Fake News Revealed

James Kirchick has penned a thoughtful look at the proliferation of fake news. He’s no fan of Donald Trump, as he makes very clear. But neither can he abide the cascade of, shall we say untruths, from Trump’s critics on the left. For instance, he writes:

I cannot recall the number of times I’ve read or been told that Mike Pence supports “conversion therapy” for homosexuals, the inhumane, pseudoscientific practice whereby gay men and women are made to believe that their nature is unnatural and they, therefore, must work to “change” it through psychologically abusive tactics. Pence is by no means friendly to the cause of gay equality, but as the journalist Carl Cannon recently wrote, nowhere has he ever come out in favor of conversion therapy—not once, ever.

And elsewhere:

The tendency to hyperbolize about Trump is partly influenced by an identity-politics-driven myopia which can’t see the unprecedentedly threatened societal forest because it’s so obsessed with each and every single one of the supposedly endangered trees. In the days after the presidential election, I came across countless social media posts in which the author recited some variation of the following lament: “Trump’s victory will most hurt women, African-Americans, undocumented immigrants, LGBT people, etc.” the list of potential victim groups extending sometimes for an entire paragraph or more. It was as if the authors of these posts were completely oblivious to the joke about the apocryphal New York Times headline, “WORLD ENDS: BLACKS AND WOMEN HARDEST HIT.” The bizarre inclusion of “LGBT” in this litany of victimhood notwithstanding (Trump ran as the most pro-gay Republican presidential candidate in history and made a point of addressing transgender concerns)….

Kirchick has many scathing criticisms of Trump, but he’s not going to let the left’s deluge of fake news go unexposed.

[Added: When “resistance” is premised on false assertions used to advance bogus narratives, it undermines the ability to counter actual bad policies with reasoned and convincing arguments. Remember reasoned and convincing arguments? It’s how people debated policy points before everything devolved into pure emotion.]

More. The Hill columnist John Feehery writes:

The Democrats, and more than a few Never Trump Republicans, imagine themselves to be brave, solitary figures standing against the rise of a brutal dictator.

That’s ridiculous. We not only have plenty of institutional checks and balances arrayed against any potential dictator. We also are, as a people, a nation that takes its liberties pretty seriously. We are not the Weimar Republic. We don’t have inflation hitting 300 percent. Unemployment is not at 30 percent but at 4.8 percent. We might have our fair share of disagreements, but we have a constitutional process to resolve them amicably, without bloodshed.

The Democratic resistance is taking on a form of fanaticism. Its adherents are redoubling their efforts to stop Trump but forgetting what their aim is. They are supposed to be working to make this country a better and more prosperous place for their constituents.

I’d add that LGBT activists (at least those that don’t have a political party’s name as part of their moniker) are supposed to be working to advance LGBT legal equality and social inclusion, not to further the fortunes of the Democratic party.

Pence and Gays: Truth and Fiction

Mike Pence was never a supporter of gay legal equality but as Carl M. Cannon writes at Real Clear Politics, much of the criticism of his past positions is unfair (many liberal Democrats, at the time, said similar things against marriage equality and in favor of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military) when not downright disingenuous (the accusations he wanted the government to fund “conversion therapy” centers).

The conversion therapy charge, Cannon noted, stems from langauge on Pence’s congressional campaign website back in 2000, addressing reauthorization of the Ryan White CARE Act to fund AIDS resources:

In the section providing funding for indigent HIV patients (that’s where the “needy” reference comes from), Pence’s campaign website advocates making sure federal dollars aren’t going to organizations that “encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus.” Instead, the site, says, “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

So there’s your “conversion therapy” angle. It’s thin gruel, especially because in the context of the times and the Ryan White Act, a more obvious reading of the statement is that Pence’s campaign literature called for spending federal money encouraging “safe sex,” not changing sexual orientation.

I’d say it’s quite possible the idea, deliberately vague, was meant as a call for abstinence. But that’s not the same as advocating federal funding for conversion therapy, as Trump/Pence LGBT critics have been suggesting he did explicitly.

[Added: Reader Throbert McGee commments that the conversion therapy accusation “very quickly got transmogrified into “ELECTROCUTING THE GAY OUT OF KIDS!!!” And indeed, the Daily Beast, among others, without reference or source, “reported” that Pence favors conversion therapy, which they then define as “providing electric shocks; using shame to create aversion to same-sex attractions.” The truth is out there, but not on progressive news sites.]

More. As Politico reported, “In 2015, Pence initially signed a [statewide] Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA. He then backpedaled on language that critics feared could be discriminatory against gay people, but that some evangelicals felt was essential to defending religious freedom.”

Readers of this blog know that I strongly favor religious exemptions to anti-discrimination law, viewing them as a necessary way to balance the competing “rights” of religious freedom from state coercion and nondiscrimination. I reject the view of LGBT progressive activists that religious exemptions are merely a “license to discriminate” and agree with Jonathan Rauch that they have been an important component of our civil rights legacy.

A big issue in Indiana is that there is no statewide LGBT nondiscrimination measure against which a religious exemption was needed, although several counties, townships and cities (including Bloomington, Muncie and South Bend) do prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Nevertheless, Pence got pounded by progressive groups and their media and business allies for supporting and signing a religious exemption bill, and Indiana faced economic boycott threats. Pence then supported and signed an amendment that weakened the language in the measure so that it did not exempt businesses from LGBT nondiscrimination statutes, which enraged religious conservatives. He ended up pleasing no one and appeared to have short-circuited his political ambitions. Then history happened.

Not So Friendly Inquisitors

Via Reason: The Office of Inclusive Excellence Sounds Like a Cult.

Milo’s grandstanding is open to criticism, but his progressive denouncers are ridiculous caricatures. Progressive thought-controllers are no different from religious right inquisitors.

Also on the subject of our friendly Social Justice Warriors, blogger Rebecca de Winter on “the hilarious irony of a movement that claims ‘gender is a social construct’ while at the same time belittling males in particular at every turn.”

Also try reconciling the feminist “gender is a social construct” meme with transgender rights activism. But when have activists let intellectual consistency get in the way.

More. Progressives believe, Free speech for me, violence for thee.

Narrative Fail

Good for Whole Foods: We’re suing the gay activist who claimed we sold him a cake with a slur written on it — and we have video.

Related: Useful advise for progressive LGBT activists — 5 Tips For A Successful Social Justice Warrior Cake Hoax.

On a tangential note that exposes another front of progressive LGBT hypocrisy, Whole Foods properly noted that “Out team members do not accept or design bakery orders that include language or images that are offensive.” To which David Boaz wisely replied, “I fully support Whole Foods’ right to refuse to bake cakes with messages that offend its moral values.”

More. Flashback: Anti-gay tipping hoax. And this fake anti-gay hate crime at the University of North Dakota. There was also this staged hate crime, and this one, among others. On some level these are just deeply disturbed people, but the media’s initial rush to embrace them is telling. And you can’t dismiss the culture of victimization that spurs them on.

More. And speaking of the culture of victimhood, there’s little daylight between outright hate-crime hoaxers seeking the exultation of victim status, and those who portray themselves as the victims when they bring down the power of the progressive state against those whose religious beliefs would preclude them from providing expressive services to same-sex weddings, if they had the liberty to follow their consciences.

Furthermore. North Carolina restroom hoax:

A transgender woman says she was “humiliated beyond belief” when security in Durham, North Carolina, escorted her out of a public women’s restroom, but the city says the incident never happened. …

“We thoroughly investigated the claim by speaking with bus operations and police department staff, since she claimed that police escorted her from the premises,” said Beverly B. Thompson, director of public affairs for the city of Durham, in a statement. “We also reviewed the security video, which clearly showed the person entering and exiting the restroom and walking away from the station with another person. We can’t find anything, including the interviews and the video, to support the person’s claim that such an incident occurred.”

A Fundamental Right to Offend

Reason’s Nick Gillespie reminds us of the pivotal value of unfettered free speech, including speech that offends sensibilities and hurts feelings. He cites Jonathan Rauch on why this has been so vital for gay people and the advancement of gay social acceptance and legal equality, noting:

Rauch tells the story of Franklin Kameny, a government astronomer who lost his job for being gay. How Kameny won it back is an epic story of slow-moving but ultimately triumphant justice. More important, Kameny and others like him never supported laws that would limit speech. Instead, writes Rauch, “They had arguments, and they had the right to make them.”

Gillespie’s post also quotes Rauch, author of the seminal work Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, who writes:

In any case, we can be quite certain that hate-speech laws did not change America’s attitude toward its gay and lesbian minority, because there were no hate-speech laws. Today, firm majorities accept the morality of homosexuality, know and esteem gay people, and endorse gay unions and families.

For more, a link in Gillespie’s post takes you to an excerpt from Rauch’s forward to Kindly Inquisitors, in which he wrote:

Gay people have lived in a world where we were forced, day in and day out, to betray our consciences and shut our mouths in the name of public morality. Not so long ago, everybody thought we were wrong. Now our duty is to protect others’ freedom to be wrong, the better to ensure society’s odds of being right.

But as Gillespie notes, threats to free speech “are more likely in America to come from people you know and respect,” by way of efforts to prevent exposure to what, in another context, George Will referred to as restrictions perpetrated “in the name of a new entitlement, not to have your intellectual serenity disturbed, your emotional equilibrium upset, or your feelings hurt.”

More. It’s behind the WSJ’s firewall, but google “The Scandal of Free Speech” site:wsj.com to read Bret Stephens’ column on politically correct suppression of speech. Excerpt:

Last May, sex-advice columnist Dan Savage gave a talk at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics in which he used a term so infamous that it caused members of the audience to walk out “in a state of distress.” Later, a petition was put forward to demand that the institute apologize “for failing to stop” Mr. Savage from using the term, and to “assert a commitment to preventing the use of slurs and hate speech in the future.”…

The word is “tranny,” meaning a transgender, or transsexual, or transvestite person. So hideously offensive is this word nowadays that, when I arrived at an Institute of Politics event a few weeks later, a group called Queers United in Power—or QUIP, minus the humor—held a protest outside and handed out fliers denouncing (without spelling out) the use of the “T word.” I had to ask around to find out just what the word was; I got the answer in a whisper. …

I was reminded of this small episode following last week’s massacre of journalists in France, after which it has become fashionable to “be” Charlie Hebdo. Sorry, but QUIP is not Charlie Hebdo: QUIP is al Qaeda with a different list of moral objections and a milder set of criminal penalties. Otherwise, like al Qaeda, it’s the same unattractive mix of quavering personal sensitivity and totalitarian demands for ideological conformity.

Furthermore. “Knowledge starts as offendedness”: Jonathan Rauch on free speech and the speech code mentality (video clip).

Still more. The mirror image of arbitrarily declaring what can be said (and except on public university campuses, this typically involves thuggery but not state power) is to force people to engage in expressive activity in support of ideas they don’t, you know, support (which does involve state prosecution and criminal punishment of those who refuse to comply). Which then leads to competing grievance claims.

Final Word on this tangent. The Wall Street Journal‘s James Taranto takes on the New York Times’ Frank Bruni in Call the Cake Police! (It, too, is behind the paper’s firewall, so google “Call the Cake Police” site:wsj.com:

Without harboring animus toward gays or sharing the eccentric baker’s social and religious views, one may reasonably ask: If a baker is uncomfortable baking a cake for you, why call the cake police? Why not just find another baker who’s happy to have your business? …

Bruni’s purpose here is not to vindicate his personal dignity as a gay man. Rather, it is—and he makes this explicit by the end of the column—to reject the principle of religious freedom almost totally. … To do that, he reduces the religious-liberty claim to a nullity, too weak to withstand even the most ludicrous counterclaim he can think of. If he’s right, our Muslim baker [in a hypothetical , requested to bake a cake with an image of Muhammad] is out of luck. (At least he won’t have to worry about the New York Times’s printing a picture of the offending cake.)

I also liked Taranto’s description of the kind of slippery slope arguments that “starts with something seemingly benign and leads by steps, usually of declining plausibility, to 1930s Germany or 1950s Mississippi.” LGBT activists that mock arguments that predict marriage equality must inevitably lead to a right to marry your dog are cheerleaders for arguments that allowing traditionalist religious believers not to bake same-sex wedding cakes (note: they are willing to make any other kind of cake for gay customers) will lead promptly to sexual-orientation segregation.

Ok, one last addition: Reason’s Scott Shackford also parses Bruni’s illogic.

Politics as Blood Sport

We’ll see how this pans out. I do know that the anti-gay right and the “progressive” gay left (especially) would do anything—yes, anything—to keep openly gay Republican Carl DeMaio from being elected to Congress from San Diego. And he had been leading in the polls.

DeMaio calls himself a proud gay American, but he earned the everlasting ire of the left when he spearheaded efforts by the San Diego City Council to reform bloated public employee pension obligations. The unions and their LGBT-left allies went bonkers.

As noted here (and I’m not apologizing for citing a Fox News columnist):

One false attack drew the attention of the San Diego Ethics Commission. An anonymous left-wing group funded a SuperPac and sent mailers of DeMaio Photoshopped next to a drag queen to neighborhoods with a majority of elderly and African-American voters, knowing that such a photo would depress support for DeMaio. …

The Victory Fund, which is a group that says it supports any openly gay candidate, first told him that he couldn’t win when he was considering running for mayor in 2008 against the now disgraced former winner of that contest, Bob Filner.

The Victory Fund not only declined to endorse DeMaio, it’s common knowledge in San Diego that it then gave his confidential campaign information to the Democrats and bragged about it. The Human Rights Campaign also has declined to endorse DeMaio in either his mayoral or congressional race.

And this: Screens Smashed, Cords Cut inside DeMaio’s Campaign Office.

And this. “The post on the freshman Democrat’s campaign site referred to DeMaio, a gay Republican, as a ‘Mary.’ … a staff member uploaded the post about a week ago from the liberal website AmericaBlog…”

So unless these allegations are shown to have substance, I’ll remain skeptical.