The jerk on the tube

Teen with gun held to his head.
A screen grab from one of the many videos posted last year by groups who kidnapped, tortured, and occasionally killed teens who were alleged to be gay.
So, during what is allegedly a serious news program, after others sitting at the table talked about the violent arrests made under Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” laws, and the hate crimes committed by private citizens (including murdering teen-agers suspected of being gay) who felt emboldened by those laws, the moderator asked a Republican strategist if she thought Russian President Vladimir Putin would punish any gay athletes, tourists, and so forth, at the Olympics. She responded with the following: “Can I just say that I’m so sick of sports? Someone came up this week and said, I am not gay and I know I’m going to get in trouble for this, but all of my gay friends thinks he [Putin] looks so buff in his shirtless photos.”

First of all, what kind of heartless jerk think that’s an appropriate response right after someone has talked about teen-age kids being tortured and murdered?

Never mind that it’s a complete non sequitur, do you really expect us to believe, Mrs. Wealthy Republican Campaign Consultant, that you actually have gay friends…?

Okay, despite what most of the headlines on articles about this incident have said, she doesn’t actually claim to have gay friends. She said it was “someone” who came up to her, but clearly the sort of person who is going to randomly point this out to this well-known conservative political operative is someone with a similar political agenda, so it amounts to the same thing.

Here’s the deal, anyone who says “my gay friends think…” as a lead-in to justify something anti-gay, or to try to prove they aren’t themselves prejudiced against gay people are, at best, being self-delusional, if not outright lying. It has been suggested we should refer to these as imaginary gay friends, which isn’t to say that the gay people being referenced don’t exist, but rather that the relationship or their agreement with the opinions expressed are imaginary.

For instance, suppose you are one of these wealthy Republican strategists, and you have a favorite shop near your office or home where you get your hair cut. And suppose there is a male employee at said shop that you believe is gay, whether because he’s actually mentioned his boyfriend, or because you infer from his mannerisms and the fact that he works at a hair salon. No matter how often you go to this business, and no matter how much cheerful banter you may exchange with this gay guy, he is not your friend. He is someone who you are paying for a service. That doesn’t mean you’re bosom buddies.

Because this is a customer/service provider relationship, there is inherently an imbalance of power. He is not going to disagree with things you say while cutting your hair. He’s going to laugh at your jokes, no matter how cringeworthy or demeaning they are. If he doesn’t, the least you are likely to do is stiff him on his tip. Since you are a regular customer, somewhat famous, and wealthy, you could do a lot worse than that. A complaint from you to his manager or the owner could result in him getting assigned to the least desirable shifts, his hours significantly cut, or getting fired altogether.

So, of course, when you bring up political topics related to gay rights (and the sorts of people who say, “all my gay friends think…” of course bring up awkward gay news items when chatting with people they think are gay, because they don’t know what else to talk about with those people), he is going to laugh and appear to agree with whatever you say about it. Or he’s going to make a joke in an attempt to change the subject. You ask his opinion about club-weilding police wading into a gay protest march in Russia when he already knows that you are opposed to gay rights laws, he might very well pretend to know nothing about what you’re talking about and make a joke about how fond Vladimir Putin is of getting photographed shirtless.

None of that means that this gay person you barely know is your friend, nor does it mean that you have the slightest idea of what he really thinks about the topic. Even if that is what he thinks, it doesn’t mean that all of the rest of “the gays” agree with him, and it certainly doesn’t make it morally acceptable to kidnap and torture gay teens, for police to beat gay people with clubs, for people to be thrown into prison simply for disagreeing with a law, of for taking children away from a family simply because someone alleges a parent is gay or lesbian.

That was what this jerk was asked to comment on. And since she doesn’t want to admit that she thinks all of those things are perfectly acceptable, she tries to deflect with this ridiculous comment.

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