The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, May 22, 2002  

Michelangelo Signorile Asks, "Why?"

We have been intending to post a link to Michelangelo Signorile’s latest article in the May 20 edition of the New York Press, “Canonizing Pim Fortuyn,” for several days now. Reviewing Signorile's essay again today, we believe it remains among the most considered and insightful we have encountered -- this side of the Atlantic -- since Fortuyn’s assassination.

Signorile’s focus is not on Fortuyn himself, but the lofty status to which he climbed after his death. Signorile is appropriately mystified by the affection shown to Fortuyn by the conservative side of the American media. Suspicious, as he rightly should be, Signorile writes, “The posthumous accolades by some American conservatives have been couched in high-minded concern for civil rights. But underneath, there’s something rotten in Holland.”

Something may be rotten in Holland, but we would add that there’s something rotten in New York as well.

Signorile continues with a prescient analysis of the hypocritical lauds coming from American conservatives for a gay man with an active sex life who advocated the continuation of relaxed laws regarding recreational drugs in the Netherlands.

Our only disappointment with Signorile’s essay is that he failed to bring in the ridiculous -- and altogether too numerous -- comments about Fortuyn made by Andrew Sullivan. But no matter, Signorile gives us much to think about anyway.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page has taken center stage in the bizarre canonization of the esoteric (to Americans) albeit tragic politician, running several editorials and commentaries about him, all fawning attempts to portray Fortuyn as not so right-wing at all -- and using the fact that Fortuyn was openly gay to prove that point,” writes Signorile.

Next up for well-deserved criticism, recent Catholic convert and aspiring saint Rod Dreher.

National Review Online’s Rod Dreher…took a break from his intense focus on the crisis in the American Catholic Church to write two columns (!) about the goings-on in the tiny country on the other side of the Atlantic, a nation whose political and cultural demographics are far different from that of the U.S.,” observes Signorile.

With a degree of honesty heretofore unseen in the observations of Dutch politics by American pundits and editorialists, Signorile adds, “I’m not going to split hairs about how Fortuyn should be labeled, nor pretend -- as some of these American conservative writers have -- that I am an expert on Dutch politics.” (On this point TRR would ask why no one pontificating about this issue bothered to: (a) speak with Dutch politicians or political scientists; and/or (b) read any articles in the Dutch press. There are plenty of translation services available on and off the web that, with the help of a desk-side dictionary, can help anyone navigate through a newspaper or magazine article in almost any language.)

Rather, Signorile writes: “[T]he American definitions of right and left do not apply in the Netherlands, and these American conservative pundits know that, though they are playing fast and loose with the terms….In America, right-wing after all usually means antiabortion, antigay and having ‘zero tolerance on drugs.’ But in a country where there isn’t any considerable religious right -- where gay marriage is legal, abortion is not an issue and you can buy weed at the counter in a café -- left and right mean very different things.”

Neither The Wall Street Journal nor National Review have reputations for publishing even the most moderate views on any subject relating to homosexuality. Oddly enough, both outlets have gone so far as to bask in the glow of Fortuyn’s sexuality, a posture thoroughly unwarranted, as Signorile explains:

“[T]rotting out Fortuyn’s homosexuality as proof of anything is relatively meaningless. But it is intensely interesting that American conservatives are doing just that. How weird is it that The Wall Street Journal and…National Review Online -- no bastions of gay rights and libertine sexuality -- would suddenly hold up a slain homosexual politician who reveled in tales about his promiscuous bathhouse jaunts, celebrating precisely that aspect of him?”

NR’s Dreher comes in for substantial -- and well-deserved -- criticism. “It is beyond peculiar that columnist Dreher, who has in recent weeks railed against the ‘lavender mafia’ in the American priesthood and claimed that seminaries have turned into ‘gay brothels,’ is now sanctifying as a ‘martyr’ a man who has flaunted his boyhood gay sex encounters,” writes Signorile. Strange indeed, particularly since Dreher so readily fits the prevailing culture at National Review, one that shivers at the very notion of homosexuality, while carefully neglecting to condemn the most common sins of heterosexuals, namely, infidelity, onanism, and fornication.

According to Signorile, the only way in which the American conservatives’ posthumous devotion to Fortuyn can be explained is by examining the main plank in his party platform, namely, bringing to an end any additional immigration by Muslims.

And he is quite correct on this point. “It seems to me that the conservatives’ interest in legitimizing Fortuyn…is in the service of elevating the entire issue of regulating and barring Arabs and other Muslims, and perhaps even rounding up such people here,” Signorile asserts.

“[S]uddenly, the hyperconservative Wall Street Journal editorial page is holding up someone who, as the editors describe him, wanted ‘to preserve Holland’s liberal traditions’? The Wall Street Journal editorial page is lauding a gay man who took on religious extremists? Gee, quite a few gay men, pundits and politicians alike, have been doing just that for quite some time when it comes to Christian fundamentalists, but they’ve curiously not been lauded by the WSJ editorial page. In fact, the editors have often given their pages over to the religious extremists themselves to do their bashing.

“Why haven’t we heard The Wall Street Journal editorial page or National Review’s Rod Dreher standing up to antigay religious extremism here in the way they’re so concerned about it across the Atlantic? And if religious fundamentalism poses such a demographic threat to a nation’s well being when it comes to immigration, are the conservative pundits now ready to call for an end to immigration by Christian fundamentalists to America?”

We probably would not have taken the argument as far as Signorile did, but we do believe he has made a critical point, one for which there simply exists no answer. As such, don’t look for a reasonable response to Signorile’s essay in any conservative outlet anytime soon.

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