Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

My 1977 article BRYANT’S BRIGADE USES HITLER’S TACTICS

This article originally published in the LA Times in 1977 was picked up by the wire presses and published in papers throughout the United States. Depending on ones perspective, I either became quite famous or infamous as a result of the publication of this article.

I became subjected to reams of hate mail and almost daily bomb threats on campus. Of course, such was to be expected if I what I wrote in the commentary was correct. On the plus side, I also received much positive feedback; Harvey Milk in some of his speeches employed my perspective and the Briggs initiative was
defeated. Actually, the Times used one whole page here; first having Briggs state his position and then having my essay.
————————————————-

Bryant’s Brigade Uses Hitler’s Tactics
BARRY M DANK
Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File); Oct23, 1977;
ProQuest Historical Newspapers Los Angeles Times (1881 – 1986)
pg.H5
Bryant’s Brigade Uses Hitler’s Tactics

BY BARRY M. DANK

In recent months, two of the sociology courses I teach have seemed to merge into one. They are titled “The Holocaust” and “So¬cial Psychology of Homosexuality.”

What has made them come together in my mind is the parallel between the rise of Na¬zism in prewar Germany, which ultimately brought about the extermination of 6 million Jews, and the current antihomosexual move¬ment in America, led by singer Anita Bryant and supported by State Sen. John V. Briggs, who wrote the article above.

Although contemporary political figures are often labeled as modern-day Hitlers, the designation usually comes from persons whose knowledge of Hitler and Nazism is rather meager, and so I discount the comparison. In the case of Anita Bryant and her followers, however, such an analogy should not be light¬ly dismissed. As David Lehrer, Western states counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, has noted: “There’s a whole new cadre . .. around who are smart enough not to wear swastikas. They join the Klan now or create churches. . .but they’re Nazis just the same.”

Just as Hitler viewed the Jews as a power¬ful force that was polluting and destroying so¬ciety, so do Bryant and her followers view ho¬mosexuals as social defilers. Hitler reduced the Jews to vermin who were infecting the master Aryan race. The Bryant brigade talks as though homosexuals are alien perverts bent on destroying the fabric of Christian America.
A powerful motivating factor in anti-Semi¬tism throughout the ages has been the myth that Jews engage in ritual murder of Christian children. Playing on fear of this bizarre beha¬vior, Hitler had Jewish teachers fired as one of his first anti-Semitic actions.

Bryant and her supporters invoke a differ¬ent, but similar, idea—that homosexuals subtly recruit children to homosexuality through exposure to their “life-style.” Predictably, the initial goal of their campaign is to prohibit ho¬mosexual schoolteachers from the classroom— a ban that Briggs advocates on this page.

Hitler maintained that being a good German entailed being anti-Jewish, while Bryant preaches that to be a good Christian requires being antihomosexual. But, many Jews were assimilated into the mainstream of prewar Germany and therefore were hard to identify, just as many homosexuals are now integrated into the dominant heterosexual culture in America. In order to avoid being mistaken for Jews, Germans tended to keep their dis¬tance from known Jews and from groups sym¬pathetic to them. Likewise, most heterosexual Americans who do not wish to be mistakenly identified as gay shun known homosexuals and prohomosexual organizations.

Committed to the idea that Germans in par¬ticular, and Aryans in general, were a master race ordained by nature to rule the world, the Fuehrer saw the “subhuman” Jews as the ma¬jor stumbling block. Although they existed as a relatively powerless and vulnerable minori¬ty in every European country, Hitler insisted that the Jews constituted a powerful interna¬tional conspiracy.

Leaders of the present antihomosexual movement do not directly invoke the concept of a divinely ordained master race, and yet they speak as though they are acting as the agents of God. In fact, they diminish their own personal responsibility by appealing to the au¬thority of God’s will.

At the same time that they overlook the re¬latively weak position that homosexuals as a group occupy in this country and throughout the world, they capitalize on a long tradition of antihomosexual sentiment in Western civi¬lization.

Initially I was reluctant to extend this anal¬ogy beyond these few significant similarities. After all, Bryant and her followers do not call for the physical elimination of homosexuals. But then I remembered that neither did the original recruits to Nazism contemplate geno¬cide as the ultimate consequence of their fer¬vid anti-Semitism. Even most German Jews at first refused to recognize the danger signals, just as some homosexuals today still regard the antihomosexual crusade as a bad joke that will fade away. But Hitler proved he was in¬deed to be taken seriously, and in recent months the vast majority of homosexuals have come to realize that Anita Bryant’s crusade is no laughing matter.

We know all too well the outcome of Hit¬ler’s campaign: In the late ’30s German Jews found their fate sealed by a ruling cadre of fanatics determined to “purify” the Father¬land. Ultimately, most Germans acquiesced in this goal, only later claiming they lacked the power to thwart Nazi intentions,

Anita Bryant’s crusade is committed to purging American society of homosexuals to “Save Our Children,” and it is here that the analogy with Nazism breaks down, though the movement hardly becomes less ominous. The difference has been expressed many times be¬fore, but it deserves underlining once more: While Germans of the Hitler era attempted to root out their Jewish neighbors, the current target of antihomosexuals in America live not next door but under our own roofs. They are our own children.

It remains to be seen whether we as parents will stand by and watch our children sacri¬ficed in the very name of Christianity and the American family.

Barry M. Dank is an associate professor of sociology at Cal State-Long Beach.

November 14, 2009 - Posted by | Anita Bryant, gay history, gay rights, homosexual, sexual politics, Uncategorized

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