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Reality: No Match for Television

I saw this on InstaPundit yesterday and have been meaning to write about it. At the Atlantic, Garance Franke-Ruta notes Gallup polls that indicate most Americans think around a quarter of our population is gay. The mean is 24.6%, up from 21.7% just eight years ago. An astonishing 35% believe that more than one-quarter of all people are homosexuals. In fact, the number is around two to three percent. So the average poll respondent is off by 1,000%.

My interest here is not the specific topic of homosexuality, but rather the fact that people’s perceptions are so wildly at odds with reality. How on Earth can the average American believe that one-quarter of the men and women he sees every day are gay? Does that make any possible sense? Are one-quarter of your relatives gay, or your co-workers or neighbors? Of course not (unless you live in certain precincts of San Francisco). Glenn Reynolds’s explanation, perhaps tongue in cheek, was that there are so many gays on television, and I think that must be at least part of the answer. A vastly disproportionate number of characters in TV sitcoms and dramas are homosexual. A second and closely related factor is that homosexuality features disproportionately as a theme in movies, books and so on. It is an extraordinary instance of culture eclipsing reality.

Another factor, along with the fictional world of television, books and movies, is the news. In recent years, news coverage of gay-related issues has been intense. Gay marriage, in particular, has been omnipresent in the news. Subliminally, many people probably assume that if gay marriage is such a big issue, there must be a lot of gays.

I can think of at least one analogy to the misapprehension of the frequency of homosexuality that Gallup documents. Some years ago, I saw survey data on how likely Americans believe they are to be murdered. The result was that in general, people vastly overestimate the likelihood of violent death. No doubt the reasons are similar to why they overestimate the incidence of homosexuality. As I recall, that research showed that the more television people watch, the more likely they believe they are to be murdered.

The phenomenon is a disconcerting one. How many murder victims have you known? Probably none; certainly not many. Murder is no longer one of the top 15 causes of death. Murder victims are rarer than gays, by a wide margin. What is worrisome about all of this is that our news and entertainment media have the power to convey an impression of the world that, for most people, is more powerful than their own experience of reality. We are, most of us, living in a world that is part reality but mostly something else. Draw what conclusions you will.

UPDATE: At The Corner, Mark Steyn linked to my post under the title “The Unbearable Straightness of Being.” One problem for those who promote the gay agenda, he points out, is the shortage of actual gays:

I’d add that the schools talk about it non-stop. At my kids’ tiny and pitifully non-diverse rural grade-school, by Second or Third Grade the class wags are minded to declare themselves gay just to make the dear old guidance counselor feel her work has not been in vain. My favorite example of “culture eclipsing reality” is the poignant tale I cited recently of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Pembroke Academy in New Hampshire:

The school-approved GSA began five years ago with an ambitious platform of exciting gay activities. “They had plans for group events, like bake sales and car washes, but they never came to pass,” explained Ms Yackanin, the social studies teacher who served as the GSA’s first advisor.

From a lack of gay bake sales and gay car washes, the GSA has now advanced to a lack of gays. “The students just stopped coming,” said Mrs McCrum, the new Spanish teacher who took over the GSA at the start of this school year. This is the homophobic reality of our education system: a school gay group that has everything it needs except gays. Mrs Yackanin is reported by the Pembroke Academy paper as “saying to heterosexuals that the GSA is a resource for the entire school community.” C’mon, you guys, what’s wrong with you? No penetrative sex with other boys is required, or even heavy petting. It’s all about getting together in the old school spirit and organizing a gay car wash.

Given the relentless but boring propagandizing of the culture, I would expect the Gallup trend to continue: By 2020, polls will show that Americans think 87 per cent of people are gay, and Pembroke Academy will have made participation in the gay bake sale compulsory.

Somehow, heterosexuality persists. I actually have a theory as to why that is; the Miss USA pageant was tonight.

Recommend this Power Line article to your Facebook friends.

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