The Philosophy of Burning Books—Calling It Like It Is
Last week a truly amazing story of academic support for persecution of LGBT youth by “professional mental health researchers” came to light through the diligent work of Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin and Anderson Cooper of CNN. Briefly, both deal with investigations into the academic and professional life of George Rekers, an ordained minister of the Southern Baptist Convention, arguably the most homophobic of all Protestant cults, as well as the largest. Rekers was a graduate student in clinical psychology at UCLA under Richard Green and Ivar Lovaas, who were responsible for the review and acceptance of his research papers, when the story begins of the tragedy they created to satisfy their lust for academic and financial advancement.
Rekers, with the support of Lovaas and Green, published knowingly false research reports on the case of a child, “Kraig,” who was placed in their care by two very gullible parents. Their own neurotic reactions to their effeminate son resonated with a chord of sociopathy present in UCLA clinical psychology at the time, which was following a path of child development through bullying and deprivation of empathy that had been pioneered by the famous poseur B. F. Skinner, of Harvard. For decades the lies these men wrote, swore to, and promulgated dominated major branches of American psychology and psychiatry.
Over a year ago, thanks to Truth Wins Out and the Florida LGBT press, the fact came out that, in spite of his very public homophobic image, Rekers was actually a closeted homosexual. This was big news in the LGBT press and led to his resignation from the boards of homophobic charities and organizations he had helped lead for so long. This also drew attention to his lifelong history of academic and religious publishing, which has now been proven to be based on deliberate falsification of research results, apparently with the support of his supervisor (Lovaas) and department head (Green) since both were deeply involved themselves in the pseudo-scientific study of effeminate behavior in young boys.
The work of this blind and bigoted trio has influenced generations of students of childhood development of sexual orientation and gender identity. The published work of these men, and other fraudulent scientists like them, is the foundation of a public relations industry devoted to the marketing for profit of homophobia and transphobia. These institutions are NOT public charities and DO NOT deserve registration as 501(c)3 tax-exempt charities, since they only exist to enrich their organizers and spokespeople by marketing their hateful fantasies as real. I just paid $10 to see the new Spielberg flick. When you leave the theater you know it was all more-or-less meant to be nonsense. At least Hollywood pays taxes on the money it gets from peddling nonsense. The Southern Baptist Convention and its constituent persons and organizations do not. Perhaps Hollywood should claim to be a religion. I know a lot of LGBT folk who would agree.
How can the damage done by Rekers and his like be countered in the intellectual life of humanity? Obviously, the exposure by Burroway and Cooper identifies the problem, but this again will become a one to two week PR event unless the,LBGT community and allies take away a sense of purposive action to stop the further spread of this evil that permeates so much of the generally accepted ignorance of the people. As a minimum, we should identify and disqualify the researchers and the publications that have come about as a result of Rekers’ crimes against academia, science, and humanity.
When one tries to assess the importance of some piece of scientific research, it is useful to know how often and in what capacity the work has been cited by other researchers in their publications. Although the bibliography in a paper tells you where the author used other’s work and ideas, there is nothing to tell you who went on to make use of this particular work of this particular writer. It would, for example, be very convenient to be able to trace out every academic publication that referenced the work of Rekers, Green, or Lovaas, but would require you to examine every bibliography in every later publication that could have possible referenced their work.
Actually the problem was solved definitively 50 years ago by the creation of the Science Citation Index (SCI), which is essentially a reverse bibliography that identifies every subsequent publication that cites the target article. Through SCI one can find not only everything written by Rekers, Green, or Lovaas, and published in a significant peer-reviewed journal, but also everything that cites any of their work. Thus one quickly identifies both publications that should be recalled (since they are contaminated by authorship by Rekers or the others) and other publications that should be recalled (since they are contaminated by citation of Rekers or the others).
This process is then iterated, seeding the new selection cycle with the name of all authors of citation contaminated publications, identifying their other writings and the writers who cited them and their writings. In fact, it is likely one could turn this into a real witch-hunt through the assholes of academia.
Once the offensive material has all been identified, there is an immediate technique for ending further research or credibility for this entire intellectually and morally bankrupt community. Each journal that has published a suspect article simply publishes a formal retraction, even going back 50 years, if necessary. These retractions are indexed by SCI and become a part of the formal record there of the final disposition by rational humanity of a body of published research. Though the discredited documents presenting lies as true will remain in a few archives, every bit of future meaning is gone in the sense that no sane person would waste time by basing further work on it. The injury to academic and science is corrected.
This of course leaves open the place where real injury to real people has been done by these men and their disciples. And this continues through their writing and publication in the very large non-academic press that has no standards of peer review and, in many cases, no concept of truth in reportage. For example, there are 16 titles by Rekers on Amazon. Do any of these books deserve dissemination? Or distribution? Or memorialization in libraries?
Here we face directly the struggle for the hearts and minds of the sane. There is no social purpose in the publication and dissemination of these books. On the other hand, their just and forcible suppression could leave some unconvinced of the evil they represent. Scientists and authors of good will are needed to tell the true stories of human sexual and gender development, uncontaminated by the theological and moral mythology of cult leaders. Such truth will gradually eclipse the lies of the cults, since sane human minds recognize truth and resonate with it when it is heard.
No, I don’t advocate book burning, but I see no reason the false intellectual legacy of men like Rekers, where it can be so clearly identified in the stream of formally reviewed publication, should not be erased permanently from academic history, taking with it the life work of many bigots and homophobes who have hidden (and continue to hide) their neuroses and psychoses behind the false privilege conferred by an academic degree and often tenure.