. And I don't want them to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option. It isn't.
[emphasis mine]

It struck me as odd at the time because, as I understood it, one of the major techniques of "reparative therapy" used to "cure" gays was a form of brainwashing. I tried to see if I was remembering correctly and found this article from the BBC:

Those who volunteered for such treatments - often in preference to jail terms - were shown pictures of naked men and given a series electric shocks or drugs to make them vomit.

When they could stand it no longer, they were shown pictures of naked women, or films of nudist colonies, as a relief from the pain - or, in some cases, taken out on "dates" with young nurses.

All of which sounds to me like the traditional understanding of brainwashing, a la The Manchurian Candidate.

But in the course of finding this article, I saw far more often this trope of "brainwashing" applied as it was used in Paladino's speech.

Here, for example, is a rant from a website called Tradition in Action, reviewing a video called It's Elementary, "The groundbreaking film that addresses anti-gay prejudice by providing adults with practical lessons on how to talk with children about gay people." (In light of the need to eliminate bullying from our schools, this actually seems useful to me.) What I'm going to do is post the preview for the documentary and then post the rant, and then some thoughts. So first, take a look at this.

OK, got that? Here's how the writer at Tradition in Action views this:

Must-See Video!
Homosexuals Brainwashing Our Children

I am very concerned about what's shown in these videos and think that everyone should view them so they realize how our children in public and private schools are being taught tolerance for the homosexual sin, the sin that cries out to Heaven for vengeance. I do not want my grandchildren being brainwashed by the pro-homosexual rot that is portrayed in these videos...

There are no adequate words to describe these sub-humans who would turn every country on the face of the earth into pro-sodomite totalitarian States. How dare they be allowed to commit spiritual abortion on the souls of our children without an outcry loud enough to be heard in Heaven!
[emphasis mine]


Here's the thing. Is it "brainwashing" or is it "repeating things I don't believe to be true"? Are some Christian schools "brainwashing" children not to believe the theory of evolution, or are they teaching what they believe to be true?

And though I believe it's the latter, I have to have some sympathy with those who claim brainwashing. Because people are hearing over and over and more and more often that homosexuality is not evil--"big whoop," as the little guy says in the video. For those who think it is evil, it really must be intolerable. And as more and more people agree that homosexuality is not evil, "brainwashing" must be the reason. It can't possibly be that people have weighed the evidence on both sides and come to their own conclusion.

BUT--the "sub-human" thing? That is not on. You can see why gays are bullied, beaten, and murdered if that's the message people are taught.

Is it brainwashing if that's what you've heard all your life? Not if my own definition holds. But it sure is repeating things I don't believe to be true.

My strong opinion is that the messages that get repeated to us do form us. I don't think that's brainwashing, but I do think that's brain-shaping. I can understand why some people don't want the messages they loathe repeated. But I also believe they hate the message because of the hate-filled messages of their past.


Lorin said...

Have you seen this recent story about a teacher fired for being gay?

While this is no "sub-human" horribleness, this saddens me for its banality. How many little kids have asked their teacher if they were married? And then the guy gets laid off for being truthful? It just ticks me off. I would hardly call answering a question "flaunting" a lifestyle.

LKT said...

I had not heard that. It's very...frustrating, I guess. There was another story of a teacher who was fired after answering a student's question about some anti-war protest or another when she told them, "I honk for peace." It went to the Supreme Court where the court found that she didn't have the right of freedom of speech in the context of the school, that her speech was paid for by the school and therefore should be what the school wanted it to be.

"A teacher's speech is 'the commodity she sells to an employer in exchange for her salary.'" I find that a little frightening myself. It puts teachers in a VERY tough spot.

Here's the article.

Anonymous said...

"A teacher's speech is 'the commodity she sells to an employer in exchange for her salary'." - oh, say it's not so! If anything must be a commodity in education at all, let it be, rather, the teacher's knowledge and the professional experience that she brings to bear on the questions that come up as they arise.

LKT said...

Isn't that awful?

One would hope that information, knowledge, wisdom and compassion would all be part of the task of teaching; this suggests that we ask for information only.