Those who forget history, or who willfully ignore it, are doomed to repeat it, which is why it should worry you that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capital has been dismissed by Republicans as a routine visit by some rowdy but well meaning tourists. Reshaping this history to fit a political narrative serves Republican interests since they are really into authoritarianism. A destabilized country is really a win for them.
It’s in that spirit that Dennis Prager, conservative talk radio host and co-founder of the propaganda machine PragerU, has conveniently forgotten the history of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.
Appearing on Newsmax, a propaganda program claiming to be news, Prager says that “non-vaccinated are the pariahs of America, as I have not seen in my lifetime. Any pariah group like this.”
According to Wikipedia, Prager was born in 1948. And he’s never seen a group of people treated worse than today’s unvaccinated? Really? What about Black Americans? This man was very much alive during the height of the civil rights movement. He surely saw Black people treated like pariahs. Even if he didn’t see it with his own eyes, it was all over the news! Did this man never see or read a paper?
Of course he did. When he says that he hasn’t seen any other group as mistreated and marginalized as unvaccinated people, what he really means is he hasn’t seen any other group that he didn’t believe deserved it.
Then he says this gaslighting bullshit: “During the AIDS crisis, can you imagine if gay men and intravenous drug users, who were the vast majority of people with AIDS, had they been pariahs the way the non-vaccinated are?”
Excuse me, what?
First of all, intravenous drug users were and still are treated like pariahs in a country that considers addiction a personal moral failing rather than as a disease. Secondly, gay men were treated like absolute garbage during the AIDS crisis. Gay men were dying and nobody cared. President Reagan wouldn’t even utter the word “AIDS,” and his administration’s inaction made the epidemic even worse. Read “And the Band Played On” by Randy Shilts.
This was NOT A GOOD TIME FOR GAYS. Not only were many people getting sick and dying, but there were little to no legal protections at all, which means that men who lost a partner could, and did, lose the home they shared and be barred from attending the funeral by their partner’s family.
But Prager says that this “would’ve been inconceivable. And it should have been inconceivable. They should not have been made pariahs.”
But, as Kevin Kruse pointed out on Twitter, Prager himself wanted AIDS to be stigmatized as a “gay man’s disease.”
In a 2008 Town Hall piece about AIDS in the ‘80s, Prager writes, “Even the natural sciences are increasingly subject to being rendered a means to a ‘progressive’ end. There was the pseudo-threat of heterosexual AIDS in America — science manipulated in order to de-stigmatize AIDS as primarily a gay man’s disease and to increase funding for AIDS research.”
In other words, if it had been up to Prager, AIDS would have stayed a pariah-making disease of gay men, and there certainly wouldn’t have been funding to support them.
And he was still preaching this garbage in 2016, as the New Civil Rights Movement points out, when Prager was speaking about leftist “hysteria” on James Dobson’s show.
“I will just give you a few examples of the hysterias of your lifetime,” Prager says. “One was heterosexual AIDS in America. Do you remember that? When we were told by Time and Newsweek and The New York Times, remember when they said AIDS doesn’t discriminate? Well, that was a lie. AIDS does discriminate. It happens to attack in America — and I emphasize in America — overwhelmingly, gay men and intravenous drug users and his partners. You know the group least likely to get AIDS? Gay women. So it can’t be homophobic to say the truth.”
And who could possibly consider that stunning example of homophobia homophobic? Beats me.
In case you were wondering, “But is Prager terrible in other ways?” The answer is yes. For example, he calls global warming an “idiotic, irrational, sick fear.”
“It’s a different America,” he tells the Newsmax host.
Indeed, it is. It’s an America that is emerging from a pandemic that has already killed over 750,000 people in this country and kept millions of people from seeing the people they love or doing the things they love for more than a year. So, when someone refuses to get vaccinated based on lies and conspiracy theories? Go ahead, make them pariahs. They’ve earned it.
D’Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.