Regular readers may be aware that one of my favorite pastimes is making fun of the National Organization for Marriage—their national headquarters is across the street from the building where I eat two meals a day during the school year, and so I consider them and the hate they spread a particularly ridiculous affront to my day-to-day existence.

Maybe I should be more careful about bullying people who can’t defend themselves, though, because they just make it so easy. Take, for example, the latest: a post by Maggie Gallagher, NOM’s president, at the National Review‘s blog. Gallagher lists “Five Predictions about Gay Marriage”:

1. In gay-marriage states, a large minority people committed to traditional notions of marriage will feel afraid to speak up for their views, lest they be punished in some way.
2. Public schools will teach about gay marriage.
3. Parents in public schools who object to gay marriage being taught to their children will be told with increasing public firmness that they don’t belong in public schools and their views will not be accomodated [sic] in any way.
4. Religous [sic] institutions will face new legal threats (especially soft litigation threats) that will cause some to close, or modify their missions, to avoid clashing with the government’s official views of marriage (which will include the view that opponents are akin to racists for failing to see same-sex couples as married).
5. Support for the idea “the ideal for a child is a married mother and father” will decline.

I am struck by two issues here, which I think actually typify fairly accurately the discourse of the fringe right: in the first place, some of Gallagher’s points are just wrong, or at least predictions that will almost certainly not come to pass. In the second place, some of her predictions are likely to come to pass, but if they did, it would be a great thing for all concerned. I strongly doubt that points 1 and 3 will ever happen, because no one—and I mean no one treats social conservatives that way. Our society and our political framework positively bend over backwards to accommodate them and their views, no matter how much in the minority they may be or how outlandish their views. This has been the case since Reagan-Moral Majority days, and it should be pretty apparent by now that the whole persecution complex thing is nothing more than a tactic to garner sympathy. Point 4 won’t happen, because we have freedom of religion in this country, and that’s not going anywhere. I know it may come as a surprise to some radical conservatives, but believing that the Constitution is a living document does not mean disregarding it entirely. And finally, my god, I wish public schools would include acceptance of LGBT people and their families in their life skills curricula! It would have made my own public school experience just a little bit less lonely and miserable, and might have cut down on the dozens of times per day I heard someone say “That’s so gay.” I wish that our society could collectively acknowledge that children raised in all different kinds of family configurations turn out okay, and that we could encourage all kids to take pride in their parents or guardians and their families. But heaven forbid kids should feel happy or safe or included! Maggie Gallagher doesn’t want them to!

As I sit and stare at my computer every day, only to read about radical right-wingers who think health care reform is akin to the Holocaust (even I, who so rarely identify with mainstream Jewish culture, am starting to get personally offended by that one), or that it is unconstitutional, or even something as comparatively minor as to compare the proposed House bill to the British or the Canadian systems, I find myself increasingly frustrated by the radical right’s propensity for simply making things up. I watch in open-mouthed shock as some senator or governor or talk-show host just says something that anyone with the barest rudiments of political awareness knows isn’t true—and yet it works! People believe it! They go and repeat it at town hall meetings! And Gallagher is doing the same thing here, just not with health care—with another issue that has a lot of emotional resonance and which it’s easy to scare people about. People are easily scared by threats that their Medicare will be taken away or that they’ll be brought before a “death panel,” because health care reform is a type of legislation that actually affects individual ordinary Americans. And so are people easily scared by threats that their straight marriages will be somehow less valid or that their religious beliefs will be challenged, because marriage and the family are personal things pertinent to individual ordinary Americans—despite what’s actually true. And it’s a frightening thing for a would-be academic to think that, in the democratic process, reason doesn’t always win out. The truth doesn’t always win out. The louder people attract more attention, regardless of whether they have the facts on their side. People keep on listening to the Maggie Gallaghers of the world, no matter how ridiculous they sound or what a moral stain their organizations’ offices are on perfectly lovely towns like Princeton, New Jersey.

(As a postscript: I am careful how I deal with the radical right now, because I don’t want to sink to the level that the radical right has sunk to when dealing with me. (By the way, YAF redesigned their website, and so the comments on that post got lost. They’re on a cached version of the page here.) However, I think my comments here have been more than fair-minded, and have focused on ideas and politics, not anyone’s appearance or age or gender. Making fun is fine, but it should be done in a way that focuses on the substantiated actions of people and the organizations they represent. But then, what standard of conduct should I expect from a movement that invokes genocide to describe a perfectly reasonable domestic policy proposal?)

UPDATE: More Maggie Gallagher being silly on national television here.

2 thoughts on “NOM NOM NOM

  1. I like your analysis of Gallagher’s points. However, I’d point out that the persecution complex isn’t about garnering just sympathy, but is also about garnering support, particularly support of a financial nature. If Gallagher and company can convince others that persecution and other bad is immanent, they can convince more people to send them money — presumably to stop or at least lessen it.

    I’m reminded of a personal anecdote one of the authors (I forget which) wrote about in “Blinded by Might: Why the Religious Right Can’t Save America.” They wrote about a conversation they had with a supervisor while going over the latest fund-raising appeal for Falwell’s Moral Majority they were about to send out. The supervisor asked why all the fund-raising appeals talked about the latest “threat” they needed money to fight against. They wondered if it might not make more sense to tell their would-be donors about all the good they’ve been able to do so far instead. In a moment of honesty, the supervisor explained that positive reports didn’t bring in enough money. That response stuck with the author for some time. Personally, I find it rather telling as well.

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