Tag Archive | religious right

Confessions of an unrepentant rationalist

“This pretty much sums up everyone's feelings about ignorant hate.”

“This pretty much sums up everyone’s feelings about ignorant hate.” (Click to embiggen)

Bryan Fischer hosts a show on the American Family Association’s (a certified hate group) radio network, and is frequently referred to as a former AFA employee (though all that really happened was that his official title of Director of Issues Analysis was revoked after he made some ridiculous comments about the Jewish religion being counterfeit—literally the day before 100 members of the Republican National Committee were being flown to Isreal at the expense of the AFA; Fischer still receives a salary from them, so the firing was a sham). Fischer made some new ridiculous comments this weekend. In a tweet he claimed that gays have stolen the rainbow from god, the original inventor of the rainbow, and that we should give it back.

Fischer is described over on Rational Wiki as someone who “makes even the most cuckoo-bananas conservative talk radio pundits seem sane and reasonable in comparison.” He’s always going on about gay people (and how gays and nazis are the same thing) and gay sex (and how hyper masculine aggressive gay sex is destroying everything). Besides making him sound like a kook, it also proves that he thinks about gay sex a whole lot more than most gay people do. Hmmmm, where have we seen that phenomenon before?

Screenshot of Fischer’s tweet, in case he wises up and deletes it: “Worst example of cultural appropriation ever: LGBTs stole the rainbow from God. It’s his. He invented it. Gen. 9:11-17. Give it back.”

There are so many things wrong with this assertion that it’s hard to know where to begin. First of all, he quotes from the end of the story of Noah in the old testament to justify his claim that queers have stolen god’s invention. I’m going to quote a bit of that: “13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” That’s god talking to Noah, and please note what god himself says: the rainbow is a sign of a covenant between god and the entire planet. A moment later he emphasizes that it is a sign of a covenant between him and all living creatures of every kind. Gay people are part of the planet. Gay people are a kind of living creature.

So, if you believe (as Fischer frequently claims to) that the bible is the inerrant word of god and literally true in every word, well, that means that queers have just as much a claim on the rainbow as any inhabitant of the earth or god himself. I’m just quoting god from Fischer’s holy book, here!

Lots of people had fun with Fischer’s tweet. Part of what cracked me up about it is that this is one of the sections of the Bible that got me in trouble when I was a kid, because I kept having questions that my Sunday School teachers and other church leaders couldn’t answer. Such as, how did all of the land species that live only in Australia get to Noah’s boat? Seriously, did a bunch of kangaroos and koalas and so forth build a mini ark and cross the ocean to get to the Arabian Pennisula? And if they did have a way to survive crosses the Pacific and Indian Oceans, why did they need to get on Noah’s ark to begin with? How did they get to Noah’s ark? And how big was this ark, really, because just assembling every species of, say, feline is going to require a very big boat. And then how are you going to keep all those big cats away from the pairs of the 20+ species of deer?

But let’s get back to the rainbow. The sorts of Christians who insist that every word in the Bible is literally true absolutely despise the notion of evolution. And one of their favorite arguments against evolution back when I was a kid, was to look at the complexity of the eyeball: you have the lens and receptors and tiny muscles to adjust the lens in order to change focus and so on and so on, and just a beautiful perfect organ for focusing and interpreting light could not possible have evolved by chance! Seriously, they think that’s an argument the undoes all of science. Anyway, when making this argument they get very insistent that god design the eyeballs of humans (and every other species on the planet that sees the way we do) and they have all had them since god created the world in a famous six-day run, right? Here’s the problem: the very same laws of physics that allow that lens in the front of those perfectly designed eyeballs to focus images on the retina? They are also what make rainbows appear when there is sunlight shining through an atmosphere littered with tiny water droplets. If god didn’t tweak the laws of physics to allow rainbows to appear in the clouds until after Noah’s flood, then none of the characters in the Bible who lived before Noah could have had the power of sight. They would have all had these perfect organs for seeing in their heads that didn’t work at all.

And they had to be able to see because sight is mentioned in several of the Bible stories before Noah. Also, god is supposed to have created humans in his image and we still are supposed to be in his image (Jesus affirmed that in the same story in which he endorsed paying your taxes), so that means we’ve always had these eyeballs, which were apparently useless appendages until after Noah’s flood.

And I’ve completely skipped over the parts of this story in which god admits he’s very forgetful and prone to rash, unwise decisions. He says he put the rainbow in the sky to remind him from time to time that he’s promised never again to destroy the world with a flood. So god needs to leave himself post-its, “Don’t commit mass genocide.” And the whole flood story begins with god realizing that he should have never created humans to begin with, because all of them are dirty rotten scoundrels. Then god reconsiders and decides that maybe Noah, his sons, and his daughters-in-law might be worth keeping around. But only them! Everyone else has got to go! And how does this supposedly all-powerful, all-knowing, wise and loving god decides to get rid of the scoundrels? Does he unleash a plague that would only infect humans, so that all of them die off and leave the planet to the birds and animals and plants? No, he takes out the dirty rotten people by wiping out every living thing on the surface of the earth. Wipe out billions of innocent mice and puppies and so forth to get rid of a few thousand or maybe millions of humans. That sounds like a plan that a smart omnipotent being would cook up, right?

When I brought up these inconsistencies as a kid, the adults would usually try to handwave about god’s plan, and us poor mortals not understanding. As I entered my teens and got better about pointing out the problems with that, they would talk about symbolism and poetic language. Which of course completely contradicts the notion that ever word is literally true. Then I would usually be admonished for being obstinate and willfully difficult and wasting time on trivial technical questions.

But complaining about who gets to use the rainbow as a symbol of hope isn’t wasting time being obstinate over trivial things?

Queers aren’t the first people to latch onto the rainbow as a symbol of diversity, freedom, resistance to oppression, and so on. There are several reasons for this. Just because the International Cooperative Movement (since 1921), or the Peace Movement (since 1961), or the Rainbow Coalition (since the mid-sixties), or the LGBT community (since 1978) and so on use the rainbow as symbols doesn’t do anything to the rainbows that appear in the sky after a storm. Those rainbows that god talked about in the book of Genesis are still there. We haven’t taken them away. According to Fischer’s religion’s own holy book, the rainbow is given as a symbol to every living creature on the earth. It even literally says “every kind” of creature. If you think you have the right to tell any of us that the rainbow isn’t ours, well, then you just don’t understand the real meaning of rainbows or love or dreams…


Muppet Movie – The Rainbow Connection:

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

More adventures in straightsplaining—bless your heart

“Go ahead! Explain to us how you, a straight person, know more about homophobia than we do.”

“Go ahead! Explain to us how you, a straight person, know more about homophobia than we do.”(Click to embiggen.)

In a recent post I commented on the case of Andrew Shirvell, a former Michigan assistant attorney general who lost his job because he mounted a harassment and stalking campaign (using state resources) against an openly gay college student. During the post I commented on how Shirvell pings everyone’s gaydar and talked about the roots of his particularly vicious and obsessive homophobia. And a new commenter decided to explain to me how very homophobic it is for me to characterize Shirvell’s mannerisms and speech patterns as prissy.

Oh, straightsplaining again! Hurrah! Thank you, so much, anonymous straight person, for explaining homophobia to me. How foolish of me to think that my 50+ years of surviving the slings and arrows of homophobia gave me any understanding of it.

Okay, let me clarify a few things:

Fact the First: you are correct, not every gay man is a sissy. Bully for you for being so open-minded!

Fact the Second: there are actual studies that show that, while not all queer men are sissies, at least 75% of boys who exhibit the characteristics causing them to be labeled “sissy” during childhood grow up to come out as queer.

Fact the Third: no matter what their actual sexual orientation, every boy who ever lived in our society who exhibits any of those gender-nonconforming behaviors was bullied because of them.

So, whether you believe that Shirvell is a closet case or not, my assertion that homophobic bullying is part of the root of his insanely over the top obsessively vicious homophobic campaign against that college student is still valid. You’re barely technically correct that we don’t know Shirvell’s orientation for certain (though I’m 99.99999% certain that he is queer of one sort or another). But the sheer level of sissy behavior one sees in any of the video interviews Shirvell gave back when he was defending his campaign tells me that he wasn’t just bullied occasionally as a child, but quite viciously and continuously. And we know from many studies that enduring that kind of bullying is one of the sources of adulthood excessive homophobic attitudes and behavior.

While we’re on the topic of those studies: those studies also show that the more virulent an adult man‘s homophobic attitudes and opinions are, the more likely it is that their body will exhibit involuntary arousal at the sight of scantily clad men. In other others, the more homophobic, the more likely that they are a self-loathing closet case. Add that to the study above, and it’s possible that my 99.99999% assessment is too low.

Fact the Fourth: I was a sissy. My childhood bullies included not just my classmates, but many of the adults in my life: family members, some teachers, and many adults at church. Yes, during my early teen years I was verbally homophobic. In my later teen years the only reason I wasn’t was not because I had become enlightened, but rather because as I had given in to my hormones a number of times, I wasn’t willing to be a hypocrit. But I was still convinced that I was going to go to hell for giving in to those feelings. So I understand Shirvell’s situation.

I do feel sorry for Shirvell the child. I know he had a horrible experience, even though I don’t know all the details. However, he’s an adult, now. He’s been exposed to information about sexual orientation, including the medical studies that it is not a choice (and therefore, since part of the theological definition of sin is being a willful disobedience, that means homosexuality cannot be a sin). He’s had more than enough time to start coming to terms with his childhood trauma and at least make the decision not to be the kind of bully that made his childhood hell. He has very emphatically chosen not to do so. Shirvell the adult deserves not one iota of sympathy. Not one.

Fact the Fifth: Please understand, I’m not stereotyping Andrew Shirvell as a gay man, I’m stereotyping him as a self-hating closet case—and he’s given us so, so much ammunition. It’s not just about the way he prances or speaks, it’s what he says as he’s ranting about the imagined sexual depravities of the targets of his homophobic rants—he simply sounds like he spends an inordinate amount of time imagining queer sex.

And there isn’t a plausible heterosexual explanation for that.


Note: Comments on this entire blog have always been moderated. Specific commenters have been whitelisted, but everyone else’s comments sit in a queue until I approve them. And I don’t see any point in approving comments that are insulting, or obviously coming from sock puppets or—such as the comment alluded to here—indicate the person isn’t interested in listening.

Weekend Update 4/1/2017: No need for jokes while we have these clowns in the news

“Sir, I have had enough of your shenanigans, so I bid you good day. I said good day to you sir!”

“Sir, I have had enough of your shenanigans, so I bid you good day. I said good day to you sir!”

Whenever Aaron Schock is in the news again, hits on one particular old post about him suddenly spike on my site. This happened Wednesday, which sent me looking for the story: Ex-Rep. Aaron Schock Alleges FBI Had His Staffer Wear A Wire, Steal Docs. Schock is on trial for all sorts of financial shenanigans while he was in office (Conning some constituents into paying over $7000 into a fake account allegedly for travel expenses which he actually billed to tax payers, $140,000 in false mileage claims, a $5,000 chandelier for his office also billed to the tax payers, et cetera), which had driven him to resign. I’ve described Schock before as badly-closeted because he’s a Republican with a perfect anti-gay record who not only lived with his boyfriend while he was a congressman, but took the boyfriend on official trips, where even though said boyfriend was listed as a staff photographer, he never took any photos and Schock but rather posed at Schock’s side along with the other congressmen and their wives, at dinner sat beside Schock as the other spouses did, conveniently had an adjoining hotel room et cetera, et cetera. Never mind the times he’s been photographed or videoed in gay bars, or the time he led reporters and a camera crew around a gay neighborhood and kept (on camera) getting destracted with his gaze lingering on hunky shirtless men as they walked by.

It’s kind of pathetic.

I keep half expecting Schock to eventually come out and try to claim that the pressure of the closet unbalanced his mental health and all of his wrongdoing was the result. Or maybe just to claim that the FBI’s investigation into his financial wrongdoings was all some sort of homophobic plot. Which, given that Schock on at least one occasion gave a speech in the House of Representatives chambers in which he insisted that it should be legal for employers to fire people just because they think they might be gay, landlords to evict or refuse to rent to people they suspect are gay, and so on.

Once he’s convicted I hope he gets a long sentence.


He’s not the only homophobe formerly employed by the government in the news this week: Former Michigan Asst AG Andrew Shirvell Loses Law License for Anti-Gay Attack on UM Student Chris Armstrong. Shirvell’s story is weird. Back in 2010 Chris Armstrong, was elected student body president at the University of Michigan. Armstrong was the first openly-gay person elected to that office. Shirvell, meanwhile, worked as an assistant attorney general in Michigan. The minute Shirvell saw a news story about Armstrong’s election, he logged onto Facebook and created a page called Chris Armstrong Watch and posted a bunch of barely coherent anti-gay rants. Facebook suspended the page as a violation of community guidelines, so Shirvell created is one blog (which for a long time had as a banner a picture of Armstrong with an image of a gay pride flag with a swastika superimposed on it and the word RESIGN scrawled across Armstrong’s face).

But it wasn’t just hundred s of anti-gay blog posts. Shirvell spent nearly every night parked in his car across the street from a house where Armstrong and several other students lived, taking pictures of everyone who came in and out of the house. He posted the pictures (and when he could the names) of each one, writing about what sorts of lewd sexual depravities he assumed had to be going on inside the house. On one occasion when Armstrong and his housemates hat a party, Shirvell drove around the block for hours, taking pictures and trying to get proof that they were serving underaged people alcohol. We know he drove around the block for hours because a) he blogged about it extensively, b) he called the police at 1:30 and tried to get the partiers arrested for disturbing the peace and in his official statement to the police told them he had been driving around the block for hours, and c) several of the neighbors had called in the suspicious car circling the neighborhood. And just to be clear, Shirvell didn’t live nearby!

Andrew Shirvell (left), with a defaced image of gay college student Chris Armstrong that Shirvell posted on his blog in 2010. ( photo © LGBTQ Nation)

Andrew Shirvell (left), with a defaced image of gay college student Chris Armstrong that Shirvell posted on his blog in 2010. ( photo © LGBTQ Nation)

When Armstrong attended various gay student alliance events and similar public activities, Shirvell was there with homophobic banners. When Armstrong got a summer intership with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Shirvell called Pelosi’s office and ranted at staffers about why Armstrong should be fired. Most of this during Armstrong’s senior year at college. Shirvell was eventually fired from his job as an assistant Attorney General not for the hate speech and protesting, but because he had done some of the harassment when he was supposed to be working, used his state-owned work computer for some of it, conducted some of the harassment in a way that implied he was acting as a state official, and then lied about it to internal investigators. He tried to sue the state because he claimed all of the activity was protected under the first amendment (the judge found that the reason for firing was for specific conduct and not for stating his anti-gay opinions).

Armstrong eventually sued Shirvell for harassment, stalking, and related things asking for legal fees and $25,000 in damages. The jury awarded $4.5million in damages. On Shirvell’s appeal, that judgement was reduced to $3.5million, but otherwise all findings of the jury were upheld by the appeals court. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Shirvell’s appeals. It’s unlikely that Armstrong will ever get the money, but the principle at least has been upheld that a government employee can’t harass a queer kid (Armstrong was 21 years old for most of this, but he was a college student, for goodness sake!).

No one has ever been able to get a reasonable explanation from Shirvell for why Armstrong of all people became the target of his fierce and vitriolic obsession. Even under oath on trial (where acting as his own lawyer, he questioned himself for two hours, and then under cross-examination was forced to admit everything he had just testified about Armstrong and the situation was a lie)! Sure, Shirvell was a University of Michigan alumnus (he graduated 8 years before Armstrong became student body president), so you can argue that his initial interest was simply because he followed news about his former school, but the obsessive behavior against someone he otherwise didn’t know was really over-the-top.

The reason he can’t explain himself is that that there isn’t a rational explanation. There is, sadly, a very understandable irrational one. Shirvell is a 36-year-old man who has never been married and never been known to date a woman. In video appearances he doesn’t merely ping a lot of people’s gaydar, it’s like a mega-super-gay four-alarm alert. Shirvell is a self-loathing closet case. And I’m hardly the first person to realize this.

Shirvell had been involved in a few public anti-gay activities before the Armstrong case (my favorite was the campaign to get a local pizza parlor to stop putting a rainbow flag in its window during Pride Month), and his rants then were a bit crazy. He appears to have been raised in a conservative Catholic family (he attended private Catholic schools for his primary grades and high school, and got his jurisdoctorate at a Catholic law school—in fact the University of Michigan is the only public school he ever attended). In interviews Shirvell comes across as not just mildly effeminate, but very prissy. I have no doubt that he was bullied throughout his childhood. So Shirvell’s spent his entire life desperately trying to prove to people that he’s straight. He hid himself and denied his feelings and subjected himself to the torture of the closet his entire life. He’s likely never had even a clandestine romantic relationship!

…And then he sees that news story about an openly gay student being elected student president at his alma mater. He sees the smiling pictures of a young man who isn’t hiding those feelings, isn’t suffering alone in the closet, isn’t loathing himself. Shirvell sees that this good-looking, happy-looking young queer man isn’t merely being tolerated by his family and fellow students, but he’s well-liked and even celebrated! No wonder Shirvell over-reacted. Shirvell has been a powder keg of self-hatred and insanity just waiting to explode. So far he’s destroyed his own reputation, gotten himself saddled with an impossible financial obligation, and now even lost his law license because his actions weren’t just creepy and crazy, they constituted legal misconduct.

“Contrary to popular belief I do not hate gay people - God”

(click to embiggen)

Some would argue we should feel sorry for Andrew Shirvell. But honestly, the number of times during the trial that Armstrong said if Shirvell would just apologize he would drop the case represent only a fraction of the opportunities that Shirvell had to get off this particular crazy train. At this point he has no one to blame but himself.

“YOU must be oppressed because WE are terrible people”

“Bigotry wrapped in prayer is still bigotry”

“Bigotry wrapped in prayer is still bigotry”

As the legal battle over marriage equality moved its way toward the Supreme Court a few years ago, the anti-gay forces found their old legal arguments being debunked and thoroughly rejected by all but the most arch-conservative of judges, so that by the end they had fallen on a convoluted and truly weird argument. Marriage, they said, had to legally remain applicable solely to straight couples because without the legal institution of marriage forcing straight people who accidentally become pregnant raising their kids together, all children would be deprived the benefits of two-parent families. Basically, they asserted that straight, traditional-minding humans are so terrible that they are incapable of being responsible about reproduction without the inconvenience and expense of divorce to enforce responsibility.

There are many, many problems with the argument (not the least of which is that humans have been having children both in and out of wedlock for as long as marriage has existed, and unmarried parents are perfectly capable of being responsible child-rearers, while married parents are just as capable of being irresponsible). The only way their argument could even begin to make sense was if the laws were changed so that any time unmarried humans get pregnant that they are forced to marry, and if divorce became completely unavailable. But even then it would have big logical holes. One of those being that allowing non-straight people to marry didn’t take marriage away from straights.

This is hardly the only time that fundamentalist religionists have argued that some people must be oppressed because other people are terrible and incapable of self-control. This is why in some countries it is illegal for women to go out in public without clothing that conceals their faces, et cetera. Men, the reasoning goes, are incapable of refraining from randomly raping women if they happen to get a glimpse of a woman’s cheeks or hair, apparently. Similarly, dress codes in schools and the like are are built around restricting girls (seriously, go look at them: the codes for girls are complicated and specific about concealing this and that body part with notes about how far above or below the knee skirts must reach and so forth, while the boys’ rules almost always boil down to: wear clean, mostly untorn clothes) because boys are deemed incapable of refraining from sexually assaulting a girl if they happen to get a glimpse of a girl’s shoulder or knee.

In other words, women and girls must be tightly controlled and restricted because men and boys are terrible people. This is also the source of a lot of the victim-blaming that happens around rape: it’s not the rapist’s fault if the woman was out in public alone, or dressed “that way,” or drunk somewhere, et cetera, et cetera.

This logic shows up in a lot of other policies and practices, and has come to light this week because (among other rightwingers) our Vice President believes it would be immoral to have any female friends, which is also why there are virtually never any women in any significant staff positions under the veep now, nor in any appointed state positions when he was governor and so on. Having women as managers and directors and so forth would necessitate occasionally having one-on-one meetings. There’s also the fact that governors and similar executives are most likely to appoint and promote people they develop friendly relationships with. If a boss believes it’s immoral to be friends with a women, guess what that means about women’s chances for advancement?

This assumption that people who might potentially be attracted to each other can never be in close proximity without supervision is why the churches I was raised in insisted on separating Sunday School classes and Bible studies and similar activities by gender. And it’s the reason that people from such churches get so freaked out about being around gay people, particularly in locker rooms and bathrooms. That meme that defines homophobia as “being afraid gay men will treat you the way you treat women” isn’t a joke.

It’s why fundamentalist communities that claim to be accepting while “disagreeing with the lifestyle” discourage friendships between straight guys and gay men and straight women and lesbians. When you combine that with the fundamentalist belief that sexual orientation isn’t an inherent trait, that means that such communities also discourage friendships between opposite sex straight people and queers. And it’s all subtle and usually not even talked about. But it manifests in lots of ways. In my 20s, for instance (when I still hadn’t come out), I learned that throughout my teen years I had been excluded from some activities and some positions within my church and the evangelical teen choir I was in for all that time because everyone suspected I was gay. These were adults making this decision about a kid without ever talking to me about it. And that’s on top of the bullying and related activities from the kids my own age.

It’s another layer of cruelty. Just like the religious people who claim that they welcome queer people into their church so long as they are celibate, never date, et cetera. You’re welcome as long as you’re lonely with no love in your life.

But all of it comes back to that idea: the reason rightwing leaders (who are always men for supposedly theological reasons) assume that gay men can’t refrain from assaulting other men is because they believe that they, themselves, are incapable of refraining from jumping the bones of anyone they are sexually attracted to if given half a chance. So we can’t use public bathrooms and have to stay out of locker rooms and not work in jobs where we might be around people unsupervised, can’t live in their neighborhoods, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera because they are terrible.

It is beyond stupid. If they’re so bad, they are the ones who should resign and go live like hermits, right?

Weekend Update 3/11/2017: Ex-gay torture, dark clouds, and darker motives

“Some people are like dark clouds, when they disappear, suddenly it's a sunny day.”

“Some people are like dark clouds, when they disappear, suddenly it’s a sunny day.”

I’m sure that someone will tell me (as they have when other infamous bigots have died) that I should not speak ill of the dead. I will point out that the one of the oldest recorded instances of a this admonishment (a Greek text from about 600BC) is more accurately translated as, “Of the dead, nothing spoken unless truthfully.” So in that spirit, let me say that a dark cloud has passed, NARTH Founder and Leader in Ex-Gay Torture Movement Joseph Nicolosi Dead at 70. And that I wholeheartedly endorse the sentiment in this headline about this death: Ex-Gay Therapy Should Die With Its Pioneer, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi.

Nicolosi is just one of many who have profited over the years with the torture and bullying of gay people, often driving them to suicide. He was most recently in the news in 2012 when he tried to sue the state of California to overturn their ban on so-called gay conversion therapy for children and teens. A lawsuit which he lost, thank goodness! And just because another old, hateful bigot has died I know it doesn’t mean that this particular type of oppression is going to end. I can just hope that this death will get is a little closer to that ending, all right?

And in case you don’t know why this practice needs to be banned everywhere, remember that the ex-gay therapists and programs prey on vulnerable youth, making money off their pain, suffering, and sometimes suicides. They use bad therapy including pornography, lies and scare tactics, and discredited medical practices.

The science is clear: so-called reparative therapy fuels self-hatred and depression, increases the risk of suicide, and has no effect on a person’s sexual orientation or desires. None.

Source: thedesmondproject.com/Homelessness-Info.html (Click to embiggen)

Joseph Nicolosi caused a lot of people—a lot of vulnerable children—pain and suffering and actually increased the odds they would commit suicide. His propaganda encouraged parents to kick their gay children out on the street, leading to more pain, suffering and death. And he profited from that pain and suffering. The organization he founded still profits from it. So, damn right I’m going to speak ill of the dead.

And the usual arguments why one shouldn’t speak ill (he’s not here to defend himself, think of his grieving family, et cetera) should all be overruled by the fact that there are thousands of dead queer kids who not only aren’t here, either, but had no one to defend them from Nicolosi and his fellow bigots. Their memory and their grieving families deserve the truth. And the truth is, the world is a slightly better place now that Nicolosi isn’t part of it.

And let’s not forget that Vice President Pence is a big advocate for so-called gay conversion therapy for children. So the fight goes on!


In completely unrelated news, The DOJ Just Called for the Firing of 46 Obama-Appointed U.S. State’s Attorneys, Including Preet Bharara. This was very abrupt, and included at least one such prosecutor who was specfically asked to stay on recently by both Donald and Sessions. A mass firing is unusual in itself, and the initial reports of this made it clear it was very disorganized. At least one of the prosecutors admitting that he learned of his firing from the news—not even from a reporter calling for a comment. Also, the Justice Department doesn’t have any replacement prosecutors ready to nominate.

Which leads one to ask what the rush is. And a few people have spoken up: Feinstein: Trump’s firing of US attorneys hurts independence, and Trump “fires” 46 U.S. attorneys: standard practice or outrage? Yesterday’s round up of links included Trump Knows the Feds Are Closing In on Him – The president’s recent tweets aren’t just conspiratorial gibberish – they’re the erratic ravings of a guilty conscience. And that’s not all: Ukrainian attorney calls for probe into text message claims that Paul Manafort ‘knowingly’ had people killed or Connecting Trump’s Dots to Russia or Donald Trump panics over Russia: Jeff Sessions, Priebus, Bannon all huddled at Mar-a-Lago. Hence the weird claims about illegal wiretapping under Obama that went so far that a Fox News correspondent even called them false!

It’s becoming clear that there is more than enough evidence to indict a lot of Donald’s inner circle over various criminal charges, many of which border on treason. And if such an investigation got enough core Republican voters up in arms, Congress might actually do their job and start investigation the president himself. Getting rid of a lot of experienced federal prosecutors who are, by law, supposed to operate somewhat independently is one way to decrease the chances such a thing will come to pass.

It’s also yet another tin-pot dictator move, which this administration keeps doing again and again.

Devils in very poor disguises

Pastor Manning's church sign in the news again: “Tribulation Trump is one nasty cracker possibly having sex with Ivanka.”

Pastor Manning’s church sign in the news again: “Tribulation Trump is one nasty cracker possibly having sex with Ivanka.”

It’s been a while since I’ve written about James David Manning, the “pastor” of the infamous Harlem hate church with the notorious hateful church sign. The church is currently in default of taxes, water, and sewage bills far in excess of a million dollars and fighting a losing battle over those fees and a bunch of zoning violations to have its building seized. Manning made the news briefly last year when he endorsed Trump for president, and his church sign claimed that Jesus would endorse Donald, as well. A while later, he withdrew the endorsement, because Donald indicated that the murderer who perpetrated the mass shooting at the Orlando gay nightclub, Pulse, was a bad person. Can’t condemn the murders of queer people and still be a christian, now, can one?

“Jesus would endorse Donald Trump,” Manning's sign proclaimed last sprint. “Vote Trump make Harlem beautiful again.”

“Jesus would endorse Donald Trump,” Manning’s sign proclaimed last spring. “Vote Trump make Harlem beautiful again.”

Then, he seemed to flip back to endorsing Donald when he took some of the candidate’s statements to indicate it would be legal for christians to shoot Mexicans, muslims, and liberals.

It boggles my mind that someone can claim to be a follower of Jesus while spewing such hate. I mean, seriously, being overjoyed at murder? Looking forward to committing murder with impunity yourself?

What boggles even more is that people who claim to believe in the man who said “love thy neighbor as you love thyself” will follow these hatemongers and proclaim them great faith leaders.

We have people like Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio saying things like ‘The Real Brownshirts Are In The Homosexual Movement’. That’s pretty rich coming from a guy who was removed from one of this jobs at the American Family Association because his anti-semitic and anti-muslim comments raised a bit of an uproar too close to a Republican fundraising event in 2015.

Then there’s Scott Lively Scott Lively: Trump Must Ban Gays From Intelligence Agencies Because They’re Conspiring Against Him. Lively is currently involved in a lawsuit for crimes against humanity (I kid you not), because he gave encouragement and material assistance to get Uganda to pass kill-the-gay laws. And that’s some of the least insane evil stuff he’s been involved in. But he’s the president of Abiding Truth Ministries, so he is, of course, hailed as a Christian leader.

“The bible condemns Trump’s acceptance of sodomy and I withdraw my support. Sodomy is more dangerous than jihadis.”

“The bible condemns Trump’s acceptance of sodomy and I withdraw my support. Sodomy is more dangerous than jihadis.”

I’m not sure what has prompted Manning to turn on Trump again this week. There’s probably a new sermon up on his youtube channel explaining it, but I can’t deal with listening to any more of his hate and craziness. I have to admit that I kind of like the nickname “Tribulation Trump” for Donald. But I’m sure that Manning will flip-flop back to loving Donald again, he just needs to do something hateful enough that Manning recognizes him as a fellow devil, again.

There are even more poorly disguised devils in the news, of course. Yesterday a lot of people, particularly right-leaning news and blogging folks, were being shocked, shocked to learn that Milo Yiannopoulos has argued in favor of adults having sexual relationship with underage teen-agers. He has specifically insisted that this is not only good, but tried to claim that it is normal in the homosexual community. All of which is BS, but really shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. It’s not as if he hasn’t said this sort of thing many times before. Nor is it at all inconsistent with his other attitudes.

So let’s unpack that a little. In the past, Milo has espoused a lot of undeniably racist opinions. He has orchestrated harassment campaigns against women, particularly women of color. He has encouraged violence against trans people. He has excused actual calls for genocide from some of his neo-nazi friends. He has advocated so-called “peaceful ethnic cleansing.” He has previously made sexual references to teen age boys. But it is only when he has specifically advocated for adult men having sexual relationships with 13-year-old boys that the Republican party, the organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference, his fellow writers & editors at Breitbart, Bill Maher, and Simon & Schuster are objecting? In other words, all of those people and institutions are okay with racism, misogyny, transphobia, hate crimes, and genocide.

Let me repeat that: the Republican party, conservatives who organize CPAC, Breitbart writers & editors, Bill Maher, and the publishing house of Simon & Schuster don’t just turn a blind eye, they happily endorsed racism, misogyny, transphobia, hate crimes, and genocide. When people show you who they are you should believe them.

Also, it seems a lot of people are easily fooled by someone who says outrageous things when those outrageous things are attacks on people they dislike.

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck…

“Neo-Nazi: a member of an extreme right-wing political group that has ideas similar to those of Adolf Hitler's Nazi parting, including hatred of jews and people of non-white races...”

“Neo-Nazi: a member of an extreme right-wing political group that has ideas similar to those of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party, including hatred of jews and people of non-white races…”

So I’ve seen some admonishments going around along the lines of, “stop calling everyone who disagrees with you a Nazi!” and other variants of the good ol’ Godwin’s Law1. Never mind that Godwin himself said, “If you’re thoughtful about it and show some real awareness of history, go ahead and refer to Hitler when you talk about Trump. Or any other politician.” I’ve specifically run into this admonishment lately in discussions about various people who have been advocating various racist, xenophobic, misogynist, and homophobic opinions along with laws and policies intended to harm people based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

In other words, there are a lot of public figures and pseudo-celebrities and wannabe pundits out there who are advocating neo-Nazi opinions and neo-Nazi policies, but we aren’t allowed to call them Nazi. Because that’s rude. Or it’s hyperbole. Or something.

Never mind that these proponents of opinions and policies that exactly (sometimes word-for-word) repeat actual neo-Nazi publications and demands Have previously called any woman who objected to their sexist pronouncements “feminazis.” Or that any of us who called out their racist or misogynist or homophobic statements were called “PC-nazis.” And then if we objected to that, they would make arguments about why the word “nazi” isn’t actually an insult. When it’s used back at them, suddenly we’re the ones who have crossed a line.

Some of these guys have demanded apologies, and even gotten retractions from some publications, insisting that just because they have said things like “In response to concerns from white voters that they’re going to go extinct, the response of the Establishment—the conservative Establishment—has been to openly welcome that extinction” or “Behind every racist joke is a scientific fact” or “some degree of separation between races is necessary for a culture to be preserved” that it is ridiculous to think that means they’re white nationalists or neo-nazis. We’re the bad guys for even suggesting such a thing! They aren’t bad guys for advocating forced deportment or relocation or so-called “peaceful ethnic cleansing3

Milo Yiannopoulos, for instance, has called for at least the separation of people by race, ethnicity, and religion. He has also spouted various racist, misogynist, and transphobic beliefs. He has sent hordes of his internet followers to harass women with rape threats and racist attacks. He has said all sorts of awful and false things about trans people and has encouraged his fans to attack and harass them. And not just in general, he has handed out private address and contact information of specific trans people and suggested that someone should teach them some manners.

Yiannopoulos then defends himself by insisting that he’s simply stating an opinion. And besides, he’s gay, so how could he possibly be a bigot? Not only is he gay, but he’s white gay man who only has sex with black men, so he can’t possibly be racist (never might that racial fetishization is deeply entwined with racial hatred). And by the way, he doesn’t endorse all the white nationalist policies of a bunch of his friends (even though he frequently makes some of the same arguments they do), he just thinks they’re interesting people. So it’s wrong to call him a white nationalist or a neo-nazi of a nazi sympathizer.

Bull.

He’s an editor of a news site which describes itself as the platform of the alt-right. The alt-right is a term coined by white supremacist Richard Spencer in order to make white supremacy seem more like just another political option4. He argues racial opinions of white nationalist are reasonable–not just that they have the right to hold the racist opinions, but that those statements are fact rather than opinion. He attacks people on the basis of their religion, ethnicity, or gender identity. He defends not just the right of the neo-Nazis and white nationalist to hold their opinions, but he actively campaigns to write those opinions into law. One day those same white nationalists who currently enjoy having his support may well turn on him, just as the historical Nazis eventually rounded up their own gay members and executed or imprisoned them. But right now he’s a white nationalist and a nazi-apologist. That’s a fact.

Then there are the people who angrily argue that they aren’t defending neo-nazis or white supremacists just because they are telling people like me to shut up about them. Seriously. “You must let them advocate genocide without calling them on it” isn’t defending them? Of course, the most recent person to send me that message personally also slipped in two bigoted dog whistles5 before I blocked him

Then, of course, there are the free speech arguments. Okay, I’m an advocate for free speech. You have the right to your opinion, and you have the right to express it. But I, as a private citizen, am under no obligation to give you a platform. I am under no obligation to sit quietly and listen. I am certainly under no obligation to sit quietly and listen while you advocate policies that will cost me my job, my home, and my health care. I’m allowed to argue. I’m allowed to boycott. I’m allowed to call you a neo-nazi. I’m allowed to shun and shame people who enable your advocacy of hate.

“Some people's idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but it anyone says anything back that is an outrage.” — Sir Winston Churchill

“Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but it anyone says anything back that is an outrage.” — Sir Winston Churchill

Disagreement is not censorship. Boycotting is not censorship. Shunning is not censorship. Calling you a bigot or similar is not censorship. Calling you an idiot is not censorship. Staging a protest when you come to my community to preach your hate is not censorship. Boycotting businesses that give you a platform to preach your hate is not censorship. Repeating word-for-word things you say (particularly if you go on TV or stand up on a stage to address supporters) is not censorship nor misrepresenting you. Pointing out which of your statements are factually wrong is not censorship. Even going so far as to call you a liar (particularly when it has been documented numerous times that you repeat false information again and again) is not censorship.

Free speech means you can express your opinions if you like. Free speech does not mean that those opinions have to be taken seriously, or treated reverently, or accepted without argument.

To circle back to the original point, if you:

  • repeat neo-nazi and white supremacist slogans,
  • advocate the same programs of racial, ethnic, religious, misogynist, and/or homophobic discrimination and oppression as neo-nazis and white supremacists,
  • attack anyone who disagrees with neo-nazi and white supremacist proposals or hate speech,
  • thank the avowed neo-nazis and white surpremacists when they repeat your words and deeds and hold you up as an example on their white supremacist video blogs, news sites, and/or conferences,
  • are publicly and unapologetically friends with neo-nazis and white supremacists after they have repeatedly (often in your presence) called for the extermination of people based on their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity,

then you are a neo-nazi. And no one should apologize for calling you a bigot, a nazi, a white nationalist, a white supremacist, or a nazi sympathizer. Because you are all of those things. And that is a fact.


Footnotes:

1. Godwin’s Law was first articulated by author and attorney Mike Godwin: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1.” In other words, if an argument goes on long enough, someone will eventually evoke the horrors of World War II, the Holocaust, et cetera. While it is phrased as if it were a law of mathematics, it’s really just an adage based on observation2. As Godwin himself has stated, it was intended as a tool to remind people not to resort to unnecessary hyperbole. He also wanted people to not trivialize the Holocaust. He has pointed out on several occassion that sometimes such comparisons are quite apt.

2. Godwin’s Law gets abused a lot. People have interpreted it to mean that if someone ever makes a comparison to Hitler, naziism, et cetera, that this immediately invalidates all of their arguments. Part of this comes from rules that were established on some Usenet groups in the 1990s by which if a thread reached the Hitler comparison, the thread would be ended. Note that this was a convention that some people chose to adopt. Godwin’s Law is not an actual law nor does it articulate anything that even approaches a logical fallacy.

3. This oxymoronic term is deployed frequently and unironically by actual neo-Nazis such as Richard Spencer, the president of a literal white supremacist “think tank” among other things. He has also called for non-peaceful ethnic cleansing, for example: “humanity doesn’t need the Black man, and having concluded that, we must decide how efficiently to dispose of them.”

4. There some subjects upon which people can legitimately disagree. Details of tax policy, for instance. But when one side is literally calling for the mass murder of the other side (or mass incarceration, or denial of fundamental human rights), then we are no longer talking about a disagreement.

5. Dog-whistle: coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup. For instance, in American politics the phrase “states’ rights” seems to be a mere reference to the Constitutions delineation of some powers and rights belonging the states (and other to the people or to the federal government), but signaled the politician’s commitment to segregation and institutionalized racism. “Real Americans” is frequently used to refer to conservative white Christians. Similarly, calls to “cut entitlements” are understood by the target audience to mean that “undeserving minorities” will be kicked off public assistance (when it fact it means that everyone will lose their benefits in order to funnel more tax money to the uber-rich and corporations).6

6. The dog-whistles in question in this particular exchange made it clear the guy arguing with me was both anti-semitic and homophobic. I thanked him for identifying himself just before blocking him.

Resistance Report

©2017 Mike Luckovich: String theory AJC.com

©2017 Mike Luckovich: String theory AJC.com

I’m not going to watch the inauguration. I don’t particularly feel like even appearing to be cheering while a facist ignoramous is sworn in and begins to dismantle everything that actually makes America worth living in.

I recognize that most of my readers are just as troubled by this development as I am. And you’re probably all as tired of being outraged over it. So instead of including all of the following links in my usual Friday round-up, I’m doing separate posts. Behind the “Read More…” link below, you’ll find posts related to the new occupant of the White House and his enablers, the Congressional Republicans. On the other hand, if you want the mostly trump-free Friday Links, go there instead.
Read More…

Queer Thanksgiving

“Some of the most poisonous people come disguised as family.” (click to embiggen)

“Some of the most poisonous people come disguised as family.” (click to embiggen)

Not everyone has family to be thankful for. Or should I say, not every family is thanks-worthy? The video I’m linking below focuses particularly on queer people of color, and I don’t want to detract from that message at all—but many of us pale queers have families of origin that are less than welcoming to the point of toxicity. There are reasons that I have severely limited the amount of contact I have with some branches of the family.

This year we came very close to canceling the Thanksgiving trip, because the anti-Hillary/pro-Trump talk in general seems to have encouraged the most bigoted relatives to go all in on the anti-gay talk on social media. Since the big extended family get-together no longer happens, we don’t usually have to deal with any of the actually toxic family members. Instead we’re left with the odd thoughtless/unintentional comments that slowly make your blood boil. We were invited to spend Thanksgiving with wonderful, supportive friends in Seattle, and the invitations were very tempting, but we’ve decided to give the trip to my Mom’s place another go.

We’ve just arranged the trip so we don’t need to stay all day.

Anyway, I hope that you can have a toxin-free holiday. And we may throw a spontaneous Second Thanksgiving later this weekend if we think we need a brain-rinse!

Queer Thanksgiving:

“The holidays are here — which for most people means lots of food and lots of family. But for many queer and trans people of color, the word “family” means something entirely different.”

(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)

Imagining hope

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”—James Madison

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”—James Madison

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that ordinarily my optimism is almost pathological. I knew when I wrote yesterday’s post that I was in the pit of despair. Or, as another friend described it, metaphorically in a fetal position.

This is not a post where I’m going to tell you I’m getting over it.

I’m still more than worried, and it isn’t idle anxiety. Trump’s running mate is a man who signed a so-called Religious Freedom bill when he was governor of Indiana that explicitly gave people and corporations the right to refuse to obey laws that conflicted with their religious beliefs. That means that an employer can decide not to offer health coverage to same sex partners of their employees. That means an employer can literally fire someone explicitly because they are queer and the employee can’t sue and that state can’t otherwise penalize the company.

Last year, before any judges appointed by someone like Trump were on the Supreme Court, the Court ruled that a private company could refuse to pay for birth control as part of the health care benefits for its married employees if it cited religious objections. And Trump has promised to appoint judges recommended by an anti-gay and anti-abortion group. And he has an open seat to fill.

Other Republicans have been itching to pass a law like the Indiana Religious Freedom law, but they haven’t because they knew Democrats in the Senate would try to derail it, but more importantly that Obama would veto it. But Obama is only going to be there for a couple of more months. So they can pass such a law, and suddenly people like me start losing our rights.

So when someone tells you that we’re fearmongering and gay marriage isn’t going to go away, tell them they aren’t paying attention. Maybe the marriage equality ruling isn’t going to be reversed right away, but if people, including government employees, corporations, and so forth, are free to discriminate (free to withhold legal rights, et cetera) against queer people who have gotten married under the ruling, the ruling stops meaning anything.

Texas has already tried to assert that the Supreme Court ruling doesn’t obligate them to extend health benefits to the spouses and children of same sex couples who have gotten married. Think about what states like that are going to do when the U.S. Justice Department is headed by Rudy Guillianni instead of someone appointed by a pro-equality President.

And this is just one of the millions of ways that a Trump administration can make life hell for queer people. Or people who want or need birth control (some of the people in Trump’s transition team have, in previous parts of the political career, argued that straight married people shouldn’t have a right to birth control). Or women who file sexual harassment claims. Or…

So there are very good reasons for a lot of us to be scared.

I said yesterday that I plan to fight, and I do. And I know a lot of other people plan to, too. But it isn’t going to be easy. We’re going to be suffering the death of a thousand cuts, all of us will be, and at the same time trying to defend each other.

I know that I’m going to find my hope again. I’m getting by right now by imagining what it will feel like to have hope back. I know how it feels to be confident in the justice of my cause. I know how it feels to be determined not to back down. I know how it feels to be righteously outraged at injustice. I know how it feels to feel strong enough to stand up. And I got through a day of going into work and trying to act as if everything is fine by imagining that I was that person feeling those things.

It really does feel as if I’m a character in one of my own stories, at the moment. I’m imagining how a character who feels these things would act, and then trying to do it. It’s a little bit surreal.

I know that I’ll get past the point of faking it. I know that I will start to feel able to step up and face the opposition. I’m just not emotionally there, yet. And I’m not the only one.

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