I’m not going to do a whole lot of writing in this article; the information you need is in the attached video, and I urge you to watch it and help spread the word about how we can reclaim the artificial narrative being propagated by an acolyte of the Koch Brothers and James O’Keefe encouraging and normalizing bigotry in this country.
Here are the salient points for those of you who don’t have video:
First: the Memories Pizza controversy and it’s associated fundraiser are a scam. There’s no way to determine for sure how pre-meditated and pre-arranged this was between the principles, but the owners of Memories *sought out* media attention in the hopes of deliberately provoking controversy and backlash and then using that to rally bigots to a fundraiser. So far they’ve succeeded to the tune of about $750K and counting. Manny Schewitz has written an excellent article going into more details, working in part from Chad A. Bryant’s work linked below.
Second: in a counter-programming move to the fundraiser, a man in Indiana created a fundraiser benefitting IndianaYouthGroup.Org, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit that’s been providing services and safe space to Indiana’s LGBTQ youth for a quarter-century. Please contribute what you can if you can, and please share it everywhere you can even if you can’t contribute yourself. If a few thousand bigots can get together to send their heroes on what will soon be a million-dollar vacation, surely the progressive and LGBTQ communities in this country can raise double or triple that much to help those most victimized and marginalized by the ugly, hateful narrative that is being propagated by people like the Kochs, O’Keefe, Beck, Jones, and the O’Connors. We can do this. We can change this story into a huge positive statement in favor of human dignity, civility, and compassion.
Third: The organizer of the Memories fundraiser, Lawrence Billy Jones III, is not some fresh-faced young fellow just out of college trying to do his civic duty by helping some poor defenseless bigots weather the storm of liberal assault against their religious rights. He’s a well-trained, well-connected, and experienced professional political agitator. My friend, associate director, and research ninja Chad A, Bryant has the details about that over at his blog. Read it. (Edit: Chad’s server has had a nervous breakdown due to the traffic spike generated by this story. He has been kind enough to mirror it at another site – which, full disclosure, I own – People’s News Network. You can read it here.)
Fourth: Make this viral. Please, please, please, nothing I have ever produced is more in need or more deserving of the broadest possible attention. This is a huge story; a legitimate smoking gun pointing to the crass manipulation of mass media by political agitators attempting to construct and propagate a false narrative about American culture for the sake of discouraging and marginalizing liberal and progressive voices both through constructing a deceitful and manipulative alternate reality in which Americans mostly don’t like gay people and want them to go away, and through “proving” that liberals and progressives are thugs and bullies trying to strip the rights away from Good Hard-Working American Christians. This is absolute nonsense, and it’s time to push back against it, hard. This situation provides both an excellent rallying point and a great opportunity to soundly and very publicly reject these lies and the ongoing attempt by the Powers That Be to keep us divided, angry at each other, and arguing over side-issues so we aren’t paying attention while they relentlessly exploit the people and the natural resources of this planet for their own avaricious enrichment.
Fifth: Counter the narrative and reverse it. Every time you see someone yammering about the “religious right” to be a bigoted jerk, start talking about the effects of that bigotry. Talk about the LGBTQ kids who get kicked out of their homes, who end up living on the streets, dropping out of school, turning to prostitution for money, drugs for anaesthesia against the pain inflicted by these attempts to normalize hate, and suicide to escape the cruelties and marginalization heaped on them by the people pushing this “religious liberty” and “freedom of speech” narrative, a narrative which is patently ludicrous, false, and an obnoxious insult to the very concept of free expression.
Thanks for reading, thanks for watching, thanks for sharing.
Edit 2015-04-04 12:15:34 PM: As expected, the apologists and nitpickers who want to divert this conversation away from the dark impact of the values they advocate have arrived with their distractions and attempts to paint those of us questioning and exposing this scam as the real evildoers. In response to one of them, I did a little more research. The question: what will be the impact of the values promoted by the O’Connors, Beck, the Kochs, O’Keefe, and Jones over the two weeks or so that it will take this story to fade from public view and the O’Connors to walk away a little less than a million dollars richer?
Fortunately, we can make a reasonable guess at this because the state of Indiana has the relevant information publicly available. In this report from the Indiana Youth Institute, we find that in 2011, about 10.9% of Indiana high school students “attempted suicide in the past year.” This report also notes that LGBTQ students are four times as likely to attempt suicide than their straight, cis-gendered peers. Using the classic 10% estimate from various sexuality surveys over the years, it’s reasonable to estimate that 40% of suicide attempts by Indiana high school students involve LBGT students. How many is that?
The Indiana Department of Education makes enrollment numbers available to the public (NB: Excel Spreadsheets – “Corporation Enrollment by Grade Level,” which contains statistics for privately owned schools including charters etc., and “School Enrollment by Grade Level,” which includes the public school enrollment statistics). The total number of high school students – 9th through 12th grades – in Indiana last year was 618,810. 10.9% of that is 67,450. 40% of that is 26,980. That’s a reasonable estimate of how many LGBT high school students in Indiana attempt suicide every year. Divide by 52, you get 519.
Therefore, in the next two weeks, two weeks in which the poor victimized O’Connors will be enjoying their $850,000 bonus and a vacation from work, it is reasonable to estimate that 1,038 LGBT high school students will try to end their lives as a direct result of the marginalization, ostracizing, bullying, rejection, and hate promoted by this fake, ugly, evil, and logically invalid attempt to normalize and rationalize anti-gay bigotry.
This appears to be perfectly okay for some people, who are more interested in the O’Connor’s “right” to participate in and propagate that bigotry under the false auspices of faith in an omnibenevolent deity than in the attempted suicide of thirty THOUSAND kids every year in Indiana – to say nothing of the adults – as a direct result of that bigotry.
It’s time to change this conversation, and canned scripts devoted to diversion, distraction, and attempts to redirect the narrative so that we’re talking about how “intolerant” liberals and homosexuals are because we speak out against bigotry and refuse to quietly allow it to flourish are very just another cog in the machine of bigotry that creates these suicide attempts and tries to normalize hate and ignorance while painting those who seek to advance values of love, compassion, and human dignity as evil and manipulative.
Don’t fall for it. The deaths and attempted deaths of those kids is on the hands of everybody who defends and promotes this false narrative, and they will stop at nothing to avoid admitting it.