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Topics In the News
Dan Savage's Faux Controversy
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 04/29/12
Last updated on: 04/30/12
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Dan Savage speaking at the National High School Journalism conference.

Anti-gay groups, including the usual suspects, are hyperventilating over remarks by Dan Savage criticizing the use of the Bible to condemn homosexuality at a National High School Journalism conference.

The conference, whose theme was "Journalism on the Edge," met in Seattle from April 12 to April 15. As Savage spoke about how the Bible is often used to justify bigotry, about two dozen of the 2800 students in the audience walked out. Now, suddenly, weeks after the event, anti-gay groups are calling Savage a bully for allegedly attacking Christian young people.

As Joe Jervis observes at Joe.My.God, the "wingnuts" have launched a coordinated campaign against Savage allegedly because of his comments. The controversy, of course, is manufactured by them.

At the conference, Savage said pretty much what he has said many times, including on his MTV television program; the organizers of the conference and the students who attended the speech knew what to expect from him; and, almost certainly, the students who walked out planned to do so from the beginning--i.e., the walk out was not a spontaneous reaction to Savage's remarks, but had been planned well in advance.

The large majority of the students at the conference loudly cheered Savage.

In addition, it should be noted that the very focus of the conference was the kind of edgy journalism that Savage practices at The Stranger. That, presumably, was why Savage was invited to give a keynote address, along with his anti-bullying efforts, including the "It Gets Better" campaign. So the students could hardly have been shocked by the language he used, including the observation that there is a lot of "bullshit" in the Bible.

The video clip below contains Savage's comments that the religious right and some of the students at the conference pretend to be so shocking.

The "wingnuts," as Jervis refers to the anti-gay columnists and bloggers who have orchestrated the attack on Savage two weeks after the conference, have zeroed in on the description of the students who walked out as "pansy-assed," and have cited that term as evidence that Savage is a bully.

It is telling that the wingnuts cast themselves and the young Christian journalists as victims, for that is one of their most frequent tropes: over and over again they whine that they are victims of "political correctness," of unfair media representations, and of a changing society in which they are increasingly seen as bigots and haters.

While the opponents of equal rights lack empathy for the people they harm, they express hypersensitivity to any pushback and possess inexhaustible reservoirs of self-pity. Hence, they think it perfectly reasonable for them to say all sorts of negative things about gay people, but very unfair for gay people to respond harshly to them.

As this faux controversy illustrates, if someone challenges them or calls them unpleasant names, they squeal like stuck pigs, accusing their critics of stifling free speech, or, as in this case, of "bullying" them.

In response to the faux controversy, Savage has issued a qualified apology. In a post at his Savage Love blog at The Stranger, entitled "On 'Bullshit' and 'Pansy-Assed,'" he writes, "I would like to apologize for describing that walk out as a pansy-assed move. I wasn't calling the handful of students who left pansies (2800+ students, most of them Christian, stayed and listened), just the walk-out itself."

"But," he continues, "that's a distinction without a difference--kinda like when religious conservatives tell their gay friends that they 'love the sinner, hate the sin.' They're often shocked when their gay friends get upset because, hey, they were making a distinction between the person (lovable!) and the person's actions (not so much!). But gay people feel insulted by 'love the sinner, hate the sin' because it is insulting. Likewise, my use of 'pansy-assed' was insulting, it was name-calling, and it was wrong. And I apologize for saying it."

He goes on to deny that he called anyone's religion bullshit: "I didn't attack Christianity, I attacked hypocrisy."

Savage observes: "There are untrue things in the Bible--and the Koran and the Book of Mormon and every other 'sacred' text--and you don't have to take my word for it: just look at all the biblical 'shoulds,' 'shall nots,' and 'abominations' that religious conservatives already choose to ignore. They know that not everything in the Bible is true."

He concludes, "All Christians read the Bible selectively. Some read it hypocritically--and the hypocrites react very angrily when anyone has the nerve to point that out."

Since the religious conservatives who attack Savage and who create the climate that leads to real bullying love to pretend that they are victims, they will no doubt milk this faux controversy for all it is worth, crying crocodile tears about how they are bullied by gay people. Hopefully, outside their echo chamber of right-wing haters, no one will take their claims seriously.

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