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.

Reactions to the Reaction Against Rush’s Reactionism

Let’s be clear: it surely would be much better if everyone just ignored Rush Limbaugh and others like him. Like an insecure brat, his modus operandi is to grab attention by being as obnoxious as possible, and it’s probably a mistake to reinforce that behavior with protests. But some people are protesting in the wake of his latest display of tastelessness, and other people (Rush’s “dittohead” supporters) are responding to that response as they always do: with certain predictable, tried and true catchphrases.

Catchphrase # 1: “Suppressing Free Speech”

It’s hard to believe that there could be so many people out there who truly don’t understand the difference between suppressing free speech and holding people accountable for their actions. But apparently ’tis the case. They just can’t seem to bend their brains around the simple fact that freedom of expression encompasses the right to express displeasure with childish behavior- and to vote with one’s pocketbook. Neither the First Amendment nor the right of free speech in general affords people the guarantee that they can say anything they damn well please. There are laws against defamation, for example; and if Limbaugh hasn’t crossed that line, he at least has balanced precariously on the brink, many many times.

Suppression of free speech would mean, for instance, the government shutting off his microphone or passing a law prohibiting him from making an ass of himself in public. Or maybe someone mounting a high-tech assault on his website. Instead, what’s happening is that the public is using its consumer clout to pressure Rush’s sponsors to dump him unless he cleans up his act.

That’s a time-honored strategy that has been employed by citizens of all persuasions. One of the most notable instances occurred in 2003 when CBS had planned to air the miniseries The Reagans, but after howls of protest from The Cult Of Ron Worship because the series was less than adulatory, the network instead shuffled it off to Showtime. It’s the kind of “free market” social dynamic the dittoheads devoutly revere. Unless, of course, they find themselves on the short end of it. They objected to The Reagans because it portrayed a handful of people in a manner they considered “inaccurate”. (A Hollywood flick, inaccurate? Who woulda thunk it?) People are objecting to Rush Limbaugh because he portrays numerous people in a manner that is not only inaccurate, but deliberately misleading, scurrilous and venomous.

Catchphrase # 2: “Double Standard”

But why single out poor defenseless Rush? After all, David Letterman made a joke about Sarah Palin’s “slutty flight attendant” look, and Bill Maher has also made disparaging comments about the likes of Palin and Michelle Bachmann. And Michelle Obama is appearing as a guest on Letterman.  Where’s the outrage? We have a double standard here, no?

Oh, puh-lease.

Perhaps the best response to this silliness was given by The Provocation, which observes among other things that

Maher’s a comedian by trade and both of these women are public figures. The person Limbaugh attacked, by contrast, was a private citizen simply seeking to be involved in the process of affecting government. And Limbaugh’s no comedian. He’s a political attack dog who appears to relish demeaning and defaming people.

And no, testifying before Congress did not magically transform Sandra Fluke into a celebrity- Rush did that. The article also points out that although Maher and Letterman may step over the line occasionally, with Rush it’s a continuous process and has been for years. The dittoheads are trying to pretend that the furor is all about Sandra Fluke (some have even claimed, I kid you not, that she was a shill planted by the Obama administration for the purpose of creating controversy around Limbaugh); but this incident is no mere fluke. It was just the tipping point.

I might add there is a vast difference between making a tacky joke about someone’s wardrobe and making a tasteless and protracted assault on someone’s character.

Furthermore, neither Maher nor Letterman is a spokesman for a particular ideology. Both of them have hosted as well as insulted public figures of all stripes. Maher is a professed Libertarian who actually defended Limbaugh, stating that the whole incident left “liberals looking bad”, though he didn’t quite explain the twisted logic used to arrive at that contorted conclusion.

Still, if you wanna talk about double standards, consider this: during their time in The White House, George W. Bush appeared on Rush’s program no fewer than four times and Dick Cheney no fewer than five times; Bush has appeared on at least two other occasions.  His father also appeared on the program while serving as president.  And unlike The First Lady’s casual stint on Letterman, their appearances definitely imply approval of the host’s deranged and toxic ramblings. Where was the outrage over that?

Catchphrase # 3: “Liberal Hypocrisy”

To the True Believers, all this outcry over Limbaughism can mean only one thing: them librulz are at it again. Perish the thought that Rush himself might be even slightly at fault. And the librulz picking on him is of course a supreme example of librul hypocrisy. After all, they claim to support freedom of speech (see #1 above) and they’ve exhibited double standards (see # 2) and after all, there are plenty of librul commentators who also spew out hateful invective day after day like..well… er, um… hang on, we’ll surely think of someone eventually.

In the absence of a Limbaugh of the Left, you can always attack Jane Fonda, especially since she has been outspoken about Rush’s offenses. There’s nothing wrong with criticizing her either, of course. She exercises her freedom of speech, and her critics exercise theirs. Dog bless America.  But what’s interesting is that the same people who despise her for her actions four decades ago (and for which she has long since expressed regret) often have no problem with Rush’s continuous daily actions for the past three decades or so. In rejecting Fonda’s apology about her despicable deeds in the Sixties and Seventies, the vigilant watchdogs of hypocrisy and double standards assail those who supposedly reject Limbaugh’s apology for one of his numerous despicable deeds – an apology delivered only after he saw that his paycheck might be impacted.

At least 98 major companies have decided to distance themselves not only from Rush but other incendiary talk show hosts. These include Wal-Mart, Ford, Chevrolet and Sony. To suggest that all these corporations are run by a bunch of flaming lefties would be laughable even by the usual dittohead standards of lunacy.

You don’t have to be a progressive/liberal/whatever to be turned off by Limbaughism (though that certainly appears to make it more likely). After my recent piece on Ann Coulter, I heard from Coulter Watch, which is run by a fellow named Daniel Borchers, who calls himself a “life-long conservative” and, it appears, may actually be a true conservative, as opposed to  “conservatives”  of the Limbaugh variety. Accordingly, he attempted one year to distribute information warning about Coulter to the attendees of the Conservative Political Action Conference. And how did the watchdogs of hypocrisy and dual standards respond? They escorted him to the door and made it clear that he was persona non grata in the future.

With a drastically declining listener base, Rush Limbaugh needed a godsend, and he got it in the form of Sandra Fluke, whom his fans are calling “Sandra Fluck” among other unbearably clever things. They’re mad as hell that she became one of the many victims of his schoolyard taunts, and they’re not gonna take it anymore. And his detractors, along with the ever-compliant mainstream “liberal” media, have handed him just what he wanted.