Weekend Update 3/31/2019: Bullies need an audience
There were two stories that I watched unfolding on Twitter. It’s not often that a conversation crosses my social media and then turns up as headlines the next couple of days. I thought about just saving the links for next Friday Five, but as I was reading one of the articles about one story, I realized that the two sets of events illustrate an aspect of bullying and hate that I’ve written about more than a few times. I also decided that I wanted to publish this before April 1st, so no one will think any of this is a joke.
I’m going to start with the most disturbing one: San Francisco Police Search For Sword-Wielding Man in MAGA Hat Who Cut Victim. Now this is a reported hate crime, and mindful that people will try to claim this is fake, I want to point out that there were multiple witnesses to the guy being in the stupid red hat, yelling homophobic slurs at the people going into the roller rink, and at least once he followed a group up to the door while yelling, but stopped without going inside.
One of the first stories posted on a San Francisco news site tried to make the guy who attacked someone with a sword out to be the victim, because at least one witness said that the guy who got stabbed first knocked the red hat off. Other witnesses were unclear as to what how the guy’s hat came off his head. At least one person described what happened before the sword came out as a scuffle. I’m not as familiar with California law as Washington state, so I don’t know if knocking the hat off (if that’s what happened) counts as assault. And if police find the asshole I’m sure he’s going to claim the other guy attacked him first.
But I’m confident the hat wearing guy was an asshole, because of the multiple witnesses to his hanging outside a skating rink that was hosting a gay-friendly event shouting homophobic slurs. And he brought a damn sword with him. That seems pre-meditated. He meant, at the least, to be a threatening presence. I hope they find him and throw the book at him.
The second story is a little different. I think most of the headlines have the story slightly wrong, but let’s start with the ending: Conservative commentator fired for attacking gay journalist online. So Denise McAllister, who has written for The Federalist and the Daily Wire and a few other of the conservative hate sites that pretend to be news has not had a great week. A few days ago she posted a link to an article from “ILoveMyFreedom.Org” that was critical of Meghan McCain (daughter of the late Senator John McCain and current member of the cast of The View). McAllister’s accompanying derogatory comments generated a lot of backlash, but things really took off when McCain replied with the statement, “You were at my wedding, Denise.”
The phrase quickly became a meme, as hundred of people started attaching it to various unrelated pictures. McCain apparently thought that all of these memes were people taking her side, apparently not quite getting the jokes of the meme.
Anyway, on Friday night McAllister overshared on twitter, saying that she had tried to talk to her husband while he was watching a basketball game, and he replied “Woman you know better than this, the game is on” and she agreed that he was right, she was wrong. And then the oversharing part was how at the commercial she brought him a beer to apologize and she described the kiss and, well, the whole thing was very Stepford Wives. And all in a single tweet.
This is, by the way, a good example of why I wish tweets were still only 140, because you wouldn’t quite be able to encapsulate thousands of years of toxic masculinity/misogyny and the willingness of some women to defend their own abuse in a single message.
Anyway, an out gay journalist named Yashar Ali quoted McAllister’s tweet with the comment, “Oh, Denise.” And this sent McAllister into a raging tweetstorm.
Those two words, “Oh, Denise” were, in her opinion, a vicious attack—not just on McAllister, but on masculinity and men’s freedom and I don’t know what all. There was a lot. The tamest comment she made was an assertion that gay men have no right to comment on heterosexual relationships, before she got to the kicker:The only thing that Ali had said after “Oh, Denise” was to observe, “I guess Denise is not happy that I’m worried about how her husband treats her.” Now, I realize that other people were commenting on her first tweet, pointing out that maybe she shouldn’t be so happy about how her husband was treating. But Yashar’s two comments were pretty mild. Once McAllister had gone to both an anal sex and penis reference, a bunch of other people—including other journalists and conservatives—took a screenshot of the two tweets and started contacting the official twitter accounts of the websites/magazines that she listed in her twitter bio as being places where she writes. And yes, two of those sites later issued statements that she no longer works for them, and specifically referenced the homophobic nature of the tweets in the screenshot.
She has deleted most of the rest of her tweetstorm—where she characterized people’s reactions as trying to burn her at the stake, and other crazy things. But by then the damage was done.
There is so much to unpack in all of this. Ali’s initial response was not an attack, it was pity. Pity for a person who is not only perpetuates the disrespect she gets from her husband, but actually rewards it and feels the need to go brag about it to the world. When you broadcast stuff like that, it is perfectly legitimate for other people to comment. The response that a gay man can’t comment on heterosexual relationships is pretty rich, given how many times McAllister has written about homosexual relationships. If a heterosexual homophobe can write homophobic editorials critiquing queer people and how they live their lives, then all us queers can state opinions about things the homophobe brags about in their own relationship.
While we’re on the topic of homophobic editorials: the publications that have fired McAllister have published dozens, nay, hundreds of articles, opinion pieces, and so forth that were just as homophobic as those two tweets that they now claim are unacceptable. If being homophobic and stating so publicly disqualifies someone for working at The Federalist, then they all need to fire each other right now. McAllister’s tweets were slightly (and only slightly) more crudely stated than the usual lying hatred toward gays that The Federalist and The Daily Wire publish all the time. Several other conservative pundits and journalists had weighed in on the sheer disproportionality of McAllister’s response to “Oh, Denise,” but given the sorts of things they have all written about queer people, what they are really upset about his how blunt she was.
I don’t believe that those tweets are the reason she was fired. That fact that Meaghan McCain’s husband is the founder and editor of The Federalist almost certainly has more to do with her firing than a couple of homophobic tweets. The weird dust-up with McCain had almost certainly already put her on the shitlist at several places.
And one is tempted to say, “Oh, Denise” in a rather pitying voice. But she doesn’t deserve our pity any more than the MAGA-hat wearing guy who attacked someone with a sword. Because they are both doing the same thing. You don’t go to a gay-friendly public event, wearing one of those stupid red hats, and yelling slurs at people unless you want attention. You want people to know you hate the gays. Similarly, you don’t post stories about how your husband yelled at you and sent you to fetch him a beer to earn forgiveness for the offense of talking to him while he’s watching a basketball game unless you want people to know that you hate the libtards who expect men to treat women with respect.
And you comment on a gay man’s sex life in crude terms because you want everyone to know that you hate the gays.
But make no mistake, the conservative pundits and sites that publish things about “the militant homosexual agenda,” and defending so-called gay conversion therapy, and insist that equal rights for queer people is an assault on religion, and repeat lies about the health of queer people also hate the gays. They run those headlines because they want everyone to know that they hate the gays. The only difference between them and people like McAllister of the sword-wielding guy is that the misdirect with code words. Instead of coming at us with a sword, they take away our right to healthcare and employment. Instead of blatant references to anal sex, they talk about health. But it’s still attacking us. They just try to hide their rage and hate with polite words and a smirk.
Ali’s final comment was, in stark contrast to McAllister’s raging, both eloquent and refined: “I was bullied for being Iranian as a kid. But I never felt ashamed of my ethnicity. I came out on 8/17/2001 & while it hasn’t always been easy, I have always been proud of who I am. I’m Iranian, gay, and Catholic. Perhaps an odd combo, but I wouldn’t change who I am for the world.”