Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Haters Are My Motivators

(I've embedded the clip above from Youtube, rather than from the Ellen show's website, because it seems to play more smoothly. If it doesn't work for you, you can try the Ellen website here; I'll be referring to that page later, for some of the comments.)

I imagine you all have heard about the mini-controversy involving Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson for J. C. Penney: a group called The Million Moms Campaign (a project of the Christian-Right American Family Association, as it happens) objected to this, and directed its members to complain to Penney. Penney stood by their decision, handing the MMC a well-deserved defeat. (They've been more successful against some other targets.) DeGeneres addressed her "haters" on her program -- that's the clip above), and remarkably, Bill O'Reilly of FOX News sided with Penney and DeGeneres on his program. DeGeneres thanked him on her show, jocularly offering him the use of her "employee discount" if he ever wants to shop at Penney.

Mary Elizabeth Williams commented on O'Reilly's defense of Penney at Salon, "When you’re too loathsome for Bill O’Reilly, you’ve really outdone yourself, loathsomeness-wise." That's true, but when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. O'Reilly also attacked people who decided not to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation when Komen withdrew its grant to Planned Parenthood, and in essentially the same terms:

Well, all hell broke loose in the secular precincts. The pro-abortion lobby went crazy. The Internet was full of hateful posts against the charity and 26 senators wrote a letter to the Komen founder Nancy Brinker objecting to pulling the funds from Planned Parenthood. 25 of the senators were Democrats and one Independent Bernie Sanders is too liberal to be a Democrat.

Faced with a nasty controversy the Komen Foundation surrendered today announcing it will restore the Planned Parenthood grant.

I'll give O'Reilly some points for trying to be consistent, but not many, since he also believes that "pro-life" people have the right not to donate to the Komen Foundation because it gives money to Planned Parenthood, even though Komen's money is used solely for breast-cancer screening. He couldn't even really disagree with his guest, who essentially argued for the right to boycott. (A right which gay people have used in the past, often successfully.) Komen was stuck in the middle, with forced-birthers supporting their initial decision and pro-choicers opposing it, and money at stake either way. In the end, I suspect Komen calculated that they stood to lose more from the "secular precincts", and chose their path accordingly. O'Reilly's argument appears to be that businesses can hire anyone they like, and customers can only show displeasure by shopping elsewhere; but it looked to me like he conceded (ungracefully) Sandy Rios's counterargument that consumers also have the right to bring attention to business practices they dislike.

And what's with O'Reilly's blather about McCarthyism? Joe McCarthy is a conservative icon, defended from William F. Buckley Jr. to Ann Coulter. How can O'Reilly denigrate his heritage like this, especially since he's been compared to McCarthy himself?

I'd bet Penney was prepared for some flack when they hired DeGeneres, but they balanced the risk against her immense popularity. She's utterly wholesome and likeable, and while there are surely many Americans who won't forgive her lesbianism, there are surely many more who will. I put it that way because of comments on her site like this one:
I think Ellen is extremely funny and very beautiful. I have not watched her show very much. I would not want my children leading her lifestyle of homosexuality because I think it is wrong but I don't know how or IF that translates if she is a spokesperson for a product. I don't think it does. I wish, just like the rest of us, homosexuals would cease talking so much about their preference in partners. Who really cares?
Despite the many calls in comments for the OMMs not to be so judgmental, their critics are every bit as willing to judge:
I'm a born & raised Catholic, and I believe that God's message is to love one another and not judge since judging is for God to do. I'm not a fan of JC Penny's merchandise, but I am definitely a fan of their morals and positive example in this case. Name calling doesn't do anything other than make the name caller look ignorant. I hope that people who are not Christian don't see and hear all the hateful things that certain people are saying about this and think that we are all that way (because we're not). Way to go JC Penny and way to go, Ellen.
That's one of the milder ones. But then you also get these:
Why is it you are only allowing the posts that agree with your life style. God says it is an abomination and no homosexuals will have a place in heaven. You call us haters? You are no diffrent, because the ones that dont agree with you, you call us names and bash us. I pray for your soul.
Unfortunately for this person, the presence of her complaint on the site shows that bigots' posts were allowed after all. Once again we see that bigots can dish it out, but they can't take it. But that's also true of so many gay people.

Of course I disagree with and oppose the One Million Moms' positions and values, but I also believe that they have the right to try to pressure JC Penney, just as pro-choicers have the right to pressure the Komen Foundation and just as gay people had the right to boycott Florida Orange Juice not only for having Anita Bryant as their spokeswoman, but for endorsing her antigay campaign. (It doesn't help that there's another group with a similar name, the Million Moms Challenge, with corporate and United Nations support, with a different agenda.) Many people of the full spectrum of political positions believe that only they have the right to organize to change the world into the form they'd like. Too many gay people also believe that change will come by some kind of apocalyptic intervention: "hate" will be conquered, butchered, and trampled beneath the feet of "love," and then there will be no more tears, and no one will be allowed to disagree with them again ever. Change doesn't happen that way; the opponent never goes away, only withdraws and retrenches to fight another day. There are no final victories and no final defeats, except in the book of Revelation and its many offshoots. If it weren't so, gay people would have disappeared millennia ago. We -- or in this case, corporate capitalism and its loyal retainers -- have won a small, provisional victory, this time, but the story isn't over while the human species exists.