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The growing McCarthyism of the equality movement

The gay marriage debate has turned unpleasant both here and in the US

By on Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Nick Clegg, whose office referred to opponents of SSM as 'bigots'

Nick Clegg, whose office referred to opponents of SSM as 'bigots'

An item in Monday’s Telegraph had this headline: “Americans offer Tories advice on gay marriage”. What was all this about? It seems that Tory “strategists” have been holding meetings with American lobbying experts “to try to win hesitant Conservative MPs around to supporting same-sex marriage.” Apparently David Cameron is concerned that rebel backbenchers could scupper his plans to change Britain’s marriage laws by 2015.

According to Benjamin Cohen of the UK pressure group Coalition for Equal Marriage, founded in 2012 in opposition to the Coalition for Marriage and which has the support of Nick Clegg, the National Secular Society, the British Humanist Association, Stonewall and others, “the battle…is really to try to convince Conservatives. We are working with them [the US campaign group Freedom to Marry] to try to determine the best way of presenting the argument to Conservative backbenchers.”

Freedom to Marry was founded in the US in 2003. According to its “Roadmap for Victory”, it is working “to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage” by winning same-sex marriage for more states and repealing the Defence of Marriage Act, a law it sees as discriminatory.” In March 2011 the organisation launched an open letter to Barack Obama, appealing to him to support their objective. Their campaign ended on 9 May 2012 when Obama became the first sitting president of the US to declare openly that he supports same-sex marriage.

The Telegraph report adds that “Many Tory members privately say that same sex marriage is one of the biggest subjects of correspondence from constituents and fear that it will cost them votes.” There have been a huge number of signatories to the Coalition for Marriage’s petition to keep marriage as it stands, so this large postbag does not come as a surprise. People who support marriage feel they have been unfairly labelled as “bigots” (isn’t this what Nick Clegg secretly feels?). In my view this is a much larger issue than whether Andrew Mitchell, the Chief Whip, called policemen “plebs”. The first word rudely dismisses a large section of the population who want to uphold an ancient institution that is fundamental to society; the second is a matter of personal (and public school) rudeness. I think Tory MPs are right to fear that David Cameron’s obduracy on this question will cost them votes in the next general election; it might even lose the election for them. The Telegraph report concludes by quoting a Downing Street source which confirmed the strategy meeting had taken place but added: “The Americans were there to learn from us as much as we were from them.”

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago is one American who has no plans to “learn” from any pressure group. A recent Portland Catholic Sentinel carried an article by him giving his response to the Chicago city government’s assumption that they can decide the “values that must be held by citizens of Chicago.” He asks, in a deliberate reference to McCarthyism, “Is the City Council going to set up a ‘Council Committee on un-Chicagoan Activities’ and call those who are suspect to appear before it?” He continues, “The value in question is espousal of ‘gender-free marriage’. Approval of state-sponsored homosexual unions has very quickly become a litmus test for bigotry; and espousing the understanding of marriage that has prevailed among all peoples throughout human history is now, supposedly, outside the American consensus.”

Pointing out that marriage predates Christianity and that it existed “well before the United States of America was formed two hundred and thirty six years ago”, the Cardinal goes on to explain the “legitimate interest” that Church and state have in regulating marriage as a public institution. Quoting Jesus’ words in St Mathew’s Gospel about “two becoming one flesh”, he asks “Was Jesus a bigot? Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan? Would Jesus be more “enlightened” if he had the privilege of living in our society?” The Cardinal concludes with a heartfelt appeal: “Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.”

Professor Tina Beattie of Roehampton University believes that Catholics can hold “a variety of different views, with an informed conscience, with regards to civil same-sex marriage.” Perhaps the Anglo-American pressure groups’ strategies to win over hesitant MPs will include this kind of balancing act: that you can, in good faith, hold one point of view at the same time as its diametric opposite. But we are not talking here of different views on the economy, or social policy, or education, or defence. The nature of marriage is a different ball-game. One hopes that hesitant MPs – of all parties – will withstand the specious arguments.

  • Jonathan West

    From the tone of the article and particularly the headline, you seem to have some trouble distinguishing between losing the argument and losing the right to argue.

  • AnthonyPatrick

     From the smugness of tone, you seem to be having some difficulty choosing between hedging your bets and hubris, Jonathan…

    On a more serious note, history shows that sometimes when society gets what society is told it wants, the laws of unforeseen and unintended consequences come into play.  This might not matter to the people who drive such changes in accordance with principles of political pragmatism, but it invariably does for the people who have to live with them for subsequent generations.

  • Cestius

    One demonstration of the growing McCarthyism was all the attention and flack that the judge in the Sarah Catt (late abortion) case drew merely because he was a member of the conservative Christian group.  There wasn’t one shred of credible evidence that his behavior and sentencing was anything other than thoroughly proper and within the sentencing guidelines, but the Guardian and some other newspapers were instantly on his case – I think that speaks volumes about their prejudices and intolerance.

  • AnthonyPatrick

     Absolutely right.

  • Jonathan West

    That reminds me of a bit of “Yes Minister”. In response to a request from Hackett to change something, Sir Humphrey explains that all variations on current practice come into two categories. Things that have been tried before and have failed, and things which have not been tried before.

    Things which have been tried before and failed should of course not be tried again. Things which haven’t been tried before are dangerous innovations whose consequences are unknown, and therefore should not be attempted.

    From this is it is obvious that nothing should ever be attempted for the first time.

  • Clare

    A non-partisan point: many ‘equalities-minded’ people, including many on the Left, opposed the Labour Government’s Equalities Bill and the establishment of the EHRC – precisely because it could be foreseen that the different forms of ‘rights’ and ‘equalities’ would end up in competition with each other in a way that would be impossible to sort out…and hence would militate against any real form of fairness or justice. 

    That was prescient, because we now find ourselves in a situation where, apparently perceived electoral advantage and ‘might is right’ determines national policy and legislation. Pitiful and frightening.

  • NewMeena

    “The growing McCarthyism of the equality movement”

    The title of Ms Phillips’ article is derived from Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, who asks: “Is the City Council going to set up a ‘Council Committee on un-Chicagoan Activities’ ”

    As is the norm in Ms Phillips’ articles, or/and in the quotations within, the questions posed are easy to answer.
    The answer to this one is “no”.

  • NewMeena

    There wasn’t one shred of credible evidence that his behavior and sentencing was anything other than thoroughly proper..”

    But that is not the point.

    The concept of a possible “conflict of interest” is well-understood in many areas of life – especially perhaps in the public arena. 

  • NewMeena

    I note you have picked-up the McCarthyism slur (as you were possibly intended to).
    The Chicago City Council is not going to set up a  ‘Council Committee on un-Chicagoan Activities’ – and the Cardinal well-knows that.

    His slur is simply intended to be “picked-up” by people such as yourself and Ms Phillips and repeated by others. 
    The hope is that multiple repetition will eventually give this ludicrous suggestion some credulity .  

  • tim

    That nothing should ever be attempted for the first time is known as the precautionary principle.  However, it only applies to technological advances.  To social change it is for some reason inapplicable.  Any harebrained scheme can be instituted with the minimum of consideration, so long as it can be labelled ‘progressive’ –  and we all have to live with the consequences.

  • NewMeena

    the laws of unforeseen and unintended consequences come into play. ”

    It is true that few outside the RC church claim to foretell the future.

    But this should not cause the human race to turn its back on change.

  • JabbaPapa

    The sheer power of your comprehension of sarcasm is obviously as astounding as the power of your education.

  • Timt-robertson

    How can two people of the same sex “marry” when it will be biologically impossible for such a couple, male or female, to generate children with each other ? The generative organs require union between a male and a female in order to  procreate a child. That is what marriage is clearly meant to be from our human nature, and what it has always signified dating back to the origin of the species. Therefore the union between two people of the same sex cannot be called “marriage” without violating the biological meaning of true marriage, as the union between a man and a woman.

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    I get the distinct feeling that this has nothing to do with the welfare of gays…..but everything to do with delivering a snub to Christians Christianity and Christ Himself…..and showing the world just who is in charge. 

    And according to the earthly powers that be….it isn’t God.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    See the Chick-Fil-A shenanigans. See the draconian “anti-discrimination” laws.

    And in much of the world, there are extremely dangerous proposals to CENSOR Christian speech as “hate speech”.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     See the Chick-Fil-A shenanigans. See the draconian “anti-discrimination” laws.

    And in much of the world (although America is relatively safe in the short term because of the First Amendment), there are extremely dangerous proposals to CENSOR Christian speech as “hate speech”.

  • Charles

    The Political Correctness fascists are in control of the media; newspapers, television, and magazines are left wing radical controlled. Conservatives will only change this situation when either alternative media is set up to compete with the liberal media or when media itself become irrelevant. In either case, the current media must be criticized at any chance we get so that they know there’s a price to pay for their attempt to control society.

  • Sweetjae

    Mr. Cleggs intolerance of those who morally disagree with him is a clear sign of BIGOTRY!

  • NewMeena

    My comment recognises that several of “the faithful”, including possibly Ms Phillips, do not see any sarcasm in the Cardinal’s remark. 

  • Nat_ons

    Except that Sen. McCarthy – though now still generally vilified – was correct .. the US of A was infiltrated by Communist ‘sleepers’ from Moscow. The ‘reds under the beds’ idea was fanciful, yet the reality – however trivial – cannot be denied (even if not all were seductive, catwalk models); that much anyone can uncover. If there were even half or quarter the truth in the current PC scrutiny of the unPC as there was behind McCarthy’s hyper-Americanism, then we’d have less reason to be concerned – yet merely disagreeing with a prevailing political mood, and the generally perceived correct way to handle it, is a far cry from the socially destructive antics of the Soviet Union.

    As it is, the Progressive Agenda is the prevailing mood among all types of populist politicians – it will brook no obstruction or opposition to the fulfilment of its aims - and therefore it requires the submissive obedience due to absolute truth. 

    This puts me more in mind of the shifting, whispering sands in the desert of Stalinist ‘truth’; for amid all its twists and turns and tangles it was was never anything less than absolute in its demand for the ‘correct’ response.

    We will have ‘All-Gender Open-ended Multi-partner Marriage’ whether it fits with the Orthodox Catholic understanding of Truth or not; as with divorce, contraception, abortion and no doubt assisted suicide.

  • NewMeena

    “How can two people of the same sex “marry” when it will be biologically impossible for such a couple, male or female, to generate children with each other ?”

    I posted a reply explaining that this can be done today – and will become a fairly common procedure in coming years.
    The censors’ night shift seems to be “on” and the reply was removed without any trace. 

  • Lewispbuckingham

     ‘few outside the RC church claim to fortell the future’
     What about climate scientists?

  • Al

    Although I completely agree with the point the writer
    is making, it ‘s too Bad Joseph McCarthy’s name is so
    Carelessly dragged through the mud again. Time and all the
    Discoveries about the extent of Communist attempts to
    Influence life in America have certainly. Indicated him .

  • AnthonyPatrick

    Indeed, tim.

  • AnthonyPatrick


  • Theophilus

    Climate and other scientists tend to say that if such and such trends continue the consequences are likely to be so and so. They are not  foretelling the future in the sense of saying this is going to or is bound to happen. Maybe this is the difference.

  • awkwardcustomer

    Is the term ‘McCarthyism’ the correct one here?  Surely the term ‘Stalinism’ would be more accurate?

    After all, the Gay Marriage lobby is but one of many groups who have adopted the agenda of the Frankfurt School of Cultural Marxism.  Originating in the 1930s, this group of Marxists realised that the working classes of the West could not be relied upon to be the agents of the Revolution.  And so they proposed the dismantling of the traditions and institutions of Western culture in order to achieve their ends.  Fleeing Germany when the Nazis came to power they established themselves at Columbia University, New York.  The BBC and the Guardian are almost entirely Cultural Marxist organisations.

    Cultural Marxism necessarily equates Catholicism with bigotry. Religion is the opium of the masses, said Karl Marx.  Accordingly, Catholicism is reactionary by its nature.  It is the enemy of the Revolution and must be destroyed.  Goes without saying, really. 

  • aearon43

    Not in so many words, no. But the occasion for Cardinal George’s article was when the mayor of Chicago said that “Chic-fil-A’s values are not Chicago’s values,” and a city alderman said he would work to force the restaurant out of his district, because of its stance on marriage.

    Thus, while you are formally correct that there is unlikely to be a committee exactly named that, I don’t think that was precisely the cardinal’s point. The point was that once the state begins to regulate formerly normal opinions as “not our values” or “bigoted”, then the logical end-point of such action could very well be a formal committee to denounce supporters of traditional marriage, such as we see for supporters of racism (in that case, with good reason).

  • aearon43

    Apparently it’s not that well understood, because there is no conflict of interest in this case. Judges are allowed to have opinions, but opinions are not interests. The judge had no personal involvement in the case and therefore no conflict of interest. Presumably, the judge also held a personal belief that murder is morally wrong according to Christian doctrine. Should that prevent him from hearing every murder case?

  • aearon43

    I think you’re the one who needs a little refresher on logic and English reading comprehension. It is indeed unlikely that such a committee will be set up, because it would too blatantly offend ideals of free speech. So yes, you are right about that.

    However, the point the cardinal was trying to make was that if we examine the logic of things that have already happened — the Chic-fil-A controversy in the US, and Clegg’s “bigot” comment in the UK — then there is nothing, logically speaking, that would prevent such a committee from being formed. Once the state has taken it upon itself to regulate public opinion on this issue, then why not form a committee to do so? Well, because taken to that point, we can all see the absurdity of the logic, but it’s present as well in the earlier forms.

    That’s why this article is titled the “growing McCarthyism” (rather than, say, “widespread McCarthyism”) to indicate a developing trend.

  • NewMeena

    The matters you mention are far from the state taking upon itself the task of regulating public opinion.

    But democratic governments have a responsibility to guide and to lead. They are, rightly, doing this in respect of gay rights and equality in the UK, across the Atlantic, in mainland Europe and elsewhere..

    Although some of your fellow Catholic commentators would apparently see the slur of McCarthyism as a compliment, most reasonable people would not.

  • NewMeena

    Murder is, in law, a criminal offence.

    The law does not consider most abortions to be murder. Judges must stick to the law.

    Although the judge probably did not allow his opinions about abortion to influence him, I can easily see how people’s anxieties were raised.
    Justice must be seen clearly to have been done.

    There is also more than the Judge’s opinion that is involved. He was a senior member (vice president) of a pressure group seeking a change in the law regarding abortion.

  • NewMeena

    Do you truly not understand the difference? 

  • theroadmaster

    The espousal of the well-understood definition of marriage is now being treated by the liberal commentariat and political elites as being akin to a hate crime instigated by an unapologetic racist.  It seems that the conflation of support for this venerable age-old Institution  with homophobia, is a deliberate tactic to silence those who are vehemently opposed to the latest legislative attempt to redefine it(marriage).   People of Faith or indeed of no religious belief who care about the invaluable and indispensable service which marriage has rendered societies over 2 millennia in terms of social stability, nurturing of children and demographic health, should not be browbeaten by the misinformation or abuse of those who oppose them.

  • aearon43

    I’m not seeing how they are far at all. The mayor of Chicago, acting in a public capacity as mayor, said that anyone who supports marriage effectively doesn’t belong in the city. In the more openly Marxist countries of Europe there have been prosecutions for openly affirming the immorality of active homosexuality. Many such examples can be found here: http://www.intoleranceagainstchristians.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/Report_2011_on_Intolerance_and_Discrimination_against_Christians_in_Europe_Webversion.pdf

    Do you believe that gays have special “gay rights?” Or are there rather just human rights? Not everyone has a right to marry — that is a large part of the reason for having legal marriage in the first place.

    You may believe that gay “marriage” is being pushed, against the will of many people, out of a noble sense of “rights” and “equality.” That is certainly how it’s marketed. But do you really think that people like Clegg and Obama generally act according to high-minded ideals, or rather self-interest?

    I don’t want to appear cynical, but I would be surprised if the Tories would risk elections for something that did not benefit them. Once you consider, though, that even the Conservative Party in the UK has signed on to a statist agenda (and certainly it’s obvious that the Democrats in the US have), then it’s more clear how the state can benefit by the erosion of marriage and the family, and the transfer of functions traditionally reserved to the family to the state.

    As Friedrich Engels wrote in Principles of Communism:
    “What will be the influence of communist society on the family?

    It will transform the relations between the sexes into a purely private matter which concerns only the persons involved and into which society has no occasion to intervene. It can do this since it does away with private property and educates children on a communal basis, and in this way removes the two bases of traditional marriage – the dependence rooted in private property, of the women on the man, and of the children on the parents.”

    Everyone is to become dependent on the state, and marriage stands in the way of that.

    And also, whether “McCarthyism” would really qualify as a slur or not, are you saying it’s not accurate?

  • Lewispbuckingham

     In a pure driven scientific world you are right that these are only climate models.The problems arise when the error bars are not included in the graphs and retrospectively the model always seems to fail.There was an article in the Scientific American about this a couple of years ago about the problems of statistical modelling.
     The major example was, of course, the banking model that failed to predict the crash of 2008.That was because the model did not include the possibility that the major banks would refuse to lend to each other in a crisis of confidence.
     The other was the now recognised problem with the then climate models, they did not allow for the effect of clouds as these were not able to be modelled.
     These models have not predicted the last twelve years of stable global temperature.
     As a result of these doubtful models all sorts of predictions of climate hell were made here in Australia.
     The problem is that climate scientists do not rein in the desire of some to tell us things for which there is threadbare evidence, particularly if they are attractive and appealing advocates.
     So by not doing so they do the public and themselves a disservice.As such they predict the future.

  • JabbaPapa

    Well said — the family is the single most powerful obstacle against ANY form of utopianism, more powerful even than the Catholic Church.

    No social or political or religious project can survive (except very locally) if the destruction of the family is a necessary precondition of its success.

  • JabbaPapa

     yeah, that particular post of hers really is a head-scratcher, isn’t it….

  • http://twitter.com/LaCatholicState la catholic state

    I agree.  And this is one reason why the Catholic Herald should aim to be on sale at most newspaper outlets. 

  • aearon43

    I think Cardinal George was quite aware of the irony in his reference to Joseph McCarthy in a leftist context. It would have probably have been a bridge too far for him to refer to something like cultural Marxism in that specific context, though. Despite his support for gay “marriage”, Rahm Emanuel is well aware of the benefits of capitalism, and is, on the balance, a pretty good mayor so far, in my opinion. As far as I can ascertain, he is an observant Jew (he served in the Israeli army, which gets him some points in my book), and does not seek to destroy religion, although he is not an opponent of Modernism, either — but, really, as a mayor of a major city, is it really possible that could he be?

    You are right, though, to call out this general agenda for what it is — Marxism. It’s not progress, it’s not scientific, it’s not (necessarily) the future. Classic Marxism claims to have understood the true forces underlying history, that is, according to it, the material and class structures. According to Marxism, the establishment of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” is a historical inevitability. Thus the calls of anti-marriage groups to get “up-to-date” and so forth.

    As you say, some thought that the proletariat wasn’t moving fast enough for them, and thought it would be necessary to create the cultural conditions in which the Revolution could happen. Gramsci’s “long march through the institutions” is the locus classicus of this type of thinking, I believe. This type of Marxism is perhaps the most insidious, pervasive, and dangerous. Although I do not consider myself a “traditionalist Catholic,” simply rather an orthodox Catholic (for it is always a temptation to romanticize the past), I do have some sympathy for that position and can clearly see the wreckage wrought by Modernist architecture and an overly inclusive catechesis lacking in rigorous logic and in the lessons of history.

    Just to name a few other disasters caused by cultural Marxism:
    - hideous, inhuman grid-like housing structures, generally now reserved to council housing or other low-income areas if they haven’t been torn down (such as the infamous Cabrini-Green housing project of Chicago, which was actually the setting for a horror film, Candyman)
    - the liberal arts turned from the “great books” into an arcane religion of victimization (yes, I know we should’ve read Eastern texts as well as Plato — that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t still read Plato)
    - music turned from a harmonious, mathematical discipline into a cacaphonic shrieking of institutionalized rebellion (again, yes, Western romanticism had reached a certain point of exhaustion, but why not go with someone like Olivier Messiaen or Krzysztof Penderecki who incorporated Eastern influences, rather than the dog howls of rock)
    - art that is impossibly esoteric and that seems to glorify ugliness (once again, yes, Western art had reached a certain impasse in sentimental romanticism, but Duchamp’s “Fountain” was just a joke, and not a solid foundation for an entire cultural project)

    At their core, cultural Marxists seem to delight in destruction (especially if there’s a tenured professorship in it for them), but are singularly lacking in ideas when it comes to building a healthy, livable culture.