Fag Bomb and Gay Bomb were two items reported in American journalism that reflected a homophobic worldview in the US military. Fag Bomb refers to a picture taken of a bomb with homophobic graffiti on it. Gay bomb refers to a project by the US military for using biochemical agents to make enemy soldiers engage in homosexual acts. In terms of homophobic American folk speech in general, “fag bomb” and “gay bomb” have gained status as insulting and hilarious folk speech within and outside the LGBTQ community.
On October 11, 2001, one month after the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center known as 9/11, a GBU-31 JDAM bomb was prepared for deployment in Afghanistan. The bomb had a message for Al Qaeda terrorists written on it: HIGH JACK THIS FAGS. A photograph of the bomb and its message was sent to the Associated Press (AP), and was published across the USA. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD) protested the photo. AP pulled it from the news and apologized, as did the Department of the Navy.
When examining the Fag Bomb from a Queer perspective, the insult sent to Al Qaeda operatives had nothing at all to do with their sexual orientation and everything to do with perceived American humiliation after 9/11, which demanded retaliation in the form of bombs, bullets, and battalions to penetrate and destroy the newly declared enemies of the United States. HIGH JACK THIS FAGS was a counter-insult in vulgar American folk speech meant to remove the effeminate and impotent status imposed on the USA after the country’s defenses were penetrated during the September 11 attacks. The phrase was in rebuttal to those attacks, and was designed to verbally and militarily effeminize Al Qaeda, the organization responsible for 9/11.
The Fag Bomb photograph was published when patriotic fervor was reaching its peak. Those responsible for its distribution assumed most Americans would find the message amusing and inspiring. But both the Navy and AP had professional ethics for maintaining a standard of professionalism, and the use of any word considered to be inappropriate in public discourse (including “fag”) was a breach of protocol, regardless of popular appeal.
For the US military, the continued censure received from LGBTQ groups over its policy of not allowing openly-Gay personnel to serve, the gradual change of popular opinion in favor of Gays in the military, and problems finding new recruits during wartime made the incident of the Fag Bomb an unwanted embarrassment.
In 1994, a six-year project was considered by the US military to create the Gay Bomb (also known as Poof Bomb), a weapon that would cause men to become homosexual. A report on the project was called “Harassing, Annoying and ‘Bad Guy’ Identifying Chemicals,” and was obtained by the Sunshine Project, a watchdog group that examined military spending, through the Freedom of Information Act.
Wright Laboratory in the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio was given seven and a half million dollars for non-lethal chemical weapons research. The report describes a series of weapons, including ones that would cause bad breath, flatulence (rejected because researchers felt that too many people in the world live with flatulence and the smell of feces without being adversely affected), and “Sting Me/Attack Me” pheromone-driven animal assaults as well as a weapon to cause homosexual behavior. The rationale behind the Gay Bomb as a “distasteful, but completely non-lethal” weapon was that uncontrollable same-sex desire among enemy troops would undermine their capacity as soldiers, and that “discipline and morale in enemy units [sic] is adversely affected.”
In 2005, news of the Gay Bomb was released to the media. Defense Department spokespersons said that “This suggestion … was rejected out of hand” from the start, and it was never seriously considered as a viable option. Nevertheless, references to the Gay Bomb were made in a CD-ROM distributed by the Pentagon’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) to military and governmental agencies in 2000. The Gay Bomb appeared again in 2001 when the JNLWD brought it before a scientific panel of the National Academy of Sciences.
LGBTQ activists stated that, in even considering such a bomb and on more than one occasion, such a project was evidence of what they considered to be profound ignorance, homophobia, and a juvenile worldview in the upper echelons of the military. In 2007, Wright Laboratory won the Ig Nobel Peace Prize by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine “for instigating research & development on a chemical weapon — the so-called ‘gay bomb’ — that will make enemy soldiers become sexually irresistible to each other.” No Air Force representatives attended the ceremony at the Sanders Theatre in Harvard University to accept the trophy, a plaque topped with a yellow statuette of a chicken attempting to swallow an oversized egg.
Related Topics: Fag Bomb Video and Dropping the Gay Bomb
Dropping the fag bomb is a folk reference to the act of insulting another person by calling them a fag. When placing the “HIGH JACK THIS FAGS” photograph within this context, a double layer of meaning is added to the Fag Bomb.
“Dropping the fag bomb” also specifically refers to using the phrase “your [sic] a fag” while communicating through text on the internet. A humorous video by Kirby Ferguson warning people against using the “your a fag” Fag Bomb (it would result in retaliation in kind, and shut down all discourse everywhere) was released to YouTube in response to the phrase’s popularity as a conversation-killing insult during online arguments. Kirby argues for Cold War détente where everyone is armed but nobody uses the weapon.
Dropping the gay bomb is revealing that somebody is homosexual. It is so named because of the shock factor involved, especially if the person in question is a celebrity, or is somebody close to the people to whom the revelation is made.
Legend of Homokaasu
Also on the internet is the legend of homokaasu (Finnish: “homo gas”), an odorless chemical agent purportedly used by the Roman Catholic Church against its enemies. Homokaasu is said to cause homosexuality, diarrhea, blindness, and deafness.
The legend originates in the writings (or “reports” as they are called on the web) of Paavo Rissanen, who wrote and spread his conspiracy theory in Helsinki in the late 1980s. He believed he had long been persecuted and poisoned by the secret police of the Vatican that created homokaasu and used it as a weapon against him and many others, such as Olof Palme, former prime minister of Sweden, who was assassinated in 1986.
Finnish netizens have incorporated “homokaasu” into their internet folklore as a source of humor and as an insider joke. The Sect of Homokaasu, a Finland-based internet group (www.homokaasu.org), included among its goals the mission to warn the public about homokaasu.
Gellerman, Bruce and Erik Sherman. Massachusetts Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities, and Other Offbeat Stuff. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2008.
Petras, Kathryn and Ross. Unusually Stupid Politicians: Washington’s Weak in Review. New York: Villard, 2007.
Wright laboratory. “Harassing, Annoying, and ‘Bad Guy’ Identifying Chemicals,” WL/FIVR, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, June 1, 1994.