Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dr. Bering Becomes What He Has Beheld

Language warning. Dr. Jesse Bering took the time to carefully craft his piece on Dan Cathy and included his graphic name calling presumably to make clear how angry and hurt he is by the reactions over the Chick-fil-A controversy. As a result, I am including all of his original language.

Dr. Jesse Bering produced a masterpiece example of how not to convince those who disagree with you that they are wrong. It is also a masterpiece example of an attack piece we can only assume is meant to lash out at the forces he feels are determined to intimidate and hate innocent homosexuals. I often enjoy Dr. Bering's work except when I don't, and today I don't. It is less because of the insults and guilt by association attacks directed at people like me and my friends than it is because as an argument for his position this piece is trash.

He shares that at first he was inclined to dismiss Dan Cathy as a southern rube, a Christian idiot in the mold of the Crouches and the mindless Alabama widows that fund TBN. That nasty polemic is a more polite summary of his version. Here we start off with the first mistake. Physician heal thyself. Of Cathy he says:

of course, but for him to be such a perfect caricature of scornful, Americanized Christianity, was a welcome diversion from whatever it was I was writing at the time. Imagine if Elmer Fudd had a love child with Jesse Helms’ mother, and there, I thought to myself, you have Dan Cathy.

And how quickly Dr. Bering becomes a caricature of the cruel intolerant liberal ever belittling those who disagree with him. A little poisoning of the well does start us off with the proper note. Pay no attention to the other side, they are either harmless superstitious morons fleecing the gullible with big hair and chicken or something far more nefarious.

You see Dr. Bering suddenly realized that Chick-fil-A is using their profits to fund “hate groups” (among those listed are Focus on the Family) and that the overtly Christian people that run a company that closes every Sunday to honor God hold views on homosexual marriage that are in accord with traditional biblical teaching. Shocking. Then after a little fictional dialogue where the freedom loving idiots come off poorly against the rational and compassionate detractors of Chick-fil-A we step into a little false equivalency:

There was a time, not so very long ago, when business owners in Southern states proudly poured their riches into segregationist causes. These investment strategies (and the political fruits they bore) helped keep “Negroes” in their place as second-class citizens. And just as we’ve been seeing with the enthusiastic support for Chick-fil-A by the “moral majority,” the racist business models of those segregationists rallied local social conservatives... After all, just as same-sex marriage is today, the rights of blacks were a “political issue.” People spoke of “personal beliefs” about whether blacks should vote, marry outside their race, drink at public water fountains, swim in public pools, attend schools with white students, or sit in the front of the bus. Those whose “personal belief” was that blacks should be socially quarantined from whites felt absolutely no reason to apologize. People were “entitled to their opinions.”

This is an accurate account of a sad and troubling part of our nation's past as it concerns the battle for civil rights. It is also in no way reflective of magnitude of the current issue facing our country today. Certainly there are crimes against innocent homosexuals motivated by irrational hatred just as there are still racially motivated violent crimes and religiously motivated violent crimes. Dan Cathy – however - did not argue that homosexuals should not be allowed to vote, swim in public pools, drink from water fountains, go to public school, or sit anywhere they want on a bus. If he did any or some of those we would have comparable situations. If fire hoses were being turned on homosexuals in the streets during pride rallies and police dogs attacking them for trying to eat with heterosexuals it would be accurate to say “just as same sex marriage is today” so it was then with segregation. But neither Dan Cathy nor any of the reasonable people supporting Chick-fil-A appreciation day advocated for anything so hateful. The attempt to raise the current issue to that same level is a mistake whether intentional or not. We will need a slippery slope later to get us the rest of the way toward Dr. Bering's nightmare, but we have a stop in ad hominem town before then. (attacking the person and not their arguments)

Dr. Bering writes extensively on biological and psychological arguments for human behavior in some of the most prestigious science magazines. Those who disagree with him could better understand what motivates religious belief and human sexual behavior if they read his work. That is if they weren't either (a) too stupid to understand him or (b) too lazy and complacent to read even if they are actually intelligent enough to do so. Rather than have you think I am exaggerating:

Now, for many subject areas in science, such cognitive dullards and intellectual sloths are easy to ignore, even when they display remarkable naivete. To be unaware of the chemical composition of water, for instance, is certainly sad, but such ignorance is usually pretty harmless. But with a basic scientific understanding of sexual orientation, ignorance can be sinister.

Here we arrive at our slippery slope (because of A & B then here comes X, Y, & Z)  with more than a touch of guilt by association (if obviously bad people support Chick-fil-A then all people that support Chick-fil-A are the same). Dan Cathy is making more aggressive hate acceptable. You want proof? Well all you have to do is go on Twitter and combine Chick-fil-A with gay epithets and you will find all the proof you need. Proof positive that if you look for idiots on Twitter you will truly find them. (didn't Lincoln say that?) This obviously demonstrates nothing about the validity of Robert George, Patrick Lee, and Gerard Bradley's arguments for the Conjugal View of Marriage (see here, here, and here) or whether government officials threatening to abuse their permit powers by blocking the expansion of a business justifies peaceful protest by buying chicken. It does ramp us up for the argumentum ad misericordiam in the big finish. (arguments from pity or emotional appeals that fail to address the central disageement)

All of us who went to Chick-fil-A on August 1st contributed to the depression and tragic suicides of closeted gay teens struggling with their sexuality. They are “watching in silent terror.” There is no room for disagreement or dialogue. Supporting Chick-fil-A is literally sending a message to confused and frightened teens dealing with sexual confusion that we hate them. Save your arguments because whatever their substance they hurt children. Wow.

Here is the saddest part to me. What is the language of Dr. Bering's enemies? They are profane hateful people who yell “faggot” and “dykes” at kissing homosexuals. They tell homosexuals exercising their Constitutional right to criticize Chick-fil-A to “shut the fuck up” and tweet about “queers.” So how does a Dr. Bering respond to such wanton displays of hateful idiocy. Unfortunately he gives as good as he gets. If you prefer not to be called a homophobe over “semantic objections” about not fearing homosexuality then you are free to take the title of “bigoted asshole.” Opponents of gay marriage are stupid, slothful, intellectually inferior and culturally backwards imbeciles bullying young gays with “raw hate.” He ends with a lovely message to those who hold the position that the traditional view of marriage ought to be preserved. “Oh, and by the way, fuck you, if you’re one of them.”

If your desire is to dial back the escalating emotions over this pseudo controversy this is not the way to go. Certainly you will never convince people that disagree with your position by arguing with so little regard for them and their actual arguments. We can only assume that Dr. Bering is angry and looking to lash out. If that is the case then mission accomplished. The problem is that such attacks serve very limited purposes. They marginalize your opponent through mockery and derision and attempt to silence discussion by intimidation. More simply put, they seek to accomplish goals through bully tactics.  

That is why I wrote this post.  Because as much as I personally dislike when people talk about shaking our fists at God and God's judgement on our society (we have had great evils in our society from day one and will have them as long as we exist.  God can judge us any time for any number of valid reasons), I hate the current climate of cussing at and attacking the people we disagree with on the pivotal moral issues of our day.  Quite frankly, I post little lately out of my distaste for the profane attack trolls that search far and wide over the internet for someone on which to let loose their foul typing.  But not posting this response would have been because I wanted to avoid a certain kind of unpleasant response and it occurred to me that this might have been the precise goal of Dr. Bering's article.

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Comments are moderated for language and attitude. Nothing personal, I have just lost my taste for wrestling with trolls.