Archive for category Bigotry
I was an enthusiastic Cub Scout but at best a indifferent Boy Scout. I lost interest in scouting after a campout that was a well-intentioned mismanaged fiasco from beginning to end.
BSA have been living in a difficult place for years. They clearly sees themselves as a mainstream organization, modernizing and responding to contemporary society while transmitting time honored values and experiences. They strive to achieve racial and ethnic diversity. The organization updates and adds to its list of possible merit badges to represent changing societal awareness and standards, as for example badges in environmental science, disabilities awareness and game design. At the same time, many of the most fervent supporters of scouting are religious conservatives who perceive the organization as a bulwark of traditional values defending against a rising tide of valueless modernity. The organization’s struggle exemplifies the struggle in American culture. Read the rest of this entry »
A middle school in Red Hook, NY, conducted an anti-bullying workshop, working on questions of gender, gender identity and sexual orientation. The workshop was co-led by students from Bard College who are peer counselors at Bard.
So far, so non controversial.
What happened is that a student went home and complained to her mother – the story is now that the school forced girls to engage in lesbian kissing. A massive controversial discussion ensues on Facebook. Right wing media picks up the story that the school forced female students to kiss one another, that male students were taught how to identify which girls were sluts and were told to carry condoms at all times. Hysteria – not hysteria as in laughter but more in the nature of a moral panic – ensues.
Of course, none of those things actually happened and most parents are happy with the outcomes as well as the actual workshop. A few conservative parents are upset and the story with all its wrong details is being distributed around the right wing echo chamber.
The right wing picked up the mother’s complaint and ran with it – it appeared on Fox News. The anti-gay National Organization for Marriage has picked it up and used it in fundraising appeals. The false stories have made the rounds on the right (including a sensationalized account on WorldNetDaily). Expect to hear/read comments from conservatives about “that school in New York that forced girls to engage in “lesbian kisses” on comment boards and in discussion. What’s going on here is the right wing noise machine in full bore, blowing an entirely non-controversial incident out of proportion, creating a scandal where there is no scandal, feeding it into the right wing culture war community where it will become accepted as fact, and repeated ad nauseum.
The story in right wing media is not credible. Think about the details – does anyone seriuosly believe that an anti-bullying workshop would involve middle schools girls kissing each other? That an anti-bullying workshop would teach boys how to determine which of their classmates are sluts? It doesn’t pass the straight face test. Conservatives seem to have accepted accounts of the workshop without question at face value.
The dynamic at work here is deeper than simple gullibility or extremely credulity. Conservatives accepted the story on face value because it confirmed their existing biases about the general gone to hellness of the world. To put it another way, it’s not that the people believing this story are unusually gullible or credulous, it’s that they embrace a view of the world that tells them that school teachers and diversity programs and anti-bullying training are forms of indoctrination; these conservative parents expect to be outraged by what they hear about public schools, so they are primed to see scandal and depravity where none exists. The outraged conservatives hearing and sharing the story, expect public schools to try to indoctrinate their children in homosexuality, they’ve been told for years now that anti-bullying and diversity initiatives in public schools are nothing more than codewords for indoctrination. It’s a tiny step from believing that to believing students are being forced to kiss each other. Even if it didn’t happen in this case, conservatives will tell themselves it’s surely happening someplace else because that’s the sort of depraved thing that liberals will do if they think they can get away with it. To take one example, look at this comment from the WingNutDaily article:
If the liberals have it their way the law will destroy the meaning of family and the authority of parents completely. Remember what certain people were promoting on MSNBC? Your kids are not going to be your kids anymore so the government can brainwash them all they want and there won’t be a thing that you or anyone can do about it. Yeah, this is the culture that the lunatic liberals are creating. In certain European countries the kids are basically property of the state and not children of the parents. The kids in those countries are indoctrinated into anything and everything so long as it has nothing to do with God. This is powerful evidence of the type of utopian society and world that the lunatic liberals in the world are dreaming up and working towards making come true. The truth of the matter is that their dreams will, in fact, become nightmares. Their efforts will lead to catastrophe. No person should put up with the liberal lunatic agenda. It’s time for the anger of good citizens to be on full display and put the lunatic liberals in their place.
For this person it’s all part of a grand conspiracy. The breathless recounting of the event on right wing blogs and websites comes complete with denunciations of the evils of liberalism and public schools and gay people and fervid theorizing about the nefarious machinations of homosekshuls intent on destroying the family. The CBN (that is Christian Broadcasting Network) report ends with the warning that “school officials are planning more of these workshops!” The report – word for word – crops up on dozens of websites, propagated throughout a network of right wing blogs, bloggers, opinionators and semi-real news websites, to be forwarded, linked and discussed on other sites.
The story of the lesbian kisses is admittedly a minor one, but it’s a valuable case study in how the right wing works to spread misinformation throughout its network of activists, voters, bloggers and communities. Even if Fox were to retract the story today, it has spread far and wide, believed by who knows how many people. Like other right wing atrocity narratives, it will be reported again and again and no matter how many times its refuted, it will keep coming back. It will become the justification for right wing groups attempting to hold their own workshops at which people witness for Jesus and talk about becoming “ex-gay” and spread misinformation about gay people. When pushed on it, they’ll defend themselves with the story about the forced lesbian kisses in middle school.
Over the weekend, the D-News linked to yet another article opposed to gay marriage (this one published in Provo Daily Herald). Written by Jenet Erickson, of BYU’s School of Family Life, the article begins:
One of the most painful parts of the same-sex marriage debate is the accusation that those who oppose same-sex marriage must be blinded by bigotry . . . marriage involves more than just the adults who marry. Because marriage involves children, society has a deep and abiding interest in how it affects them.
You’ve had all of recorded history to come up with arguments against gay marriage and the best you’ve got is “Oh, won’t someone think of the children?!” You wonder why people think you’re a bigot?
Snark free: I get that it must be difficult to be accused of bigotry when the person being accused truly believes they are without bias. At the same time, Erickson’s entire argument hinges on the notion that gay people marrying is a threat to children; infertile couples, couples who cheat on each other, couples who never plan to have children, none of these couples seem to bother her, only gay couples. That’s why she and other people who oppose marriage equality get accused of bigotry.
I was going to write something about this atrocious video but Chrislove at Kos beat me to it.
Ruth Institute head Jennifer Roback Morse, who now appears to be sporting a 40-pound cross hanging around her neck, took to YouTube a few days ago to warn of this gay conspiracy to take over college dorms. No, I’m not even exaggerating. Morse actually appears to believe that gays are conspiring to take over dorms. You know, so they can host drag parties and make fundamentalist Christians uncomfortable.
FWIW, Roback Morse’s video is a rightwing hit parade – the gays are after your children, college is dangerously liberal, and Christians are the victims here, dammit!
This one is a winner. This is why America is deteriorating. Republicans are uninformed, vacuous people.
In a recent op-ed, Salt Lake Tribune writer George Pyle argued that:
Following no organized religion does not mean that individuals do not believe in God, or a higher power. It just means they are compelled to define and follow that power on their own, being responsible for their own decisions, not outsourcing their thinking to any Earthly leader. And that should make democracy easier, not harder.
When no single religion is in a superior position of power, participants in a democracy must find another common language, the language of civil society, in which to converse. Preferred policies must be argued in terms of rational facts, because no one can simply claim it is God’s will and shut down the conversation.
This assertion is not controversial and should not be controversial.
Paul Mero wrote a surprisingly arrogant response to Pyle’s editorial. Mero, for those who don’t know, is a leading Utah based recipient of Wingnut Welfare as head of the Sutherland institute. Mero’s main point is summed up:
. . . there is no civil society without religion. Religion is a basic human value; it is a human good. All but the secular mind pause to reflect persistently on the purpose of life. Not only is this reflection natural to every reasonable human being, it is a requirement for human excellence.
An article by Adam Streeter, born and raised in Happy Valley:
I grew up Mormon, and every year I endured a hair-raising interview to get my “temple recommend.” (Think of it like Mormon “security clearance.”) It was a firewalk in the guise of an annual interrogation. Everyone in my life would know if I failed. I’d be excluded from joining my family and friends in Temple rituals. Rumors would flood my neighborhood in Utah Valley. And every year, the same question threatened to consume me with shame.
“Do you touch yourself?”
Each time I lied, I plunged into a very Mormon kind of hell.
Mano Singham in response to the attacks on US Embassies in response to a movie that says mean things about Islam:
When private individuals have been attacked by religious zealots, the acts have been condemned but also resulted in calls for greater sensitivity to the feelings of religious people. That is wrong-headed. What we really need is a greater global sensitivity to the right of free speech. Muslims, like any other religious group, will have to come to terms with the fact that their religious beliefs cannot be allowed to put limits on the speech of others however deliberately offensive it may seem to them.
I work with teens on a weekly basis and that experience makes me find Rev. Benedict Groeschel’s statements even more reprehensible. The old bastard said:
People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath. But that’s not the case. Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer.
He wasn’t done:
Well, it’s not so hard to see — a kid looking for a father and didn’t have his own — and they won’t be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping but not having intercourse or anything like that.
It’s an understandable thing, and you know where you find it, among other clergy or important people; you look at teachers, attorneys, judges, social workers. [snip]
And I’m inclined to think, on their first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime.
I may be wrong, but I don’t recall the National Association of Social Workers and the NEA and the state Bar Associations spending decades knowingly protecting pedophiles.
I’m stunned at the lack of understanding this man demonstrates. I’m beyond disgusted.
I’ve seen kids get very attached to their youth leaders and being young they sometimes confuse the love they feel for romantic feelings but the adult has responsibility for setting healthy boundaries and helping teens understand the difference between the very real platonic love they feel and romantic love.
If Groeschel is an example of the moral leadership in the Catholic church, it’s no wonder the church is full of priests who spend their afternoons diddling children.