Saturday, February 22, 2014

For those of you who don't speak French, here's an article full of lies and half-truths about me, written by some Harvard comp lit stalker

I'd translate this, but I don't really feel like expending the energy on it:

Someone named Claudine Frank, who seems (according to her bio) to have done the Obama cursus honorum -- University of Chicago, Harvard, and Columbia/Barnard -- wrote a nasty hit piece about the supposedly diabolical conspiracies behind my activism in France.

I have to thank Ms. Frank for taking so much time, which she obviously did, to research a broad range of my writing and oral statements. She cites obscure articles I'd even forgotten about on American Thinker. She took the trouble to dig up reports of speaking engagements I made in places like Lille, France, and Brussels.

With so much digging and digging it is understandable that she gets quite a bit wrong. For instance, unfortunately, she claims I marched on March 26 in Washington DC when I did not. That was the date of a National Organization for Marriage event, which I chose specifically not to attend. I assume Ms. Frank wants very badly to claim that I marched with NOM because she seems to share with other pro-gay bloggers a strategic and dishonest compulsion to discredit me by falsely presenting me as a NOM proxy.

She says I am "emissary and translator for the National Organization for Marriage." This is a bold-faced falsehood and I will be writing to the Nouvel Observateur to complain about it, with some help from people I know in France. I have no connection to the National Organization for Marriage. But Ms. Frank has undoubtedly done shoddy internet research on Google and come across a few of the patently libelous statements from various bloggers and "gay rights" sites, which keep trying to link me to NOM. And she took the link at face value.

Why? Because her research is poor. Quite fitting for someone who went to Harvard.

Bloggers in the US filed a public records request with my university, in order to scour through my emails to uncover some link between me and NOM. They found nothing, because there is nothing to find. I know of other bloggers who searched desperately for photos of me standing next to Brian Brown so they could claim I was his lackey--they found nothing, because there is nothing to find.

Frank questions my intellectual grounding in a way that leads me to question hers. In my speech on Feb. 2, 2014, in Paris, I referenced some examples of critical theoretical schools I teach to my literature students: Marxism, New Criticism, New Historicism, postmodernism, etc. Also I mention that my favorite philosopher is Michel Foucault. This means, according to Harvard and Columbia-educated Ms. Frank, that I am "un tantinet à la traîne," or "a tad behind the times." She must not teach critical theory in a university setting anymore or if she does, she must do an awful job of introducing her students to the standard theoretical schools that every literature program has to instruct pupils in. These are the among the critical approaches that remain relevant for students studying literature.

Apparently Ms. Frank also doesn't know much about American history. She cites an article I published in 2011 in American Thinker, which referenced the fact that the Democratic Party supported slavery in the 1850s. She writes in French, with a shocked and outraged tone, that I engage in "radical Fox News propaganda" on American Thinker, citing as an example this reference to slavery and the Democrats. (She says that I "lump in Obama and his party with slavers!" even though in the passage she is citing, I never actually name Obama; I refer to the Democrats. She doesn't seem to notice that I mentioned in several of the speeches she cites, my belief that Obama respected the French and might be moved by articulate, eloquent dissent by French people.)

Maybe she doesn't know that the Democrats supported slavery and the Republicans opposed it. I've never been on Fox News and wasn't pushing any "radical" propaganda. I merely stated a historical fact.

The tenor of Ms. Frank's article is the typical "guilt by association" riposte against people who bring up legitimate concerns about children's rights. The strategy is this: dizzy the reader with dangerous-sounding connections between easily caricatured people so you don't have to deal with what any of them are arguing.

Nowhere in the article does she respond to the logical and well-grounded argument that it is fundamentally unjust to sever a bond between a child and his mother and father based on adult desires (as opposed to the best interests of the child). She quotes one of my lines about "breeding and buying children" as a form of slavery, but only in order to shock her reader with the old "he's comparing gay dads to slave owners" red herring, courtesy of American trolls. Like the latter trolls, she never responds to the sensible argument that children have rights to a mom and dad--something put forward by Jean-Dominique Bunel in Le Figaro.

It was Bunel whom I quoted in one of the earliest pieces on France in Public Discourse. Claudine Frank does cite a different part of that essay in her hit piece on Nouvel Observateur, yet she never addresses the powerful point raised by Bunel. Such an omission is inexcusable if she is so interested in deconstructing and characterizing me and my involvement in France, which had literally nothing to do with the National Organization for Marriage and everything to do with Bunel's piece in the Figaro. 

It was Bunel who inspired me to try shifting the debate in the US from morality to the rights of children. Yet Frank's ignorance of this detail about the role of France in changing American debate matches her larger confusion about how it was that I became involved in France. She seems to think I was smuggled across the Atlantic in the suitcase of Brian Brown, someone I only met once in my life, for all of a few minutes, and with whom I have no regular contact.

In truth, my arrival in France in March 2013 had absolutely nothing to do with Brian Brown or his organization's links to the Lejeune Foundation. Nothing at all! I had presented at a conference in France in 2007 so I had developed ties to the French academy. I was scheduled to present a paper at a gender conference in Lille in March 2013 (Frank knows this because she links to the conference website for the Lille conference, but she has apparently forgotten how much lag time there is between authoring a paper, getting it accepted to an international conference, and presenting it; otherwise she would have known that my research for Lille was accepted by the conference organizers in 2011, long before anybody in Brian Brown's circle even knew who I was.)

Knowing that I was going to head to Lille in two months, in January 2013 I recorded a YouTube video challenging Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the French minister of women's rights, to a debate. My challenge was based on her claim that children raised by same-sex couples had no disadvantages. That simple YouTube video got picked up by Eric Martin at Nouvelles de France and then went viral--and nowhere, at any point, was the National Organization for Marriage involved. (I never heard back from Vallaud-Belkacem and not surprisingly, the debate never took place.)

What is depressing about Ms. Frank's article is that she sees diabolism and obscurantism where she ought to see intellectual possibilities and an inspiring cross-cultural history of ideas. The French articulated a dissenting position on homosexual parenting, based on children's rights, and this inspired me. I have managed to translate many of the French documents, such as Bunel's piece in Figaro, and these translations have inspired more than a few people in the United States to back away from arguments about religion and instead focus on children's rights. Not, that is, by trying to compare children raised by gay couples to other children according to superficial report-card categories like "well adjusted" or "does well in school," but rather -- and much more intelligently, thanks to France -- according to the human rights of the child.

Claudine Frank, with her onerous pedigree from Columbia, Harvard, and the University of Chicago, sees only dark cabals. She believes that any American interest in France comes from a sinister, as she calls it "shocking", secret plan by people at the helm of the National Organization for Marriage with ties to Dan Brown's delicious nemesis Opus Dei. Instead of engaging in a necessary discussion about sperm banking, gestational surrogacy, children's rights, and gender curriculum in school -- the things the rest of us are talking about -- she wants to play detective and turn us all into characters from the DaVinci Code.

Claudine Frank cannot see me as an intellectual who found comfort in French thinkers and traveled to France on my own to build a coalition and found a movement. Like countless other followers of Foucault, I developed a love-hate relationship with French thinkers that enriched me and in turn enhanced what I could offer to my students and colleagues. People like Claudine Frank are blind to the richness in such history. She assumes that I am merely a creation of NOM's executives, because she says they have a master plan to "manipulate ethnic minorities." Carrying with her the paternalism and suffocating patronage system of Cambridge, Massachusetts, she takes as a given that any Latino must automatically be subservient to the Democrats' to-do list, including the expansion of gay parenting. Her reference to me as a possible cog in NOM's plan to manipulate ethnic minorities is especially galling because I have never made an issue of my race in France or even sought to draw attention to my ethnic heritage (for the record, I am half Latino and half Asian.)

It is perhaps for this reason that Claudine Frank writes in such ominous terms about any outreach to Muslims. In reference to a seminar scheduled for this summer in Princeton, Ms. Frank says that "in the desolation of summer, crushed by humidity, in Princeton there will be" a seminar on Muslim involvement in the debate on gay marriage. She cannot see Muslims, blacks, Latinos, or gays as anything other than unthinking chess pieces in a game between a stereotypical left and right.

We have, both in the United States and in France, a long history of activism both forward-thinking and reactionary. Claudine Frank sees me as a "go-between" for reactionaries in the US and France. In truth, I am nobody's go-between; I fight against reactionaries in both countries.