“It’s a loaded subject, but let’s get right down to it: gay men, on average, die significantly younger than the rest of the population.” So begins “Gay Men Die 20 Years Younger,” an article posted on insure.com, a publicly traded online insurance brokerage. The source for the article is identified as none other than “Dr. Paul Cameron, the President of the Family Research Institute, [who] published a study in Psychological Reports that confirmed a 20-year life expectancy gap for actively gay men.”
The study in question in fact did nothing of the sort. Its author is a notorious anti-gay propagandist who for more than 25 years has circulated bogus, homophobic “research findings” in pay-to-publish vanity magazines like Psychological Reports (which will publish most anybody willing to pay $27.50 a page). Cameron’s goal, as he says quite candidly, is to provide “ammunition for those who want laws adopted banning homosexual acts throughout the United States.” (In fact, such laws were struck down as unconstitutional by the 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.) Cameron’s propaganda is so transparently false and aimed merely at defaming homosexuals that the Southern Poverty Law Center added his Family Research Institute to its list of hate groups in 2005.
One of Cameron’s most infamous works is his 1983 “gay obituary study,” for which he used obituaries published in gay newspapers at the height of the AIDS crisis to conclude that gay men die on average at 43. “Gay Men Die 20 Years Younger,” which was written by insure.com company blogger Joseph White, is obviously based on the gay obituary study, even though Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, thoroughly debunked the study in 1997 in the online magazine Slate.
The average age of death for AIDS victims, Olson noted, was about 40. For Cameron’s figure of 43 years old to hold true, he pointed out, gay people who never contract AIDS must have a life expectancy of no more than 46 years — a truly absurd proposition. “Looked at another way,” Olson reported, “if even half the gay male population stays HIV-negative and lives to an average age of 75, an average overall life span of 43 implies that gay males with AIDS die at an implausibly early age (11, actually).”
Despite Cameron’s total lack of credibility and professional accreditation — he was expelled from the American Psychological Association in 1983 for ethical violations — his work is often cited favorably by anti-gay hate groups, and it still pops up regularly in conservative religious sermons.
But what’s it doing on insure.com?
Although insure.com is a regular sponsor of conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly’s radio show, by all appearances it’s an established mainstream business website. Insure.com, which describes itself as “an online consumer insurance information service” that allows visitors to obtain insurance quotes from more than 200 leading insurers, regularly wins Web design and Web commerce awards. The site is not a public discussion forum. Its owners strictly control its content, and the vast majority of its articles — described as “a vast library of originally authored insurance articles … not available from any other source” —deal with topics like quarterly car insurance rate reports and tips for discussing rider policies with a homeowners insurance agent. It’s hardly a typical venue for promoting the work of a raving homophobe like Cameron, who once said: “Homosexuality is an infectious appetite. It is like the dog that gets a taste for blood after killing its first victim and desires to get more victims thereafter with a ravenous hunger.”
Last month, bloggers at boxturtlebulletin.com, which delivers “news analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric,” privately contacted insure.com CEO Robert Bland to make sure that Bland knew all about Cameron’s background, including his praise for Nazi Rudolph Höss, commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, for how he “dealt with” gays. The bloggers went public after Bland wrote back, informing them he had no intention of removing the article from the website. “It contains no factual errors and no editorial bias or slant whatsoever,” Bland wrote in a July 12 post to the boxturtlebulletin.com comments section.
Addressing the implications of Cameron’s findings for the life insurance industry, the insure.com article concludes that despite the gross disparity in life spans, “no life insurance companies charge elevated rates to gay men. Then again, perhaps the issue is still too sensitive for such realistic evaluation.”
Bland, in his correspondence with the boxturtlebulletin bloggers, indicated his belief that such a “realistic evaluation” should be based at least in part on the work of Paul Cameron: “There’s a human interest story to be researched here on why all U.S. life insurers decline HIV-positive applicants (many of whom are healthy and have been for two decades) but will not even attempt to segregate gays who, according to a growing body of evidence, may have a much shorter lifespan than non-gays.”