Sunday, April 5, 2015

An angry Robert George calls equality minded Americans a 'lynch mob'

“The reason for his unhinged post today is that Robert George's grand strategy has failed.”

At the conservative Catholic site, First Things, Robert George explained on Sunday the extent to which the Christian majority is being mercilessly persecuted by homosexuals and their supporters. In a post titled Who Will Stand George attempts to equate anti-gay discrimination to courage. It's Christians who are the victims here. At least that is Robby's dubious claim. George's solution to all this imaginary anti-Christian bigotry is to engage in more very real anti-gay bigotry. First let's have some self-manufactured victims. George borrows a theme from Martin Niemöller's “First they came …
The lynch mob came for the brilliant mild-mannered techie Brendan Eich. The lynch mob came for the elderly florist Baronelle Stutzman. The lynch mob came for Eastern Michigan University counseling student Julea Ward. … The lynch mob came for the African-American Fire Chief of once segregated Atlanta Kelvin Cochran. …

And so on. By now most of us have committed the victims list to memory.Trotting out these people who have discriminated against gay people only demonstrates the need for further protections. The way that he describes Kelvin Cochran is clearly and effort to suggest that there is a racist element to this. It's absurd. Julea Ward, by the way, won her case following a very generous Jeffrey Sutton opinion from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals (Sutton authored the only appeals court decision upholding same-sex marriage bans).

George continues:
The lynch mob is now giddy with success and drunk on the misery and pain of its victims. It is urged on by a compliant and even gleeful media. It is reinforced in its sense of righteousness and moral superiority by the “beautiful people” and the intellectual class. It has been joined by the big corporations who perceive their economic interests to be in joining up with the mandarins of cultural power. It owns one political party and has intimidated the leaders of the other into supine and humiliating obeisance.
Right. This is all about the so-called “elite.” George tries to portray supporters of gay rights as evil bullies. It is nonsensical sophistry however I would note that support for LGBT rights tracks, with uncanny accuracy, to educational attainment. Educated people have a greater tendency to be critical thinkers. If you want to see a concentration of gay haters, find a group of high school dropouts.

I subscribe to the idea of Occam's razor. Given competing hypotheses the simplest one is likely to be correct. We have George's anonymously orchestrated conspiracy theory for Christian oppression by elites and other nefarious forces. Then there is the competing theory that people have gay friends, neighbors, children, aunts, uncles and coworkers and are thus unable and unwilling to demonize them. Which is simpler and thus more likely?

George's views on sexuality are shaped by ancient texts and the teachings of the Catholic Church to which he is unquestionably obedient. These views are then reinforced by 13th century Catholic philosophers and modern day pompous prelates in Gucci loafers. Try as he might to effect a Catholic Shariah it has limited appeal which is diminishing by the decade. Most of Robby's peers at Princeton probably fit into that elite category. Must make for some interesting conferences.

George continues:
And so, who if anyone will courageously stand up to the mob? Who will resist? Who will speak truth to its raw and frightening power? Who will refuse to be bullied into submission or intimidated into silence?
To fully appreciate this appeal to prejudice you have to go back to 2009 when George wrote the Manhattan Declaration (co-authored by Chuck Colson). This treatise was signed by prominent conservative Catholics and Evangelical Christians. From the text;
No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage. Marriage is an objective reality—a covenantal union of husband and wife … We recognize the duty to comply with laws whether we happen to like them or not, unless the laws are gravely unjust or require those subject to them to do something unjust or otherwise immoral. [ … ] Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required. [ … ] [We will not] bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent …
Aside from the lack of alignment with current legal thinking, George is contradicting himself. He wrote about the duty to obey all laws (including those that he doesn't like). Yet he is urging people to do just that if they find that a law is unjust. Try that the next time you get a speeding ticket. The more important issue, however, is for what real purpose should laws relating to LGBT citizens be disobeyed? Why is he now urging people to stand up to what he calls “the mob?“ If people stop baking cakes or arranging flowers for gay weddings that will not result in one less gay marriage. So what is the point? What benefit inures from the legal peril and potential financial loss?

I can conclude that one purpose of getting people to risk fines and legal expenses is to create victims. These hapless but useful idiots are dangled in front of state legislators to predict a dystopian world in which people are persecuted for their faith which George further conjurers up as an assault on “religious freedom.” It reminds me of Hezbollah dragging the corpses of it martyrs through a crowd of the faithful.

The other possibility is that George is hoping to get a movement that will push back when the next license-to-discriminate bill in the next red state is being considered. Even then, he simply lacks a good argument for discrimination other than Christian supremacy.

The people who disobey applicable anti-discrimination laws are, for the most part, doing so to make a point rather than for their personal religious beliefs. They are perfectly willing to serve divorcees, adulterers and all manner of people whose sins should make them ineligible for service if the proprietor was consistent. Based upon the court's ruling in the Barronelle Stutzman (the florist) matter it appeared that she was just waiting for an opportunity to deny service to a gay couple. She knew the consequences and relished them. She got it into her head that she was doing God's work. According to whom?

The reason for his unhinged post today is that Robert George's grand strategy has failed miserably. It failed in Indiana and it failed in Arkansas. Normal people will not obsess over some schnook who refused to bake a fucking cake. They realize that refusing to do so has only a tangential connection to same-sex marriage which most of them approve of anyway. All those faux victims wasted. Just imagine how much money has been pumped into ADF to prop up these folks who, as a group, are not the most sophisticated business people in the land. If they were, they wouldn't be on this Business Kamikaze.

The reality is that George is no longer advocating for disapproval of same-sex marriage; That seems to be a done deal. He has been advocating for the right to deny services from public accommodations due to sexual orientation. How something is to be used after sale should be irrelevant. It was all quite obvious which is why our fellow citizens and corporate leaders finally said “enough.” George's schemes might be effective in Alabama — for now, but the long term outlook does not favor discrimination.

Eventually George gets to this bit of nonsense also themed by Niemöller's sentiments:
Oh yes, the mob came first for the Evangelicals and the Catholics and the Latter-Day Saints; but do not be deceived: it will not stop with them. It's true that many in the mob have a particular animus against Christians, but the point of destroying the reputations and livelihoods of the initial victims is pour encourager les autres. If you believe you belong to a group that will be given a special exemption or dispensation from the enforcement of the new orthodoxy—by any means necessary—you will soon learn that you are tragically mistaken. No one who dissents will be given a pass.
Pour encourager les autres” is a pretentious reference to Voltaire's Candide. In part (and in English) a more complete phrasing is “it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, in order to encourage the others.” Well, we're not killing anyone and we are not trying to set an example. Nor, for that matter, are we coming after anyone — Catholics, Evangelicals or Mormons. We just want to be serviced regardless of sexual orientation. Is that really too much to ask for? After all, we all pay for the roads, public transportation, police, fire and infrastructure that make it possible to even open the doors of a business that deals with the public (a public accommodation). It would seem that we all deserve to be served without the proprietor making a judgment based on how their product will be used after sale. For all he or she knows the cake is going to a bachelor party in an S&M dungeon or a brothel.

And George continues:
We have seen how swiftly the demands have moved from tolerance to compulsory approbation of behavior historically rejected as contrary to morality and faith by virtually all the great religious traditions of the world. And now it is not only approbation that is demanded, but active participation. And do you honestly think that we have now reached the endpoint of what will be demanded?
This is a familiar refrain asserting that we are not interested in tolerance but their approval of the “the homosexual lifestyle.” It is rubbish. The reason that we don't seek approval is obvious — we don't require their approval to be gay or to be married or, frankly, to be happy. Based on the sentence structure when George refers to “active participation” it could mean just about anything but it doesn't seem to be anything that we are after. That is unless George is furthering the idea that baking the damned cake is somehow participating in gay debauchery. George's final rhetorical question at the end of that paragraph forecasting gloom and doom goes unexplained. How could he explain it if he wanted to?

George's final paragraph does little to illuminate the reader:
If we refuse to surrender, we will certainly be demonized; but everything will depend on whether we refuse to be demoralized. Courage displayed in the cause of truth—and of right—is powerful. And it will depend on whether ordinary people—Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, others—inspired by their faith to stand firm, will also be willing to stand shoulder to shoulder, and arm-in-arm, with their brothers and sisters of other traditions of faith to defy the mob.
People are going to be criticized and face legal peril if they do not conform to anti-discrimination ordinances. What Robert P. George is really doing is to demonstrate the need for such protections in all 50 states. Why wouldn't George's constituents obey the law unless they want to be a “victim?” There is no benefit to not following the law. It seems silly (not to mention self-righteous and self-centered) to suggest that arranging flowers is promoting same-sex marriage. It's even more foolish to think that, by not servicing a customer, one is having the effect of diminishing gay rights. What has Robert George done? What risks has he taken? He seems to be very good at fucking up other people's lives. From what I can see he has an economic interest in poking the controversy given that he travels around college campuses to engage in (and get paid for) phony debates with Cornel West. West really should show some more integrity.

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