From the July 10 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Right-wing media greeted news of the release of the only U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan with claims that his freedom was timed to distract from the controversy plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
For years, conservative media figures have attacked marriage equality by citing "religious liberty" concerns, baselessly warning that churches might be forced to perform same-sex weddings against their will. But a new lawsuit in North Carolina challenges the right-wing media's commitment to religious freedom when it's not being used as an excuse for anti-gay discrimination.
On April 28, the United Church of Christ (UCC), a progressive Protestant denomination that supports marriage equality, filed suit in Federal District Court challenging North Carolina's ban on clergy blessings of same-sex unions. Under the state's 2012 same-sex marriage ban, it's a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 45 days in jail, to perform a ceremony for any couple lacking a valid marriage license. The UCC argues that the ban infringes on clergy members' First Amendment right to free exercise of religion:
"We didn't bring this lawsuit to make others conform to our beliefs, but to vindicate the right of all faiths to freely exercise their religious practices," said Donald C. Clark Jr., general counsel of the United Church of Christ.
The lawsuit represents the inverse of a long-standing (and entirely baseless) conservative horror story about marriage equality - that churches will be forced to perform same-sex weddings against their will.
This myth has been perpetuated by conservative media personalities like Fox's Todd Starnes, who in 2012 warned that a Kansas non-discrimination ordinance "would force churches to host gay weddings":
When the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Breitbart News' Ben Shapiro claimed that churches would lose their tax exempt status if they failed to perform same-sex weddings. Fox contributor Erick Erickson has gone so far as to claim "gay marriage and religious freedom are incompatible." And Fox News' longstanding campaign to depict marriage equality and anti-discrimination laws as burdens on religious liberty inspired a rash of so-called "religious freedom" bills across the country earlier this year.
Given social conservatives' self-appointed role as guardians of religious freedom, the North Carolina case would seem ripe for their attention.
But now that religious liberty is being invoked to oppose a gay marriage ban, will right-wing media rush to tout the cause of a pro-equality church?
Conservatives who rushed to defend "religious liberty" legislation like Arizona SB 1062 have so far been silent on the case. The New York Times' Ross Douthat, who penned a column supporting Arizona's bill on religious liberty grounds, has yet to comment on the UCC case on his blog. A TV Eyes search shows that Fox News - which regularly features segments titled "The Fight for Faith" - hasn't taken up the UCC's mantle. The same goes for anti-gay conservatives like Starnes, Shapiro, and Erickson.
While civil marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples would have no bearing on churches' doctrines and practices, laws like North Carolina's actively restrict religious denominations' right to freely exercise their faith. If serving a cake to a same-sex couple constitutes an unconscionable violation of religious liberty, then surely a law telling churches which unions they can and can't bless does. But the right's crusade against LGBT equality has almost nothing to do with genuine, intellectually consistent support for religious liberty, and everything to do with keeping discrimination enshrined in law.
Too often in conservative media, religious liberty becomes a shield to deflect accusations of bigotry, even while justifying blatant anti-LGBT discrimination. UCC's lawsuit, and conservative media's interest in taking it up as a cause célèbre, will test whether the right's interest in religious liberty is anything more than a shallow excuse for homophobia.
Equality Matters searched TV Eyes for the terms "gay," "United Church of Christ," and "North Carolina" for Fox's programming on April 28 and the morning of April 29, 2014.
Photo via Flickr.com user Sarah Cartwright
To hear conservative media tell it, the resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich following an outcry over Eich's support for the 2008 referendum that banned same-sex marriage in California is merely the latest sign that a new era of anti-conservative persecution has arrived. That narrative undergirds the right's campaign against LGBT equality and is essential to understanding conservative support for measures that would enshrine anti-LGBT discrimination into law.
On April 3, just two weeks into his tenure, Eich announced his decision to step down as Mozilla's CEO. The revelation that Eich had contributed $1,000 to the anti-marriage equality Proposition 8 campaign had triggered fierce criticism from Mozilla employees, companies like OkCupid, and gay rights activists. As Slate's Mark Joseph Stern noted, the campaign for Proposition 8 was about far more than a simple disagreement over the definition of marriage. Supporters ran stridently homophobic ads accusing gay people of wanting to turn children gay, "mess up" children by introducing gay marriage into the curriculum, and conceal the truth about marriage and reproduction.
The virulently anti-gay propaganda behind the Prop 8 campaign - and the measure's subsequent passage -served to compound the sense of vulnerability among the gay community, which faces discrimination in housing, healthcare, public accommodations, and earnings, and is disproportionately targeted by hate crimes. Given the vitriol that motivated the Prop 8 fight, many supporters of LGBT equality objected to Eich's appointment to Mozilla CEO.
In the right-wing universe, however, it's conservative Christians whose rights are under assault. While Eich's decision to resign was an example of the free market at work - precisely the solution many libertarians and conservatives have long prescribed for anti-gay bigotry - conservative media figures greeted his departure with cries of totalitarianism and bigotry, condemning the "intolerant" LGBT movement for its role in the controversy.
Rush Limbaugh wasted no time in comparing Eich's critics with Nazis, declaring on his April 4 program that "'[f]ascist' is probably the closest way" to describe them (emphasis added):
When it was discovered that Brendan Eich had donated a $100 [sic] to Proposition 8 four years ago, the literal... What is the proper name for people who engage in this kind of behavior? "Fascist" is probably the closest way. You can call 'em Nazis, but nevertheless they went into gear, and immediately Brendan Eich was described as "filled with hatred" and anti-gay bigotry all over the tech media.
Breitbart.com's Ben Shapiro sounded a similar note, launching an anti-Mozilla campaign on his website TruthRevolt.org to protest the company's "fascistic crackdown":
Right-wing media are upset that President Obama sat down for an interview with comedian Zach Galifianakis on "Between Two Ferns."
Ben Shapiro's new ebook How To Debate Leftists And Destroy Them: 10 Rules For Winning The Argument comes complete with eleven rules about how (and three more about when) conservatives should act like mean, nasty bullies, in order to help them defeat liberals, who have a tendency to make conservatives look like mean, nasty bullies.
Shapiro, the founder of TruthRevolt.com and editor-at-large for Breitbart.com, would rather be known as a debating champ than as the guy who fabricated a terror group to smear Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. He begins the book by claiming the real reason conservatives lost the 2012 election was that President Obama was "considered the more empathetic of the two candidates. Why? Because Romney was perceived as so darn mean." His solution is not for conservatives to follow Obama's lead and appear more empathetic in the future; his solution is to double down on looking mean. But how?
First, Shapiro offers a list of three rules for when to debate a leftist, including 1) you have to ("your grade depends on it, or your waiter threatens to spit in your food"); 2) you found the only leftist in the world ready to have a reasoned debate ("Then you ride off on your separate unicorns"), or 3) You have an audience, allowing you to publicly humiliate your opponent:
Third, you should debate a leftist if there is an audience. The goal of the debate will not be to win over the leftist, or to convince him or her, or to be friends with him or her. That person already disagrees with you, and they're not going to be convinced by your words of wisdom and your sparkling rhetorical flourishes. The goal will be to destroy the leftist in as public a way as is humanly possible. [emphasis added]
To be clear, one of Shapiro's primary rules for debating people with liberal values is to shame them in front of others, because President Obama won 2012 by looking too darn nice.
Next, Shapiro offers his list of "ten rules" for how to debate your leftist opponent, which includes eleven rules, because copy-editing your book before publication is not a rule.
Rule #1: "Walk Toward the Fire." According to Shapiro, conservatives must learn to "embrace the fight" and know that they will be attacked, because this is war. His advice is simple: "You have to take the punch, you have to brush it off. You have to be willing to take the punch."
Rule #2: "Hit First. Don't take the punch first." Rule number two is: ignore rule number one, if their punch is coming first. Hit first, then brush it off. Just like Gandhi always said.
Rule #3: "Frame Your Opponent." Your leftist opponent will, according to Shapiro, call you a racist and a sexist, so in response call them a "liar and a hater." This third rule is described as "the vital first step. It is the only first step." That's why it comes third.
Rule #3: "Frame the debate." This is the second Rule #3, but who's counting?
Rule #4: "Spot Inconsistencies in the Left's Arguments." See: Both Rule #3s.
Rule #5: "Force Leftists to Answer Questions. This is really just a corollary of Rule #4." According to Shapiro, forcing the left to answer questions is like "trying to pin pudding to the wall - messy and near-impossible." If Ben Shapiro can teach us how to pin pudding to a wall even some of the time, liberals have no hope.
Rule #6: "Do Not Get Distracted." Just one page after the pudding analogy, Shapiro tells us that "Arguing with the left is like attempting to nail jello to the wall. It's slippery and messy and a waste of resources." If only he hadn't gotten distracted.
Rule #7: "You Don't Have To Defend People on Your Side." Here, Shapiro comes out in defense of not always defending your allies when you don't agree with them on everything, or when they get something wrong. Shapiro's friends were no doubt grateful for this rule back when he reported on the imaginary group "Friends of Hamas" in order to smear Chuck Hagel.
Rule #8: "If You Don't Know Something, Admit It." Unfortunately, Shapiro doesn't seem to have taken his own advice here: he still refuses to admit he has zero evidence "Friends of Hamas" ever existed.
Rule #9: "Let The Other Side Have Meaningless Victories." This "parlor trick" involves making it look like you're giving the other side space, while forcing them to define their terms. Terms like 'bullying' (the premise of Shapiro's book) and 'the number ten' are not listed as examples.
Rule #10: "Body Language Matters." According to Shapiro, McCain lost one of his 2008 debates because he was "angry-looking," and "Whomever looks angriest in debate loses. Immediately."
So to recap, the only way conservatives can win debates is to not look angry, while publicly shaming their opponent, punching first, and calling their opponents liars and haters. And remember: all of this is equivalent to futilely pinning some kind of gelatinous dessert to a wall.
Conservatives should be soaring to victory any day now.
UPDATE: Sometime after the publication of this post, Shapiro's ebook title was changed to "11 Rules For Winning The Argument."
Several right-wing media figures reacted with outrage on Twitter after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have permitted businesses and individuals to refuse to serve gay couples and individuals.
Breitbart.com editor-at-large Ben Shapiro asserted that "[t]his is not a country that discriminates against homosexuals," despite the persistence of marriage equality bans, anti-LGBT employment discrimination, and hate crimes.
In a February 10 interview with Fusion TV's Jorge Ramos, Shapiro weighed in on National Football League prospect Michael Sam's recent announcement that he's gay. Even as the rabid opponent of marriage equality, anti-discrimination protections, and efforts to end anti-LGBT bullying asserted he was "happy" for Sam, Shapiro reprised an argument he made in a Breitbart.com column depicting Sam as the useful pawn of a liberal media intent on proving America is homophobic. When Ramos pressed Shapiro on whether gays encounter discrimination in the U.S., Shapiro was unwilling to acknowledge anything more than "a vastly minute amount":
SHAPIRO: I would say there is a vastly minute amount of discrimination against gays in this country. The FBI statistics show there are about the same number of attacks on Jews in this country as there are homosexuals. This is not a country that discriminates against Jews and homosexuals. When we do find somebody who discriminates against homosexuals, they should be called out by every person of good-hearted intent as they are in the United States 2014. This is not 1952.
Breitbart.com Editor-At-Large Ben Shapiro predicted that Hollywood - credited with shifting American public opinion in favor of marriage equality - will soon push sentiment the other way, asserting that the weddings of 33 same-sex and opposite-sex couples at the 56th annual Grammy Awards exposes the entertainment industry's "hatred of Biblical values."
In a January 29 TownHall.com column titled "How Hollywood Is Killing Same-Sex Marriage," Shapiro baselessly asserted that Americans were beginning to abandon their support for marriage equality, arguing that the Grammys ceremony marked a key turning point. Joining other right-wing media figures in blasting the ceremony, Shapiro criticized Hollywood's "perverted" concept of marriage and its "anti-Biblical" support for the "destruction of traditional values" (emphasis added):
This wasn't an argument for same-sex marriage. It wasn't even attractive image-making on behalf of same-sex marriage. It was hatred of Biblical values cloaked in pietistic nonsense.
Begin with the marriages themselves. The only rationale for getting married on the Grammys en masse would be either attention-seeking or spite toward Americans with traditional values, or both. Neither of these rationales scream "love," "commitment" or "societal building block."
Move on to the cheering audience -- a group of anti-marriage Hollywoodites who largely see the institution itself as patriarchal. The same folks standing up for same-sex marriage at the Grammys largely scorn the institution of marriage itself. The only time they embrace marriage is when it is being mocked, undermined or perverted. That's not a cuddly case for same-sex marriage.
But this is Hollywood unmasked: angry, vindictive, self-righteous, anti-Biblical. The case for same-sex marriage rests on an application of Biblical principle -- monogamy and commitment -- to actions condemned by Biblical text. For years, Hollywood was able to get away with perverting the Bible by ignoring it. But in its rush to congratulate itself for overthrowing Biblical values without a shot, Hollywood spiked the football and revealed its true agenda. And that agenda is not the agenda of tolerance for individuals, but an ugly agenda of unearned moral superiority via destruction of traditional values.
His latest bigoted tirade fits a pattern of homophobic statements on Shapiro's part. An outspoken critic of efforts to combat anti-LGBT bullying, Shapiro has also waged baseless attacks on the "tyranny" of anti-discrimination laws, warned that marriage equality would force churches to perform same-sex marriages, and touted Matthew Shepard Trutherism because he sees it as a convenient way of undercutting the LGBT's movement's "broader agenda."
After an agreement was reached with Iran to halt parts of their nuclear program, right-wing media figures responded by calling the compromise "abject surrender by the United States" and comparing negotiations between the United States and Iran to British appeasement of Nazi aggression in the lead up to the Second World War.
Right-wing activist Ben Shapiro is defending the launch of his new media site TruthRevolt against charges of hypocrisy and unconservative tactics by arguing conservatives need to follow the "tremendously successful" example of Media Matters. Shapiro added that Media Matters has "been able to so impact the debate that you see -- you know, talk show hosts are scared."
TruthRevolt officially launched this week with the intended mission to "unmask leftists in the media for who they are, destroy their credibility with the American public, and devastate their funding bases." TruthRevolt, which is positioning itself as the "anti-Media Matters," is led by editor in chief Shapiro and David Horowitz, who both have a history of accuracy problems and anti-progressive smears.
The group is the latest to position itself as the conservative answer to Media Matters. In 2009, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said that one thing conservatives needed in order to regain power was "communications organizations that can, again, match Media Matters."
Shapiro's organization hasn't found complete acceptance within the conservative movement. Daily Caller reporter Patrick Howley recently criticized the group, calling its push for a boycott of advertisers on MSNBC host Al Sharpton's program "shameful." He explained that Shapiro is emulating "Media Matters, which is a liberal organization that flags conservative P.C. violations and feeds them to the perpetually outraged liberal media. These tactics are completely antithetical to the promotion of an attractive conservative brand."
Shapiro encountered more resistance during an appearance on the October 9 edition of WMAL's Mornings on the Mall with hosts Larry O'Connor and Brian Wilson. O'Connor, who said Shapiro is a "good friend," began the interview by wondering, "You and I, we both share a loathing of the odious tactics of the left like Media Matters and Center for American Progress, trying to intimidate advertisers to get them off of shows like The Rush Limbaugh Show or, or Fox News. Why are you using those tactics?"
Conservatives have launched TruthRevolt, a website which aims to "unmask leftists in the media for who they are, destroy their credibility with the American public, and devastate their funding bases." The history of two main TruthRevolt figures, Ben Shapiro and David Horowitz, suggests the site won't prioritize accuracy or refrain from smears.
Right-wing media have pounced on a forthcoming book claiming that gay Wyoming student Matthew Shepard's brutal 1998 murder was motivated by drug use, not homophobia. While these media figures shroud their interest in a desire to get at the facts, their vitriolic attacks on Shepard and the movement for whom his death became a rallying cry reveal that there's more to Matthew Shepard trutherism than a concern for the truth.
In The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths about the Murder of Matthew Shepard, journalist Stephen Jimenez revives his decade-old theory that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson killed Shepard in a meth-fueled rage. Shepard's death sparked a national discussion on anti-LGBT violence, but Jimenez makes the bombshell claim that Shepard and McKinney had actually had sex and done meth together. McKinney has denied this assertion.
Jimenez's theory is also difficult to square with the fact that McKinney cited Shepard's sexuality as a factor in the murder, attempting to employ a "gay panic" defense at trial.
Inexplicably, media coverage of The Book of Matt has ignored Jimenez's history of shoddy reporting on the case. In November 2004, Jimenez co-produced a special on Shepard's murder for ABC News' 20/20. The widely panned report downplayed the role of anti-gay bias in Shepard's murder, suggesting that meth was the primary factor. After the special aired, Gay City News unearthed an email Jimenez wrote two months before 20/20 even began its reporting, in which he proclaimed that the report would upend the conventional interpretation of Shepard's death.
Conservative media outlets denounced the New Mexico Supreme Court's unanimous decision holding that a photography studio violated the state's Human Right Act by refusing to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony, casting the ruling as "state-sponsored tyranny" and an affront to free speech and religious liberty.
On August 22, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Elane Huguenin - owner of Elane Photography - had violated the state's Human Rights Act when she refused to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony in 2006. According to the Associated Press:
Justice Richard Bosson wrote that the business owners "have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different."
"That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us a people," Bosson wrote in an opinion concurring with the court's ruling. "That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship."
Ben Shapiro, Breitbart.com Editor-At-Large, pushed a baseless conspiracy theory that the sale of The Washington Post to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos revealed "crony capitalist" collusion with the Obama administration, because President Obama visited an Amazon facility in Tennessee a week before the sale was announced.
On August 5, The Washington Post announced Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, was purchasing the paper and affiliated publications for $250 million in cash. In response, Shapiro baselessly speculated that Obama's July 30 visit to an Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee -- where he gave a speech focused on the need to raise the minimum wage and support middle-class Americans -- was evidence that "the Post is now Bezos' latest political tool in a crony capitalist effort to work with the Obama administration":
While conservatives and liberals consider the political leanings of Washington Post buyer and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in an attempt to divine how his politics will affect those of the historic institution, the truth appears to be far simpler: the Post is now Bezos' latest political tool in a crony capitalist effort to work with the Obama administration. How else to explain President Obama puzzling decision last week to roll out his corporate tax plan at an Amazon.com fulfillment center?
Bezos spent $250 million of his own money to purchase the Post, which is bleeding money at an incredible rate. He didn't spend Amazon's cash to do so. Nonetheless, the juxtaposition of events is striking. Last Tuesday, Obama visited an Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he toured the facility before touting the company and stumping for Keynesian stimulus measures.
The sale of the Post was supposed to be top-secret, with staffers asked not to tweet about it for ten minutes. But it's more than possible that the Obama administration had some advance notice about the sale, and that Obama appeared at the Amazon warehouse as a sign of good faith to Bezos prior to the move.