Thursday, July 28, 2005

Era of the Fashionable Bigots

It's been going on for five years now - so you'd think we'd all written enough about it - but the steady erosion of gay rights (and, now, other minority rights) really hasn't been discussed in any satisfactory way.

I'm not just talking about the fact that "anti-gay-marriage" amendments are being passed in many states. Yes, that's disturbing, but that's really more of a pre-emptive dismissal of rights we've yet to win. There are gains and setbacks and roadblocks in any civil rights movement, so, I take that with a grain of salt.

No, what's disturbing is how swiftly and quickly the newly fashionable bigots behind these movements (and I rightly refer to them as, indeed, bigots) have been able to turn the media to their favor, and begin rolling back rights we already have - rights like adoption, equal protection, and even just basic human rights like the ability to enter into contracts. Sure, they aren't yet stringing us up like the mullas in Iran...and I doubt such a thing could happen here. But their progress has been surprising, and has contributed to the increasing violence and harassment against gays. Progress that they've been able to win because the media has largely let their arguments be aired and discussed without question.

It didn't use to be so. The media, back in the Clinton days, had a healthy skepticism for running despairingly, ultra-religious denunciation of gays (or Jews, Muslims, blacks, or other minorities). Not any more. What was once out of bounds - bad taste and pure and plain brimstone-brimming, fire-ranting bigotry - is now, simply, "the other side of the story." Christian bigots, ignoramus, and other simply vengeful and foul people are put on TV and in newspapers to tell the world how "homosexuality is a sin" and other such nonsense as if this were a real debate that needed to happen. This has gotten even worse since the re-election of George Bush - who courted the bigot-vote to re-elect him. Whether or not that was really a factor, the media has swallowed the line that ultra-right-bigots are behind the current political climate (though they call them "values voters"), and these people need to be given a voice on TV. The bigot-as-star has even gone so far as to become entertainment, with ABC (and others) basing reality shows around it.

Then there are the bigot leaders, who now have been enshrined in the halls of power. Just a few years ago, someone like James Dobson was just a far-out anti-gay wacko with a crackpot following. Now, the media heads directly to Dobson for anti-gay quotes whenever an issue like marriage rights or adoption is discussed; Dobson's think tank even holds sway with the White House without anyone batting an eye....this is a little like installing the grand wizard of the KKK as a D.C. lobbyist who makes media commentary on issues pertaining to racial profiling and equal opportunity. On one side of the issue is a minority group suggesting a remedy (whose merits may indeed be fairly debated) about entrenched discrimination: on the other, a devoted hatemonger who responds by calling that minority an abomination, and who dismisses not only the remedy, and the premise of discrimination, but is given a platform for espousing, in ever so polite language, why such discrimination is not only necessary but a "blessing by God."

Of course, it's hard for the media to resist giving mouthpieces to these people when even the Pope is pressing the same bigoted line.

Why shouldn't these people be given a voice? What harm does it do?

Well, I think the issue becomes immediately understandable - even to conservatives - if the bigot on the other side of the issue is Osama bin Laden rather than James Dobson. Would the media seriously consider putting on bin Laden or one of his henchmen to explain the terrorist point of view? Maybe the terrorists have a point, after all? Maybe we should see their side of it too.....after all, isn't getting both sides of the story what being "objective" really means? And isn't this the media's job, to "objectively" relay the disagreement?

No, conservatives would say. That kind of moral relativism is exactly what the terrorists want to take advantage of. That kind of moral relativism - saying that the terrorist point of view deserves equal time with ours - is decadent and, perhaps, even treasonous. There are certain arguments - arguments, for instance, that innocent civilians should be blown up - that need to be, shall we say, put in proper context, morally judged, if you will, as not acceptable to civilized society.

You know. I agree with that. I'm not saying that there aren't policy issues, there aren't wrongs done by America that we should debate. But I don't think the terrorist "point of view" is deserving of a platform when we are under attack. That's a little like giving free propaganda to the enemy. And a civilized society should have boundaries. Not ALL points of view deserve to be treated equally.

Interestingly, no one brings the unlikely connection between the anti-gay Christian right and Islamic-fascist-terrorists home more clearly than the dear old anti-gay hatemonger, Fred Phelps (remember him, the one who protested Matthew Sheppard's funeral?), who is now spewing anti-gay rhetoric at the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq. In his weirdly twisted mind, gays have taken over America, and having our soldiers killed in Iraq is God's just punishment. What can one say about such fire-breathing wackiness except, bin Laden has an American cousin, and his name is Phelps?

Don't think that Dobson and that whole crowd is all that much different, either. Their intolerance isn't just for gays: it's really for the American ideals of freedom and human rights. Conservatives are quick to point to "moral relativism" when it's an issue they agree with. But there can be no moral relativism on gay rights either: you either believe in the American ideal of providing equal rights and due process for all, or you're a plain old bigot (or far-out religious nut-job) who'd throw out the constitution in a heartbeat if it led you one step closer to installing your absolutist, fascist religious state. These statements about gay people used to be out of bounds - and they still ought to be. The media should not be giving equal comfort to people who hold active, destructive malice towards a minority, whether those people are Nazis, KKK, Islamic terrorists, or anti-homosexual Christians. There has to be standards in a civilized society.

Unfortunately, such is no longer the case. The media no longer seem to believe that gay people deserve the same consideration as other minorities. And the fact that the media gives these guys a free pass - without contextualizing, without commenting - but simply puts them on as potentially legitimate: it underscores the still-inherent bigotry of the media itself, and of mainstream America. And THAT's what's most disturbing about this recent trend.


Anonymous said...

Good design!
[url=]My homepage[/url] | [url=]Cool site[/url]

Anonymous said...

Nice site!
My homepage | Please visit

Anonymous said...

Good design! |