6 Silly Narratives About the Gay Marriage Ruling and the Confederate Flag Flap

confederate-gay-flag

What, the world is still standing? After the Confederate flag started coming down and the rainbow flag started popping up in a single week, the word on the street was that The Final Days were at hand. Although the two developments had little if anything in common, the same reactionaries tended to react to both, and in a similar fashion. And they did their damnedest to squeeze both into a cohesive narrative of degeneration, persecution, oppression, and ominousness.

If you thought the cultural purge over the Confederate flag was breathtaking — wait until you see what LGBT activists do with Christians.  (Todd Starnes of Fox “News”)

Talk show host Bryan Fischer, who evidently can get better drugs than you can, commented about the Court’s ruling, “I saw Satan dancing with delight”. And of the backlash against the Confederate flag he said:

If we are going to remove symbols of oppression from our culture, if we come to the point where we say any flag that represents bigotry, any flag that represents hatred, any flag that represents slavery or oppression needs to be removed, then I want to suggest to you that the next flag to go ought to be the rainbow flag of the Gay Reich.

Fischer is a one-person Bartlett’s of loony right-wing soundbites. As is this guy:

This could well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back – that camel being the up till now silent, passive Americans who have been cowed into “tolerating” societal changes that go counter to their fundamental beliefs (Allen West)

These people have been silent and passive up until now??? Heaven knows what kind of earplugs we’re going to need if they ever decide to start mouthing off. West and Fischer didn’t go it alone, of course, but had plenty of other people echoing their inflammatory rhetoric.

“Today is some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history”, lamented Ted Cruz to Sean Hannity of fairandbalanced Fox “News”, who promptly agreed, “I couldn’t have said it more eloquently”. (All too true, alas.) Which presumably puts this ruling right up there with Pearl Harbor, the JFK assassination, and the same court’s hijacking of the presidential election in 2000.

Some individuals mused about what would happen if a gay couple wanted to put a Confederate flag on their wedding cake — would the baker have to oblige? Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. This is a simple conflation of a hypothetical refusal to portray a certain image on a cake with a hypothetical refusal to serve an entire class of citizens.

Other responses to these disparate events didn’t necessarily try deliberately to bundle them together, but did often place them on parallel tracks. Here are six of the most frequent narratives.

Silly Narrative #1: It’s an anti-American thing

Many Americans responded joyously to the news of the Supreme Court’s decision by decking out their Facebook pages with the rainbow flag. Not to be outdone, many right-wing reactionaries responded in protest by draping their pages with the American flag. Huh??? How exactly is that supposed to be a protest? Is it intended to suggest that gays aren’t really Americans? Not even James Buchanan, a gay U.S. president who was elected more than 150 years ago? If they are Americans, how can it be un-American for them to get married?

The reactionaries also denounced it as un-American that some people aren’t in love with the Confederate battle banner. Just try wrapping your head around that one for a moment.  The Confederacy, lest we forget, was a treasonous faction that fought  an extremely bloody war against the United States Of America, brandishing this very flag – a battle fought primarily (contrary to revisionist spin) for the “right” to enslave and oppress an entire race. (Note that the iconic X-flag so often displayed was not the official national flag of the Confederacy itself, but a flag specifically designed for military forces.) Yet now, many self-proclaimed “patriots” proudly celebrate their Dixie “heritage” by exhibiting this symbol of bigotry, tyranny, insurrection and violence alongside the Stars and Stripes they claim to revere.

Silly Narrative #2. It’s a government overstepping thing

How dare the government try to dictate to us what flags we can and cannot fly? Well, don’t look now, but the big bad guvmint has done no such thing. What did happen was that the government of South Carolina, via due democratic  process, resolved to stop rubbing its “proud tradition” of insurrection and oppression in the public’s face, and no longer fly the Dixie rag on government property. And a few retail chains decided, of their own volition, to stop selling such emblems, at a loss in profits to themselves – the free enterprise system at its finest. But nobody is trying to tell you that you can’t fly that flag in your own yard or stick it under the gun rack on the back of your pickup or even tattoo the damn thing on your scrotum if you choose to.

And the Supreme Court decision? Though reactionaries have almost unanimously bemoaned that the Court has “redefined” marriage, it has done no such thing; what it has done is extend the right to get married to all Americans. Don’t look now, but governments at various levels have been dictating for a long time who can and can’t get married. The Supreme Court just put an end to that. You’d think that anti-guvmint fanatics would be out dancing in the streets along with Satan rather than bitching and wringing their hands over the impending End Of The World As We Know It.

Silly Narrative # 3: It’s a political correctness/ liberal tyranny thing

Ah yes, political correctness. It’s been the source of many wretched excesses, hasn’t it? Actually, it would be very hard to find a single example of supposed “political correctness” or “liberal hypocrisy” that pans out to be anything like it’s portrayed by right-wing reactionaries – who never bother to define what political correctness is really supposed to be. We just gather that it’s something often perpetrated by them librulz – who are never really defined either. But apparently both are identified with progressives and the Democratic Party, which sometimes at least makes a pretense of being progressive.  And that makes the reactions to recent events very curious indeed.

Right-wing reactionaries are very fond of reminding us, when it suits their purposes, that it was the “Democrat” Party that was on the wrong side of slavery and the Civil War – and pretending that the two parties haven’t changed a whit in the interim.  The governor of South Carolina who spearheaded the movement to remove the Confederate flag form the capitol, Nikki Haley, is herself a Republican. (She’s also a native of her state, contrary to assertions by the eternally clueless Ann Coulter.) As is a solid majority of the state legislature that voted to back her up.

Meanwhile, many of these reactionaries would prefer to forget that there are a good many gay Republicans (though it’s hard to fathom why), and even an official organization for them, the Log Cabin Republicans. Furthermore, the Supreme Court justice who cast the tie-breaking vote to legalize gay marriage was appointed by none other than St. Ronald himself.

Silly Narrative # 4: It’s a First Amendment/ religious freedom thing

Even though nobody is saying that you can’t buy or fly a flag (see above), some people see the recent reactions to its presence as, somehow or other, an incursion against freedom of expression. Evidently, that freedom is supposed to apply only to people who love the Rebel banner, not to those who don’t.

If you think that’s batty, try this: many of them also believe that the court’s ruling damages, somehow or other , “religious freedom”.  Both reactions seem to be predicated on the notion that freedom is a finite commodity; and whatever you grant to one person, you must take from someone else. They see no irony in proclaiming that gay marriage tramples their First Amendment rights because their religious beliefs should dictate the actions of everyone; and they forget, if they ever knew, that not so terribly long ago, Good Christians believed that God gave them the right to fly their Confederate flags over their slave shacks.

Okay, we get it:  many fundamentalists hate “Sodomites”. No, wait, we mustn’t put it that way. It’s really all God’s fault – He’s the one who’s declared that they’re “sinners”, and so the fundies are just following His wishes by condemning them. Yeah, that’s the ticket. And while they can’t prove it by quoting Jesus, who never seems to have gotten around to mentioning homosexuality at all, they can pull up an out-of-context injunction from the Bronze Age code laid out in the Old Testament that seems to support their cause –while ignoring even more draconian passages from the same book, including one that instructs them to sell their daughters into slavery.

Well, guess what? If hating fags – oops, mustn’t use that word – if condemning fags unto hellfire is part of your religious bag, you’re under no obligation to stop it just on account of 9 guys and gals in black robes.  You don’t have to like gays or gaydom. You don’t have to perform or attend gay weddings. You don’t have to enter into a gay marriage yourself. You don’t even have to give up your own marriage.

Please note, however, that this does not mean you always can use religion as a shield against the responsibilities of doing your job; most employers either want you to do your duties, quit, or be dismissed. This is particularly true if your employer happens to be a government entity, because government entities in the U.S. are committed, officially at least, to non-discrimination.  You have the option to comply with that commitment or step aside and make room for someone who will. But it’s entirely your choice, not an assault on your “religious freedom”.

Here’s a helpful tip, free of charge. If you really and truly believe that gay weddings somehow infringe on your religious freedom, then maybe it’s really, really time you started shopping around for a new religion.

Silly Narrative # 5: It’s a slippery slope thing

The “slippery slope” is one of the favorite tropes of the reactionary crowd to just about anything they don’t approve of.  Rarely do any of those things actually involve a bona fide slippery slope – don’t hold your breath until wingers get their thongs in a bunch over environmental desecration, for instance. But the decision to remove the Rebel banner from government property and certain retail outlets? Totally different thing, doncha know. After all, let THEM, whoever they are, snatch away the Confederate flag, however exactly they’re doing that, and they’re certain to do the same to the flag of the Confederacy’s enemy number one. Makes sense in a very nonsensical sort of way.

The pants-pissing over gay marriage is even more intensely Jeremiah-ish. For a long time, the reactionaries have been warning that if gays are allowed the same rights and rites as us unperverted folk, it well lead to all sorts of sexual aberration: polygamy (you know, like certain right-wing Mormons), bestiality, pedophilia, marrying your sofa, etc, etc.

Some people in the Alex Jones/Glenn Beck brigade are even warning, with cobbled evidence too scant to even qualify as tenuous, that pedophiles already have been inspired to make a drive toward legitimizing their thing under the same logic that gays have legitimized theirs. Well hey, it wouldn’t be unheard of for fringe groups to try to capitalize on a court case; but it certainly doesn’t mean they’ll succeed in that laughable endeavor.  They’d have to make it past the courts. And courts, however radical, will surely understand that there is a big difference between matrimony involving two consenting adults and predatory behavior toward minors. Almost everybody understands that. Even right-wing reactionaries understand that. Don’t they?

Silly Narrative # 6: It’s a (insert inappropriate analogy) thing

Naturally, one way to convince people how terrible these two events were was to compare them to other things that people already know are terrible. We’ve already seen how some commentators suggested that “banning” the Confederate flag (which Bill O’Reilly said stands for “bravery”) will almost certainly lead to “banning” the U.S. flag. Chairman of the South Carolina League of the South Pat Hines, meanwhile, characterized the movement to remove the flag from his state’s capitol as “cultural genocide”, while a certain perennially pompous radio talk show host declared it was all about “destroying the South as a political force”.

When it comes to excoriating court rulings they don’t like, wingers have a favorite whipping boy that they frequently juxtapose with Roe V. Wade:

What if no one had acted in disobedience to the Dred Scott decision of 1857? What if the entire country had capitulated to judicial tyranny and we just said that because the Supreme Court said in 1857 said that a black person wasn’t fully human… (Mike Huckabee)

It hardly could be a worse comparison. The Dred Scott ruling limited the freedom of an entire class of people while the current ruling expands the freedom of an entire class of people.

And there was a whole truckload of other inappropriate comparisons, including these:

Next we’ll get the arena and the lions, get the arena and the lions and bring them in from Tunisia.  (Michael Savage)

Essentially, this is gay Sharia … “Love” has won; now it’s time to shoot the prisoners– (columnist John Zmirak)

I fear for our country, quite frankly, because this is a spiritual 9/11. (Tim Wildmon, American Family Association)

I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch.  (Mike Huckabeeagain)

June 26, 2015: a date which will live in infamy. (Bryan Fischer, yet again)

What’s next? What’s next is what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. It is just a question of how soon the wrath of God is going to come on this land. (Pat Robertson)

And of course when all else fails, there’s always a certain short dictator with a funny mustache:

…the parallels to Germany in the Thirties… when German people had no idea where this was really going to end up… (talk show host Eric Metaxas

Are you okay with a baker saying that he’s not going to make any goods for a Nazi party rally? (Bill O’Reilly)

Another obligatory tactic is to suggest that rejection of intolerance constitutes intolerance itself, at least as intolerant as the intolerance it isn’t tolerating. Forty percent of the American public still disapproves of gay marriage, the reactionaries say, so why shouldn’t their wishes be respected too? Would they say the same if forty percent disapproved of interracial or interfaith marriage? Besides, who says their wishes aren’t being respected? Nobody’s forcing them into a gay marriage. (See above.)

Well, here we are two months later, and Obama’s storm troopers still haven’t raided anyone’s house to search for Dixie flags or hetero marriage licenses. Nobody has married their alpaca or DVD player. And God hasn’t unleashed a plague of locusts on America. In fact, the results of these two actions have been overwhelmingly positive; while there have been zero negative consequences. Get back to me in 20 years if any of that changes.

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Gay Activism and the Christian Persecution Complex: Playing Chikin

Unless you’ve spent the last couple of weeks orbiting Jupiter and have had problems with satellite transmission, you’ve surely heard all about the Chick-Fil-A flap. And you’ve no doubt been bombarded with the official spin that it’s another case of librul intolerance and librul hypocrisy, and above all raging anti-religion, or at least anti-Christianity. Never mind that most American “liberals” and most American gays are themselves Christians. The facts don’t make nearly as marketable a story, nor nearly as passionate fundraising fodder, as the hypocrisy/ intolerance/ Christian persecution narrative.

To hear the outraged Jeremiahs tell it, one would get the impression that it’s progressives and gays who have been busily passing laws to prevent fundamentalist fanatics from marrying each other (please, no jokes about how it might be a good idea at least to prohibit them from breeding). Although marriage equality isn’t really the half of it, as this, the most perceptive of commentaries on the subject, so deftly lays out. But come to think of it, it isn’t just Christians, or even just fundamentalist fanatics, who are manipulating public opinion. It’s the pundits, the ones who get paid for it — though they have plenty of followers willing to parrot whatever they churn out. My hat is really off to them this time; they’ve really outdone themselves. I kneel in awe at their self-righteous feet.

They love to say that “it’s not about gays, it’s about religion”. They’re almost half right. It’s really not about religion either, for the most part. It’s about politics.  This is part of a very focused campaign by right-wing extremists to attack “liberals” (although some of them have wised up to the fact that the public has wised up to the fact that “liberal” is a nebulous, heavily abused word, and have started saying “progressives” instead) by portraying them as guilty of the very intolerance and persecution they decry.

They apparently figure if they can pick out enough incidents in which people who may or may not be classifiable as liberal/ progressive may or may not be guilty of what may or may not be intolerance, these all will stack up to some sort of blanket generalization. It’s a tall order, but they are ardently devoting every waking minute to it.

Don’t believe it? Just look at the media articles and blog posts about the incident, and see how many of them connect it to liberals/ progressives and use the word intolerance.  It’s as if they believe that all  progressives think alike on everything. They seem oblivious to the fact that many progressives, while they may disapprove of Chick-Fil-A’s stance, think the reactions of the Muppets, of Mayor Menino of Boston, and of Mayor Emmanuel of Chicago, went too far. Even Mayor Menino acknowledged that he’d been wrong to suggest that he could prevent the franchise from setting up shop in Beantown (it would be beyond his authority to do so). Such things tend to get ignored because they don’t  fit the narrative.

Who’s on The First?

One prong of the attack is the First Amendment angle. Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy, the spin goes, is being crucified for exercising his freedom of speech, and he was just making a personal declaration that had nothing to do with his business practices. Beep, beep! Double bullshit alert! If Cathy indeed had done nothing more than make bigoted and boneheaded pronouncements, chances are there would have been no problem. It’s not just a matter of his right to sanctimoniously condemn someone else’s “lifestyle”. The problem is that he also puts his money where his mouth is. Lots and lots and lots of money.

During the past few years, Chick-Fil-A has donated millions to organizations (often with beatific names featuring the words “Christian” and/or “family”) that blatantly promote disinformation about and discrimination against gays. One of them is Exodus International, which long claimed to be able to “cure” homosexuality. Two of its (male) founders renounced the organization and became lovers. Other former leaders of the group have apologized for its activities, and admitted that Exodus “cured” no one (no shit, Sherlock), and even did great harm to much of its clientele. With an intensive campaign to scurrilously portray homosexuals as deviants with sinister purposes — even as predators upon children — Exodus International actually may have contributed to  violent attacks, even the killing of gays. But Dan Cathy still has no problem supporting it in the name of “Biblical principles” — which evidently include lying to his loyal customers.

Well hey, he’s got a point. Condemnation of gays really is in accordance with Biblical principle. So is anything else you can dream up — you can dig up something in the Bible to support absolutely anything you choose to believe. But it’s hardly a Christian principle, since there is no record of Jesus ever saying anything on the topic of homosexuality. (And the big irony here is that while all the Biblical imprecations against gays come from the Old Testament, Christians are far more likely to be homophobic than Jews.) It says right there in the Book of Leviticus:

And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Wait a minute.  Put to death???  Has Cathy ever stoned a gay person? If not, then he isn’t really and truly following Biblical principle, and so perhaps he should go stone himself. He may have to wait in line; he also has a stoning due because his restaurants serve pork in violation of God’s instructions. And another because they stay open on Saturday (the Sabbath). They also, by the way, traffic in extreme animal cruelty, but it might be harder to ferret out a Biblical principle against that, given how many ritual sacrifices the scriptures demand.

Free But Not For Thee

The “free speech” meme took a truly bizarre turn when a fellow named Adam Smith decided it would be, somehow, an effective statement of protest if he made a video of himself voicing his disapproval to a low-level Chick-Fil-A chickadee and posted it online. It made a statement, all right, but not the kind he intended. When the video went viral, someone dug into his background and publicized his place of employment. Whereupon Smith, who really and truly was just speaking his own mind and not representing an organization, was fired from his job. So of course the right-wing Guardians of Free Speech rose up en masse and rallied to his defense, right. Er… right??

Well, um, not exactly. What they did was gloat and guffaw and smirk and call him a jerk and an intolerant librul who got just what he deserved. You’d be hard pressed to find any reference to the incident on the web that doesn’t brand him a “bully”. And even though he’s apologized (for what, exactly?) he’s been deluged with threats and hostile messages — presumably from Good Christians exercising their Biblical principles. Not only did he lose his job, but he and his family have had to leave their home because his address has been publicized.

Okay, time out. Here’s the video. Watch it for yourself. Watch carefully.

Now then: did you see any bullying or “harassment” or “berating” in that video? Any at all?? If so, then someone must have planted subliminal content in it that’s below my radar. All I see is the utmost courtesy by both individuals. The worst thing Smith says is “I don’t know how you live with yourself and work here.”, followed by  “You deserve better, Rachel”. Is that what people find so objectionable? No, wait. It must be “Have a great day.” Surely only an intolerant librul bully would say something that obnoxious. But the manipulators have branded him a bully, and bully he must be. So declares even the rather progressive Huffington Post. It’s downright creepy. But there’s a valuable lesson to be learned here.

Valuable Lesson: To portray someone as intolerant (or whatever) and yourself as less so, simply redefine the terms at your leisure.

It’s all part of a cute cyber-parlor game that has become quite trendy in the past few years. The object is to brand the rejection of intolerance as being more intolerant than intolerance itself. Ready to give it a try? Very well, I’ll name an event and you decide how to categorize it.

A fast food corporation declares that it will continue supporting shady campaigns to defame a segment of the population that has never done it any harm? Right, that’s religious principle. Refusing to support businesses that subsidize such campaigns? Bingo, that’s intolerance and hypocrisy and suppressing free speech. Expressing disapproval of such a business’ practices to one of its employees? Hey, you’re doing great — it is indeed bullying.  Harassing and threatening an individual who expresses such disapproval? Righteous indignation, absolutely. You’re smokin’. Of course, we also need to emphasize that the second and third actions constitute a blatant assault on Christianity.

Oh and we mustn’t forget the liberal hypocrisy angle. I mean if those libruls/ progressives really were so outraged by hate groups, why is it they don’t condemn President Obama for giving 1.5 billion to the Muslim Brotherhood? Lots of right-wing blogs say he did. But oops, turns out it’s not true. Shh!! Don’t tell anyone.

But surely we can prove that there is a vast left-wing conspiracy afoot to squelch Christianity, by  pointing out that Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel (who is not a Christian, but practices the same religion as the founder of Christianity) didn’t voice similar objections to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who’s also made some unenlightened anti-gay utterances. And hey, Mayor Emmanuel welcomed him to The Windy City with open arms.

Oops, there are some problems here too. First of all, while it’s true that Farrakhan has said he thinks gay marriage should be prohibited (though his views seem to be evolving, unlike Cathy’s), he hasn’t systematically engaged in defamation of gays to the point of inspiring genocide. In fact, he’s working to prevent killings. It isn’t so much that Mayor Emmanuel has welcomed him; he’s welcomed some followers of Farrakhan — young black men who volunteered to inject themselves into the city’s most violent neighborhoods in an effort to stem violent crime.  Given that the homicide rate has soared by 40 percent, it’s understandable that any mayor would be desperate enough to accept the help of people he’d prefer to distance himself from. Hell, it’s a good bet that if Dan Cathy had agreed to put on a bowtie and stroll through Chicago’s worst neighborhoods acting as a human shield, Emmanuel would have welcomed him with open arms.

Hmmm… There seems to be a bit of a hitch in this little game of ours, but surely it’s nothing we can’t ignore to keep the narrative going. It’s just that….well, whenever you hear about a case of supposed persecution of Christians, there are almost always missing facts that totally change the picture.

I just wish I could say the same about the Christian persecution of gays.

Propaganda Prop # 4: Framing

The year was 1984, and President Ronald Reagan, already the oldest president in the nation’s history, was up for reelection.  During his second debate against Democratic challenger Walter Mondale, a reporter queried him about a mounting concern that he was growing too senile to function effectively. His response, in part, was, “I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” In addition to being a memorable one-liner, it was one of the most potent displays ever of framing, the fourth in our series of propaganda tools.

Framing is a psychological and sociological concept that has many applications and has been the subject of a great deal of research and experimentation. But in the public arena – particularly in current events and politics – it essentially means establishing guidelines that influence how the public perceives a particular topic – or even what topic the public perceives.

The Reagan quip (which probably was prepared in advance, but which he made sound off-the-cuff), in a single sentence, switched the frame from age to wit. And a few weeks later the voters decided, by a substantial margin, that they preferred a president who could turn a good punchline to one who wouldn’t fall asleep on the job.

It isn’t always so easy to establish a frame with a single sentence, but sometimes it’s done with only a word or two.

When politicians railed against the estate tax, most folks just yawned. When they re-christened it the “death tax”, they got a better response. After all, everyone dies, so the use of the term “death tax” implies that we’ll all be taxed on whatever we pass on to our heirs. In fact, the first 5 million or so you leave behind will not be subjected to federal estate tax. But Fox “News” had its viewers believing that when they kicked the bucket, President Clinton would send a truck to their house to confiscate half their stuff. The estate tax had been framed.

Privatizing Social Security? Fuhgeddabout it. But when you frame it as “personalizing accounts”, it becomes a bit more appealing. And mind you, these manipulative neologisms are often applied by the very people who sneer at “political correctness” for supposedly overdoing the euphemisms.

Americans also probably wouldn’t have been terribly gung-ho about an Operation to Invade and Occupy Iraq.  But when it was framed as “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and part of “The War on Terror”, that was another matter. (The Bush Administration dropped an earlier label, Operation Iraqi Liberation, apparently because it became clear that its acronym might sound a bit too candid.) It became routine to frame supporters of that exercise as “pro-troop”, suggesting that the anti-war demonstrators were in fact protesting against the military itself.

Few words these days have the framing power, at least in the United States, of socialism, and variants thereof. Most Americans may not have a clue what socialism really is, but they know it’s the spawn of Darth Vader, because they’ve been told it is so many times. Thus, it was all but inevitable that those who wanted to thwart the Affordable Care Act would dub it “socialized medicine”, along with “government takeover” of medicine and “Obamacare”.  The latter has long been used as a derogatory term by Obama’s political opponents to imply not only a government takeover but a takeover by one person. But in a very interesting recent development, the president’s own campaign has adopted the word,  reframing a frame! Brilliant strategy if it works.

The “socialized medicine” motif is hardly new; it was conjured by Republicans in Washington in 1993 when President Clinton also attempted healthcare reform. In fact, they conducted a poll in which they asked respondents whether they approved of Clinton’s plan  for “socialized medicine”. Not surprisingly, more than half said no, and this gave them ammo to shoot down the Clinton plan. Later, after the dust had settled, an independent polling organization queried people about specific provisions of the defeated bill without mentioning that its source was the Clinton administration (and of course without calling it  “socialized”), and three-fourths of them approved. A word or two, included or omitted, can make all the difference in how the public perceives an issue.

The GOP poll was an example of a push poll, which often isn’t really a poll at all but an attempt to frame an issue by implanting a suggestion in the minds of individuals contacted. If you spend much time online, you’ve surely seen “polls” (ads) by right-wing groups (notably NewsMax) targeting President Obama with  questions like “Do you believe Obama should be impeached ?”  or “Is Obama the worst president ever?”

You’d have a hard time getting approval of a “Bill to Discriminate Against Gays” even in the Deep South. But a law that did just that, when packaged as the “Defense of Marriage Act”, was approved by Congress, and a “Marriage Protection Act” was voted into law even in ultra-blue California. Nobody can explain exactly how allowing more people to marry would threaten the “institution” of marriage with extinction. And how can you defend it by reducing its numbers and restricting it to those individuals (heterosexuals) who are far less likely to stay married? Quite often, the topic is framed as a debate over religious beliefs (which are prohibited by the Constitution from being the basis of law) rather than about marriage equality.

But  large numbers of people are quite willing to overlook the absurdity of the proposition if it is expressed in resonant words. Some even believe that allowing gays to marry would open the door to marrying llamas or toasters. But hey, even that would result in more weddings, so how exactly would it be destroying marriage? How would your cousin tying the knot with his Corvette cause you to become less married? Is marriage a commodity in limited supply so that it needs to be rationed?

It’s a powerful testimony to the ability of ideology, expressed in the right language, to short-circuit the brain. It’s the power of framing at its finest.