May 03 2012

Flouncing v derision

The Economist raps Dan Savage over the knuckles.

Mr Savage was making one valid point and one sloppy one. The former: people who justify anti-gay bigotry by brandishing a Bible but ignore other, less convenient biblical prohibitions (the list might also include mixed fabrics and divorce) are hypocrites. The latter: people quick to condemn ought not to be so quick to take offence. The problem with the latter point is that however true it is in the abstract, it was not necessarily true in the particular. No evidence exists that the students who walked out ever condemned or bullied anyone. However poorly Mr Savage may have been treated in high school, it was not by the students in the audience, and they deserved more from a famous and accomplished journalist than derision.

But the point wasn’t that the students themselves are quick to condemn, it was that many Christians are and they justify it with the Bible. The walkout started as soon as he said that, before he even said “bullshit,” so the students were making a show of disapproval for Savage’s claim. That’s the point. Not that they themselves bully, but that they’re demonstrating support for those who do. They’re walking out in solidarity with the principle of bible-based bullying.

And they didn’t really deserve more than the very mild derision of Savage’s remark. They did stage a showy and often giggly walkout by way of dissent from what he was saying, and they did deserve a little derision in return.

The Economist almost concedes as much right after the knuckle-rap.

 (He could, of course, have opted to make a broader point: that nobody should be so quick to take offence; that journalists will hear a lot of things over the course of a career that they find offensive and even hurtful, and walking out anytime that happens will result in a short career and a narrow mind; that, however ugly his language Mr Savage was at least advancing arguments, and that surely at least one of those offended souls hoping to make a life out of words could have found a few to hurl back at him rather than just flouncing out in a huff.)

“Bullshit” really isn’t all that ugly, and “pansy ass” isn’t really all that insulting in response to people flouncing out in a huff.


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  1. 1
    Ani Sharmin

    Not that they themselves bully, but that they’re demonstrating support for those who do. They’re walking out in solidarity with the principle of bible-based bullying.

    This, exactly.

    I have to wonder though: Do they think the bullying has nothing to do with the Bible, or do they think that it’s okay because it’s in the Bible. (My guess is some might agree with the first and some with the second.)

    People love to say they’re against bullying while pretending that a book that inspires some of it is totally wonderful. If someone just makes generic statements about being against bullying, most people agree. My guess is that if Dan Savage had just talked about bullying being bad, etc. without mentioning the Bible, most people would have agreed with him.

    However, if someone points out specific examples of it or points out that this beloved book is inspiring it, then people get upset. They want to be able to support a book without ever being challenged on what the book actually says. The Bible, Qur’an, etc. have become these symbols that sit on a shelf to be admired from afar and hardly anyone ever reads them.

  2. 2

    I’ve got a project for someone who might have some time on their hands.

    1) Find all the articles you can in response to D Savage’s comments that chastise him for being so mean to those poor widdle snowflakes.

    2) Find all the articles (hopefully, by the same journalists) from the same sources/websites, chastising the preacher for saying parents should beat their children if they are ‘limp wristed’.

    Compare and contrast. ;-)

  3. 3

    From my experience, even if those walk-outs aren’t doing any bullying, they’re probably still contributing to the atmosphere that enables it by making the real bullies feel that its alright to hate on gays. And I don’t think that trying to use the Bible against these people is going to work either. Of course they’re not shook up by the Bible condoning slavery, rape, or murder, because they have people telling them that those parts are out, while the other parts about hating gay are in.

    I suspect Dan Savage doesn’t necessarily think much of the New Atheists, but I hope he has started to realize that you’re not going to win by trying to use their own Bible against them… you’re going to win by tearing the whole thing down as the horrible bloody myth that it is.

  4. 4

    You expected accurate reporting from “the economist”? It is, and has ever been, a worthless opinion rag.

  5. 5
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    What Sailor1031 said. And a neoliberal opinion rag. Any agitation for actual change makes them drop their monocles into their gin and tonics. Much better to be “polite” while advocating for the impoverishment and disenfranchisement of the masses.

  6. 6
    Bernard Hurley

    In the circumstances, “pansy ass” is almost compliment.

  7. 7
    Matt Penfold

    The Economist misses an important point. Journalists should not only be able to hear stuff they find offensive without walking out, they should also not be afraid of causing offence. If they are truly committed to genuine journalism, where truth matters and evidence is important then they will end up offending people. People who probably deserve to be offended it is true, but offence will be taken in response to what they write.

  8. 8
    Lou Doench

    “Bullshit” really isn’t all that ugly, and ”pansy ass” isn’t really all that insulting in response to people flouncing out in a huff.

    Seriously, it’s the 21st century. Bullshit is pretty tame nowadays.

  9. 9
    Ophelia Benson

    Well quite, and it’s also a term in philosophy. Kind of.

  10. 10

    Yup. You nailed it ánd made clear why DS’ apology was unnecessary.

  11. 11

    “…however ugly his language…”

    Oh for fucking crying out loud you dimwitted shit!
    Apparently whoever wrote this hasn’t been around any kids any time in the last decade or six. “Bullshit” and “pansy ass” are at least 20 decibles below the noise floor.

    How many of the writers and readers of The Economist do and actively support actions that have damaged, are damaging and will damage hundreds of thousands of kids. Have to cut the deficit? Need to bail out some banks? Cut art and music and phys-ed programs at schools. Lay off some teachers. Doesn’t save enough? Close some schools. Taxes too high? Close a free health care clinic & do everything possible to oppose decent health care for the poor. Private prisons need to be profitable? Send some kids to jail.
    Fuck! fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck … Fuck

  12. 12
    Hamilton Jacobi

    Although there are numerous nits worth picking, overall I thought it was a pretty good article — certainly much better than you would get from any mainstream American publication. At least J.F. explicitly linked some of the relevant Bible passages, so that the reader cannot pretend the Bible does not endorse slavery, for example.

  13. 13

    evildoug says “Apparently whoever wrote this hasn’t been around any kids any time in the last decade or six. “Bullshit” and “pansy ass” are at least 20 decibles below the noise floor.”

    point. and. match

  14. 14
    Torquil Macneil

    I agree that ‘pansy ass’ is quite tame as an insult but it is pretty homophobic and I’m surprised he hasn’t been called out on that a bit.

  15. 15


    Fair point.

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