Huckabee, “Ick,” And Anti-Intellectualism

Mike Huckabee used the fiercely loyal Fox New stage this weekend to justify his remarks that an “Ick factor” plays into his anti-gay politics. Rather than owning up to an offensive word choice, Huckabee tried to shuck the blame to a gay journalist, whose coining of the term apparently makes it politically correct. It was a clever ploy, yes, but does nothing to hide Huckabee and his ilk’s true problem: anti-intellectualism.

With a bit of time to kill at the end of their interview Sunday, Fox News man Chris Wallace turned the conversation to Huckabee’s latest gay scandal: Huckabee told the New Yorker, “Male and female are biologically compatible to have a relationship. We can get into the Ick factor, but the fact is two men in a relationship, two women in a relationship, biologically, that doesn’t work the same.” Asked how he felt about gay outrage over his remarks, Huckabee offered some roundabout finger-pointing, complete with an Obama link and intimation that we gays are a secretive society:

[The] term actually comes from a gay magazine called The Edge in which the author, Joseph Erbentraut, interviewed Professor Martha Nussbaum from — one of Barack Obama’s colleagues, University of Chicago. She uses a term “projected disgust.” He, in the interview, coined this phrase…. That phrase was not mine. It actually is a phrase that exists within the gay community. But somehow it’s OK if they talk about it, but if someone else talks about it, it’s off bounds.

[Gays] really don’t want their own discussion to be brought into the public square. It’s a little bit disingenuous on their part to make it.

Well, Huckabee, actually this isn’t a “discussion” we gays have among ourselves. If you actually read Erbentraut’s article, you would see that “Ick factor,” though perhaps used first by a gay journalist, describes an overarching social trend, and one that I think most gays would agree is an alarming one. What’s more, you’re wrong: Erbentraut didn’t coin the term. It was Nussbaum. From the Edge article:

According to Nussbaum’s theory, those opposed to same-sex marriage, for example, maintain their beliefs largely due to an underlying, subconscious feeling of disgust at the thought of what defines “gay” as, well, gay – as well as lesbian as lesbian: What is done in the bedroom.

Socially conservative, anti-gay political leaders capitalize on these feelings, transforming them, often, into victories in the voting booth. In many cases, they’ve been successful, providing ammo to activists who feel the attacks beg confrontation.

Real life political issues, like gay marriage, are boiled down to puerile contempt, which politicians like Huckabee then exploit to their electoral advantage. But that isn’t even the largest problem in Huckabee’s parsing. It’s the fact that he refuses to delve into the seriousness of the matter at hand.

Conservatives have a long-history of anti-intellectualism. To be brainy means that one’s removed from the common people, people whom anti-intellectualists implicitly believe to be ignorant. Huckabee not only buys into that trend; he keeps it alive.

If Huckabee were a true statesman, he would take the time to weigh both sides of a debate, rather than trying to pass the buck along to a “disingenuous” population who already has enough burdens to bear. Anti-intellectualism, like “the Ick factor,” is not just a projection. It’s a lack of action, consideration and thought. By relying on such a lackadaisical justification for his blatant homophobia, Huckabee’s not only looks like a bit of a bigot, he looks like a bozo.

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