Many commentators have noted the irony of anti-bullying “expert” Dan Savage’s “bullying” (as defined by his ilk) of high-school students at a recent journalism conference in Seattle, Washington. Yet it seems that the most important points about the matter have not been made.
In case you missed the story, homosexual activist Savage called two dozen students “pansy-a***d” as they were walking out of his anti-bullying presentation last month. Their offense? They took exception to his profanity-laced criticism of Christianity, in which he equated biblical condemnations of homosexual behavior with the prohibition against eating shellfish and said “We ignore the b******t in the Bible about all sorts of things.”
Now, I could emphasize that Savage targeted minors with his bile, which was reminiscent of the 2000 Democratic National Convention attendees who actually booed a contingent of Boy Scouts who appeared on stage. And this typical leftist lack of class, self-control, and sense of propriety brings us to the first point. It’s not just that Savage issued intellectually vacuous criticisms of the Bible, conflating ceremonial and moral law, which was bad enough. It’s that he couldn’t even — while speaking to kids — manage to mind his tongue while doing it. He’s a good example of why adults no longer command youths’ respect: Adults are no longer respectable.
Savage’s criticism was motivated, ostensibly, by his belief that biblical condemnations of homosexuality lead to the bullying of homosexual kids. Okay, perhaps. But then doesn’t it follow that his ilk’s condemnations of Christianity could lead to the bullying of Christian kids? For that matter, all the fashionable criticism of obesity could beget the bullying of fat kids; anti-white and anti-conservative messages have led to the bullying of white youths and conservative ones in school; anti-corporate and anti-fur sentiments have inspired the firebombing of fur stores and a McDonald’s and the burning of SUVs, and anti-Giants messages have led to an attack on Giants supporters by Dodgers fans. Clearly, the only option is to avoid expressing any opinion about anything, anytime, anywhere.
As someone once said, stigmas are the corollaries of values: If certain things are to be valued, it follows that their opposites will be devalued. Thus, whenever you espouse a belief — any belief — it’s a given that someone, somewhere will be inspired to act wrongly based upon it. This is why our guiding principle for speech cannot be whether something is “offensive,” which is thoroughly subjective; it cannot be the idea that something inspires hate or hurts feelings, because invalid and valid ideas both can do that. The guiding principle for speech is a simple one: Is it true?
And how does one remedy the matter if the Truth sets a few off as it sets most free? With more Truth: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
(Some punishment doesn’t hurt, either.)
The answer also isn’t “anti-bullying programs,” and this brings us to the main point. We all probably knew what bullying was when we were five years old. We’ve all seen it; many of us have been bullied, some have been bullies ourselves and a handful have been both. So why do we suddenly need anti-bullying programs, experts, seminars, and laws?
Part of it, of course, involves our overall moral decline, which breeds increasing misbehavior across the board. And since our bad social physicians cannot make the correct diagnosis but want to feel as if they’re doing something, they focus on symptoms — which they have a penchant for renaming — and blather on about things such as “road rage,” “air rage,” and “oppositional defiant disorder” — and bullying. But there is far more to it.
In reality, it is much as with “hate-speech” laws overseas. We all know what hate is, and the wiser among us also know that such laws have little relationship to it. While they’re used against Christians who criticize, hatefully or not, Muslims or homosexuals, they’re never applied when it’s the reverse. The laws aren’t about eliminating hate, just the ideas leftists hate. They’re about social engineering designed to destroy tradition.
So it is with anti-bullying programs. By Savage’s behavior standards (not mine, mind you), his acid-tongued attacks on the students constituted bullying. Yet it would likely never be labeled as such even in a school setting — if the targets were Christians or other groups currently in disfavor. But if the issue were a group under the thought police’s protection? Ah, then the medieval rack would make an appearance.
A case in point is that of Dharun Ravi, the ex-Rutgers University student who videotaped his college roommate, Tyler Clementi, engaging in a homosexual act. Largely because a distraught Clementi later committed suicide, the incident made national headlines and, writes the San Francisco Chronicle, “sparked a national debate on bullying of gay youth.” In fact, New Jersey lawmakers created anti-bullying legislation because of it. But here’s the question: Was this really a case of “bullying”? Is there even the remotest chance it would have been labeled as such had Ravi videotaped a heterosexual encounter?
The unfashionable truth here is that what Ravi pulled was a college prank. Yes, it was a stupid prank. It was a prank that went terribly, tragically wrong. And he should be punished as he would if the victim had been anyone else. Instead, he has been convicted of a “hate crime” known as “bias intimidation,” which carries up to a 10-year sentence. Talk about a sacrifice on the altar of political correctness.
This is why anti-bullying programs, along with hate-crime laws, should be bullied out of existence. Unfortunately, though, they’re entrenched. Not only are they widely thought necessary, they’re big business: Millions of dollars are made devising them and giving anti-bullying speeches and seminars.
Speaking of which, Savage makes a very nice living writing, appearing on TV, and parading around the country giving talks concerning something that, through practical application, he appears to know a lot about. As for his influence, his anti-bullying “ ‘It Gets Better’ project … has reached more than 40 million viewers [and has] contributors ranging from President Obama to Hollywood stars,” writes Fox News.
And this brings us to the real problem: us. After Savage’s disgusting treatment of the kids in Seattle, will he lose his column? Will he be spurned by media and lose his speaking engagements? Will his program be scuttled as the spoiled fruits of a reprobate mind? Don’t bet on it. Many meet trespasses such as his with a collective sigh, and many others applaud the decay. At the Seattle conference, for instance, those two dozen Christian students did walk out; the rest of the 3000, however, stayed. And, reports Savage, he received a standing ovation and requests to sign hundreds of books.
So in the final analysis, I give Savage some credit: When he’s right, he’s right. When defending his actions and saying that it wasn’t as if he “sneaked up on a Bible study class and commandeered the podium,” he said “I’m like the Devil. You have to invite me in.”
Ain’t that the truth.