12. februāris, 2008

Before resigning in December 2007, former Prime Minister Kalvītis apparently had promised Cardinal Pujats and other members of the Council of Spiritual Affairs that he will do all within his powers to ensure that the next government continues to oppose "the propaganda of homosexuality ".(http://www.vdiena.lv/lat/politics/quote/kalviitis_apsoliijis_homoseksuaalisma_propagandas_ierobezhoshanu).

There is no certain way to find out what exactly Mr Kalvītis (still a vigorous MP representing one of the coalition parties) implied by “propaganda”. The quasi-religious origin of the word (from Congregatio de Propaganda Fide ) suggests that homosexuality in Latvia has become a religious doctrine which Mr Godmanis’s government will now watchfully keep at bay, but there are no visible signs to support this vision. The fact that some people arguing in public for a greater tolerance (including a more inclusive attitude towards LGBT people) are also Christian pastors does not mean per se that there is a “propaganda” of homosexuality taking place in churches. The congregation of Mr. Ledyayev’s intensely homophobic New Generation church is surely many times bigger than that of the Riga Anglican Church.

Or was it propaganda in the political sense Mr. Kalvītis implied? But then, there would have to be an identifiable programme of indoctrination on a major scale, inviting persons who are not homosexual to change their mind. If no such programme is in evidence (and there is none), then it is too early to speak of propaganda of any sort. Unless, of course, statements to the effect that gay and lesbian people also have human rights can be equated to a statement that others don’t.

So it must be in a much deeper, more philosophical sense that our former Prime Minister has spoken of “propaganda”. Let us see whether his accusation makes any sense. According to Sheril Tuttle Ross, ” There are four conditions for a message to be considered propaganda. Propaganda involves the intention to persuade. As well, propaganda is sent on behalf of a sociopolitical institution, organization, or cause. Next, the recipient of propaganda is a socially significant group of people. Finally, propaganda is an epistemical struggle to challenge other thoughts.” (Ross, Sheryl Tuttle. “Understanding Propaganda: The Epistemic Merit Model and Its Application to Art.” Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 36, No.1. pp. 16-30 )

So far, everything fits. There is, indeed, an intention (on behalf of LGBT activists) to persuade (that LGBT people should have rights equal to those of other people). There is a cause on behalf of which the attempts to persuade are taking place. There is an intended recipient – the whole of society. And there is, I suppose, a struggle to challenge other thoughts – for example those that claim that homosexuality is a disease. What there is missing (for it to qualify as propaganda), is the attempt to create a semblance of credibility . According to Ross, “The aim of the propagandist is to create the semblance of credibility.” This means that they appeal to an epystemology that is weak or defective.

There is no attempt to create a semblance of credibility in organising a Riga Pride or in claiming that same-sex couples, too, are families. The nature of rights is socially negotiable, and there is no distortion of facts in saying that in today’s Europe, the rights of LGBT people to remain themselves and to stay with their partners, are recognised at the level of both European institutions and many national governments. As to the definition of family, it is value-based, and while it is fair enough that a practicing Roman Catholic may not recognise such a couple as a family, an Old Catholic (Vieux Catholique) could (in the limited sense, not stretching to the questions of adoption). And a secular person or a Christian without a strict church affiliation could have even less reservations about this definition. There is, obviously, no single true answer to what constitutes a family. Promoting a more inclusive vision, LGBT people speak for themselves and for others (e.g. single parents)whose family models, alas, are not viewed as “normal” by government policy-makers. They are not trying to “convert” others to their family models. Therefore, the accusation of “propaganda” is completely out of place.

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