No sense of

No sense of

As George Clooney
makes clear in this issue’s cover story, the famous
“Have you no sense of decency?” retort fired
at witch-hunting senator Joseph McCarthy during the
Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954 had a very specific
context: The red-baiter had named as a Communist sympathizer
a young associate of the Army’s lead attorney,
Joseph Welch, and Welch let him have it. Another
McCarthy misstep: attacking iconic newsman Edward R.
Murrow in a rambling televised rebuttal to Murrow’s
powerful report on McCarthy’s excesses.
That’s the subject of Clooney’s rapid-fire
historical-allegorical movie, Good Night, and Good Luck.

What Clooney
tells The Advocate that is not fully explained in his
movie is that the Army’s fury was aroused for another
very specific reason: McCarthy’s closeted
lieutenant, Roy Cohn, had tried to strong-arm the
military into reassigning a handsome young man whom Cohn
fancied. His arrogance took him that one step too far.
The Army fought back.

Cohn, the
homophobic homosexual, and McCarthy, the un-American
“patriot,” were men with no sense of
decency. Like the antigay crusaders we face 50 years
later, they may well have had strong, sincere convictions
about right and wrong. But their hunger for control
and their lust to crush anyone opposed to them finally
did them in. The more extreme their attacks, the more
people were aroused from apathy to resist them. And the
more resistance McCarthy and Cohn encountered, the more
scurrilous their attacks became. With no sense of
their opponents’ humanity, they blithely
demonized innocent people. And that’s when they lost
the country’s sympathy.

Which brings me
to the ill-named Traditional Values Coalition. As
recently noted on, the TVC has a Web page
devoted to “The Homosexual Movement and
Pedophilia.” It opens with a shameless falsehood:
“The homosexual activist movement and organized
pedophiles are linked together by a common goal: To
gain access to children for seduction into
homosexuality.” It’s too inhuman and
outrageous an accusation even to address. To use Dick
Cheney’s words more accurately than he does, such
desperate measures signal the “last throes” of
a fringe movement that will resist equality to its
last breath. The TVC knows that most fair-minded
Americans no longer favor sodomy laws, antigay job
discrimination, or stripping same-sex couples of equal
benefits. So they’re sounding the one note they
know might get some attention: “They’re
coming for your children.”

The problem is,
most fair-minded Americans know that’s a lie too. If
there’s any luring of children going on, it’s
the so-called ex-gay movement’s relentless and
harmful work at “seduction into
heterosexuality,” which is still messing with the
minds of too many young gays and lesbians.

The hateful lies
and demonic fury of the leaders of the far right will in
time undo them. As we have seen in the past few months, when
the United States has more important things to worry
about than Adam and Steve—say, Katrina and
Wilma, or Scooter and Tom—the antigay crazies lose
the attention even of their supposed political allies.
(Beware, Mr. Santorum!)

The current
respite is not, of course, the end. The far right will
continue to chase and trumpet victories for discrimination
wherever possible and to bring harm to LGBT Americans
and their families. But the march of history will
eventually leave them in the dust—just as it did
Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn.

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