Friday, December 24, 2010

Have I the right?



Whenever some rightie raises the " NPR is a Liberal Network™" theme, I slap my forehead against the desk.

See, here's what happens when a stalwart leftie at NPR meets a right-wing pundit on an NPR show. Bloodshed, you think? Well, sort-of:
In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Matthew Franck argued that we need robust, even passionate debate on the issue, but that the charge of hate is not a contribution to argument. It's the recourse of people who would rather not have an argument at all.

Have you used the hate charge in an argument over gay marriage? Have you heard it? Our phone number: 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Matthew Franck directs the Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute. His piece in the Washington Post is titled "In the Gay Marriage Debate, Stop Using the Hate Card." And he joins us now from his office in Princeton.
Who is Matthew Franck? Look at his blog at American Principles Project and you'll see much criticism of the nomination and approval of Sonia Sotomayor, with praise for Sen's Kyl, Coburn, McCain & Hatch for their principled stands against her. You'll see praise for noted conservative media personality Carrie Prejean as a well . . .

And you'll see his blogroll, full of Hot Air, Weekly Standard, World Net Daily, and other right-wing extremists (and occasional liars).

So does 'Lefty' Neil Conan of NPR take off the gloves and give Franck a thorough bashing:
CONAN: A lot of the debate is framed in terms of the - well, you mentioned the Southern Poverty Law Center, a once-respected civil rights organization. It is framed in the same kind of terminology as the civil rights arguments - that gay men and lesbians want the same rights as other people, and that those opposing it are opposing their right.

Mr. FRANCK: Mm-hmm. So the argument is made. I don't agree with that argument. I'm not persuaded by it, and I think most Americans are not. There's frequently an effort to analogize the situation of gay couples to the situation of interracial couples 45 years ago. As everyone should know and this is history...

CONAN: Before the Loving decision...

Mr. FRANCK: ...you know, there were anti-miscegenation laws that forbade blacks and whites from marrying. Those laws, of course, prevented opposite-sex couples from coming together in marital unions that everyone recognized would actually be marital unions if they were permitted to form them. In other words, people universally understood to be capable of marrying one another were prevented from marrying one another by an intrusion and intervention of the state into their freedom to marry.

The situation is rather different with same-sex couples, who have never been permitted to marry under any understanding of the laws of marriage -common law, statutory law - in any country, until quite recently.

And in order to fold them into the institution of marriage, we don't merely have to remove an obstacle to their marriage. We have to redefine what marriage is. And that's where, I think, the debate needs to be. What is marriage? And what do we take it to be? And what change are we undertaking if we extend it to gay couples? My argument, and the argument of many marriage advocates - traditional marriage advocates - is that the extension of marriage to gay couples is not an expansion of the institution but an inversion of it, and a dismantling of it.

. . .
CONAN: ...we want to give some other people a chance. But thanks very much for the phone call.

We're talking with Matthew Franck. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

And here's an email from Kathleen in Cape Cod: The discussion is absurd. Of course, there are hate groups. What in the world do you call an organization that exists for the sole purpose of fighting a minority group's civil rights? Who, calling for the jailing of gay people simply for being gay, like the National Organization for Marriage board member Mr. Card does, or who demonize gay people with rhetoric that compares us to child molesters, or makes insane claims that the Nazi SS was made up of gay people. The hate card is being played. Here is hatred of gay people.

And I think - well, you might disagree with some of the particulars there, Matthew Franck. Hate is being played on both sides. I think that's accurate.

Mr. FRANCK: Yes. The difference, I think, is this: that on the side of the defenders of marriage, there are no mainstream marriage advocacy organizations that are engaging in hate speech or propagating falsehoods or myths about gay people. I just - it's not happening.

On the other side, there is, I think - on the other hand - a kind of mainstreaming of the strategy to anathematize, which is what I described in my article.

CONAN: Among those you describe as part of the strategy is the judge in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Judge Vaughn Walker held that California's Proposition 8 enacted without reason a private moral view about the nature of marriage that cannot properly be embodied in public policy.

Mr. FRANCK: Right, exactly right. And that brings us back to what I think is a key to a lot of what's going on. In the courts, a key legal question is: Is there a rational basis for a policy? If there is not a rational basis, then it cannot be upheld on equal protection or perhaps due process grounds. And so I think the full-court press we see in the culture has a kind of judicial parallel. The idea is if you can propagate the idea that defenders of gay marriage have no rational basis for defending marriage, as it has always been known in every human civilization, as the union of men and women, for - chiefly - for procreative ends, but if you can say that there's no rational basis for that, then you achieve a great strategic goal in the courts of law, which is to have judges hold that no rational basis exists for such distinctions in the law and therefore, laws like Prop 8 have to fall.

But if you can see that there's no rational basis for that, then you achieve a great strategic goal in the courts of law, which is to have judges hold that no rational basis exists for such distinctions in the law and therefore laws like Prop 8 have to fall.

CONAN: And we will see what the 9th Circuit decides - and I suspect, eventually, the Supreme Court. Matthew Franck, thank you very much for your time today.

The paragraph I bolded is the main straw man in this whole argument: That the mean gay-lovers are being mean to us non-mean gay haterz. Jeebus!

In Franck's rambling op-ed in the WaPo that led to the NPR piece above, he shows a prejudice and lack of awareness that's pretty stunning:
What's going on here? Clearly a determined effort is afoot, in cultural bastions controlled by the left, to anathematize traditional views of sexual morality, particularly opposition to same-sex marriage, as the expression of "hate" that cannot be tolerated in a decent civil society. The argument over same-sex marriage must be brought to an end, and the debate considered settled. Defenders of traditional marriage must be likened to racists, as purveyors of irrational fear and loathing. Opposition to same-sex marriage must be treated just like support for now long-gone anti-miscegenation laws.

While many "defenders of traditional marriage" are decent people with good intentions, so were many of the "defenders of traditional marriage" that fought against Loving v. Virginia, where inter-racial marriage was made a Constitutional civil right. To claim no similarity between these situations is delusional.

The best retort came in a letter to the editor criticizing Frank by a WaPo reader:
Matthew J. Franck's Dec. 19 Outlook commentary, "On gay marriage, stop playing the hate card," was an extended fallacy. Mr. Franck defended intolerance by arguing that the tolerant should not be intolerant of the intolerant, because intolerance is wrong. He is confused.

He moved on to the fallacy that bigotry against homosexuals is not irrational. He said the function of marriage is to produce children. So the infertile and those past menopause should not get married? He said same-sex marriage dismantles the institution of marriage. His conclusion was used as an argument for his conclusion. Mr. Franck succeeded only in proving that bigotry against homosexuals really is irrational.

Finally, Mr. Franck concluded the piece with an especially obnoxious fallacy: In the interest of robust debate, bigotry should be exempt from criticism, because criticism is a conversation stopper. Bigotry merits no such privilege.

Indeed.

So did liberal NPR spokesman Conan engage in debate and argument with Franck? Nope. Instead he was played as a sucker by a well spoken schoolyard bully. A mention of the SPLC position merely served up a softball for Franck to hit out of the yard in service to his prejudice. Yet I'm betting Franck got off the phone and complained to colleagues about his rough treatment.

Idiot.

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