Factual · Powerful · Original · Iconoclastic
DEVIATIONISM: Michael Fumento, a legal affairs writer for The Washington Times, wrote an article for Commentary (November 1987) called ["The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS,"] suggesting that homosexuals, liberals-and even a few renegade conservatives-were using the epidemic for political ends, and suddenly the conservative world was his oyster.
He was hired as the AIDS specialist at that Reagan era cell of conservative thinking, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. He was contacted in March by a right-wing think tank and all but offered a prestigious fellowship in order to complete a book (commissioned by New Republic Books).
Then he published a second piece, in The New Republic (August 8), titled "The Political Uses of an Epidemic." This time, he expanded on a point briefly mentioned in the Commentary article, and concentrated on conservatives who were misrepresenting AIDS for political reasons.
Suddenly he was relieved of his AIDS duties at the commission and transferred to an unrelated job. (As a civil servant, he could not easily be fired.) He was ordered not to speak to reporters about this transfer. His fellowship also disappeared.
Then, on September 23, two commission officials appeared in his office and went through his files. The ostensible reason was to make sure he had turned over all AIDS materials to his successor in the job he had been hired for. The cultural similarity between today’s conservative zealots and the American Communists of the 1930s and 1940s has often been noted but perhaps never so vividly illustrated.
Fumento departed from the party line. He committed the sin of "deviationism." Retribution was swift.