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The right-wing freak-out

May 27, 2010, 5:41 pm | Posted by Nick Sementelli

We’ve been following the ridiculous arguments right-wing organizations have been making about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for a while now. So it comes as no surprise to us that this week’s news of a DADT repeal has them upset. But even I wasn’t anticipating the depths to which they’d sink this time.

The right has gone into full freak-out mode, portraying LGBT soldiers as dangerous rapists whose “disease-tainted gay blood threatens our troops.” If polemical religious right arguments are to be believed, without DADT, LGBT Americans will join the military en masse (because they aren’t serving already), sexually assault their straight counterparts, and intimidate their superiors into covering it up under threat of political correctness?

The basis for these revolting claims? An “analysis” produced by FRC Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg who claims his review of a Department of Defense report on sexual assaults reveals that homosexuals are “three times more likely to commit sexual assault than heterosexuals.”

Sprigg’s theory doesn’t really deserve a response, but Joshua Tucker at the Monkey Cage provides a statistical dismantling anyway:

1. First and most significantly, the study provides no evidence of the proportion of same-sex assaults that are committed by homosexuals. This is crucial to the study, because the authors want to leverage the information in the study to argue that homosexuals should not be allowed to serve in the military. But their data measure assaults by men against men or women against women, not the number of assaults by homosexuals. Thus without any understanding of the proportion of same sex assaults that are committed by homosexuals, the inference that homosexuals are more likely to commit sexual assault is invalid.

2. Second, we don’t know if the proportion of homosexuals in the military matches the proportion in the general population. The authors of the study assume that the proportions are similar, but if homosexuals are overrepresented in the military relative to the general population, then the inference is invalid. Moreover, it is not even clear that the general population is the right reference group; the military is overwhelmingly made up of young men. So even if we think the demographic composition of the military reflects the general population – which it may very well not – we’d still want to know something like the prevalence of homosexuality among 18-30 year old males, not among the population as a whole.

3. Moreover, even if we assume that the proportion of homosexuals in the military mirrors the proportion in the general population, the conclusions of the study are dependent on a low estimate of homosexuals in the general population (<8.15/3, or <2.7%). Other studies have found higher estimates.

While it’s disheartening to see attacks are coming from groups claiming to espouse Christian values, maybe the extreme nature of their arguments will convince Congressional leaders who have sided with them in the past and are threatening to block the bill to re-think their alliances. The House is expected to vote on repeal tonight and many in the faith community hope they’ll stand up against attacks like these in favor of dignity and equality.

One Response to “The right-wing freak-out”

  1. Javier Oliver says:

    Actually, if (big “if”) Sprigg’s statistical conclusion that homosexuals are three times more likely to commit sexual assault is correct, it seems to be stronger evidence for repealing DADT than keeping it in place. Anthropological and psychological studies and theories connect sexual assault and violence to sexual repression. DADT clearly causes sexual repression among homosexuals, which (while not an excuse) could be a major factor in the “3x higher” number of incidents. It stands to reason that repealing DADT would be more likely reduce the number or sexual assaults by homosexuals than to increase it, in contrast to what Sprigg and the FRC have concluded from these numbers.