Recently, the glbt employee organization at the Department of Justice, put together and distributed a pamphlet entitled “LGBT Inclusion at Work: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Managers.” The trifold pamphlet included such commonsense advice as “Assume LGBT employees and their allies are listening to what you say (whether in a meeting or around the proverbial water cooler) and will read what you’re writing (whether in a casual email or a formal document) and make sure the language you use is inclusive and respectful.” It also included a section on how to respond when an employee comes out to you as a manager and pointed out that “Don’t judge or remain silent. Silence will be interpreted as disapproval.”
The right wing has freaked the holy hell out over that last phrase. Completely, deliberately, ignoring the context in terms of advice on how to respond when someone comes out, they’ve gone off the deep end, as for example:
“But now we’re at the point where the Obama administration is saying You must affirm, you must talk in a manner that conveys approval of homosexuality,” Knight remarks. “This is crossing the line far beyond even what we saw in the Clinton administration. This violates the First Amendment rights of people not to violate their own conscience. It’s outrageous and it has to be stopped.” Those comments echo those offered earlier this week by columnist Matt Barber.
Barber had this to say:
Following are excerpts from the “DOJ Pride” decree. When it comes to “LGBT” employees, managers are instructed:
- “DON’T judge or remain silent. Silence will be interpreted as disapproval.” (Italics mine)
That’s a threat.
And not even a subtle one.
Got it? For Christians and other morals-minded federal employees, it’s no longer enough to just shut up and “stay in the closet” – to live your life in silent recognition of biblical principles (which, by itself, is unlawful constraint). When it comes to mandatory celebration of homosexual and cross-dressing behaviors, “silence will be interpreted as disapproval.”
Not wanting to be left out, the Family Research Council got in on the act:
In a not-so-veiled threat, the administration tells staff that when it comes to homosexuality and cross-dressing, “Silence will be interpreted as disapproval.”
That’s absolutely outrageous. Even criminals have the right to remain silent! President Obama’s so-called Department of Justice is actually telling workers that there’s no place in the government for people with unspoken objections to homosexuality. In fact, writes NRO’s Ian Tuttle, “there is no longer a place even for private, unexpressed disapproval…”
Forget tolerance. The DOJ wants–and expects–vocal support for sexual deviance. Nowhere is that more evident than in this latest list of “DO”s and “DON’T”s, which includes some eye-opening advice for staff leaders. “DO assume that LGBT employees and their allies are listening to what you’re saying” (sound ominous?) “and will read what you’re writing (whether in a casual email or in a formal document).” “DO attend LGBT events sponsored by DOJ Pride” and decorate your office accordingly. “DO display a symbol in your office (DOJ Pride sticker).” “DO use a transgender person’s chosen name and the pronoun that is consistent with the person’s self-identified gender.” “DO use inclusive words like ‘partner,’ ‘significant other,’ or ‘spouse’ rather than gender-specific terms.”
The challenge is twofold. You have to unravel the lies, but you also have to demonstrate what’s factual.
You have to unravel what right wing commentators are doing – they’re taking an actual phrase from the pamphlet and misrepresenting. They’re also misrepresenting the document itself. Note that Barber refers to it as a the “DOJ pride decree”, while Tony Perkins of the FRC presents it as an official stance of the administration. It is neither. It’s from an employee organization within the DOJ. Matt Barber is a blithering idiot and may not know the difference but Perkins is smart enough to know what he’s doing. Right wing commentators are playing a slippery game, assuming that even if their audience reads the document they will accept the frame they’ve placed around it.
Ed Brayton at FreeThoughtBlogs pushed back:
They could as easily have called this pamphlet “How not to be an asshole.” These are nothing more than reasonable suggestions for how not to make a gay employee feel marginalized merely for being gay. There what any decent, non-bigoted person should do. Only in the fever swamp of the wingnut mind could this be “chilling” and an “attack on liberty.”
These articles about this pamphlet are just one small example of right wing lies. Over the last few year’s there have been so many right wing lies. Lies about the President, about health care reform, about the stimulus, about almost everything. Simply refuting right wing lies could be a full time job. There are real world, valid critiques of the various policies, of even this relatively benign pamphlet from DOJ employees, why resort lies? Barber and Perkins could easily have settled for an argument along the lines of “DOJ gay employees distribute a pamphlet that is a distraction from professional duties.” Instead, they resorted to lies and distortion.
That to me is the great mystery – why the right relies on lies. From claims made by right wing media that their audience should avoid all other sources of information because those sources are lying to them, to the host of deliberate lies and misrepresentations, it often seems as if right is interested in building an alternate reality. Sure there’s money to be made and most right wingers can’t resist a profit, but there’s more to it than that. It’s also more than pure cussedness, or contrariness. Anti-gay activists keep spreading disproven theories and claims and when called on them, respond not by re-examining their claims but by attacking the people who pointed out the problems (i.e. attacks on the Southern Poverty Law Center). There’s something at work here that defies normal rules of behavior and debate. It’s almost the scorched earth approach to public debate – as if the right has decided “We can’t win, so we’re going to make it as costly and painful as possible for everyone who disagrees with us.”