Tuesday, December 16, 2008

National Organization for Marriage: Teh New McCarthyism

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is at it again with an absurd false equivalency. This time, the organization, which opposes same-sex marriage, is equating post-Prop 8 boycotts of businesses with "McCarthyism." In expected over-the-top manner, the organization has recently ejaculated:

"McCarthyism is threatening our free speech and freedom of association—our most basic constitutional rights. Donors who exercised these rights in supporting proposition 8 are seeing their employers or companies being targeted for harassment and intimidation."

The alleged purpose of NOM's new campaign, called "bust the blacklist," is to urge people to support "businesses targeted for harassment."

First off, like other recent versions of this Gays Are the Real Haterz!!11! campaigns, this message is also mostly nothing but a vague, spaghetti-at-the-wall accusation against marriage equality advocates. It is absurd. Unfortunately, just because some people will actually believe NOM's drivel, someone actually has to take the time rebut NOM's claims.

1. McCarthyism Was Much More Pervasive and Sinister Than the Private Protesting and Boycotting of 2 Businesses

On its "busttheblacklist.com honor roll," as of today anyway, NOM includes two (2) businesses that have supposedly been targeted for "harassment." The first business mentioned is A-1 Storage and is owned by someone who made "substantial personal donations to support Proposition 8." NOM claims that, "for this reason, his business has been targeted for punishment." Yet, NOM does not detail what this alleged "punishment" includes. My inquiring mind certainly wished to know more details. In fact, about 30 seconds after reading NOM's allegations, I learned a bit more about this case.

My "investigative reporting" revealed that the owner of the A-1 business, along with his family, allegedly donated $693,000 in support of Prop 8 making him the proposition's 2nd largest contributor. For these reasons, Californians Against Hate urged a boycott of his business.

Of the second business, NOM claims:

"Leatherby's Ice Cream, a popular local family-run ice cream store in Sacramento, faced an angry crowd of protestors outside their doorstep Sunday afternoon, November 23rd. The protestors spoke out against Leatherby's because members of the Leatherby family contributed to the Yes on 8 campaign. Despite the turmoil outside, Leatherby's was still packed with people who supported the business. Though the protest Sunday was peaceful, David Leatherby, Jr. did receive angry emails, one of which read, 'We're going to put you out of business, you hate mongers, you people are evil.'"

Again, even though this statement is written from a biased perspective, nothing in it describes pervasive "harassment" or "intimidation." I don't know whether the businessowners are "hate mongers" or "evil" so I can't say whether those statements are accurate. But, I do know that boycotts and protests are not illegal or inherently wrong. Given the context of the protest outside of the ice cream store, I think it's clear that the cited "angry email" was referring to the legitimate activity of boycotting the business as opposed to illegal, immoral, or otherwise questionable activities.

NOM made a very serious charge when it claimed that businessowners who supported Prop 8 were being "harassed" and "intimidated." While "angry emails," depending on what they actually said, may not have been appropriate, being the recipient of "angry emails" does not make one a victim of "McCarthyism." Furthermore, NOM cited a mere two businesses that were the targets of boycotts and protests. That, ladies and gentleman, they have called McCarthyism.

2. McCarthyism Was Implemented Through the Power of the State

You know, in their post-Prop 8 euphoria, it's like these people have lost all capacity for critical thinking.

While it's true that some marriage equality advocates are urging people to boycott businesses whose owners donated to Prop 8, boycotts have nothing to do with McCarthyism. Real-life actual McCarthyism had incredible power due to the legitimacy and authority of the state that was behind it. What made McCarthyism especially sinister was that government officials abused the power of the government, ruining people's lives, for an extreme rightwing political agenda. Unlike the recent Prop 8 boycotts, governmental institutions and officials were instrumental during McCarthyism in conducting communist/homosexual witch-hunts, firing thousands of people, and imprisoning hundreds. Even a cursory glance at Wikipedia informs that during McCarthyism:

"There were many anti-Communist committees, panels and 'loyalty review boards' in federal, state and local governments, as well as many private agencies that carried out investigations for small and large companies concerned about possible Communists in their work force."

During McCarthyism, the FBI also engaged in burglaries, opened mail, and conducted illegal wire-tapping. I can't believe we actually have to point this out, but the Prop 8 boycotts have nowhere near such power or authority behind them. There are no "loyalty review boards" in the government making people sign pro-gay oaths. There are no state-sanctioned investigations or private investigators carrying out with-hunts on behalf of the gays. It is absurd to even compare the two.

Some equality advocates have urged boycotts of businesses, in fact, precisely because the state denies us equal rights thanks to the influence of rightwing elements and propaganda. Thus, it bears mentioning that, during McCarthyism, "far right radicals were the bedrock of support for" the persecution of suspected Communists and "homosexuals."

Even today, more than 50 years later, remnants of McCarthyist thought are apparent. During the 2008 election, for instance, the rightwing media exploded when Obama made his infamous "spread the wealth" comment to Joe the Plumber. To diligent red-scare watchmen, like the folks over at Conservapedia, such statements are just further evidence that Obama is a "Marxist Leftist." What these people rarely explain is why it's inherently bad or wrong to be a "Marxist" or a "Lefitst." To them, the label speaks for itself and everyone just knows it's a Really Bad Thing to be. Anyone who questions this assumption they view as being deeply entrenched in the cesspools of Leftist thought.

What is so ironic about NOM's latest charge is that the "marriage defense" movement in general, like McCarthyism, is an extreme and unnecessary reaction to progressive politics and social justice movements. Like anti-feminist sentiment, opposition to full equality for LGBT people is a "defense" against so-called radical, leftist, elitist elements that are supposedly ruining America. For fun, google "homosexual radicals" some time and see what you come up with. Perhaps not understanding the history of McCarthyism and the role it continues to play in the political sphere, NOM has created an absurd anti-gay campaign. It is paradoxical for "marriage defenders" to simultaneously paint the LGBT community as leftist radicals and McCarthyists.

What I'm left wondering is why organizations like NOM can't ever just look at an LGBT boycott and just call it a boycott? Why the trumped-up charges? Why the huge paranoid accusations and vilification of people who just want equal rights?

Everyone knows that boycotts are non-violent, legitimate means of protest that virtually all political movements, including "family values" organizations, have engaged in throughout our nation's history. When groups of people feel failed by the state, by the legal system, or by the political process, boycotts are a way to make their voices heard.

Contrary to what NOM may think, businesses certainly don't have a right to our dollars. And it most certainly is not an infringement of a businessowner's "free speech" or "free association" if we refuse to patronize his or her business. No court in this nation would call a private boycott of a business an "infringement" of the businessowner's free speech or freedom of association. If we know that the owner of a business is a virulent bigot, we have no obligation to pay his or her salary.

Like the notorious argumentum ad nazium, this latest Gays are McCarthyists comparison is so absurd as to be virtually meaningless. I sometimes wonder when those leading the "marriage defense" movement will stop being so over-the-top with their accusations. Are asinine exaggerations really the only way they can get people to care about their pet issue of opposing same-sex marriage? These folks would do better to remember the parable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. The villagers will come running to one's shrill, ridiculous cries only so many times. At some point, perhaps when our nation faces a true threat, one's cries will be met with apathy.


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