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"Perhaps as dangerous as the actual Communists"
February 28, 2013 12:27 PM   Subscribe

The Homosexual Atom Bomb
Such absurd equations show how homosexuality became a floating signifier, associated with whatever political tendency one most disliked. Rather than representing a certain group of people, it represented everything that was wrong—whatever that meant. America’s Red Scare bled into its Lavender Scare; the Soviets associated homosexuality with capitalism and fascism. But empty as it was, the political use of the trope of homosexuality had a devastating effect on real people from both countries.
"Homosexuality Is Stalin's Atom Bomb to Destroy America" is on display at the Winkleman Gallery in NYC.

The Lavender Scare, The Second Red Scare's Fraternal Twin

Question: Why were homosexuals considered a threat to national security?
Johnson: The politicians behind the Lavender Scare asserted that homosexuals were susceptible to blackmail by enemy agents and so could be coerced into revealing government secrets. In other words, the official rationale wasn't that homosexuals were communists but that they could be used by communists. A Senate subcommittee spent months investigating this claim and came up empty-handed. They found no evidence that even a single gay or lesbian American civil servant had ever been blackmailed into revealing state secrets. The only proof they offered was the well-known case of Colonel Alfred Redl, an Austrian double agent who was exposed just before World War I. Nevertheless, the subcommittee's final report stated emphatically that homosexuals posed a threat to national security and called for their removal from all federal agencies.
The Lavender Scare, a documentary.
posted by the man of twists and turns (21 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 


If they combine it with KAOS's nude bomb, we could be in for big trouble. Or a great party.
posted by jonmc at 12:38 PM on February 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


jonmc, your shoe is ringing.
posted by bondcliff at 12:40 PM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Damned telemarketers.
posted by jonmc at 12:41 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Terre Thaemlitz - Lovebomb.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:43 PM on February 28, 2013


Dammit, I was looking for a good Nude Bomb joke. Missed it by that much.
posted by jquinby at 12:44 PM on February 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


If only your name was jquimby instead. It would have been so eponysterical.
posted by Talez at 12:47 PM on February 28, 2013


It's never struck me as a coincidence that "pinko" was one slander used to impugn someone's capitalist bona fides, given the lifestyle associations it also carried.
posted by dry white toast at 12:47 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Canada's RCMP used a device called "the Fruit Machine" to try to weed out homosexuals during the cold war.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:48 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Canada's RCMP used a device called "the Fruit Machine" to try to weed out homosexuals during the cold war.

Nowadays they just use Gaydar.
posted by Talez at 12:51 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


And..... Loving it!
posted by dr_dank at 1:01 PM on February 28, 2013


Talez

You're talking about the Homometer, right?
posted by The Confessor at 1:07 PM on February 28, 2013


It's a bit of a digression, but the relationship between homosexuality and fascism is complicated and fascinating (fascist-nating?) Not that gay people are generally fascists or anything, of course, but there's a long history of weirdness there, as discussed in this Johann Hari article, for instance, or in this academic work (which I haven't read, but which looks quite interesting).
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:10 PM on February 28, 2013


cstross' Laundry Files have an amusing bureaucratic twist on that, in which the gay couple have to attend the pride parade every year even though one of them would rather not, in order to maintain their security clearance as out and therefore not blackmailable.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:19 PM on February 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Operation Gay Bomb
posted by Ironmouth at 1:20 PM on February 28, 2013


“Berlin is the testicles of the West, every time I want the West to scream, I squeeze on Berlin.”
– Says the Russian Bear, Nikita Khrushchev, 1962.
posted by Kabanos at 1:25 PM on February 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly), the article the show takes its title from ("Homosexuality Is Stalin's Atom Bomb to Destroy America," by Arthur Guy Mathews) was originally published in Bernarr Macfadden's Physical Culture magazine, a popular source for beefcake shots. I haven't found the article online yet, but there is this:
"CLEARWATER ... County Judge Jack F. White sounded his mid-winter docket of misdemeanors ... Dr. Arthur Guy Matthews, lewdness ..."
Incidentally, just last year Craig Loftin published Masked Voices: Gay Men and Lesbians in Cold War America.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:32 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure it was Al Qaeda that had the Gay Bombs.
posted by XMLicious at 1:41 PM on February 28, 2013


Also check out Revue Your History
posted by The Whelk at 2:01 PM on February 28, 2013


The ambguity of the physical culture mags were always really quite fascinating--a combonation of pure lust and genuine self loathing terror. Tom Fitzgerald's Beefcake does some to talk about it.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:53 PM on February 28, 2013


What lies behind religious homophobia - "The anti-gay rhetoric of religious leaders like Cardinal Keith O'Brien often masks deep-seated fears about their own sexuality"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:30 PM on March 3, 2013


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