comsc US Politics | AMERICAblog News: Kudos To "Paula Zahn Now" For Second "Conversion" Story
Join Email List | About us | AMERICAblog Gay
Elections | Economic Crisis | Jobs | TSA | Limbaugh | Fun Stuff

Kudos To "Paula Zahn Now" For Second "Conversion" Story

| Reddit | Tumblr | Digg | FARK

Okay, so Thursday night "Paula Zahn Now" did another story on the snake oil scam of "conversion therapy." (If you're interested, the show is rerun at 2 a.m.) Suddenly Zahn was touting Part Two of their special report -- though I rechecked part "one" and there's no hint they planned a followup. Either the story generated so much attention they decided to squeeze another segment out of the footage or -- best case scenario -- they were as unhappy with the first one as we were. Certainly they improved a good deal. It's late and I lambasted them the first time around, so forgive this lengthy analysis.

Reporters have to be instant experts on every issue they deal with and the show clearly came up short on night one. Either internally or based on feedback from viewers and the web (which Zahn even referenced), they listened and responded to some of the factual complaints. Yes, it could have been even better -- but their response was certainly far more admirable than simply ignoring the criticism or defending the original piece. Though of course I assume mainly they did another piece because the first one generated talk.

Among the improvements: they made clear that Love in Action Refuge (yes, as numerous threaders pointed out, this makes them LIARs) is NOT a registered mental health clinic -- only one counselor is licensed. (And I assume that counselor could be reprimanded or lose their license for engaging in therapy that the APA has condemned. Perhaps they're only licensed by the state?) Since it ISN'T a mental health clinic, I still take issue with CNN describing chat sessions as "group therapy." Shouldn't group therapy be reserved only for sessions led by a professional? Is the only licensed therapist always present at every session? If not, it doesn't deserve this patina of professional respectability -- especially since what they practice has been condemned by every reputable medical and mental health organization in the country as dangerous, wrong, and potentially extremely damaging.

They still incorrectly describe the leader Rev. Smid [what a name!] as "rejecting homosexuality," a claim these fringe groups know they can no longer pretend to make -- even Rev. Smid doesn't claim he's now straight, just that he won't act on those desires. Again, it's important to note that just a few years ago they lied and said people could choose to be straight and that being gay was merely a choice. Society is so far beyond such idiocy, today even the far right doesn't trot that lie out anymore. Even the IDs of the people who went through the program are poorly thought out: two young men interviewed are labeled "graduate," which again gives this sketchy organization that is seriously condemned by the entire medical community an air of seriousness it doesn't deserve. You can't graduate from a scam.

All the footage used was presumably shot the first time around. But what a difference a day makes. With the new emphasis on facts and the overwhelming medical opinion about this fraud, they even used a better quote from Dr. Drescher of the APA than the one they used the first night. "These people [the teens being told by their parents they should be ashamed of the way they were born] are in a lot of pain and desperate," says Drescher. "This movement preys on that desperation."

The real zinger: LIARs only claims that 24 people have gone through the program since it began three years ago. That tells us a lot. There's very little demand, it's extremely fringe and wildly ineffective. We know just from the two men interviewed that at least three of those 24 are happily gay and the one mild success story says he'll be attracted to men for the rest of his life and may simply try to be chaste. That's far different from their wild claims 10 years ago that being gay was a choice and anyone who wanted to could marry a woman, settle down and be happy. Of course, like all the other scams that have popped up over the years, LIARs refuses to keep track of the people it has abused by teaching them to hate the way they were born. So you can bet that out of the remaining 20 that most are happily gay or desperately miserable. Or, God forbid, dead. The charlatan running it -- Rev. Smid -- says he "doesn't know" how many have succeeded by his standards. He can't keep track of 24 people? That's either complete callousness on his part or more obviously he doesn't want to know.

Oh and the one young man they offered up to the media -- Ben Marshall -- had to spend EIGHT MONTHS with LIARs and even he doesn't consider it a success based on what he expected -- which was to "become" straight. Good luck to Ben and I hope five years from now he'll be telling the media how he learned to love himself and love God at a UU or UCC or some other house of worship and what a joke this group was. Certainly I think the chances of him being happy by spending his life ashamed of the way he was born are not good.

But the heart of the segment was a live one-on-one interview between Zahn and another "graduate" Gerard Wellman, who now works for LIARs. (Another Dickensian and ironic name for a clean-cut nice young guy -- dude, you are a well man AND a gay man; it's a pity you think you have to be ashamed of yourself).

Zahn was polite but pretty darn on target. She emphasized how he is and always will be gay and that the best the program can hope is to get Wellman and others to SUPPRESS themselves. She emphasized how it's one thing for an adult like Wellman to choose to go through this and a very different thing for a minor to be forced into it. LIAR's line is that the parents have the right to raise their children any way they choose. But the response is that you have no right to assist a parent in shaming and emotionally damaging a child by telling them to be ashamed of their skin color or gender or sexual orientation. Zahn talked a lot about the vulnerability of the children being pushed through LIARs. When Wellman tried to compare this program to a parent's right to have their children take music lessons, Zahn shot him down and said that music lessons never lead to suicide attempts.

My favorite moment:

Zahn: But in a way, aren't you denying who you are?
Wellman: Aren't we all?

Uh, no. We're not. Only people abused by their parents and their misguided religious leaders try to deny who they are. Lead a good Christian life by being in a faithful monogamous relationship with a nice Christian guy, Wellman, not by trying to suppress who you are and second-guess God.

Kudos again to Zahn for doing a much better job the second time around.

blog comments powered by Disqus