Should NASA Name a Telescope After a Dead Guy Who Persecuted Gay People in the 1950s?

Comments

1
A space telescope shouldn't be named for a NASA Administrator/Political Appointee. It should be named for a Scientist or an important astronomer like Kepler or Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi? (discoverer of the Andromeda Galazy)

Why in the world is an Administrator even considered? It like naming the Carl Vinson as an Aircraft Carrier...
2
Sure, why not?

If the 0.1% can have the Seattle Mayor appoint two Seattle School Board members instead of having the non-billionaire 99.9% vote for them, then why not name this after some other idiot?
3
@1 Excellent point. Gus Grissom deserves something named after him. Second American in space and first Mercury astronaut to die (along with two Apollo trainees), due to a stupid oxygen-fed fire during a capsule training exercise. NASA owes him.
5
What @1 said. I'm not seeing any indication Mr. Webb had any exemplary role in these programs. Name a cafeteria sandwich after him that no one in good conscience will eat, he's not exactly Edwin Hubble. Who on Earth even nominated him for this honor?
6
hey, he was just doing his job! like a meter maid. or a climate change denier. or a Guantanamo camp guard.

hate the game not the player.
7
If they were naming a State Department building for him, it would be inappropriate. Naming a telescope after him does not seem inappropriate.
8
Relative to this,

http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2015/01/2…

he seems like an ally.
9
For once I agre with Ken Mehlman. Wonders never cease.

Maybe we're all suffering from outrage fatigue, but yeah, I'm more outraged by Santorum, Huckabee, Scalia, Brian Brown, Maggie Gallagher... There's a long list of people to be outraged over that are fucking up gay people's lives right now, today. Who has time to be outraged over some asshole who was fucking up gay people's lives a half a century ago?
10
This is personally a toughie for me. On the one hand, I fully appreciate why members of a community once persecuted by Webb & his fellow bureaucrats might take issue with his being memorialized in this fashion; just as I accept the criticism by token of his non-scientific credentials. On the other hand, had it not been for Webb's administrative and D.C. insider skills, we might not have ever gotten to the moon. But, on the other-other hand, NASA during this same time period was literally crawling with ex-Nazi's (including most notably Wernher von Braun and Walter Dornberger, both of whom, had it not been for the intervention of U.S. Military Intelligence probably would have been tried for war crimes), so it's not like there weren't plenty of dirty hands to go around.
12
You need to move the break a little. If people don't follow the link, it seems like you are saying Kos is a gay hero. He's a hero, but pretty straight, judging from his wife and kids.
13
If he was still around today he very likely would treat gay people very differently than he did then.

Nearly all the old people I know have drastically changed their attitudes about gay people as the lies they'd been taught were exposed as lies. They didn't know they'd been brought up on hogwash.

It's the current crop of religious and "conservative" bigots we should reserve our strength for - they have all the facts at their disposal, and they still spread lies and do their best to damage our lives. Enjoy the telescope, and let it's name go.
14
@3: I like your idea.
15
@4 The telescope should be named for an astronomer or at least an important scientist like Einstein or Ludwig Boltzmann, or even someone who helped bring stellar and solar astronomy to the masses like Carl Sagan, or even Stephen Hawkings..
17
i like what #1 and #3 said, but bureaucrats and paper pushers are important! if we are to not choose names on the basis of ill deeds, let's change the name of america too; vespucci was a slaver.
18
Gus Grissom deserves a telescope, or a space probe, or a satellite.
19
ECarpenter (13) makes an excellent argument. My grandfather was the same way about gays and African-Americans...until the grandson he raised (me), started educating him. When I was a teenager I had friends who were African American and I told my grandfather not to refer to them by the "n" word. After he was told and learned how hurtful it was, he stopped. He was still really weird about gay folks until I came out to him years later. James Webb was no more or less prejudiced than the average person. We squander precious energy being outraged at people who lived in a time when not allowing gays to work in the government or military spheres was distressingly routine. I'm with Dan. I have enough problems to draw my attention in the here and now, than to get upset about the guy getting a space telescope named after him. The people who have no excuse (like the above mentioned Brian Brown, Tony Perkins, and Maggie Gallagher, et. al.) draw my ire. I am in academia, I have Mark Regnerus and his loathsome ilk to occupy my time.
20
I'm with those who say that it shouldn't be named after him because he simply doesn't deserve it.

Name it after Sagan. Or pretty much any other astronomer or science educator. Not some bureaucrat.
21
His work is actually very deserving of the honor. People here are betraying their prejudice against peole who do very key work for the sciences. Opposing it on the basis of his persecution of homosexuals is much more valid than "he's not a scientist."
22
I third the suggestion of naming the 'scope for Gus Grissom. I wouldn't assume he had particularly enlightened views of The Gays, but Grissom's role in Mercury and Gemini -- and his tragic death in the Apollo fire -- greatly advanced the manned spaceflight program.

23
This is why I like Dan. A voice of reason.

We on the intellectual left are always talking about the importance of social construction and context in creating and perpetuating bad shit.

Well, helloooo, we have to contextualize historical prejudice and bigotry as well. So yes, name the telescope after him, and prominently feature on the future NASA biography Webb Telescope web page (Webb page?) the bad shit too so as to have a teaching moment about the flawed complexities of humans, including those who do great stuff.
24
I think the earlier comments were right. He didn't do enough with his early work to justify this honor. We name things after Washington and Jefferson because they did huge things (and we overlook the fact that they owned slaves). This guy didn't do huge things. And he was a dick.

I have trouble with the concept that "everyone felt that way". Just as their were plenty of abolitionists back in 1776, there were plenty of more nuanced views towards homosexuality in the 1950s. To be clear, very few supported gay marriage. But a lot of people were OK with homosexuality as long as guys weren't effeminate. In other words, "you can be gay, just don't be flaming gay". Such attitudes might seem offensive now, but back then it was the difference between "whatever, I don't care what you do in your own time" and "let's kick his ass, or ruin his life". There were plenty of people in that first category. Webb was in the second.

But Webb's record is not being challenged because he felt that way, or even felt that homosexuality was a sin. He is being challenged because he was a dick. Remove the word "homosexuals" from that cited paragraph, and it is clear that he was a dick. He was part of the whole paranoid McCarthy/Nixon campaign that destroyed the lives of many, many innocent people, in the name of patriotism. He was an administrator who probably would never have run NASA had he not cut his teeth on the bones of many innocent Americans (he loved the gays -- they were especially tasty). That's the thing -- unlike Washington or Jefferson, Webb was a dick and it played a part in his being successful and eventually getting the job that is the key to this honor. It is important.

For an administrator to be nominated, he would have to do extraordinary things, or have a solid, lifetime government record. He doesn't. I much prefer the idea of naming the telescope after Gus Grissom. Why not name the greatest telescope in the world after an American astronaut and hero?
25
24 x billions and billions
26
We should acknowledge the failings of historical figures, partially because it should instill a little humility (if the founding fathers could be slave-owners, what accepted practices or beliefs do we support that will be seen as obviously wrong in 50-100 years?). But, if you disqualify people for believing what almost everyone in their time believed, you disqualify everyone eventually. We should all be aware that even if we are on top of (a majority of) the issues of our time, we almost certainly have some beliefs that will be seen as offensive or stupid in 100 years.