The Daily Agenda for Thursday, April 18
April 18th, 2013
TODAY IN HISTORY:
GOP Chairman Warns of “Perverts Who Have Infiltrated Our Government”: 1950. Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s (R-WI) Red and Lavender Scares got a boost when Guy Gabrielson, Republican National Chairman, issued a letter addressed to about 7,000 party workers, under the title “This is the News from Washington,” in which he wrote:
Perhaps as dangerous as the actual Communists are the sexual perverts who have infiltrated our Government in recent years. The State Department has confessed that it has had to fire ninety-one of these. (see Feb 28) It is the talk of Washington and of the Washington correspondents corps.
American sensibilities were quite delicate in 1950, particularly on a subject as contentious as homosexuality. In many respects, it was still the “love that dares not speak its name.” Newspaper editors were reluctant to actually use the word “homosexual,” preferring instead to dance around the subject wherever possible. The use of the word “pervert,” on the other hand, was totally acceptable and routine. Gabrielson expressed his frustration over editors’ concerns over their readers delicate sensibilities:
The country would be more aroused over this tragic angle of the situation if it were not for the difficulties of the newspapers and radio commentators in adequately presenting the facts, while respecting the decency of their American audiences.
First Gay Rights Picket at the United Nations: 1965. In 1963, independent Mattachine Chapters in New York, Washington, and Miami, along with Daughters of Bilitis chapters in New York and Philadelphia, with other activists and small groups, had come together to form the East Coast Homophile Organization. ECHO was intended to be not so much a separate organization but a forum in which members of the activists groups could get together and plan strategy and share valuable lessons. At a meeting during the fall of 1964, they decided that the old ways of doing things — engaging in polite “education” programs with the hope of increasing “understanding — just wasn’t yielding any results. “It was a gathering of men and women impatient to remedy the discrimination against the homosexual citizen in our society,” The Ladder reported, which quoted one attendee: “A few years ago, ours was a sweeter, clubbier, less insistent organization. Now there seems to be a militancy about the new groups and new leaders. There’s a different mood.”
The group decided it was time to engage in more direct action. And so when Cuban President Fidel Castro announced a new round governmental policy of rounding up its gay citizenry and and throwing them into internment camps, New York and Washington, D.C. activists felt that this provided a good “hook” on which to hang a couple of protests. Activists in the D.C. area took the opportunity to mount the first ever picket at the White House (see yesterday), while New York advocates decided to protest in front of the Cuban Mission. They soon discovered that police rules prohibited picketing with a fifth of a mile of the Cuban Mission, so they chose to picket at Hammarksjold Plaza at the United Nations. Twenty-nine picketers showed up for the first gay rights protest at the United Nations, and only the second gay rights protest in New York City.
[Sources: Warren D. Adkins and Kay Tobin (pseudonyms for Jack Nichols and Kay Lahusen) “ECHO Report ’64. Part one: Sidelights of ECHO.” The Ladder 9, no. 4 (January 1965): 4.
“Cross Currents.” The Ladder 9, no. 8 (May 1965): 22.]
New York Times Reveals “Certain Words Can Trip Up AIDS Grants.”: 2003. A New York Times investigation revealed that AIDS researchers were having trouble getting their research proposals funded by the National Institutes of Health because certain sensitive terms were included in their grant applications. Scientists, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Times that they were warned by federal health officials that their research would come under closer scrutiny by the Department of Health and Human Services or by members of Congress if their proposals included certain “key words,” including “sex workers,” “men who sleep with men,” “anal sex,” and “needle exchange.” A spokesman for HHS denied that such screening was taking place, but another unnamed official at NIH confirmed that:
…project officers at the agency, the people who deal with grant applicants and recipients, were telling researchers at meetings and in telephone conversations to avoid so-called sensitive language. But the official added, “You won’t find any paper or anything that advises people to do this.”
The official said researchers had long been advised to avoid phrases that might mark their work as controversial. But the degree of scrutiny under the Bush administration was “much worse and more intense,” the official said.
Dr. Alfred Sommer, the dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, said a researcher at his institution had been advised by a project officer at N.I.H. to change the term “sex worker” to something more euphemistic in a grant proposal for a study of H.I.V. prevention among prostitutes. He said the idea that grants might be subject to political surveillance was creating a “pernicious sense of insecurity” among researchers.
…In another example of the scrutiny the scientists described, a researcher at the University of California said he had been advised by an N.I.H. project officer that the abstract of a grant application he was submitting “should be ‘cleansed’ and should not contain any contentious wording like ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ or ‘transgender.'” The researcher said the project officer told him that grants that included those words were “being screened out and targeted for more intense scrutiny.”
He said he was now struggling with how to write the grant proposal, which dealt with a study of gay men and H.I.V. testing. When the subjects were gay men, he said, “It’s hard not to mention them in your abstract.”
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?