Perhaps no one has done a better job of exposing Neil deGrasse Tyson for the bias-confirming liberal totem that he has become than National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke. Tyson leads a small band of self-described rationalists for whom “science” has become a political value.
“Ironically enough, what Tyson and his acolytes have ended up doing is blurring the lines between politics, scholarship, and culture — thereby damaging all three,” Cooke wrote. “Actual science is slow, unsexy, and assiduously neutral — and it carries about it almost nothing that would interest either the hipsters of Ann Arbor or the Kardashian-soaked titillaters over at E!”
Tyson has embraced his celebrity, and increasingly seems to view his role as something akin to the Jon Stewart of the hard sciences. He spends his days confirming for a narrow audience of uncurious liberals what they already believe, adding value to their preconceptions by varnishing it with the supposed veneer of incontrovertible truth. Perhaps Tyson’s greatest offense to scientific community is his routine suggestion that today’s conventional wisdom on matters scientific is immutable and unchanging. Real scientific exploration means forever testing biases, never accepting dogma, always allowing for the prospect that your most cherished convictions are unfounded.
But that is anathema for today’s liberals who know in their hearts that their correctness on matters cultural and scientific can be verified in a laboratory environment. Tyson routinely legitimizes that prejudice.
His most recent offense occurred during interview with The Daily Beast, where Tyson offered up a series of thoughts on homophobia and the evils of religiosity that will only further cement his brand as chief guardian of liberal self-satisfaction. After offering up a defense of the cultism of Scientology, Tyson went on to lament homophobia’s roots in religion. No, he was not talking about theocratic regimes like the one in Tehran that routinely hangs young men on the suspicion that they may be gay, or the Islamic State militia members who throws gay men from rooftops. Tyson was, of course, indulging in the favored liberal pastime of oikophobic self-loathing by lamenting the rampant homophobia in the United States.
“I just think it’s a little weird that there’s a law that allows you to earn less money,” Tyson said of Indiana’s Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. “I think that’s weird within a capitalist democracy. If you’re a company and you don’t agree with it, you don’t put your factories there, and I don’t think that’s good for your economy. Usually the economy wins in the end in terms of decision-making, so we’ll see what comes of this.”
It’s an odd impulse to contend that a “capitalist democracy” should compel its citizens to engage in commerce (unless you’re talking about purchasing health insurance, of course). Particularly when he appears to suggest in the next breath that it’s perfectly acceptable for those firms that disagree with Indiana’s RFRA to avoid investing in the state.
But Tyson goes on to lament the very fact that RFRA laws exist, and the prejudice he believes they shield. In doing so, he exposed a fundamental misapprehension about what RFRA laws do, why Democratic politicians popularized them in earlier decades, and the legal precedent that governs their application.
“But the point here is that if you’re religious, and your religion tells you that being gay is bad, then don’t be gay,” he said. “But you have to remind yourself that that’s your belief system, and there are other belief systems that don’t agree with that, so you should not be in the position to make legislation that affects other people.”
Tyson added that homophobia “almost always entirely stems from religion.”
Nonsense. The homophobia of Western democracies pales in comparison to codified anti-gay hatred espoused by the secularist dictatorships of the not-so-distant past.
In 1933, the officially atheist Soviet Union added homosexuality to the criminal code. Being gay was an offense punishable by up to five years in the gulags. The following year, hundreds of presumed homosexuals were rounded up and imprisoned. Many of those supposed gay people were also writers, artists, and presumed anti-Soviet dissidents.
The Russian writer Irena Maryniak noted that the abuses suffered by gay men and women in the Soviet labor camps was extensive and driven by paranoia and prejudice.
In his book The Mordovian Marathon (Jerusalem, 1979), Eduard Kuznetsov devotes a chapter called Queer Folk to homosexuals in the camps.
“According to people in the know,” he writes, “90 per cent of convicts are homosexual. But only passive gays—about 10 per cent—are regarded as such. They are the so-called kozly (lit: billy goats, or customers of prostitutes) and petukhi (lit: cocks, or faggots). Active homosexuals are so commonplace they don’t even merit a special name.”
“Passive homosexuals are not necessarily prisoners with gay inclinations”, writes Andrei Amal’rik in the book Notes of a dissident (Ann Arbor, 1982), “they are the unassertive, the timid, those who have lost a game of cards, those who have broken the camp code of ethics. Once you have the reputation of being a “cock”, it is impossible to get rid of it. It follows you from camp to camp. And if, after transfer to a new place a “fallen” prisoner fails to reveal himself, sooner or later it is bound to come to light. Then punishment is unavoidable, and it will take the form of a collective reprisal often ending in death.”
The fates of suspected homosexuals in the atheist nation of China was equally harsh. Being gay was only decriminalized in the People’s Republic of China in 1997 and was declassified as a mental illness in 2002. That does not suggest that being LGBT in China is openly tolerated. Quite the contrary, in fact. Apple CEO Tim Cook, who harshly criticized Indiana over its RFRA law, is looked to by LGBT Chinese as a source of possible reform in that country. Chinese firms are not only allowed to discriminate against gay and lesbian workers, that discrimination is tacitly encouraged. Abuses are also infrequently punished in the PRC. In December, a psychological clinic was ordered by a Chinese court to pay compensation to a gay man who was repeatedly administered electric shocks to cure him of his homosexual impulses. For all those cases like this that are publicly exposed, perhaps thousands outside of China’s increasingly liberal coasts go undisclosed.
In Cuba, Fidel Castro dubbed gay men “agents of imperialism” shortly after deposing the Batista regime in 1959. In the 1960s, Communist Cuba embarked on a mission to “reeducate” the Island nation’s gay population. “Yes, there were moments of great injustice – great injustice,” Castro conceded in 2010.
From Yugoslavia, to Laos, to Vietnam, to East Germany, not to mention the hell hole that is North Korea, the secular communist dictatorships of earlier decades outpaced most liberal democracies of the West in terms of outright hostility toward gays and gay rights.
That is to say nothing of the fascist dictatorships of Germany, Italy, Romania, and Hungary. Equally hostile toward religion as a substitute for faith in the omnipotence of the state, the 20th Century’s fascistic regimes were violently intolerant toward homosexuality. Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 100,000 were arrested on the suspicion that they were gay and up to 15,000 were sent to concentration camps. Officials believe that up to 60 percent of them did not survive the ordeal.
Neil deGrasse Tyson may make his cadre of incurious liberal fans feel good about themselves and reaffirm their faith in a set of common beliefs, but he routinely does them a disservice by steadfastly refusing to challenge their dubious preconceptions. It is a tragedy that such an accomplished man of great talent and intellect feels that he has no greater calling in life than to validate and reinforce liberal chauvinisms.