You’ve heard by now, because the Right has been going nuts about it all weekend, that Dan Savage spoke to a group of high school journalism students, and in the course of that talk, Dan was Dan, and now lots of people are upset. I really didn’t want to write about it, because it’s so stupid, but it’s everywhere, so here goes.
The first thing I’d point out is that, when the story hit Fox News, it had been languishing in the darkest corners of Wingnuttia for a couple of weeks. Because I have to subscribe to such things, I had seen it on Focus on the Family’s blog, but normal people wouldn’t have seen it. Then, as I said, it hit Fox. And oh, did it hit Fox. Here’s the latest article on the website of this organization that purports to report the news:
Oh, LORD. Reading through the piece, I feel like these kids have been coached in how to act like victims, because it’s clear, even from reading the Fox piece, that, aside from when Dan called them “pansy-assed” for getting up and leaving [which was not nice, but Dan already apologized for that], he wasn’t personally attacking the kids at all, but rather critiquing the Bible. That should not be off limits, especially in a room full of bright, shining journalism students. Before we get to looking at different people’s reactions to this, though, let’s look at the entire text of what Dan said. It’s notable that the wingnut websites screaming and crying about this, for the most part, are not posting his complete remarks. Towleroad did the other day, though:
The Bible. We’ll just talk about the Bible for a second. People often point out that they can’t help it — they can’t help with the anti-gay bullying, because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans, that being gay is wrong.
We can learn to ignore the bulls**t in the Bible about gay people. The same way, the same way we have learned to ignore the bulls**t in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore bulls**t in the Bible about all sorts of things. The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slave owners waved Bibles over their heads during the Civil War and justified it. The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slave owner about owning his Christian slave. And Paul doesn’t say “Christians don’t own people.” Paul talks about how Christians own people.
We ignore what the Bible says about slavery, because the Bible got slavery wrong. Tim — uh, Sam Harris, in A Letter To A Christian Nation, points out that the Bible got the easiest moral question that humanity has ever faced wrong. Slavery. What’re the odds that the Bible got something as complicated as human sexuality wrong? One hundred percent.
The Bible says that if your daughter’s not a virgin on her wedding night — if a woman isn’t a virgin on her wedding night, she shall be dragged to her father’s doorstep and stoned to death. Callista Gingrich lives. And there is no effort to amend state constitutions to make it legal to stone women to death on their wedding night if they’re not virgins. At least not yet. We don’t know where the GOP is going these days.
People are dying because people can’t clear this one last hurdle. They can’t get past this one last thing in the Bible about homosexuality.
Um, one other thing I wanna talk about is — [chuckles] — so, you can tell the Bible guys in the hall that they can come back now, because I’m done beating up the Bible. It’s funny, as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed some people react when you push back.
I apologize if I hurt anyone’s feelings. But. I have a right to defend myself. And to point out the hypocrisy of people who justify anti-gay bigotry by pointing to the Bible, and insisting we must live by the code of Leviticus on this one issue and no other.
And scene. You’d have to be extremely oversensitive with the reading comprehension of Porno Pete to interpret that as a personal attack on either Christianity or those Christian students. I understand that Fundamentalists are nothing if not perpetually butthurt, but everything Dan said right there is true. Moreover, it has absolutely nothing to do with Christianity as a whole, just the hypocrites who use their favorite six Bible verses as an excuse to continue hurting gay people, when there are thousands of verses those same hypocrites ignore on a daily basis. And Dan also has a point when he says, “it’s funny, as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-assed some people react when you push back.”
I would suggest that Dan’s statement right there has been vindicated by the entire activation of the wingnut pout-rage noise machine in the days since. But there’s another element here, which needs to be pointed out. The Religious Right and their media outlets are losing it over this because they want to deflect attention from the work Dan Savage has done to curb anti-gay bullying, because they don’t want anti-gay bullying to stop. They don’t call it “bullying,” but bullying is what they support just the same. Religious Right activists have been pushing back since the suicides of gay teens started getting media attention, working to preserve their right to bully gay kids while hiding behind their religious beliefs. They call this “witnessing,” but a distinction needs to be drawn, as there is a huge difference between fundamentalist Christians trying to sell their religious beliefs to someone and telling them that, due to their “lifestyle,” if they don’t buy what they’re selling, they’ll burn in hell for all eternity. That’s bullying, and it’s modeled every Sunday in pulpits across the nation.
Now, let’s look at some of their reactions, starting with the above linked piece in Focus on the Family’s Citizenlink:
A 17-year-old from California who was attending with half a dozen other students from her high school yearbook staff, was one of several students to walk out in the middle of Savage’s speech.
“The first thing he told the audience was, ‘I hope you’re all using birth control!’ ” she recalled. Then “he said there are people using the Bible as an excuse for gay bullying, because it says in Leviticus and Romans that being gay is wrong. Right after that, he said we can ignore all the ‘B.S.’ in the Bible.
“I was thinking, ‘This is not going a good direction at all,’ Then he started going off about the Bible. He said somehow the Bible was pro-slavery. I’m really shy. I’m not really someone to, like, stir up anything. But all of a sudden I just blurted out, ‘That’s bull!’ ”
Actually, ma’am, it’s not “bull.” While it remains unsurprising that liberals and secular people understand the Bible better than the average Fundamentalist, it shouldn’t be considered cruel to simply explain to people what that book actually says. Also, it’s good that he hopes they’re all using birth control, because a lot of the teenagers in that room are having sex. Dan knows this, and while wingnuts may want to believe that their abstinence-only sex ed has been working, grown-ups know it’s not and that teens have sex. Birth control, therefore, is a good idea.
Here is one of the dumbest people on the planet, Fox News’ Steve Doocy, who claims that Dan was “bullying” those Christian kids by stating the obvious:
The thing is, Dan didn’t single anyone out until the end, once the kids had already walked out. Fundamentalist Christians, listen up: being forced to hear a speaker critique your beliefs from the stage is not in and of itself “bullying.” You may not like what you hear, and you have every right to rebut it in an appropriate forum, but that’s not “bullying.” As I said above, Dan already apologized for using the phrase “pansy-assed,” but he was right even then, in noticing just how quickly Fundamentalists, who dish out more hate upon our society on a daily basis, toward minorities, on both a collective and an individual basis, start screaming and crying the second somebody pushes back, even a little bit.
Here’s Fox News again, with the victimization story of another student who walked out, Jake Naman, 18:
“The very second he said the Bible and paused, I knew it was going to get ugly,” Naman told Fox News. “It was about to be a bashing.”
No, Jake, it was not a “bashing.” He critiqued a book that he obviously knows better than you do. A “bashing” is something that many gay people experience when people with “traditional values” beat the shit out of them.
The 18-year-old Eagle Scout and captain of the high school track team rose to his feet – and walked out – passing by hundreds of other students who were cheering the anti-bullying advocate’s profanity-laced rant.
“I felt like in my heart I couldn’t just stay there at all,” he said. “It was a really weird feeling I just had to get out. I didn’t want to cause a scene but I really could not stand to be in that room anymore.”
Jake Naman said he felt – bullied.
Maybe he can grow up and write for WorldNetDaily or something. They specialize in faux-victim stories.
“If Dan Savage had gotten up there and said ‘God hates homosexuals and they’re all going to hell,’ there would have been huge outrage from that crowd,” he said. “As Christians we get the other side of that. When our faith is attacked like that – we are ridiculed for taking a stand against it.”
And yet, Jake, Dan didn’t say something even remotely as harsh about Christians as that. Indeed, he wasn’t even talking about Christians, but rather Christians who are hypocrites! He didn’t attack your faith. If it feels personal to you, perhaps you’re one of the hypocrites he’s talking about. Here is his sister:
“I was shaking,” Julia Naman told Fox News. “I saw my brother pop up and leave and I took off after him.”
So did 17-year-old Haley Mulder.
“I never felt more hurt, felt persecuted,” Mulder said. “For me, my faith is what I Want to be defined by. For someone to say it was B.S. is really hurtful. I felt put down and bullied because of my faith.”
Persecuted?! What are they teaching Fundie kids these days, that they would view having to confront a differing viewpoint as persecution? Note also the recurring use of words such as “persecution” and “bullying.” Again, it’s almost like they’ve been coached.
Now, the wingnut noise machine has been all over this, and the Religious Right, yadda yadda yadda, but it’s really embarrassing when the quislings of GOProud, who theoretically should at least understand the issues at hand here, join the pitchfork brigade. Here is their press release. The stupid, it burns:
Jimmy LaSalvia, GOProud Executive Director – “Dan Savage’s outrageous anti-Christian tirade hurts – not helps – the fight for gay rights in this country.”
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, GOProud – a national organization of gay and straight Americans seeking to promote freedom by supporting free markets, limited government, and a respect for individual rights, condemned a speech given by left wing gay activist Dan Savage. “Dan Savage’s outrageous anti-Christian tirade hurts – not helps – the fight for gay rights in this country,” said Jimmy LaSalvia, GOProud Executive Director. “There is nothing incompatible between being a Christian and believing that all people should be treated equally, and Dan Savage’s attacks on Christianity only fuel those on the extremist fringe who oppose gay rights.”
“Dan Savage should apologize for his comments and should apologize to the high school students in attendance who he called ‘pansy-asses,’” continued LaSalvia. “It is ironic that someone whose claim to fame is fighting bullying would resort to bullying tactics in attacking high school students who were offended by his outrageous remarks.”
“GOProud works with people of faith every single day – gay and straight. We believe strongly that people of faith should be treated with respect,” concluded LaSalvia.
At least we know that the thing that ties LaSalvia and the rest of Wingnuttia together is their shared lack of reading comprehension skills. No one is questioning whether there are millions of people of faith who also support equality. No one. Especially not Dan Savage. But to call Dan’s remarks an “anti-Christian” tirade simply plays into the Fundamentalist Victim Complex where anybody who says or does anything they don’t like is at war with them or something. Here, let a Christian explain it to you. John Shore? I’m quoting liberally:
Besides the fact that he was raised in a devoutly Catholic home and is the country’s leading gay activist, who is Dan Savage to say anything at all about the ages-old Christian condemnation of gay people? So what if his claim is manifestly valid that nothing contributes more to the destruction of the lives of gay people than do Christians falsely and hypocritically using the Bible as an instrument of brutality? So what if he believes that among the most egregious of all Christian sins is daring to proclaim that God’s love ends where their own fear and hatred begin? So what if every day, for decades on end, Dan Savage has dealt with young lives obliterated through violence informed and buttressed by the bedrock “Christian” view that gay people are less than human?
So what if any reasonably compassionate person should be expected to vigorously assert that it’s time for all Christians to reject using the Bible as a means of justifying the persecution of an entire population whose only “crime” is to prefer to spend their lives with same-sex partners?
Why should any of that matter? What matters is that Dan Savage cursed. He said bull**** not once, but three times.
And high school students have never heard curse words! John also explains why their cries of being “bullied” are, well, bullsh*t:
What immediately become a meme amongst Dan’s critics is that those who walked out of his talk felt bullied by him. But that’s impossible. People get bullied because of who they are: how they look and act, what they say and do. Perceived as being in some critical way weak or lacking, victims of bullies are selected for persecution; they are pulled from the pack before being pointedly and repeatedly victimized. The people who walked out during Dan’s talk were not separated from their peers by anyone. They were content to do that themselves. They were not frightened or cowed. They were offended. They felt that by disparaging what amounts to their God, Dan had transgressed beyond their capacity for toleration. And they were pleased to show their intolerance of Dan’s words by protesting against them in the manner they did. Theirs was not an act born of suffering. It was a proud show of disdain.
Aha! John is smart. I will say, though, that by drawing that distinction, John shows just how good fundies have gotten at training their children up into the doublespeak world they inhabit as adults. Simultaneously righteous, good, the voice of Real Americans, yet also the most oppressed, victimized minority this world has ever seen. Some of their mega-churches don’t even have tennis courts.
Anyway, to sum up: this is all manufactured outrage, just like pretty much everything else wingnuts scream about. Dan Savage said a potty word to some high school students, said the same thing about ignoring obsolete parts of the Bible that he does in talks around the nation, some kids got mad and conveniently found a Focus on the Family “news reporter,” and now we’re wasting our time talking about it. Well done, wingnut noise machine. You never fail to distract Americans from real issues.
Here’s the video from Dan’s talk if you haven’t heard it:
UPDATE: Here is Dan Savage’s partial apology, and a clarification of his remarks about the Bible:
I would like to apologize for describing that walk out as a pansy-assed move. I wasn’t calling the handful of students who left pansies (2800+ students, most of them Christian, stayed and listened), just the walk-out itself. But that’s a distinction without a difference—kinda like when religious conservatives tells their gay friends that they “love the sinner, hate the sin.” They’re often shocked when their gay friends get upset because, hey, they were making a distinction between the person (lovable!) and the person’s actions (not so much!). But gay people feel insulted by “love the sinner, hate the sin” because it is insulting. Likewise, my use of “pansy-assed” was insulting, it was name-calling, and it was wrong. And I apologize for saying it.
As for what I said about the Bible…
A smart Christian friend involved politics writes: “In America today you just can’t refer, even tangentially, to someone’s religion as ‘bullshit.’ You should apologize for using that word.”
I didn’t call anyone’s religion bullshit. I did say that there is bullshit—”untrue words or ideas”—in the Bible. That is being spun as an attack on Christianity. Which is bullshhh… which is untrue. I was not attacking the faith in which I was raised. I was attacking the argument that gay people must be discriminated against—and anti-bullying programs that address anti-gay bullying should be blocked (or exceptions should be made for bullying “motivated by faith”)—because it says right there in the Bible that being gay is wrong. Yet the same people who make that claim choose to ignore what the Bible has to say about a great deal else. I did not attack Christianity. I attacked hypocrisy. My remarks can only be read as an attack on all Christians if you believe that all Christians are hypocrites. Which I don’t believe.
And neither do I.
UPDATE DEUX: Thers, saying everything that needs to be said in as concise terms as possible:
But then, to keep perspective.
Name the teenager who commited suicide because of a profound shame at being, deep down, a Christian.