"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fisking GLAAD's Statement on Duck Dynasty

The first pro-gay liberal group out of the box to criticize Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty was GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.   Below is their statement, with my comments, but I first want to make an important threshold point.   "Defamation" by definition in the law involves intentionally making a false statement that injures the reputation of an individual.   The key word here is false, which has two important implications -- (1) the statement must be a statement of fact, not of opinion; and (2) the fact stated must be demonstrably untrue.  

Applying this standard to Phil Robertson's comments in GQ magazine, it seems self-evident to me that he was expressing nothing more than an opinion and, moreover, to the extent that he was stating facts, what he said is at least arguably true.   And, of course, if it's an opinion and at least arguably true, what we have here is not a defamation (which may be actionable) but a disagreement (which is not).  Put differently, what we have here from Phil Robertson is not a slur that could be an appropriate basis for punishment, but an opinion, which in a democracy can and should only be countered with debate, i.e., opposing opinions.

Now, for the GLAAD statement

The Robertsons, the family whose duck hunting products have made them a fortune, are breakout stars featured in A&E’s Duck Dynasty. GQ Magazine’s profile of Phil Robertson included some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication. His quote was littered with outdated stereotypes and blatant misinformation.
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.
Now, let me hasten to say that, as a libertarian, I think consenting adults have the right to do whatever they want sexually.   I do not and would never support discrimination against gay men.   And, frankly, uniformly every gay man I have met in my life has been nice to me... good co-workers, good neighbors, good friends.  

But what is Phil Robertson really saying here other than, to him, in his opinion, anal intercourse with a man is unappealing, undesirable?   He doesn't say it, but let's infer... he thinks in his personal opinion that it's icky or gross.   Is he really not allowed to think that?   Or, more likely, is he just not allowed to say it?  

And would the same standard be applied to a gay man who announced publicly that he prefers what he prefers sexually and thinks having sex with a woman would be gross?

And what about that statement by Robertson is "vile"?   That he mentions that gay sex among men involves anal intercourse?   That he mentions the word "anus"?   And how is that an "outdated stereotype"?   Did gay men stop having anal intercourse in recent history?   And, if not, how is what he says "blatant misinformation"?   To me a statement that gay men have anal intercourse borders on a tautology.   It certainly isn't a false statement, and thus couldn't qualify as defamation.  

Which leads me to this question:  Does anyone at GLAAD know the meaning of the words they're saying, or do they just trot out the same cliches whenever anyone expresses an opinion they don't like?   "Outdated stereotype"!   "Blatant misinformation"!   If we shout them loud enough no one will notice that they are completely misused in this discussion.    

My suspicion about what really is going on here is that GLAAD strategically wants to suppress the use of the word "anus" or "anal" in discourse about gay rights or gay marriage, because talking about what gay men actually do together would permit people to think unthinkable thoughts like... if gay marriage is so much like regular marriage that we shouldn't make any distinctions, how come the sex that gay men have within their marriages constitutes a "risk factor" for disease under the rubrics of the Centers for Disease Control?   How come half the questions you're asked when you donate blood have to do with whether you've had gay male-on-male sex?  

Or just the unthinkable thought that they consider that, as a matter of personal opinion, to be, well, icky.  

Finally, here's a freebie pro-tip to GLAAD... you would have advanced your cause a lot more if you'd made light of Robertson's statement with something like... "well, everyone's entitled to their own sexual preferences, aren't they?"   Or:  "everyone's entitled to their opinion about what they find 'desirable'... for instance, we here at GLAAD don't like long gray beards!"  Or:   "Mr. Robertson sure seems to have thought about this question!   A lot!"   Something like that.    
And later in the article:
Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
The statement is far outside of the mainstream understanding of LGBT people. In Louisiana, which passed a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, 56% of the population support some sort of legal recognition, marriage or civil unions, for gay and lesbian couples according to Public Policy Polling released in August 2013.
Another pro-tip... if you're going to use words like "mainstream," don't cite a poll where 44% of Americans apparently don't support any kind of legal recognition for gay couples.   And that's a huge part of the problem with this issue.   Gay activists like GLAAD are essentially saying that 44% of Americans -- something on the order of 130 million people -- should just shut up and not express their beliefs, because their beliefs, based on a deeply-held faith that is foundational to Western culture, namely, Christianity, are tantamount to bigotry.   But 2-3% (a fair estimate of the percentage of gay and lesbian Americans) simply can't as a matter of practicality tell 44% or more of their fellow citizens that they have to shut up.   It's not just bad for democracy.... it's bad strategy for GLAAD, because, at some point, those 130 million people will get tired of being called bigots.

Having said that, what is really odd is GLAAD's utter ignorance.   Robertson was asked what he thought was sinful.   He responded by accurately citing a Biblical text.   Did GLAAD not know this?   Does it make any sense at all in a majority Christian country to say that merely citing a Biblical proscription about sin is "far outside the mainstream"?   Robertson did not say that homosexuals should be put to death, or stoned, or shunned, or made to wear pink stars on their coats.   He just cited (again, accurately) that the Bible defines homosexual acts as sinful.   So the logic of GLAAD's statement is that Christianity is itself "far outside the mainstream."   Which is both silly and itself a form of bigotry.

Meanwhile, and this is the most outrageous thing about the GLAAD statement... they consciously (and, to my mind, dishonestly) omit what Robertson says later in the same article, that his faith calls him to love everyone, including homosexuals, and to bring them the Good News about Christ, and that "we never, ever judge someone on who's going to heaven, hell.   That's the Almighty's job."   Again, this is all accurate about what Christianity says.   Which makes the next thing in the GLAAD statement sound really silly:
"Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe," said GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz.
OK, let's just stop right there.   I am willing to bet $100 that GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz is not a practicing Christian of any denomination, and has not seen the inside of a church for many years.   So where does he get the authority to define what "true Christians" believe?   You want to talk offensive?   That's offensive to me.     
"He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans – and Americans - who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil's decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families."
I am willing to bet another $100 that a majority of citizens of Louisiana do not support gay marriage.  Has Mary Landrieu ever proposed that it be put to a referendum?   Would she be willing to support and run alongside such a referendum when she's up for reelection in 2014?   NFW.  

Finally, again, I just don't see what is a stereotype or what is vile in what Robertson said.    About the only thing he said in describing homosexuality is that it involves anal intercourse.   If GLAAD is going to call that a "vile stereotype," it's going to be hard to have an honest discussion.  

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