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Thursday, June 20, 2002

World's Smallest Political Quiz:

My results:

This should explain rather neatly why that guy over at Global News Watch couldn't manage, for all of his grunting and straining, to force me into either a `right-wing' or `left-wing' box.

You can take the quiz here. Thanks to VodkaPundit for reminding me of it.

posted by Eric at 7:45 PM          

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

What al-Qaeda Wants:

(Second in a series.)

In a The Mirage of Moderate Islam, I have described the Koranic roots of Islamic fanaticism, and observed that Osama bin Laden's terror war on the west is part of a recurring pattern of fundamentalist revival associated with jihad in Islamic history.

In this essay, I'll get more specific about what Osama bin Laden is really after. In the process, it will become clear why Arab-world governments are so frightened of him.

The first thing to understand is that Osama bin Laden is neither crazy nor stupid. He is a very intelligent, educated, visionary man who is operating from deep within the Islamic worldview. He's trying to do on a global scale what the Ayatollah Khomeini did in Iran in 1979; he's bucking for the job of Caliph of Islam ("Khalifa" in Arabic).

The position of Khalifa has been vacant since the last Padishah Emperor of the Ottoman Empire was deposed in 1924, when the British and French broke up the Empire after it picked the wrong side in World War One. Before that, the Caliph was in theory both the supreme temporal and spiritual ruler of the Islamic world.

I say "in theory" because the Caliph's actual authority varied considerably. In the early centuries of Islam, during the initial expansionary phase of the Empire, it was absolute -- in European terms, as though Charlemagne or Napoleon were also the Pope. It tended to decrease over time as the increasing size of the Islamic empire led to political fragmentation. Independent emirs swore nominal fealty to the Caliph and accepted his symbolic authority in religious matters, while otherwise behaving as sovereigns. An able Caliph backed by strong armies could buck this disintegrative trend and make the allegiance of the emirs more than nominal. Eventually emperors of the Ottoman Turks collected this title, and gathered most of the Islamic world under their sway. But the Ottoman Empire had been in decline for four centuries by 1924, and the title of Caliph had become almost meaningless.

One of the signature traits of Islamic revivalism is nostalgia for the halcyon days of Islamic expansion, when the Caliph was the undisputed Arm of Allah and there was plenty of plunder and rapine to go around as the armies of God smote the infidel and claimed new lands for the Dar-al-Islam.

Here's where we cue the ominous theme music. It is part of Islamic tradition that the title of Khalifa may be attained by conquest if the incumbent is not fulfilling his duties -- or if there is no incumbent. Under shari'a law and hadith, the umma (the consultative assembly of the elders of Islam) is required to recognize as Khalifa anyone who is able to fulfill the duties of the position and demonstrates the sanction of Allah by mobilizing the Dar-al-Islam in successful jihad. Jihad, here, is interpreted broadly; a war of consolidation that united a substantial portion of the Dar-al-Islam under a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy would do it.

In other words, since 1924 the position of Caliph has been waiting for a Man on Horseback. Or, for you science-fiction fans out there, a Muad'Dib. The Ayatollah Khomeini could never quite make this nut; first, because he was not a plausible warlord, and second because he's part of the 10% Shi'a minority branch that disputes the Khalifal succession. The next Caliph, if there is one, will have to belong to the 90% Sunni majority.

Osama bin Laden has behaved precisely as though he intends to fill that role. And in doing so, he has frightened the crap out of the rulers of the Arab world. Because he's played his religious and propaganda cards very well in Islamic terms, barring the detail that he may well be dead and buried under rubble in an Afghan cave.

On 9/11, bin Laden took jihad to the symbolic heart of the West more effectively than any Islamic ruler has managed since the Siege of Vienna was broken in 1683. By doing so he caught Arab rulers (especially the Saudis) in a neat theo-political trap. They have been encouraging hatred of Israel and the West, and hyping the jihadist mythology of fundamentalist Islam, as a way of diverting popular anger that might otherwise focus on their own corrupt and repressive regimes. But Bin Laden has trumped and beaten them at this game. He has acted out the Koranic duty of jihad in a way they never dared -- and in doing so, seized the religious high ground.

The sheikhs and ayatollahs now have a dilemma. If they support jihadism, they must either start a war against the West they know they cannot win or cede their own legitimacy to the Caliph-claimant who is leading the jihad. But if they come out against jihad, bin Laden or his successor can de-legitimitize them simply by pointing to the Koran. The possibility that the semi-mythical "Arab street" would revolt behind local Khomeini-equivalents hot to join al-Qaeda's jihad is quite real.

Let the last word go to the mentor of Osama bin Laden, Sheik Abdullah Azzam: "Jihad must not be abandoned until Allah alone is worshipped by mankind...Jihad and the rifle negotiations, no conferences and no dialogue." The Palestinians are, as usual, disposable pawns in a larger game. The objective of al-Qaeda's game is to follow the Koranic blueprint to its logical conclusion; global jihad, a second age of conversion by the sword, the destruction of the West, and the establishment of a global Islamic theocracy.

Osama bin Laden himself may be dead now. Unfortunately, this doesn't necessarily stop the game, because his body hasn't been found. The Twelfth Imam of Shi'a disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 941CE; persons claiming to be him and calling the faithful to jihad emerged at intervals for a thousand years afterwards, the most recent one being the Mahdi who led an anti-British revolt in Egypt in 1881. If the jihadist tendency in Islam is not confronted and destroyed, Osama bin Laden could haunt the West for a thousand years.

(To be continued...)

posted by Eric at 9:08 PM          


Beating software version fatigue:

In his latest Tech Central Station column, Glenn Reynolds complains of `version fatigue', his accumulating angst over the fact that since the emid-1980s he's had to migrate through three word processors and several different versions of Windows.

I can't fix the sad fact that every new VCR and remote control you get has a different control layout. But if we're talking software, baby, I have got your solution.

I have been using the same text editor since 1982. I have been using the same command-line shell since 1985, and the same operating system since 1993. But that last date is actually misleading, because I still get use out of programs I wrote for the previous dialect of my OS as far back as 1982, without ever having had to alter a line.

The last time I had to learn a new feature set for any of the tools I regularly used was when I decided to change window systems in 1997, and that was not a vendor-forced upgrade. Yes, that's right; it means I've been getting mileage out of essentially the same user interface for five straight years. Half a decade.

Does this mean I'm using software tools that were feature-frozen when dinosaurs walked the earth? No, actually, it doesn't. The text editor, which is what I spend my screen time interacting with, has grown tremendously in capability over the twenty years I've been using it. The shell I use has a lot of convenience features it didn't in 1985, but I've only had to learn them as I chose.

I don't have a version-fatigue problem, and never have. I get to use cutting-edge software tools that probably exceed in capability anything you are directly familiar with. And I have every confidence, based on my last twenty years of experience, that my software will both continue to both offer me the innovative leading edge and remain feature-stable for the next twenty years if I so choose.

How do I achieve this best of both worlds? One word: Unix.

I'm a Unix guy. You may have heard that I have something to do with this Linux thing, and Linux is indeed what I use today. But Linux is only the most recent phase of a continuous engineering tradition that goes back to 1969. In that world, we don't have the kind of disruptive feature churn that forces people to upgrade to incompatible operating systems every 2.5 years. Our software lifetimes are measured in decades. And our applications, like the Emacs text editor I use, frequently outlast the version of Unix they were born under.

There are a couple of intertwined reasons for this. One is that we tend to get the technology decisions right the first time -- Unix is, as Niklaus Wirth once said of Algol, "a vast improvement over most of its successors". Unix people confronted with Windows for the first time tend to react with slack-jawed shock that any product so successful could be such a complete design disaster.

Perhaps more importantly, Unix/Linux people are not stuck with a business model that requires planned obsolescence in order to generate revenue. Also, our engineering tradition puts a high value on open standards. So our software tends to be forward-compatible.

As an example: about a year ago I changed file-system formats from ext2 to ext3. In the Windows world, I'd have had to back up all my files, reinstall the OS, restore my files, and then spend a week hand-fixing bits of my system configuration that weren't captured in the backups. Instead, I ran one conversion utility. Once.

Most of the consumer-level problems with computer software -- crashes, bad design, version fatigue due to the perpetual upgrade treadmill -- are not inherent in the technology. They are, rather, consequences of user-hostile business models. Microsoft, and companies like them, have no incentive to solve the problems of crashes, poor security, and version fatigue. They like the perpetual upgrade treadmill. It's how they make money.

Want to beat software version fatigue? It's easy, Glenn. Take control; dump the closed-source monopolists; get off the treadmill. OpenOffice will let you keep your MS-Word documents and your Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. Join the Linux revolution, and never see a Blue Screen of Death again.

UPDATE: A reader complains that Linux is difficult to install. Answer: Get thee to the Linux user group near you, who will be more than happy to help you get liberated. Or get thee to Wal-Mart, which is now selling cheap machines with Lindows, a Linux variant tuned to look like Windows, for $299.

posted by Eric at 10:18 AM          

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Which Deadly Sin Are You?

My wife comments: "This seems inevitable.", in between licking the side of my neck and fondling me in a way best not described in a family blog. She thinks my girlfriends would agree.

posted by Eric at 8:47 PM          


The Mirage of Moderate Islam:

(First of a series.)

Diplomatic lies notwithstanding, Islam is anything but a `religion of peace'. Any honest scholar will tell you that Islam is a religion of violence, martyrdom, and conversion by the sword. The duty to wage war for the propagation of the faith is plainly written in the Koran; Osama bin Laden's suicide bombers are part of a tradition that springs from Islam's warlike origins and has been re-affirmed in every generations by ghazis, hashishim, and numerous other varieties of holy warrior.

It is the interiorization of `jihad' as a struggle for self-mastery that is revisionist and exceptional, one proposed by only a few Westernized and progressive Muslims and (one senses) not wholeheartedly believed even by them. A truer window on the nature of Islam is the way that it divides the Earth into the Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam) and the Dar al-Harb -- the House of War, the theater of battle to be waged with zeal until the infidel is crushed and submits to the Will of God. The very word, islam, means `submission'.

Conspicuous by their absence are any clear denunciations of bin-Ladenite terror from the members of the ulama, the loose collective of elders and theologicians that articulates the Islamic faith. Such internal criticism as we do hear is muted, equivocal, often excusing the terrorists immediately after half-heartedly condemning them. Far more common, though seldom reported in Western media, are pro-jihadi sermons that denounce America as a land of devils and praise Al-Qaeda's mass murderers in one breath with Palestinian suicide bombers as martyrs assured of a place in heaven.

There has been some play given in the media lately to the notion that the ideological force behind Islamic terrorism is not Islam per se but specifically the puritanical Wahhabi sect associated with the House of Saud. Some accounts trace the rise in terrorism to Wahhabi prosyletization in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere. Most versions of this theory have it that Wahhabism is an unattractive doctrine (by contrast with, say, the Sufi tradition of the Caucasus or the relaxed syncretic Buddhist-influenced Islam of Indonesia) but that it wins converts because, with billions in Saudi oil money behind it, the Wahhabites can afford to field missionaries and build schools that promulgate the puritan party line.

The trouble with this theory is that it ignores the history of Islam and the internal logic of Islamic doctrine. The history of Islam is a collection of cycles of doctrinal decay followed by fundamentalist renewal. Believers tend to drift away from strict Islam, but every century or two some mad-eyed wanderer will come screaming out of the desert and haul the faithful back on to the Narrow Way with a blend of personal charisma, argument and force (the latter generally administered by some allied warlord who sees political gain in it).

This drama keeps getting re-enacted because, in general, these charismatic fundamentalist looney-toons are correct in their criticism of `soft' Islam. The Koran, the actions and statements of the prophet Mohammed, and the witness of the lives of his immediate followers are pretty clear on what the religious duties of a Muslim are. Long before the 9/11 attacks, I read large portions of the Koran (in translation) and more than one history of Islam, because I collect religions. I learned about the Five Pillars and the hadith (the traditional sayings of Mohammed) and the ulama. The picture is not a pretty or reassuring one.

Moderate Muslims trying to argue against the latest version of Islamic fundamentalism are in a difficult situation. All the fundamentalists have to do to support their position is to point at the Koran, which is much more authoritative in an Islamic context than the Bible is in most Christian ones. Moderates are reduced to arguing that the Koran doesn't really mean what it says, or arguing from hadith that qualify or contradict the Koranic text. Since the Koran trumps the hadith, this is generally a losing position.

The grim truth is that Osama bin Laden's fanatic interpretation of Islam is Koranically correct. The God of the Koran and Mohammed truly does demand that idolatry be purged with fire and sword, and that infidels must be forced either to convert to Islam or (as a limited exception for Christians and Jews, the "Peoples of the Book") live as second-class citizens subject to special taxes and legal restrictions. The Koran really does endorse suicidal martyrdom and the indiscriminate killing of infidels for the faith.

(The Koran does not, however, require purdah and the veil; these are practices the Arab world picked up from Persia after the tenth century CE. Nor does it require female genital mutilation, which seems to have been acquired from sub-Saharan Africa.)

For both shallow diplomatic/political reasons and deeper psychological ones, Westerners have trouble grasping just how bloody-minded, intolerant, and prone to periodic murderous outbreaks of fundamentalist zeal Islam actually is. But we must come to grips with this. If we treat the terror war as a merely geopolitical conflict, we will be fighting the wrong battle with the wrong weapons.

It is not merely Al-Qaeda or the Taliban or even Wahhabism we are fighting, it is a fanatic tendency wired deep into the origins and doctrine of Islam itself, a tendency of which these movements are just surface signs. That tendency must be cured or cauterized out. No lesser victory will do for a world in which means and weapons of mass destruction grow ever easier for terrorists to acquire.

(To be continued...)

posted by Eric at 7:38 PM          

Sunday, June 16, 2002

The Elephant in the Bath-House:

Mary Eberstadt's Weekly Standard article The Elephant in the Sacristy shines a strong light on facts that will discomfit many of the politically correct. I don't completely agree with her analysis; as Amy Welborn argues, Ms. Eberstadt is too quick to dismiss the role of the doctrine of celibacy in creating an ingrown, perfervid, and corrupt sexual culture among priests, and too easy on the culture of secrecy and denial within which priestly abuse flourished.

I would go further than Ms. Eberstadt or Ms. Welborn; I think this scandal is grounded in the essentials of Catholic doctrines about sex, sin, guilt, and authority. This is not an accidental corruption of the church, any more than Stalin was an accidental corruption of Communism. Bad moral ideas have consequences, and those consequences can be seen most clearly in the human monsters who are both created by those ideas and exploiters of them. There is a causal chain that connects loathsome creatures like the "Reverend" Paul Shanley directly back to the authoritarianism and anti-sexuality of St. Augustine; a chain well-analyzed by psychologists such as Stanley Milgram and Wilhelm Reich. I suggest that any religion that makes obedience to authority a primary virtue and pathologizes sex will produce abuses like these as surely as rot breeds maggots.

One need not, however, attack the essentials of Catholic doctrine to agree with Ms. Eberstadt's main point: that the dominant media culture seems bent on obscuring a central fact about the pattern of crimes -- which is that they are predominently homosexual abuse by priests with a history of homosexual activity. Cases of priestly abuse of females of any age are rare (though at least one horrifying tale of multiple priests cooperating in the abuse of a teenage girl has surfaced from California). The overwhelming majority of the cases involve either pederasty (homosexual acts with post-pubescent boys and young men) or homosexual pedophilia with pre-pubescent boys as young as six years old. Yet you would be hard-put to deduce this from most of the vague accounts in the U.S. media, which traffic in terms that seem designed to obscure the gender and age of the victims and the homosexual orientation of almost all the abusers. Why is that?

Apparently, because one of the rules of the U.S.'s dominant media culture is that Homosexuals Are Not To Be Stigmatized (I think it's carved in stone right next to "Environmentalists are Saints" and "Gun Owners are Redneck Nut-Jobs"). Gay conservative Andrew Sullivan famously noted this rule in connection with the Jesse Dirkhising murder. We are not supposed to think of either Jesse's murderers or abusive priests as homosexuals; that might reflect badly on a journalistically-protected class by associating it with criminal behavior.

But more than that; the truth the dominant media culture really doesn't want to go near is that pederasty has never been a marked or unusual behavior among homosexuals, and even advocates of outright pedophilia are not shunned in the homosexual-activist community.

The public spin of gay activist groups like Queer Nation is that most male homosexual behavior is androphilia, adult-to-adult sex between people of comparable ages. And indeed, gay historians agree with anthropologists that in the modern West, androphilia is more common relative to pederasty and homosexual pedophilia than has been historically normal. But another way of putting this is that in most other cultures and times, pederasty and pedophilia have been more common forms of homosexuality than androphilia.

Pederasty, at least, remains a common behavior among modern homosexuals. The `twink' or compliant teenage boy (usually blond, usually muscled, depicted in the first dewy flush of postpubescence) is the standard fantasy object of gay porn. By contrast, I learned from recent research that the archetypal fantasy object of straight porn is a fully-developed (indeed, usually over-developed) woman in her early twenties. And a couple of different lines of evidence (including surveys conducted within the gay population by gays) lead to the conclusion that older homosexuals actually pursue boys quite a bit more frequently than either older lesbians or older heterosexual men pursue girls.

Homosexual activists, when challenged on this point, like to retort that older men nailing barely-nubile teenage girls is far more common. And in absolute terms it is -- but only because there are twenty-five to a hundred times more straight men than there are gay men in the world (reliable figures for the incidence of male homosexuality range between 1% and 4%). Per capita among gays, pederasty is more frequent than among straights by a factor of between three and ten, depending on whose statistics you believe -- and the North American Man-Boy Love Association, actively advocating pederasty and pedophilia, is welcomed at gay-pride events everywhere.

If the prevalence of homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood is the elephant in the sacristy, the homosexuality/pederasty/pedophilia connection in gay culture is the elephant in the bath-house. No amount of denying it's there is going to make the beast go away.

But homosexual activists don't want straights to see the elephant, and no wonder. One of the most persistent themes to show up in hostility towards homosexuals is the fear that they will recruit impressionable boys who might otherwise have grown up straight. Thus their insistance for straight consumption that homosexuality is an inborn orientation, not a choice. Thus also their insistance that the gay life is all about androphilia, none of that pederasty or pedophilia stuff going on here. And thus, they'd rather not have anyone thinking about the fact that most priestly abuse is in fact classically pederastic and pedophilic behavior by men who behave as homosexuals and identify themselves as gay.

That there is a pattern in the national media of political correctness and spin on behalf of preferred `victim' groups isn't news, nor is the fact that homosexuals are among those groups. But get this: Richard Berke, the Washington editor of the New York Times recently said "literally three-quarters of the people deciding what's on the front page are not-so-closeted homosexuals". There you have it in plain English; gays run the "newspaper of record". Berke made these comments before a gay advocacy group -- not merely admitting but outright asserting, as a matter of pride, that the Times engages in gay-friendly spin control. And it has already been well established by statistical content studies that the national media tend to follow where they're led by the Times and a handful of other prestige newspapers, all broadly similar in editorial policy.

The expected next step in this sequence would be for me to start screaming about the evil of it all and demand that Something Be Done. If I were a conservative, that's what I'd do. But in fact it's not self-evident that this particular disinformation campaign is worth anybody's time to be concerned about, except as yet another example of wearily predictable bias in the dominant media culture. Whether it is or not depends upon one's value judgment about consensual pederasty and pedophilia.

NAMBLA and its sympathizers in the rest of the gay community think they're engaged in a worthy campaign for sexual liberation. If they are right, then the anti-antigay spin on the priestly-abuse scandal is arguably analogous to what pro-civil-rights sympathizers in the early 1960s might have done if there had been a long string of incidents of incidents of black men seducing white women, both parties violating the miscegenation laws still on the books in many states at that time.

The pro-spin argument would have run like this: interracial sex is taboo for no good reason, so soft-pedaling the race of the people involved as much as possible is a justifiable form of suppressio veri -- not outright lying but being economical with the truth. Our readers will be able to deduce the whole truth if they put in even a little effort, but be needn't pave the road for them. By doing this, we will avoid inflaming racial bigotry and advance the worthy cause of civil rights.

For this analogy to hold good, we need two preconditions. First, we must believe that almost all the pederasty/pedophilia between priests and boys has been voluntary. Second, we must believe that consensual pederasty and pedophilia are not, in fact, harmful to the boys involved. Intellectual honesty (and, I'll admit, a low delight on my part in watching prudes and cultural conservatives turn purple with indignation) demands that we not dismiss this case without looking at the evidence.

The modern West condemns pederasty and pedophilia. Our cultural ancestors did not always do so; among the Athenian Greeks consensual pederastic relationships were praised and thought to be a good deal for both parties. Pederasty is socially normal in Afghanistan and other parts of the Islamic world; pederasty and pedophilia are also un-tabooed in parts of Southeast Asia and in Japan. Where pederasty and pedophilia are not taboo, the boys who participate in it frequently grow up to form normal heterosexual relationships and marry. In fact, it's the modern West's hard separation between straights who never have sex with other males and gays who never have sex with females that is anthropologically exceptional.

Of course, the fact that pederasty and pedophilia have been an approved practice in other cultures does not automatically mean we should give them a nod. Cannibalism, slavery and infanticide have been approved practices too. But the anthropological evidence doesn't suggest that boys who have voluntary sex with men automatically turn into traumatized basket cases; indeed some present-day cultures agree with the ancient Greeks that such liaisons are good for the maturation of boys. There are real secondary risks, starting with the fact that anal sex is a much more effective vector of venereal diseases such as AIDS than is vaginal sex -- but given a cultural context that doesn't stigmatize the behavior, clear evidence that consensual pederasty and pedophilia are intrinsically damaging is remarkably hard to find.

Accordingly, NAMBLA may well be right on one level when they argue that what matters is not so much which tab A gets put into which slot B, but whether the behavior was coerced or consensual. According to this argument, the elephant in the bath-house can be lived with -- might even be a friendly beast -- if it's docile-tempered and won't give the tusk to unconsenting parties.

Gay men, or at least the sort of university-educated gay men who wind up determining what's on the front page of the New York Times and spiking stories like the Dirkhising murder, know these facts. How surprising would it be if they interpreted most victims' charges of abuse as a product of retrospective false consciousness, implanted in them by a homophobic and gay-oppressing culture? By suppressing the homosexual identification of most of the accused priests, gays in the media can protect their own sexual and political interests while believing -- perhaps quite sincerely -- that they are quietly aiding the cause of freedom.

The trouble with this comforting lullaby is that, even if NAMBLA is right, coercion matters a lot. As Ms. Eberstadt reports, the pederastically and pedophilically abused often become broken, dysfunctional people. They show up in disproportionate numbers in drug and alcohol rehab. They have a high rate of involvement in violent crime. Worse, they end to become abusers themselves, perpetuating the damage across generations.

Voltaire once said "In nature there are no rewards or punishments, only consequences". Gays experimented with unfettered promiscuity in the 1970s and got AIDS as a consequence. The mores of gay bath-house culture turned out to be broken in the way that ultimately matters; a lot of people died horribly as a result of them.

It may turn out that the consequences of sympathizing with NAMBLA are almost equally ugly. If a climate of `enlightened' tolerance for consensual pederasty and pedophilia tends to increase the rate at which boys are abused, that is a very serious consequence for which gay liberationists will not (and should not) soon be forgiven. The homosexual gatekeepers at the Times may be making themselves accessories before and after the fact to some truly hideous crimes.

And this is where we come back to the priestly-abuse scandal. Because a theme that keeps recurring in histories of the worst abusers is that they were trained in seminaries that were run by homosexual men and saturated with gay-liberationist subculture. Reading accounts of students at one notorious California seminary making a Friday-night ritual of cruising gay bars, it becomes hard not to wonder if gay culture itself has not been an important enabler of priestly abuse.

Now it's time to abandon the catch-all term abuse and speak plainly the name of the crime: sexual coercion and rape. It is very clear that pederasts and pedophiles in the priesthood have routinely used their authority over Catholic boys not merely to seduce them, but to coerce and rape them. In a few cases the rape has been overt and physical, but in most cases it has been a subtler and arguably more damaging rape of the victim's mind and self.

The single most revolting image I have carried away from the priestly-abuse scandal is victims' accounts of priests solemnly blessing them after sex. That is using the child's religious feelings and respect for authority to make him complicit in the abuse. If I believed in hell, I would wish for the priests who perpetrated this kind of soul-rape to fry in it for eternity.

And we must call it rape; do otherwise is to suppose that most of the thousands of known victims wanted to be sodomized. Even if we discard the victims' and witnesses' reports, this is highly unlikely; there were simply too many victims. Some priests had sex with hundreds of boys, far too many to fit into the 1-4% cohort of homosexual orientation in the population they had access to. And we are not entitled to dismiss the victims' protests in any case, not given the corollary evidence that the trauma of abuse reverberated through the victims' lives, continuing to damage them years and decades afterwards. Comforting gay-lib delusions about false consciousness won't wash here.

Continuing our civil-rights analogy, the correct parallel would have been with an epidemic of interracial rape, rather than cohabitation. Had there in fact been such an epidemic, civil-rights proponents would have faced the question of whether black men had a particular propensity to rape white women. The analogous question, whether homosexual men have a particular propensity to rape boys, is precisely the one that homosexuals and their sympathizers in the media don't want anyone to examine -- and precisely the question that the priestly-abuse scandal demands that we ask.

It's easy to sympathize with gay activists' fears that opening this question will expose them to a firestorm of prejudice from people who will prejudge the answer out of anti-gay bigotry. But the pattern of homosexual abuse by the Catholic priesthood has been so egregious and so longstanding that we need to understand the relative weight of all the causes that produced it -- whether those causes are specific to Catholicism or more general.

Are gay men biologically or psychologically prone to rape boys at a level that makes a gay man even without a known history of abuse into a bad risk around boys? Does queer culture encourage a tendency to rape in gay men who are put in authority over boys?

Here is where the question becomes practical: were the Boy Scouts of America so wrong to ban homosexual scoutmasters? And here we are with a crashing thud back in the realm of present politics. After the numbing, horrifying, seemingly never-ending stream of foul crimes revealed in the scandal, even staunch sexual libertarians like your humble author can no longer honestly dismiss this question simply because it's being raised by unpleasant conservatives.

The priestly-abuse scandal forces us to face reality. To the extent that pederasty, pedophilic impulses, and twink fantasies are normal among homosexual men, putting one in charge of adolescent boys may after all be just as bad an idea as waltzing a man with a known predisposition for alcoholism into a room full of booze. One wouldn't have to think homosexuality is evil or a disease to make institutional rules against this, merely notice that it creates temptations best avoided for everyone's sake.

posted by Eric at 10:12 PM