Differentiating Between Criticism and a “God Hates F*gs” Sign

Content warning: homophobic language.

Something I value greatly as an author and an advocate is precision. If you desire to equate two actions, those actions need to be actually be similar.

Several people drew my attention the other day to an article on the so-called phenomenon of “liberal bullying.” This article, written by white, cisgender wedding blogger Ariel Meadow Stallings at Offbeat Empire, is called, “Liberal bullying: Privilege-checking and semantics-scolding as internet sport.” It begins with an image of “Social Justice Sally,” a meme that decries how people opposed to fundamentalism supposedly act just like the fundamentalists they oppose. Stallings goes on to promote this stereotype, arguing that progressives or liberals who engage in “flagging potentially problematic language as insensitive,” are “basically the same as the GOD HATES F*GS guys.”

Stallings reinforces this equivocation between progressives/liberals and “the GOD HATES F*GS guys” a second time in the article. She says that “call-out culture” has become “like the ‘GOD HATES F*GS!’ sign-wavers”:

This is where it starts to feel like the “GOD HATES FAGS!” sign-wavers. While the political sentiments are exactly opposite, the motivations are remarkably similar: I WOULD LIKE TO DERAIL THIS CONVERSATION AND HAVE AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE WITNESS HOW RIGHT I AM. I don’t care if your politics are progressive and your focus is on social justice: if you’re shouting at people online and refusing to have a dialogue, you’re bullying. I don’t care if you’re fighting the good fight: your methods are borked. It doesn’t matter if you’re fighting for the one true phrase that we should all use to describe the Romani people, or fighting for the one true God… if you’re fighting in a way that’s more about public performance, shaming, and righteousness, I’m not fighting with you.

In a previous short fairy tale I wrote, Elephant and Mouse, I drew attention to the fact that it’s careless (and marginalizing) to assume that people “shout” online and “refuse to have a dialogue” simply because they “WOULD LIKE TO DERAIL THIS CONVERSATION AND HAVE AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE WITNESS HOW RIGHT” they are. Actually, when people’s actions and language consistently dismiss, erase, and/or harm other people, the latter have every right to — and sometimes have no alternative to — speaking as emotionally and loudly as possible just to be able to be heard. Such people’s needs, wants, and voices are regularly ignored. Thus it’s no fault of their own that getting heard requires a colossal amount of effort.

But the most problematic part of Stalling’s analysis is the equivocation between someone vociferously criticizing someone else for problematic language and people who use hate speech and public policy to disenfranchise a group of marginalized people from their fundamental rights. When we are speaking about “the GOD HATES F*GS guys,” we are referring to the symbolic image of the Westboro Baptist Church — in other words, people who publicly and vocally attack a group of people who have long lacked basic legal protections and rights. The people who carry around signs against gay people represent (and often are) the same people who support marriage, adoption, hiring, and housing discrimination against gay people. They actively contribute to the denial of LGBT* people’s rights — and then they add salt to the wound by showing up in person at LGBT* people’s weddings, burials, and support groups to bully and harass them with truly dehumanizing signs.

That’s the same as call-out culture?

You don’t have to like call-out culture. You don’t have to enjoy people who are zealous about intersectionality. You don’t have to agree with the social media tactics of social justice activists. But to compare your discomfort at people typing online IN ALL CAPS ABOUT YOUR OTHERING LANGUAGE with people who use hate speech and public policy to disenfranchise a group of marginalized people from their fundamental rights? There’s a vast disconnect there. All it does when you equivocate the two is show how tone-deaf you are to the very real pain of LGBT* people in the United States.

Unless the people who are typing IN ALL CAPS are also doing the following:

— Showing up at your best friends’ funerals and telling you your best friends are burning in hell

— Arguing that it’s not only moral, but righteous, for you to be bludgeoned to death by stoning

Defending a history of legislation that included capital punishment against you (and in some places still does)

— Telling you that God hates the very essence of who you are and “F*gs will die or go to hell”

— Making it so that employers can discriminate against you

— Making it so that apartment complexes can discriminate against you

— Making bathrooms unsafe for your use

— Increasing your chances of being abused as a child

— Increasing your chances of being bullied as a kid

— Increasing your likelihood of suffering domestic violence

— Increasing your risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors

…then it’s not your place to say that people who criticize you are the same as the “God Hates F*gs” people. You may not like being called out. The people calling you out may be rude (and their rudeness may or may not be justified).

But.

Rudeness, anger, name-calling, and CAPS LOCK are not the equivalent of systematic discrimination and marginalization.

Liberal bullying may be a thing. But whatever thing it is, please stop comparing it to everything that a “God Hates F*gs” sign symbolizes.  And for God’s sake, put an asterisk in “f*g” if it’s not your right to use that word.

Image courtesy of Elvert Barnes.

Published by R.L. Stollar

R.L. Stollar is a child liberation theologian and an advocate for children and abuse survivors. The author of an upcoming book on child liberation theology, The Kingdom of Children, Ryan has an M.H.S. in Child Protection from Nova Southeastern University and an M.A. in Eastern Classics from St. John’s College.

3 thoughts on “Differentiating Between Criticism and a “God Hates F*gs” Sign

  1. Things aren’t binary. Outrage exists on a continuum, and diversity of opinion is a good thing. Is it better for a protestor to go back into the closet? No. It is probably healthier to have that stuff out in the open The all caps fundamentalists of every political, philosophical, and religious orientation who man the keyboards day and night are usually idiots. Do we really want them to hide their ignorance? Plus there is money to be made in the outrage-industrial complex, and that’s good for the economy.

  2. The author could have picked better issues to compare but is basically right. The ultra liberal “progressivism” is one extreme of the continuum, and is just as intolerant as the bigots at the opposite extreme. There are thoughtful exceptions, to be sure, but they are rarely in the mainstream

  3. Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a clear and blatant example of liberal irrationality and hypocrisy. You start off saying you greatly value precision, and then you follow that statement with an article full of unbelievably sloppy, terrible reasoning and other fallacies.

    I don’t know if anyone’s still reading or managing this blog but I’m going to examine this in detail because it’s such a paradigmatic case of left-wing idiocy.

    First, you make a claim about valuing precision, suggesting that this is going to be a rational examination of the validity of an argument. Then you immediately follow with some ad hominem, referring to “white, cisgender wedding blogger Ariel Meadow Stallings”, as if the personal characteristics of the author has anything to do with the validity of their argument. Funny how the people who claim to be most opposed to racism and other isms are the most likely to define people (and their rights and worthiness of being listened to) by their race and other characteristics.

    Next, you make your main argument: “But the most problematic part of Stalling’s analysis is the equivocation between someone vociferously criticizing someone else for problematic language and people who use hate speech and public policy to disenfranchise a group of marginalized people from their fundamental rights.”

    Great. So, who decides what someone’s fundamental rights are? You? Your argument is basically that the difference between screaming, vitriolic social justice warriors and screaming, vitriolic religious fundamentalists is that the social justice warriors are RIGHT. But the whole point of a discussion about respectful vs bullying ways of giving your opinions is stepping back from the question of who is right and agreeing to some basic principles of civilized discussion: e.g. that everyone has a right to express their opinion without censorship and that people should treat others and their opinions respectfully, discussing the merits of a position without shouting and personal attacks. Neither the WBCs nor the SJWs understand this. But your claim is that the two are completely different because only one supports “fundamental rights”. Except that, quite apart from the question of who decides what the fundamental rights are without having a rational and civilized discussion about it, the very idea that fundamental rights are the most important thing to consider in any matter is a distinctly liberal position. Christian conservatives would say the most important thing is our moral obligations to God. In Christianity, we are totally depraved and deserving of hell and so talking of our “rights” is incredibly self-centered and proud. We shouldn’t refrain from killing people because they have a right to live: actually they deserve death just like us. We should refrain from killing because it’s against God’s law and morally wrong. And you know what? I’m an ATHEIST! You claim to be a Christian and yet I seem to understand and respect Christian beliefs more than you.

    So by talking of fundamental rights as the most important consideration you’re just assuming a liberal perspective, and circularly arguing that aggressive conservatives are much worse than aggressive liberals because the liberals are liberals and we all know being liberal (i.e. making everything about “fundamental rights” and “oppressed” and “privileged” people) is better. What you said could just as well be rephrased from a conservative viewpoint: “But the most problematic part of the liberal analysis is the equivocation between someone vociferously criticizing someone else for immoral sexual behavior and people who use blasphemous speech and public policy to disrespect the most fundamental laws of nature and of God”
    and
    “You don’t have to like fundamentalist Christians. You don’t have to enjoy people who are zealous about sexual morality. But to compare your discomfort at people writing signs IN ALL CAPS ABOUT YOUR DEVIANT BEHAVIOR with people who use the law to subvert God’s design for marriage and family and punish Christians for refusing to go along with it? There’s a vast disconnect there.”

    You don’t agree with that do you? Of course you don’t: it only makes sense if you assume a fundamentalist Christian viewpoint. Similarly what you said only makes sense from a liberal viewpoint that Christian conservatives (and secular conservatives like me) do not necessarily accept.

    Also, you say you value precision but your list of fundamental rights the fundamentalists are violating is incredibly imprecise and sloppy to say the least. “same people who support marriage, adoption, hiring and housing discrimination against gay people”; except nobody supports that, the conservative position is that a gay man can marry a woman but not a man, just like a straight man. No discrimination against gay people there, just against homosexual behavior. Same goes for burning in hell and being stoned etc. I know it’s difficult for hedonistic liberals to understand but IT IS POSSIBLE TO NOT ACT ON YOUR SEXUAL URGES. By all means argue that homosexual acts are not immoral because they don’t harm anyone (which assumes that morality is just about harm rather than natural law but it’s still a reasonable argument). But to claim that moral or legal prohibitions on homosexual acts discriminate against gay people you must either be being very IMprecise (thus a hypocrite) or find the idea of not acting on your sexual urges inconceivable (and thus a very amoral and disturbing person).

    Finally, your last sentence has so many things wrong with it. First, the word is being QUOTED and talked about, not used. The idea that words have some magical power to be intrinsically offensive separate from how they’re actually used is just silly. Second, putting an asterisk in it doesn’t change the word. It’s still obviously the same word and people can tell what word it is. Third, who has a right to use the word? I assume you’re one of those people who thinks someone’s race or other characteristic should determine what words they’re allowed to use. But if you think, as above, that the word is intrinsically offensive, then no one would ever have a right to use it because it would be offensive in every circumstance whatsoever. So that doesn’t make any sense.

    I’m 99% sure writing this detailed critique of one among millions of irrational liberal articles was a waste of time. But it needs to be said, and it needs to be acknowledged that today’s liberals have gone from those who would criticize fundamentalism because it’s dogmatic to those who criticize it because it’s not the RIGHT dogma, and substitute it with their own dogmatic ideology that’s just as irrational and just as intolerant of dissent or disagreement.

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