Fair and Balanced?

Is there an even-handed approach by newspapers like the Guardian to issues around the fluidity of sexuality? Let’s find out.

Yesterday afternoon Robert Booth at the Guardian published an interview with Peterson Toscano, an “ex-ex-gay”. It’s a friendly interview – it doesn’t ask any critical questions and the first paragraph sets out the tone of the piece.

Peterson Toscano, a 47-year-old American, underwent gay ‘conversion’ therapies for 20 years as he struggled to reconcile his Pentecostal Christianity with homosexual attraction. It devastated his life, cost him tens of thousands of dollars and left him needing a decade of counselling and therapy, he said.

Now, if the Guardian (and Robert Booth) were at all interested in serious journalism they would be willing to do a friendly, uncritical interview with someone who had a positive experience of change therapies and was happy to share their story. IF they were interested in serious journalism that is…

So here’s the challenge. The timer below started at the point that Toscano interview was published. It will continue ticking until the Guardian publishes a friendly, uncritical  interview with someone who has a positive tale of sexual orientation change. How long do you reckon it will keep on ticking for?


I suspect we might wait a long time.

11 Comments on “Fair and Balanced?

  1. Peter: do you have suggested interview subjects for the Guardian? After all, they might claim that there are no people with such an experience, or none willing to go on the record…

    • Gosh, I have no idea. Is there anybody public on this issue, who the Guardian have already spoken to, who has *the* widest read blog on the subject (pro or anti) in the country?
      Nope, no idea. Sorry.

  2. Surely giving equal weight to ex-ex gays (of which there are many) and “successfull” ex-gays (isn’t your coining of the concept of post-gay in itself proof of the flaws in the “ex-gay” paradigm?) would imply a false equivalence, which is in itself poor journalism?
    The conservative might wish that the APA or RCP or whooever changed their line on homosexuality, but you can hardly necessarily fault journalist for taking their statemetns as authoratative. Do journalists need to second guess other medical bodies automatically too?

    • This rather side-steps the issue I’m raising elsewhere about the types of evidence demanded. Journalists should try to listen to both sides of the argument and present them fairly.

  3. Good point Peter and well done switching the timer on for a Guardian response. How many years does an internet based timer run to …?

    At about the same time the Graun also posted a disgracefully unbalanced article on the Jones and Yarhouse research which I critiqued here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/12/scientific-support-anti-gay-campaigners?commentpage=3#comment-15633372
    But in any case the Guardian’s unbalanced behaviour is not really the point. I have no doubt that they genuinely feel that they are correct in rejecting the possibility of sexual orientation change. The underlying problem is the ideological position taken that sexuality is a prime determining factor in our identity, and idea that is now essentially uncontested on the left and which goes back to Freud and his followers.

    Ideology is a powerful force. It took nearly a century for Freud’s ideas to gain widespread popular support and it is likely to take around the same time to correct their damage!

    •  What kind of damage are you talking about Philip? I can imagine people thinking, given what we now know on the damage caused by SSRIs, antipsychotics et all, that the non medical-analogus branch of the mental health treatment industry has perhaps some (comparitive) virtues!

        Let’s also not forget that “balance ” is the spurious reason people give to give evolution, accepted by all major scientific bodies including the American ones, and the non-scientific dogmas of creationism and intelligent design “equal” room (should holocaust and AIDS denialism be given equal time of day in the interests of “balance” too?) . Like it or not, the position of all major mental health bodies supports the view of “ex” therapy as harmful far more than it does the possibiliites for such change. Why should secular journalists confalte authoratitive statements in favour of particular, religious-based ideology? The guardian.co.uk does not position itself as challenger of scientific orthodox.  And the timer is just silly. Perhaps Peter could do one to see how long it takes for Lord Carey’s numerous statements to be “balanced” with some theologically liberal ones on telegraph.co.uk? :-)

      • >>What kind of damage are you talking about Philip?<<

        See my other, admittedly rather long, post a little earlier today on the thread following Peter's 'Post-Gay' article. Towards the bottom of the article I begin to address how Freud and his followers have been progressively more influential over the last century in forming the popular idea that sexuality is a core component of identity rather than just one aspect of behaviour. I would argue that this essentially ideological position has been immensely damaging by giving an importance to sex and sexuality that is unwarranted, ahistorical and, at its core, deeply unChristian.

  4. Hello again,

    point taken about balance and the Grauniad, but in fairness they were the paper that printed at least one story about Jackie Clune’s change in orientation… a change, moreover, that happened without so much as a breath of reparative therapy. See here for example: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2003/jun/14/comedy.artsfeatures …and I note from Google that you yourself covered her story, Peter. 

    in friendship, Blair 

    • I think Jackie Clune’s story is really interesting for that very reason you raise – she just “naturally” shifted her desires.

      But an even more interesting story is that of Sue Wilkinson (http://www.wnd.com/2007/07/42356/ – apologies but WND is the only source I can find). She was 100% heterosexual, never doubted her sexuality, but *chose* to be lesbian because of her feminism. Now, is she just suppressing her heterosexuality? Do you see a huge army of people saying, “Well, she was just always bisexual” in response, rejecting her lesbianism?

      • Hi Peter,

        thanks for the link. WND allows no comments though that may not be the only reason why there isn’t an army of onlookers declaring that Sue Wilkinson ‘was always bisexual’. As I may have said when Jackie Clune’s story broke, I don’t have any immediate argument to make or conclusion to draw from these stories. I see no reason to disbelieve either Jackie Clune or Sue Wilkinson – and am wondering if I can say much more than a rather bland ‘this is interesting, but probably rare’. It does look tricky to generalise from their stories. I think it is notable that both these examples are of women; but apart from SueM and Jill there are very few regular women commenters on this site and it would be a bit much for any male commenters to start pontificating about female sexuality. Is there any *good* evidence that female sexuality is more fluid than male…?

        in friendship, Blair

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