Friday, December 5, 2008

Above the Hate: Below the Propaganda

The National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage, has initiated a petition, ad campaign, and website called Above the Hate the purpose of which is "to say 'Enough!' to the campaign of hate and intimidation being waged against the LDS Church and other supporters of California's Proposition 8." This campaign accuses "powerful, well-funded political forces" (ie- gays) of "attacks" against the LDS Church in the wake of Prop 8's passage including:

* Large organized protests designed to disrupt places of worship;
* Public calls to investigate and “dig up dirt” on Americans of a particular faith who donated to a political cause;
* An outrageous television ad campaign crudely and deliberately designed to incite fear and hatred of a minority religious community.

Now, if in fact there were an actual large, orchestrated, well-funded, powerful, and/or coordinated campaign of "hate and intimidation" being "waged" against any group, even a bigoted religious one, I would oppose it. There are civil ways of dealing with disagreements, after all. Since virtually every "marriage defender" has shouted it from the rooftops at every chance they've gotten, we all know that some LGBT rights advocates have committed some less-than-honorable actions in the wake of Proposition 8's passing. I, like most people, condemn illegal and/or violent activities. At the same time, though, "marriage defenders" need to be really clear about what they're saying, not saying, and implying. For, by their omissions, certain histrionic "marriage defenders" imply that our entire "powerful, well-funded" LGBT rights movement is violent, bigoted, and hateful.

Unfortunately, the Above the Hate campaign indicts the entire LGBT community. Notably, nowhere does the National Organization for Marriage make it clear that these behaviors are discrete actions of individuals and are not representative of most LGBT persons and gay rights advocates. Instead, the National Organization for Marriage lumps all LGBT rights activists into one group of sinister "powerful, well-funded political forces" and makes no distinction between those who are hateful and those who are not. This omission is silent but deadly. For, in this silence, those who have no interaction with the many upstanding members of the LGBT community deduce that LGBT people and our allies are nothing but hateful religious bigots. That, without a doubt, is the most despicable mistake with respect to this latest "marriage defense" campaign.

This campaign is, actually, just the newest incarnation of the Orwellian message that it is not gay people who are hated, it is gay people who are the haters. You know, just because Average Christian doesn't hate and fear the homosexuals enough as it is. In fact, if you do a quick "Above the Hate" Google Blog search, you'll quickly discover that conservative Christians and other "marriage defenders" throughout the blogosphere have nicely incorporated this myth into their broader Christian Persecution Complex perspective on life.

For instance, Michelle Malkin has been getting down with her bad self via her own "Anti-Prop 8 Mob Watch." Overstating her case, she accuses the peaceful grassroots Join the Impact organization of being "the same-sex marriage mob" and refers to the rest of us Wild N' Crazy equal rights advocates of having "insane rage." Continuing the theme, Pam's House Blend has reported that a "religious freedom" organization is set to run an ad in The New York Times blaming gays for a "Campaign of Violence" against religion in the wake of Prop 8.

Hoo boy.

To put it simply, these people are being so very dramatic about all this that I'm starting to wonder if they live secret lives as thespians. I mean really. Most conservatives, who have almost every societal privilege going for them, wouldn't know "powerful, and well-funded" intolerance if it jumped out of their pop-up Bible books and pinched their cherubic cheeks. I can't speak for all gay people, but I think it's pretty obvious that the same-sex marriage "mob" is not targeting Mormons because we hate their religion or because we hate Mormons. 45% of all donations to the ProtectMarriage movement were donated by Mormons precisely because the Mormon leadership urged its flock to support the cause. And thus, the Mormon church is being criticized because it was instrumental in the passage of Proposition 8, a proposition that has hurt many of us deeply. It really is that simple. Besides, for me personally, when it comes to bigoted religious folks, I love the bigot. It's the bigotry that I hate.

Now that that's all clear, let's wade through some of the National Organization for Marriage's propaganda:

1. "Large organized protests designed to disrupt places of worship"

The link citing these protests allegedly "designed to disrupt places of worship" is broken, but I quickly found the cited article "supporting" this claim anyway. Not surprisingly, the article's content does not actually support the claim that there were multiple, large, organized protests "designed to disrupt places of worship." Perhaps National Organization for Marriage's flock takes these people's word on things, but the rest of us are quite interested in claims that are supported by evidence.

See, the cited article actually describes a protest of about 2,000 people that occurred outside of a Mormon temple in Los Angeles. It was lawful and the protesters were peaceful. In fact, there were only 2 reports of violence from this protest. One, someone in a nearby apartment building threw eggs at the protesters. Secondly, two people were arrested after a "confrontation" between "the crowd and the occupant of a pickup truck that had a banner supporting Proposition 8." Oddly, the "Above the Hate" campaign appears to be characterizing constitutionally-protected protesting as anti-religious hatred. At the very least, the National Organization for Marriage is blurring the lines between lawful, moral activities and immoral ones. While the campaign references (without citing) alleged "vile and indecent" attacks on the LDS Church, it provides evidence of only the lawful, peaceful activities of LGBT rights activists outside of the Mormon temple in Los Angeles.

Ultimately, as a reasonable, questioning person, I am left wondering why this "Above the Hate" campaign is using such egregiously trumped-up language here with respect to lawful protesting. I am left wondering why the campaign never actually cites the "vile and indecent" attacks on the LDS Church that they claim are occurring. And, I am left wondering why they never explicitly acknowledge that "vile and indecent" attacks are not the modus operandi of the general LGBT rights movement, or as the National Organization for Marriage might call us "powerful, well-funded political forces."

Furthermore, I'm left awestruck at the National Organization for Marriage's perhaps psychic claim that these protests were "designed to disrupt places of worship" (emphasis added). Nope. Sorry Maggie. It doesn't work like that. It's just not fair, honest, or constructive to intuit other people's motives in such a heated ongoing public debate. If you're going to accuse "powerful, well-funded political forces" of "designing" protests to "disrupt places of worship" you have to give us proof. Sadly, "Above the Hate" fails to do so.

The thing is, if those who began the "Above the Hate" campaign actually sought to understand us, they would know that the point of these protests was to criticize the LDS Church's prominent role in the passage of Prop 8. Criticism is not anti-religious bigotry or "hatred." Seriously. It really is that simple. Why make this complicated and over-the-top? For those who bristle at being called bigots themselves, they sure are quick to the draw when shooting other people with that label

See, the LDS Church played a large and vocal role in taking away the rights of LGBT citizens in California. And as such, you better believe that some people will publicly criticize that. Just because the LDS Church is a church, it cannot now back up with its hands in the air and say "whoa there, what you're saying is off-limits religious bigotry and hatred." It's a pretty good clue that educated, civil, and adult dialogue has taken a nosedive when organized protests and criticism directed at politically-involved churches is reflexively labeled "hate, "disruption," and "intimidation."

2. "Public calls to investigate and 'dig up dirt' on Americans of a particular faith who donated to a political cause"

In a nutshell, this claim refers to how one blogger at DailyKOs directed people to a list of Yes on 8 donors and urged people to:

"Use any LEGAL tool at your disposal. Use OpenSecrets to see if these donors have contributed to...shall we say...less than honorable causes, or if any one of these big donors has done something otherwise egregious. If so, we have a legitimate case to make the Yes on 8 campaign return their contributions, or face a bunch of negative publicity." [emphasis in original]

Again, note how this claim references the action of one blogger as opposed to "powerful, well-funded political forces." Do you think National Organization for Marriage noted this detail though? Not so much.

Secondly, note how the Daily KOs blogger called for people to engage in legal tactics. See, much has been made over the fact that some people opposed to Prop 8 are now taking names of some of those who supported Prop 8. In Michelle Malkin's world, that some LGBT advocates are making lists and urging boycotts of businessowners who supported Prop 8 is just further evidence of the "insane rage" of the same-sex marriage "mob." It's funny though. You never hear these same people chastising the American Family Association and other "family values" groups for making lists of their own and urging their millions of members to boycott businesses. When gay people boycott for political reasons, it's Teh Homofascist! When Christians do it, it's just part of the political process. Christians are just special like that.

Most importantly though,what these people always fail to acknowledge is that this information is public knowledge anyway! Public donor rolls are public.


Third, let's note another double-standard. I simply doubt that the National Organization for Marriage thought it was wrong when the Yes on 8 campaign threatened to create and publish a list of No on 8 supporters if these supporters did not also decide to contribute to Yes on 8. Puh-lease. Had Prop 8 not passed, I have absolutely zero doubt that the Yes on 8 campaign would be displaying dishonor rolls of their own.

Four, and this is really important, with respect to the "digging up dirt" piece, let's be very clear about something that this petition obfuscates. These Yes on 8 donors are not being targeted because they practice a "particular faith," they are being targeted because they donated at least $1,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign and because their church was instrumental in its passage. Yet, the National Organization for Marriage is acting as though this activity is occurring in a vacuum, as though LGBT advocates just woke up one day and randomly decided to start "digging up dirt" on Mormons just because gay people are so darn hateful and religiously bigoted.

Surely their collective memories are not so short that they've already forgotten that whole Proposition 8 thing.

3. "Outrageous television ad campaigns crudely and deliberately designed to incite fear and hatred of a minority religious community"

I emphasized that last bit.

See, it was wise of these people to qualify their statement in that way. It is clear to anyone who paid attention to the various ads surrounding Prop 8 that the Yes on 8 side does, actually, support "outrageous television ad campaigns crudely and deliberately designed to incite fear and hatred" of some people. Namely, the gay ones.

To refresh those selective memories of the "Above the Hate" crowd, let's take a G-A-Y stroll through some video archives of some of the ad campaigns that compared defeating gays to defeating Hitler, claimed that children would be homosexually indoctrinated in the schools if Prop 8 passed, and assuming that it would be horrible if kids even learned about the mere existence of gay couples or homosexuality.

Reading through the letter again, I can't help but to think of how myopic this petition is. These people are viewing life through a lens of imagined religious persecution and are blaming the gay community (ie- "powerful, well-funded political forces") for it. Yet, no one is denying Mormons the right to practice their religion or to believe in whatever they want. What many of us are criticizing is the policy position this church has chosen to publicly take with respect to marriage equality and its instrumental role in Prop 8's passage. So while the National Organization for Marriage waves this banner of religious tolerance, what they miss is that they are profoundly intolerant of some people's inherent identities and of families that do not conform to what they believe families should look like.

What would really be encouraging is if this organization were to create a campaign that truly was "Above the Hate." What if they created a campaign that advocated love and tolerance not only for religious folk, but for gay people. What if the National Organization for Marriage used an anti-hate campaign to take their more overt, explicitly hateful, bigoted, anti-gay allies to task. For that matter, since the National Organization for Marriage is new BFFs with the Mormons, maybe they will begin criticizing their Christian allies who mock Mormonism as nothing more than a "cult." And heck, while they're at it, maybe they'll take their anti-Semitic buds to task as well.

If they choose not to, we understand.

Generally, I believe that Christian conservatives choose to advance "religious tolerance" for other religious groups only when it also advances their own interests. In the case of the "Above the Hate" campaign, waving a banner of religious tolerance for Mormons advances a goal of making "powerful, well-funded" LGBT rights advocates look bad and it makes themselves look good. That's why this latest campaign looks like just the same old political propaganda at play. As usual, it's unlikely to convince anyone who doesn't already agree with them and it's likely to only further anger those who do not. These misguided "marriage defenders" are wrongly seeing "religious hatred and bigotry" in every nook and cranny of the LGBT rights movement post-Prop 8 when it, for the most part, just doesn't exist. For evidence of intolerance, they really should be searching the stone-casting souls of themselves and their allies.

(Cross-posted at Pam's House Blend)

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