If you were inclined to write a satire of how blind ideology can latch onto a cause and comically invert its meaning, you couldn’t do much better than a gay-rights activist blowing his stack at an “anti-bullying” speech, launching into a heated Christian-bashing rant, and calling the people who refused to sit still and listen to his tirade “pansy asses.”
This exciting journey into Orwellian black comedy occurred at the National High School Journalism Conference in Seattle, where gay rights activist Dan Savage was a featured speaker. Savage founded a project called “It Gets Better,” whose website declares that it was “created to show young [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered] people the levels of happiness, potential, and prosperity their lives will reach – if they can just get through their teen years.”
This ominously implies that the kind of bullying Savage is concerned with involves a lot more than giving someone a wedgie or stealing their lunch money. The “anti-bullying” crusade is not, ostensibly, focused entirely upon anti-LGBT acts of schoolyard oppression, but Savage has become the Obama Administration’s go-to guy for bullying. His “It Gets Better” project is enthusiastically supported by the President, and he’s been a guest at the Obama White House.
You might also remember Savage from his attempt to turn presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s name into a synonym for some kind of disgusting sexual act, back when Santorum was riding high in the polls. The definition Savage chose, after soliciting ideas from his readers, was “a frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.”
He also coined the word “saddlebacking” to describe “Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginity.” This was inspired by his anger at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, because Warren supported the anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 in California.
He seems like a great choice to address a scholastic audience. What could go wrong?
Plenty, as it turns out. Savage’s speech in Seattle mutated into an anti-Christian rant, in which he declared, “We can learn to ignore the bulls**t in the Bible about gay people, the same way we have learned to ignore the bulls**t in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation. We ignore bulls**t in the Bible about all sorts of things.”
This, along with the general level of vulgarity and sexual content in the speech, prompted a number of students to walk out. Savage heckled them by telling the audience, “You can tell the Bible guys in the hall they can come back now, because I’m done beating up the Bible. It’s funny as someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible how pansy-assed people react when you push back.”
Pro tip: if you’re addressing a student audience with words CNN cannot bring itself to repeat, you’re doing it wrong.
The National Scholastic Press Association – which inexplicably thought it would be a good idea to let the man who tried turning Rick Santorum’s name into a gay sex slur take the stage at a conference of high school kids, without prior review of his remarks – ended up wishing he had “stayed more on target” for his teen audience, but wrote the whole thing off as a “teachable moment.”
Savage went on to kinda-sorta apologize, if only for using the phrase “pansy asses” to describe the walkout, which he said was “insulting, it was name-calling, and it was wrong.” He stands by the content of his lecture. Who could have guessed that someone who spends as much time insulting and name-calling as Dan Savage would be reduced to insulting people and calling them names from the stage?
Besides the absurdity of someone using a position of power to bully people from the stage at an anti-bullying conference, this is another example of mission creep in a political crusade. These student journalists did not convene to hear Dan Savage’s thoughts on theology.
The cowardice of an establishment that loves to beat up “nice” religions that won’t really “push back,” to borrow Savage’s phrase, is once again on display. Fiery crusades against the Judeo-Christian faith are the quintessential modern example of intellectual bullying. Let’s plop Savage in front of a Muslim student organization to discuss the anti-gay “bulls**t” in the Koran and see how he does.
There’s also the profound disconnect of a political culture that wants to sanctify Savage for his political correctness, to the point where it forgets what he actually says and does. Can you imagine the firestorm if a comparably hateful and vile individual was invited to become part of the Bush White House’s outreach program on anything? The cognitive dissonance of putting the man who invented the term “saddlebacking” to insult kids he dislikes in front of a teen audience is stunning.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be the fiery partisan hatemonger who uses ugly slurs to shout down political opponents, and be the Administration’s anti-bullying emissary to American families. You can’t insist on a “separation of church and state,” then force Christian kids to endure officially sanctioned lectures about the bulls**t in their Bibles. You can’t sing the praises of “tolerance” as the ultimate virtue, and then snarl that some people’s values are utterly unacceptable, and must be driven from the public square with rhetorical torches and pitchforks.
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