Regular readers are by now well-acquainted with the fact that I have a thing or two to say about the Left's outrage mob, which operates a graceless, weaponized political correctness racket designed to "win" political and cultural debates by preventing them from happening. As we've chronicled over a period of years, this silencing strategy is often most ruthlessly employed in skirmishes over gay rights and same-sex marriage -- e.g., Brendan Eich's ouster from Mozilla and the Memories Pizza debacle in Indiana. Dissenting from the prevailing liberal orthodoxy of the day -- often a moving target -- is too often cast as 'bigotry,' worthy of shaming, bullying, and various forms of social sanction. To wit, Buzzfeed has published a story that blows the lid off of a red hot scoop: Chip and Joanna Gaines, co-hosts of the wildly successful "Fixer Upper" home improvement program on HGTV, attend a church whose pastor opposes homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Alternate headline: Texas Christians Go To Church. Rather than shedding light on any issue of consequence, the piece asks a series of profoundly unimportant questions such as whether the Gaineses personally oppose gay marriage, and whether they'd feature a gay couple on their show, as other network programs have done:
...Are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage? And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show, as have HGTV’s House Hunters and Property Brothers? Emails to Brock Murphy, the public relations director at their company, Magnolia, were not returned. Nor were emails and calls to HGTV’s PR department. Fixer Upper has fans of all stripes: Christians, feminists, and LGBT viewers have all found something to love in the Gaineses. So in the absence of a response from them or their representatives, it’s worth looking at the severe, unmoving position Seibert and Antioch take on same-sex marriage.
What was the catalyzing event that prompted this piece of "journalism"? That's unclear. What is clearer, however, is Buzzfeed's editorial posture, which assert that there are not two legitimate "sides" to certain social controversies, including gay rights. It also appears as though the author of the unprovoked Gaines hit piece excerpted above has publicly expressed annoyance at what she perceives as the show's inherent social conservatism. Here she is chiming in on a Twitter thread complaining about how the apparent prevalence of people deemed to be likely Trump voters on certain shows has 'ruined' her viewing experience:
This is a cartoonish manifestation of the "politicized life" phenomenon we explore in End of Discussion. The author evidently decided to channel her misplaced discontentment into an act of journalistic sabotage, wherein her targets -- who have done absolutely nothing to earn anyone's wrath, other than quietly live out their faiths in private -- must be held to account via a public inquisition about their personal beliefs. Other entertainment-themed media outlets amplified this "news," increasing the likelihood that the Gaineses will be feel pressure to "explain themselves" for the sin of potentially holding mainstream views that until very recently were shared by virtually every significant American politician in both major parties. The Buzzfeed reporter was also likely aware of the 2014 firestorm wherein a pair of socially-conservative siblings lost their fledgling HGTV program due to one brother's strident comments about social issues at a protest outside of the Democratic National Convention in 2012. That episode raised the question of whether the articulation of beliefs rooted in mainstream religious teaching should foreclose one's ability to host an apolitical TV show. In the Gaines' case, their potential thought crime doesn't even involve any activism at all -- just their choice to worship at a traditional Christian church. Which brings us to an exceptional Washington Post essay written by Brandon Ambrosino, a gay man who begins his column by mentioning how he's overjoyed to be currently planning his own same-sex wedding. Every last word of his commentary is worth reading, as he places his finger directly on the problem:
A 2016 survey from Pew Research Center shows public support of same-sex marriage is at an all-time high of 55 percent — and it is steadily growing. But the same polls tell us that nearly 4 out of 10 Americans — no small number! — are not on board with it. The minds at BuzzFeed are not naive: They know that the Gaineses and HGTV are going to have to come out with a public statement on same-sex marriage. They also know that if the statement is not 100 percent supportive of same-sex marriage, the network will be pressured to drop them. Think about that for a moment. Is the suggestion here that 40 percent of Americans are unemployable because of their religious convictions on marriage? That the companies that employ them deserve to be boycotted until they yield to the other side of the debate — a side, we should note, that is only slightly larger than the one being shouted down? Or maybe the suggestion is that, because they are public figures, they need to be held to a higher standard, one that does not allow them room for moral and religious convictions? But that doesn’t make sense, either. BuzzFeed is probably at the forefront of discussions surrounding diversity in entertainment. Do their reporters think diversity refers only to skin color? Does ideological diversity count for nothing, especially when it is representative of, again, a sizable chunk of the American public?
Ambrosino also advances a variant of a 'this is why Trump won' argument that strikes me as generally correct:
Another concern I have with the story is that it validates everything that President-elect Donald Trump’s supporters have been saying about the media: that some journalists — specifically younger ones at popular digital publications — will tell stories in certain deceitful, manipulative ways to take down conservatives. (And really, I can’t for the life of me imagine any other intention of the Gaines story.) Stories such as this will serve only to reinforce the growing chasm between the media and Trump, which means we are in for four agonizing, tedious years of “gotcha” non-stories like this one. A few years ago, gay activists decided the best way to win arguments in favor of same-sex marriage was to shut up their opponents. All they had to do was lob a charge of homophobia and the argument was won. Or they tweeted at the companies that employed the “homophobes” until they were fired. Conservatives were bullied on social media and mocked for being ass-backward (and indeed, some of them were and are)...
At the time, this seemed like a good strategy because, well, Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in for president and because the country was only becoming more and more liberal, and those kinds of hillbillies were being left in the dark. Enter Trump — the voice of all of the people liberals and activists have been shutting up for the past eight years. It’s no secret that part of Trump’s success is owed to how skillfully he invalidated the media’s authority in the eyes of his conservative followers. The message was very clearly: The media doesn’t like me because I’m conservative, and they don’t like you because you’re conservative, and they’re going to try to ruin all of us, so let’s just ignore them. And then, like clockwork, BuzzFeed published a story proving him right.
Ambrosino closes with a stinging critique of some gay rights supporters' sore-winnerism, which needlessly and harmfully fosters widespread feelings of alienation and marginalization -- an ironic and unfortunate bit of social turnabout. As a supporter of same-sex marriage and a consistent critic of the outrage industry's scalp-collecting and punishing impulses, I strongly recommend this piece as top-shelf material. Please read the whole thing. The upshot is that one of the lessons of Trump's surprise election underscores one of the central themes of End of Discussion: Convincing someone to remain silent is not the same thing as actually convincing someone. I'll leave you with a few additional observations on this tempest -- as well as a worthwhile piece by Conor Friedersdorf on the same theme. He quotes a handful of liberal commentators who seem to recognize how pernicious and counter-productive their fellow partisans' stigmatizing outrage mobs have become:
Underscores how many liberal activists don't even try to persuade, relying on mockery/bullying instead https://t.co/mHaGN2kgzS— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) December 1, 2016
Not gonna pile on Buzzfeed, but HGTV thing gets to something I heard from Trump voters: Fear of being publicly shamed by sudden new standard— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) December 1, 2016
America: Chip & Joanna seem like nice folks! Media/SJWs: All your nice folks must be destroyed. Wait, why don't you trust us/vote for us?— Mary Katharine Ham (@mkhammer) December 1, 2016
When conservatives highlighted the truly radical statements of Barack Obama's longtime pastor, and the history of unapologetic domestic terrorism from the couple in whose home Obama launched his political career, we were excoriated for engaging in fear-mongering and guilt-by- association McCarthyism. How can those indignant objectors justify this week's "sic em" scrutiny of the private beliefs of a husband and wife reality television duo -- who, it's worth noting, are seeking to beautify homes, not public office? Also, if the words and attitudes of public figures' spiritual mentors (of the more prosaic, non-"God Damn America!" variety) are now fair game across the board, might this (as opposed to, say, any of this) be disqualifying for the apparent frontrunner for DNC chair?
UPDATE - There's even less to this story than meets the eye. An embarrassing episode all around for Buzzfeed.