The Myth of”Liberal Intolerance” on Campus

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It’s another one of those things that people just know because they just know. Liberals are intolerant. Liberals control college campuses. Therefore, colleges suppress conservative expression and persecute conservatives.  You’re constantly hearing this message fired in your direction like a nail gun, from right-wing talk shows, blogs, books, social media and other bullhorns. As a result, according to Gallup, 92 percent of Americans believe that “liberals” can express themselves freely on campus, while only 69 percent believe “conservatives” can. And in at least 30 states, legislatures controlled by the GOP (you know, the party of “less government”) have proposed measures ostensibly aimed at protecting free speech that could actually compromise First Amendment rights.

Our good old friends at fairandbalanced Fox “News” have even gone so far as to declare that colleges are “literally destroying the country” and fomenting a “real civil war”. It’s not surprising that a reactionary propaganda outlet like Fox should be so virulently anti-intellectual.  But it’s especially chilling because the bubble-brained prattle of Fox exerts such a profound influence on the current bubble-brained regime in Washington.  Anti-intellectualism, lest we forget, is a hallmark of fascism and totalitarianism in general. Anyone ever hear of burning books? Or shipping teachers and scientists off to prison?

Fox and company can relax, if they’re capable of doing so. As with many, many other things that people “just know” the canard about “liberal intolerance” on campus turns out to be not quite so true. In fact, it appears to be blatantly untrue, according to the evidence.

It’s a given among just about everyone that college campuses mostly tilt to the left. And among right-wingers, it’s an article of faith that those tilting left are more intolerant. But a 2016 study found that they were apparently the most tolerant at least among college freshmen: 86 percent of left-leaning students entering colleges and universities indicated they could tolerate people of opposing beliefs, compared to 82 percent of middle-of-the-roaders and only 68 percent of conservatives.

Ah, but maybe that will change after they’ve been in school for awhile. Well, yes, it does. They become more tolerant. According to recent research, after a year of college, only 31.3 percent of students develop a more negative attitude toward conservatives (and 30 percent develop a more negative attitude toward liberals) while 49.6 percent develop a more positive attitude toward conservatives (and 47.8 percent a more positive attitude toward liberals). Which is to say, no matter which side of the fence they’re on, they become more accepting of the other side after they’ve been on campus for a year. In other words, it appears that the college experience makes everyone more tolerant. If it also makes everyone more liberal, then it just doesn’t add up to conclude that liberalism correlates with intolerance — unless, of course, there is a marked discrepancy between words and actions.

So what about those actions? What exactly does the punditocracy mean by intolerance on campus? Well, the specific illustrations don’t exactly unfold the way the reactionaries consistently claim, according to a survey conducted by Georgetown University’s Free Speech Project.

First of all, the project found that in the past two years there have been about 60 incidents on college campuses of free speech (apparently) being threatened or compromised in some fashion — a rate of about 2.5 incidents per month. If that sounds like a lot to you, bear in mind that there are 4583 colleges and universities in the nation. That means that the chances of any particular institution being the scene of such an incident in any given year were roughly .65 percent — or less than one in 150.  Clearly, campus “intolerance” is nowhere near the raging epidemic that the reactionary punditocracy would have you believe.

The second important point is that most of the incidents defining supposed “liberal intolerance” entailed trying to bar polarizing right-wing figures from making speeches on campus. Moreover, most of these involved the same handful of polarizing right-wing figures, a gaggle of demagogues who have made a lucrative and ego-boosting career of spouting bigotry and stupidity in an effort to draw attention to themselves and portray “liberals” as intolerant — which in turn will draw more attention to themselves and swell their purses even more. If the leftists are to be faulted for anything, perhaps it’s being gullible enough to play into their hands.

Finally, and perhaps most interesting, this study and others have shown that “liberals” aren’t the only perpetrators, and “conservatives” aren’t the only targets. There have also been many instances of individuals being targeted because they had made statements that were considered too left-wing; quite often, it was daring to criticize the 45th White House Occupant, an offense for which they had received death threats from tolerant “conservatives”.  Just try to wrap your head around that: expressing displeasure with the most dishonest, corrupt, bigoted and hateful White House Occupant in history will get you branded as intolerant yourself.

And there is also what is probably a much better measure of First Amendment assault on college campuses than who is or is not allowed to be a guest speaker. What about those individuals who speak there every day? Shouldn’t we pay some attention to the fallout teachers receive for taking (what is perceived as) an ideological stance as some kind of barometer of “intolerance”?

Well, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, a Canadian political scientist (not to be confused with the American economist of the same name), has put together a database of cases in which college instructors in the U.S. were fired on such grounds. And the results are quite interesting:

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As you can see at a glance, the number of “liberal” instructors who are being fired is, at present, roughly double the number of “conservatives”. And the number has spiked dramatically in recent months. How often has Fox “News” reported this?

Furthermore, whether you’re discussing dismissed instructors or disinvited guests, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. What about the reasons for the “intolerant” reactions? On the one side, who have “intolerance” toward ideologues who make racist, homophobic,  and other hateful utterances, and deliberately try to stir up controversy. On the other side you have people being fired, harassed or threatened for criticizing one extremely corrupt and dishonest politician. When conservatives are intolerant toward liberals, they’re rejecting taxation of the rich, welfare, egalitarianism and regulation of the almighty firearm. When liberals are “intolerant” toward conservatives, they’re rejecting white nationalism, discrimination, religious tyranny, and warmongering. Right-wingers disinvite Michael Moore for digging up unpleasant facts about their favorite corrupt politicians. Left-wingers disinvite Ben Shapiro for saying things like “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage” and Native Americans contributed only “dreamcatchers, tomahawks and cannibalism” and taxes support a “militant homosexual agenda”. And on and on and on.

These two types of “intolerance” are not even remotely comparable. And yet the demagogues have convinced millions of people not only that they are comparable, but that rejection of intolerance is even more intolerant than intolerance. This is, in short, yet another example of right-wing fanatics drastically shifting the goalposts and redefining incivility to suit their purposes.

Are there actual instances of leftists being genuinely intolerant on campus? Probably. But a great many of such claimed incidents don’t hold up to scrutiny. And while the studies and figures are by no means exhaustive, they are sufficient to show at the least that liberals are far from being consistently or frequently intolerant on campus; and that they are far from being the only ones. Yet these perceptions are the overriding media narrative. The fact that so many people buy into it is yet another testimony to the power of right-wing cult media to dominate and manipulate public opinion. It’s almost like it was planned that way or something.

 

View story at Medium.com

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Gay Activism and the Christian Persecution Complex: Ducking Responsibility

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By now you’ve surely heard more than you ever, ever wanted to hear about the whole Duck Dynasty flap (if you live in The United States). But chances are you haven’t heard anything at all about the important lessons to be learned from it. So here are a few observations for your consideration.

1. Disapproval is NOT censorship.

It’s become an automatic response of anyone on the receiving end of a backlash for expressing bigotry or general idiocy to say, “Hey, you’re trying to censor me”. Or “you’re trying to suppress my First Amendment rights.”  Poppycock, horsefeathers, balderdash and codswallop.

Duck Dynasty’s head mallard, Phil Robertson, expressed his mind (such as it is) and nobody tried to stop him. GLAAD and A&E expressed their disapproval. All were perfectly within their constitutional rights.  So was the network’s decision to suspend Robertson temporarily while reassessing its relationship with him.

The constitutional protection of the right to free speech was never intended as a shield against fallout if your speech is cloddish. If you call a guy a rotten sonofabitch and say his mother is a whore, he just might punch you in the nose. It’s not censorship. It’s not unconstitutional. It’s not intolerance. It’s Newton’s third law.

2. Overreaction has become the standard American reaction.

Let’s face it, we live in the Golden Age of the tempest in the teapot, an age in which any dumb joke or offhand whimsical remark triggers a hoopla of seismic proportions. The formerly innocuous neologistic verb tweet has become a synonym for “invite an avalanche of distortion and negative publicity”.

So did people overreact to Robertson’s crass self-righteousness? Maybe. After all, there was far less outcry to his comments in the same interview to the effect that he thought African-Americans had been perfectly content with their social status in the pre-civil rights South, and that a non-Christian outlook leads to Nazism and genocide.  (Hey, nobody ever accused him of being a history scholar.) And his remarks about homosexuality in the interview were really rather tame in comparison to his past sage utterances on the topic that also flew mostly under the radar.

But if the gay community and A&E were overreacting, their overreaction was blown to smithereens by the overreaction to that overreaction on the part of Robertson’s defenders.

Here’s GLAAD’s statement:

Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe. He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans – and Americans – who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.

As you can see, it’s much more elegant and civil than Robertson’s. As is the statement issued by A&E:

We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series ‘Duck Dynasty.’ His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community.

And it’s certainly far more elegant and civil than the over-the-top reaction from Duck-lings, as typified by Fox “News”:

A&E is apparently run by a bunch of anti-Christian, bigots. Duck Dynasty worships God. A&E worships GLAAD. If Phil had been twerking with a duck the network probably would’ve given him a contract extension. But because he espoused beliefs held by many Christians, he’s been silenced. Perhaps A&E could provide the nation with a list of what they believe is politically correct speech.  Maybe they could tell us what Americans can say, think and do. Should the U.S. Constitution be amended to prevent Americans from holding personal beliefs that others might not agree with?… It’s not about capitalism. It’s about driving an agenda and shoving it down the throats of the American public. And Hollywood is beholden to an agenda that is anti-Christian and anti-family.

Good grief. They forgot to mention the  “Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids”.

You’ll notice that GLAAD and A&E (and most other people who objected to Robertson’s clueless crackerdom) limited their remarks to complaints about specific comments by a specific individual. They didn’t attack, insult, accuse or belittle him or anyone else. Not the rest of his family. Not duck hunters in general. Not Louisianans. Not guys who look like ZZ Top posing as GI Joe. And most certainly not Christians. But…

3. Americans desperately crave a narrative.

Have you noticed that people seem to find it increasingly difficult to view an incident as merely an incident? Everything has to be part of a trend, a movement, a plot, a conspiracy. Of course, the media do all they can to feed this attitude, and we could have an interesting chicken-and-egg debate about whether it’s more a matter of the media dictating or catering to the mindset; but in any case it’s pretty hard to deny that the mindset does exist.

In this instance, the overreaction to the overreaction tended to follow what has become a very popular narrative: that rejection of intolerance is more intolerant than intolerance itself. There was an explosion of rants about the oppressiveness of “political correctness”, whatever that is, on the part of the “Hollywood elites”. And always, such narratives absolutely and inevitably MUST lead to a scathing indictment of them librulz. This, the official spin goes, was another shining example of that ever-sought chimera, liberal intolerance. And oh yeah, it was a “war on Christian values”, as if all Christians were homophobic. (Quick, what did Jesus have to say about homosexuality?) But in fact some of them are actually too busy trying to improve the world to go around proclaiming that God is going to punish people for being the way He made them. And then there are the others…

4. Many Christians desperately want to feel persecuted.

They want it so much that they’re more than willing to pick a fight as often as possible in order to justify the paranoia.  One group they love to pick a fight with is gays. (See previous posts on Gay Activism and the Christian Persecution Complex: “Playing Chikin“, “A Tale of Two Legal Judgments” and “The Kirk Cameron/ Anita Bryant Delusion“.) But they’ll settle for other groups as well.

Not long before the GQ story broke, another Internet narrative began circulating about Phil Robertson, to the effect that Duck Dynasty producers had asked him not to pray on the show, at the insistence of “atheists and liberals” — a claim which turns out to be quite unfounded . In another interview, he specifically mentioned that they frowned on his ending prayers with “in Jesus’ name”,  possibly because it could offend Muslims. There’s no substantiation of this claim either, nor any reason to believe that in fact Muslims would be offended by such a thing.

It’s also interesting to note that this controversy erupted at time of year when the Christian persecution complex was already operating at full throttle. Every winter, one of the most inane of narratives, the “war on Christmas“, is as predictably conspicuous as eggnog and candy canes. Whenever someone says “happy holidays” or anything else except “Merry Christmas”, it’s taken as a sure sign that they’re out to eradicate the holiday altogether and ship all Christians off to a gulag in Siberia.

At about the same time the Duck Dynasty brouhaha was brewing, a woman in Phoenix who was collecting donations for The Salvation Army (which, lest we forget, is itself a Christian organization) was allegedly assaulted for expressing good will in an unauthorized fashion to a Good Christian. Is that censorship? Persecution? Political correctness? We don’t know, because The Indignant Guardians Of Liberty And Tolerance tend to become eerily silent about occurrences of this type. But maybe if Christians really are at war with the rest of the world, it’s because they’ve fired the first 5000 shots.

5. Many Christians try to duck responsibility for their own beliefs.

As we discussed in the previous post, they try to blame God for their bigoted and unenlightened doctrines, and quote cherry-picked biblical passages to buttress those beliefs. But this doesn’t work because (1) it’s very difficult to know exactly what the Bible says or intends; (2) the Bible often seems to contradict itself, and (3) you can find something in the Bible to justify anything you choose to believe.

One scriptural snippet the gay-bashing fundamentalists love to dredge up is Leviticus 18:22. What they fail to mention, however, is that the same book also states some other laws issued by the Almighty that most Christians wouldn’t want to live by. (At least let’s hope not.) And the Bible devotes even more wordage instructing you to sell your daughters into slavery, for instance. It’s the believers themselves who pick some biblical passages to live by and ignore others. And if there is a Guy Upstairs, he’s probably getting mighty annoyed at taking the rap for so long.

6. Americans love the lowbrow.

Duck Dynasty Clean

The above photo depicts the Robertson family in its pre-DD days. Chances are they wouldn’t have created such a media buzz if they’d continued grooming themselves like this. But fortunately for them, they underwent a savvy PR makeover, relinquishing an image that suggested the stereotype of the Homogenized Yuppie for one that suggests the stereotype of the Inbred Goober. And subsequently, their popularity has taken off like a skeet.

Americans have a fondness for, an infatuation for, an obsession with, the severely unsophisticated personality — not just the non-intellectual, but the anti-intellectual. Most people (hopefully) recognize that pop culture icons like Homer Simpson and Archie Bunker are meant to be satirical rather than exemplary. But there are real-life characters who are almost equally satirical, and they often end up in positions of power and influence: e.g., Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, and Dan Quayle. And did we mention Sarah Palin?

Phil Robertson was hired to be a buffoon, so nobody should be surprised by his comments in GQ. Or comments like this:

Look, you wait ’til they (women) get to be 20 years old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket. You got to marry these girls when they are about 15 or 16. They’ll pick your ducks.

Really, Christians? You feel morally superior for standing behind someone like this?

It’s also no surprise that he was reinstated on the Arts and Entertainment network, though he is neither very artful nor, for may of us, very entertaining. His supporters rallied to his defense, and he probably picked up quite a few more troops along the way — which is one reason why it’s probably not a good idea to make such a fuss about his comments in the first place. In fact, it wouldn’t be a big surprise to learn that the whole thing was a publicity stunt cooked up by the Robertsons and the network.

But the real question is, why do so many people even give a shit at all about what someone like Phil says? That they do surely reveals something significant about contemporary American “culture” — something that, like the Robertson clan decked out in its waterfowl-slaughtering regalia, ain’t very pretty.

 

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.

San Francisco, Circumcision, and the Endless Quest for “Liberal Intolerance”

To some people, it’s of the utmost importance to engage in a tireless quixotic quest to locate “liberal intolerance”. These people generally style themselves as “conservatives”, though in fact they’re generally right-wing radicals. And there’s nothing more important to a right-wing radical than attacking “liberals”, however that term is – or much more commonly, is not – defined. (One of these days, I promise, we’ll take a good look at those much-abused terms “liberal” and conservative”, which are almost never used properly anymore, and which I almost always bracket in quotation marks, and for very good reason.) Many of them literally live for it. Since “liberal”, in the true sense of the word, is more or less synonymous with tolerant, “liberal intolerance” is a self-canceling phrase, rather like “conservative movement”. Therefore, it has become a chimera of choice among such“conservatives”.

Recently the Mercatus Center, a very influential right-wing think tank (founded and funded by the billionaire Koch Bros., who have been quietly but steadily buying out democracy for several years) released a laughable “study” showing that “liberal” states (California, New York, New Jersey) enjoy less freedom than “conservative” states. Essentially, the rule of thumb they followed is the fewer laws, the more freedom. They don’t seem to consider the possibility that the Big Apple, with some 8,000,000 inhabitants crammed onto a compact sliver of soil, might actually need more laws than Lamont, Wyoming with its population of 3. Furthermore, if you take a glance at the graph of the factors they considered and how they were weighted (yes, they were actually so inept as to publicize this information), you’ll note that financial matters constitute TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT of what they regard as crucial. Guns, of course figure significantly into the mix, but nowhere is there a mention of reproductive regulation, which almost all right-wingers are very gung ho about. Just goes to show that you really can prove black is white, provided you have no scruples about cooking the books.

It’s only natural, then, that such “conservatives” should salivatingly turn their gaze toward the librul Gomorrah called San Francisco, which has always been a supreme melting pot of all kinds of lifestyles, and therefore has always had a reputation for tolerance. (I speak with some authority on this topic, having lived more than 15 years of my own life as a San Franciscan.) And oh yeah, San Francisco sometimes passes certain laws, you see; and according to right-wing logic, a law aimed at curbing intolerance is the ultimate act of intolerance.

Recently, rumor has it that the City By The Bay played into their hands by banning circumcision. How dare those effete elites decree that we can’t carve up the wee-wees of our own babies? It’s been called a blatant infringement of “freedom of expression”, as if infant genitalia were artistic materials to be molded into expressive shapes to our liking.

Actually, San Francisco has not banned circumcision, at least not yet. What happened was that after a requisite number of signatures were collected, the proposed law was placed on the ballot, so in November, the electorate will decide whether or not to approve it. It’s the democratic process (also known as “liberal intolerance”) the way it was meant to work.

Fox “News” couldn’t wait for November, but promptly declared the measure to be a hitleresque attack on Jews. Never mind that the ban applies to all circumcisions, the great majority of which are performed by goyim. Never mind that a quarter of the city’s residents are Jewish, including no doubt a good many who signed the petition. Yes, it’s true that many Jews have decried the measure, but many others support it; just don’t expect to hear much about them, because they don’t fit the media narrative of librul intolerance so neatly. Incidentally, Fox’s righteous indignation doesn’t appear to extend so much to concern for Muslims, who are also habitual pecker-choppers.

You expect this kind of crap from Fox, but they weren’t alone. This was a golden opportunity for the powerful right-wing propaganda engine to do what it does best: manufacture outrage out of misinformation. It’s probably safe to say that there has been far more outrage expressed in the last few weeks over this one little law (which isn’t even a law, and probably never will be) than there has ever been expressed over circumcision itself, even though it’s been around for ages, and many have always found it objectionable.

Even more interesting, there has been far more outrage over female circumcision, which is already illegal not only in librul San Francisco, but everywhere else in The United States, as well as many other countries. And I’ve never heard of anyone complain of those laws infringing on freedom of expression.

This discrepancy is surprising for two reasons: there are far fewer female circumcisions than male, and females are usually considered of lesser worth than male, particularly in societies heavily dominated by religion. But that’s the rub: religion. Although female circumcision is often inspired by religious beliefs, it is typically not a religious rite per se. Its purpose is to permanently impair the ability of women to experience sexual pleasure, and to help keep the female head securely under the male boot.

Similarly, male circumcision has been the rage in America since Puritan times, when it caught on not for religious reasons (Jews were really a small minority then) but because it was believed to discourage boys from choking the chicken. (The Puritans were on the right track, but you’d really have to cut off the whole thing.) Still, while religion didn’t provide the inspiration, it provided the defense: anything good enough for Jesus is good enough for our children, so shuddup and pass the nails .

Religion and tradition are the twin pillars that have supported all kinds of practices including slavery and human sacrifice. These activities have been largely eliminated after many bold strokes of librul intolerance, in defiance of “conservatives” who demanded “I don’t need no stinkin’ guvmint limiting my freedom to do whatever I want to other people.”

No, no, I am not suggesting that circumcision is in a class with those things. The point is that while “conservatives” often seem to invoke religion and tradition to justify anything and everything, the truth is that absolutely NOTHING can be logically justified on such grounds alone; there are always other factors that need to be considered. Circumcision, for example, has long been believed to be hygienically beneficial, though the evidence is by no means conclusive. The people of San Francisco, or at least some of them, have considered certain other factors.

There is, for one thing, the inescapable fact that circumcision is quite painful. This can be mitigated somewhat, and many try to convince themselves that babies don’t feel the pain at all. But that’s royal technicolor bullshit. At any age, it hurts like hell to have something amputated from your body – whether it be a finger, an ear, or part of Mr. Winkie.

For some slice-ees, the experience is also highly traumatic. There is even evidence that circumcised males may be more prone to low self-esteem and depression. It clearly doesn’t have that kind of effect on everyone, but there are support groups with plenty of members (no pun intended) for circumcised adults, some of whom even undergo procedures to restore the loss.

So the issue is not tolerance vs. intolerance. It’s extreme tolerance vs. extreme tolerance. On the one hand, you have the tolerance for religious tradition, to the point of allowing parents to make religious decisions for their children, even to the point of inflicting pain and possible lifelong trauma, and permanently deciding the appearance of Tiny Tim. On the other hand, you have the tolerance for individualism, to the point of sparing children the pain and trauma, and allowing them to decide for themselves whether their package will remain intact.

You may not approve of what decision the San Francisco voters ultimately make. You have the right not to approve. But to brand the initiative itself as intolerance is truly the pinnacle of reactionary spin.