Dan Savage a hypocrite? Not even close…

The right wing and conservative religious world is in an uproar.  Dan Savage called “bullshit” on their bullshit, and they’ve collapsed onto their fainting couches, and are fanning themselves furiously.  “He’s a bully and a hypocrite!”, they say, for daring to challenge them on the tenets of their faith, the inconsistencies of it’s application in their own lives, and directing a term at them, in passing, more commonly heard spoken by real bullies tormenting gay men and boys: “pansy assed”.

The religious right wing clearly have no clue what bullying is really all about.  A speaker, known for his “straight”, sometimes “salty”, talk, at a public forum, is not bullying you when he says your religious beliefs are bullshit.  He doesn’t have you cornered against a locker, trapped behind the auto shop building, or head down in the commode in the bathroom stall.  He isn’t threatening you with physical harm, not even the promised threat of “getting you later” after school.  The right wing thinks all these kind of interactions are not bullying, especially if religiously motivated, but a speaker at high school assembly, journalism conference, who points out logical and factual inconsistencies in the way you behave is the bully and a hypocrite?

Bullshit.

Here’s the part of the talk that has generated all the “concern”, and charges of hypocrisy:

This was a large crowd, in a high school auditorium.  Some reports have said a dozen students got up and left, others report dozens.  Either number is a rather small proportion of the entire audience, and it’s clear that the students who left en-mass had planned to do so.  The first to get up and start walking out did so only seconds into his comments on the Bible.  They didn’t have time to actually hear what he was going to say about the subject, they simply heard “Bible”, and that apparently was their cue to start moving.  There was no time to listen to what Savage was saying, to come to the realization that they found it offensive, and then decide to get up and leave.  The “outrage” was pre-planned, and staged.

Dan Savage’s position on the Bible and Christianity are no secret.  Anyone with a smart phone or computer (and that’s probably 99% of those students, not to mention those with MTV) has access to what he’s said in the past, and if they found his thoughts about the subject offensive, then why were they even in the auditorium to begin with?  These kind of assemblies are not something students cannot opt out of, if they don’t want to hear the speaker.  {Correction: He was speaking on April 12 to attendees of the National High School Journalism Conference, sponsored by the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association. The four-day conference, featuring over 200 sessions, two keynote speakers (Dan and Jennifer Sizemore), more than a dozen featured speakers, and more events and activities than you can shake a pen at, was titled Journalism on the Edge.(source)} This was not a surprise to anyone.  The outraged and offended “doth protest too much”.

To call Savage’s talk a “rant“, and label him a hypocrite is, to me, the mindset of someone who wants all those pesky LGBTQ activists to “sit down and be quiet, for heavens sake!”  They stir stuff up, and give those “good” gays a bad name.  Heaven forbid their straight friends think they might support those radicals, or maybe they’re even one of them themselves!  Agitators make it more difficult for the “good” gays to prove to the rest of the world that they really are “just like them”.  Don’t rock the boat, don’t challenge the status quo, don’t stand up and say things that upset people. And whatever you do, don’t ever challenge their religion!

Dan Savage apologized for the “pansy-assed” comment, and in the spirit of forgiveness so allegedly prevalent in Christianity, we can dispense with any further commentary on that, even though * I * don’t think an apology was warranted.  Savage did, after reflection, and made it publicly.  End of that fainting spell.

I find it interesting how often people who stand up and fight for what they believe in, and for the rights of others, are labeled “angry” and “bitter”.  They make their points, sometimes forcefully, and their entire presentation is dismissed as the “ranting” of an “angry” and “bitter” hypocrite.  The message is ignored, and instead an attempt is made to focus attention on the speaker, and discredit him (or her).  No challenge to the points made, no correction of anything possibly factually incorrect, no explanations of why the speaker is wrong.  Instead, the messenger is held up as unworthy and to be shunned, the message ignored.

Apparently, only perfect human beings, those who never make a mistake, or never match a low blow with one of their own (or at least a low blow in the perception of those on the receiving end of one), or say a “bad word” are allowed to be the spokesmen or leaders for a movement.  Real human beings need not apply.

Oliver Twist got himself into a real bind, when he got roped into stepping up and meekly saying “Please, Sir, I want more.”  He was immediately assaulted, and those in control were in an uproar.  He didn’t get more.  Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t get action on civil rights by politely speaking from his pulpit, asking the white power structure, “Please, Sir. I want more.”  He had to take action to the streets, and forcefully challenge the status quo.  Dan Savage has consistently challenged the religious and political powers-that-be on their entrenched homophobia.  He’s an excellent role model and leader in the battle for LGBTQ civil rights.  He’s clearly shown “It Gets Better”, and that one person (or in his case, two people) can make a big difference.

The real hypocrites are those who claim they are against bullying while working to prevent anti-bullying laws, and who claim any attempt to protect children from harassment based on perceived sexual orientation is somehow an infringement on their religious rights.  The real hypocrites are the ones who say they love you, but reserve to themselves the right to scream “you’re an abomination!” in your face.  If you dare call “bullshit” on them, they feign outrage, and scream “BULLY!!” at you.  If you return fire with the same ammunition, they intone “HYPOCRITE!!”.

Dan Savage a hypocrite?

Not even close.

Updated May 5, 2012 at 2340 hrs, PDT. See above for changes.

About Jim Reeves

A liberal gay atheist living in the heart of central California's Bible belt, surrounded by oranges, walnuts, dairies and Republicans. A 9-1-1 dispatcher by career, a blogger and computer nerd by choice. If your emergency requires a cop, a fireman, a paramedic, or a blog, I'm the guy you need to call!

Posted on May 5, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Excellent, excellent piece. You’ve hit every nail, and there were multiple nails, on the head. The only thing I can think of to add is that the xtianists even lied and said Dan harassed them as they were walking out. He most assuredly did not. Thank you posting it.

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  2. It’s Freedom of Speech, yo — I can say whatever demeaning, dangerous, child abuse-endorsing shit I want to. You’re the bully if you don’t let me. Thank you for calling bullshit in a thoughtful post.

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  3. Since the largest part of this post was a passive aggressive jab at MY post about this issue, I’d like to correct something. I did not say that “people who stand up and fight for what they believe in, and for the rights of others, are labeled “angry” and “bitter”” I said that DAN SAVAGE was angry and bitter.

    I think lots of people are angry and bitter. Hell, I think Stephen Hawking is a bitter person, deservedly so, but he’s still angry and bitter.

    People who stand up and fight for what they believe in are to be applauded, however there is a time and a place and appropriate language. Savage crossed a line with his behavior and language at that conference full of CHILDREN and if you can’t see that, I’m sorry for you. Foul language, sexual references, insults (whether they are in or out of the room) is not appropriate for that setting and they are bullying. You seem to think that bullying is only physical violence or threats of physical violence and that is simply not accurate.

    As for your list of things that the right wing thinks are “not bullying especially if religiously motivated” is ridiculous. I grew up in an evangelical Southern Baptist church (several of them in fact) and no matter what the reason was, none of that sort of activity would have been allowed, tolerated, advocated, or (if it happened) go unpunished.

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    • While your blog was the impetuous for my post, it was directed at more than just you. The right wing blogosphere in general is in an uproar over Savage’s remarks, and like you, they are off base in their charges of anger and bitterness. Pushing back against religious bigotry, pointing out clear inconsistencies, and speaking plainly can only be described as bullying in the echo chamber that is the right wing.

      You may not think that all those who stand up and fight for what they believe in are angry and bitter (but then you turn right around and claim a lot of people ARE angry and bitter), but that’s sure the charge pinned to almost any LGBTQ activists who dares challenge the almost always religious based attacks directed at the community. What in his 3 and a half minutes would you consider angry and bitter? He does call the stuff of Leviticus “bullshit”, several times, but that’s descriptive, not angry or bitter. Maybe it was the jab at Callista Gingrich? Again, this blog was not directly solely at you. There are plenty of others out there making the same charges.

      Remember, this was a JOURNALISM conference, for students planning a career in JOURNALISM. Journalists don’t get up and walk out in the middle of something, simply because the speaker said something they found offensive. A journalist’s job is to gather information and report, not walk out in a huff. Savage was one of the keynote speakers. If I was a teacher that had students at this conference, any of them that walked out on him would get a failing grade right then and there.

      I also find the charge, being repeated across the echo chamber, that these terrible things were said in front of CHILDREN!! (gasp gasp)
      Well, no, they weren’t children. They were all teenagers, planning their careers and college courses. Many in the room were undoubtedly already legal adults. The language and terms used were not inappropriate in this setting.

      Of course I don’t believe bullying is only physical violence or the threat of physical violence. What I was referring to is the nonsensical idea that what Dan Savage said in three and a half minutes could be ever be considered bullying by anyone with a lick of common sense. You diminish real bullying by claiming this was bullying. It was not, not even close.

      I’m glad your upbringing in a religious setting did not allow bullying. To think that your experience somehow makes the view that most, if not all, bullying of LGBTQ kids (and adults) is not religion-based is, however, a bit restricted. Religion is the bedrock of the vast majority of the bullying experienced by LGBTQ individuals, and calling bullshit on it is neither anger, nor bitterness. It is simply the truth.

      Hiding behind “inappropriate language” and “children” is nothing more than a smokescreen to obscure another attack on a LGBTQ leader and role model. I can see how the idea of Dan Savage being a role model would scare some homophobes (not that I think you’re a homophobe. But there are a lot of them out there in that wingnut echochamber of the right’s corner of the blogosphere)… the idea of a whole bunch of people like him standing up for their rights must be a terrifying image to the bashers. He, and anyone who stands up like him, is a formidable opponent. They certainly don’t want more of them!

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  4. False equivalence is a way of life for conservative Christians. As is tokenism.

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