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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Economist Weighs In on Bullshitgate

Posted by Dan Savage on Wed, May 2, 2012 at 1:45 PM

This line stung: "A couple of weeks ago Dan Savage... gave the right a gift." I certainly did, Economist, and I certainly regret it. But The Economist calls bullshh... comes to my defense:

However poorly Mr Savage may have been treated in high school, it was not by the students in the audience, and they deserved more from a famous and accomplished journalist than derision. Mr Savage acknowledged as much when he apologised, both for the regrettable and infantile slur "pansy-assed" and for using what the great J. Anthony Lukas called "a barnyard epithet" to refer to the Bible. (He could, of course, have opted to make a broader point: that nobody should be so quick to take offence; that journalists will hear a lot of things over the course of a career that they find offensive and even hurtful, and walking out anytime that happens will result in a short career and a narrow mind; that, however ugly his language Mr Savage was at least advancing arguments, and that surely at least one of those offended souls hoping to make a life out of words could have found a few to hurl back at him rather than just flouncing out in a huff.)

Mr Savage's apology did not stop the outrage machine. Some seem to have taken particular delight in hurling Mr Savage's epithets—bully and basher (of Christians and Christianity, rather than gays)—back at him. The American Thinker harrumphs, "Evidently, bullying is one of those things that is defined by the 'victim'." Well, yes: in fact it is. Bullying is the strong picking on the weak, not the other way around (the other way around is satire). One could make the argument that in the case of Mr Savage's speech, he was the strong one, and the high-school students were "victims", but that would be weak tea indeed. Mr Savage is one person, not a movement, and of course those students whom he gave the vapours were free to leave. Not everyone has such freedom. Gay teens, not Christian teens, kill themselves at higher rates than the general populace. Nobody calls Christianity an abomination. One blogger accused Mr Savage of "Christian-bashing" for pointing out the Bible's position on slavery. A writer for a Focus on the Family site said that "using profanity to deride the Bible...is obviously a form of bullying and name-calling." In fact it is neither: Mr Savage, however intemperate his language, was arguing, not name-calling. That is a crucial distinction, and one that too often eludes the showily devout. If the Bible is in fact the word of God it can survive a few arguments about context and application.

One quibble: I didn't refer to the Bible as bullshit. I said there was bullshit in the Bible. And it's not that it's not that hard to spot the BS in the bible: just look for the verses that are ignored or glossed bu the same folks who toss quotes from Leviticus and Romans around like so much hatefetti. I actually defended my use of the barnyard epithet. Anyway, there's more. Go read the whole thing.

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