Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Culture Wars, part 7

Overshadowing the dismissal of 26 translators - 20 Arabic and 6 Farsi speakers - from the military since 1998 for homosexuality, James Dobson and his group, Focus on the Family have been raising a media stink about the pervasive homosexual influence of SpongeBob SquarePants. It seems he and several other cartoon characters appear in a video released after 9/11 intended to tout multiculturalism - and what could be more gay?
From Media Matters:

Dobson based his assertion on a "pledge of tolerance" available on the website of the We Are Family Foundation, one of the groups that produced the video. The pledge originated at, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Before reading the pledge aloud on Hannity & Colmes, Dobson claimed that "the purpose [of the video] is to drive them [children] toward a pledge of tolerance" that "elementary schoolchildren are going to be asked to sign." In fact, according to the foundation's founder and website, neither the video nor the accompanying teacher's guide make reference to the pledge or to homosexuality.

The last week or so has seen a great deal of vicious infighting - as well as an ineffective spam campaign against MSNBC's Keith Olbermann - that has led to Dr. Dobson's frantically backpedaling in his monthly newsletter.
Dr. Dobson, meanwhile, has formed a fundie version of the Super Friends and written to Karl Rove threatening to sink the President's Social Security schemes if their views are not further pandered to. The President, of course, having gotten what he wanted out of Dr. Dobson and his friends, has broken with the GOP's platform to support civil unions, which is likely what brought this whole mess about in the first place.
Wide-eyed zealots are one thing, but this sort of nonsense from public policy makers is another thing entirely. Overshadowed by the Dobson v. Spongebob flap, pressure from the new education secretary has prompted PBS to refrain from distributing an episode of its children's program, 'Postcards From Buster', which contains a lesbian couple.
The Plaid Adder wraps all of this up in her inimitable style.


Blogger Management said...

The Price of Homophobia

Don't ask, don't tell - just scream in frustration: it turns out that 20 of the Arabic speakers so vitally needed by the nation have been thrown out of the military since 1998 because they were found to be gay. It is hard to imagine a more wrongheaded rebuff of national priorities. The focus must be on the search for Osama bin Laden and his terrorist legions, not the closet door. The Pentagon's snooping after potential gays trumps what every investigative agency in the war on terror has admitted is a crucial shortage of effective Arabic translators.

After the first World Trade Center attack, in 1993, government agents revealed an alarming shortage of Arabic speakers. Key notes, videotapes and a phone call pertaining to the attack were later found in a backlog of untranslated investigative data. The shortage continued right up to and well beyond the 9/11 attacks. Three years after the towers were destroyed, the F.B.I., rife with translation problems, admitted it had an untranslated backlog of 120,000 hours of intercepts with potential value about looming threats. At the State Department, a study showed that only one in five of the 279 Arabic translators were fluent enough to handle the subtleties of the language, with its many regional dialects.

The military's experience is no more encouraging, with intelligence results muddied at times by a rush, as one inquiry put it, to recruit Arab convenience store owners and cabdrivers, who couldn't handle the task. The military is right to rely more on its language schools, but it can take several years to produce fluent graduates. The folly of using "don't ask, don't tell" policy against such precious national resources amounts to comfort for the enemy.

When President Bush was asked last week by The Washington Post why Osama bin Laden had eluded capture, he replied, "Because he's hiding." So is the Pentagon - it's hiding from reality.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Conservatives Pick Soft Target: A Cartoon Sponge

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 - On the heels of electoral victories barring same-sex marriage, some influential conservative Christian groups are turning their attention to a new target: the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants.

"Does anybody here know SpongeBob?" Dr. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, asked the guests Tuesday night at a black-tie dinner for members of Congress and political allies to celebrate the election results.

SpongeBob needed no introduction. In addition to his popularity among children, who watch his cartoon show, he has become a well-known camp figure among adult gay men, perhaps because he holds hands with his animated sidekick Patrick and likes to watch the imaginary television show "The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy."

Now, Dr. Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity."

The video's creator, Nile Rodgers, who wrote the disco hit "We Are Family," said Mr. Dobson's objection stemmed from a misunderstanding. Mr. Rodgers said he founded the We Are Family Foundation after the Sept. 11 attacks to create a music video to teach children about multiculturalism. The video has appeared on television networks, and nothing in it or its accompanying materials refers to sexual identity. The pledge, borrowed from the Southern Poverty Law Center, is not mentioned on the video and is available only on the group's Web site.

Mr. Rodgers suggested that Dr. Dobson and the American Family Association, the conservative Christian group that first sounded the alarm, might have been confused because of an unrelated Web site belonging to another group called "We Are Family," which supports gay youth.

"The fact that some people may be upset with each other peoples' lifestyles, that is O.K.," Mr. Rodgers said. "We are just talking about respect."

Mark Barondess, the foundation's lawyer, said the critics "need medication."

On Wednesday however, Paul Batura, assistant to Mr. Dobson at Focus on the Family, said the group stood by its accusation.

"We see the video as an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids," he said. "It is a classic bait and switch."

5:42 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Military has discharged 26 gay linguists


SAN FRANCISCO -- The number of Arabic linguists discharged from the military for violating its "don't ask, don't tell" policy is higher than previously reported, according to records obtained by a research group.

The group contends the records show that the military - at a time when it and U.S. intelligence agencies don't have enough Arabic speakers - is putting its anti-gay stance ahead of national security.

Between 1998 and 2004, the military discharged 20 Arabic and six Farsi speakers, according to Department of Defense data obtained by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The military previously confirmed that seven translators who specialized in Arabic had been discharged between 1998 and 2003 because they were gay. The military did not break down the discharges by year, but said some, but not all, of the additional 13 discharges of Arabic speakers occurred in 2004.

Aaron Belkin, the center's director, said he wants the public to see the real costs of "don't ask, don't tell."

"We had a language problem after 9/11 and we still have a language problem," Belkin said Wednesday.

The military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they keep their sexual orientation private and do not engage in homosexual acts.

"The military is placing homophobia well ahead of national security," said Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a nonprofit group that advocates for the rights of gay military members. "It's rather appalling that in the weeks leading up to 9/11 messages were coming in, waiting to be translated ... and at the same time they were firing people who could've done that job."

But others, like Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness, a conservative advocacy group that opposes gays serving in the military, said the discharged linguists never should have been accepted at the elite Defense Language Institute in Monterey in the first place.

"Resources unfortunately were used to train young people who were not eligible to be in the military," she said.

In the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 543 Arabic linguists and 166 Farsi linguists graduated from their 63-week courses, according to a DLI spokesman. That was up from 377 and 139, respectively, in the previous year.

Experts have identified the shortage of Arabic linguists as contributing to the government's failure to thwart the Sept. 11 attacks. The independent Sept. 11 commission made similar conclusions.

Ian Finkenbinder, an Army Arabic linguist who graduated from the Defense Language Institute in 2002, was discharged from the military last month after announcing to his superiors that he's gay. Finkenbinder, who said his close friends in the Army already knew he was gay, served eight months in Iraq and was about to return for a second tour when he made the revelation official.

"I looked at myself and said, `Are you willing to go to war with an institution that won't recognize that you have the right to live as you want to,'" said Finkenbinder, 22, who now lives in Baltimore. "It just got to be tiresome to deal with that - to constantly have such a significant part of your life under scrutiny."

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network last month sued the government on behalf of 12 other gay former military members seeking reinstatement. They argue that "don't ask, don't tell" violates their constitutional rights.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Delusions of grandeur at "Focus on the Family"

NEW YORK - Mother used to insist that there were two things you should never talk about in public: politics and religion.

Now, of course, that’s all we talk about. But the moral guidance still rings loudly all these years later, and it always makes me a reluctant conversant, even if I apologize to Mom in advance.

However, the Three-Card Monte Players at Dr. James Dobson’s “Focus On The Family” have reopened the can of worms that is SpongeBobGate, and have focused not on the family but on me, and in so doing embarrassed themselves and undermined the validity of their own concerns.

Dobson, you will recall, joined the singularly inoffensive animated character “SpongeBob SquarePants” to his conspiracy theories of a “pro-homosexual” agenda, in order to get headlines. When he got those headlines, he promptly complained about getting them. Dobson, like many other exploiters of Amoral Values, ran immediately to the easiest way out of a stupid fix of his own creation: he blamed the big old ugly media.

His website asked readers to send emails of protest to me and four other reporters who had covered this foofery - it even provided them with an email-generator with which to do so. But because I responded to nearly all of those missives with something other than “I’m sorry, please don’t send me to hell,” Dobson has determined I need more exposure.

This time it is in the form of a delightful piece of fiction crafted by somebody called “Gary Schneeberger, editor,” of “Family News In Focus.” It is charmingly titled “Influencing Olbermann” and I’m vastly tickled by the compliment, and more over, by the cascade of factual errors that follows.

Schneeberger observes that I’ve “devoted six pages on (my) Web site - over two days - to savaging the men and women who sent more than 30,000 e-mails through our CitizenLink Action Center.” We’ll skip the incongruity of pages in a blog and focus on that 30,000 number. Schneeberger does not state this (it would be inconvenient) but that number is clearly a total of emails generated to me and the four other reporters targeted. That would be an average of about 6,000 apiece, and now I feel left out, because the actual number received here is less than 2,000, and that includes 10%-20% blanks and 5-10% letters supporting our coverage and denouncing “Focus On The Family” as, in the words of one correspondent, “the American Taliban.”

Still, let’s give ‘em that 6,000 figure they claim. That’s embarrassingly small for an email generating device, especially over the course of five days. Most of my blog entries induce about 1,000 hand-crafted emails, and during the post-election period the responses ran closer to 5,000 per day. If you’re setting up a spam campaign and providing people with everything up to and including cut-and-pastes to stick inside the message generator, and you can’t do better than 1,200 a day, you should give up and open a 7-11 somewhere.

I might add before I’m accused of trying to answer philosophy with addition, that Mr. Schneeberger’s piece claims the spam campaign was a success because of the “1,674 words he’s spent addressing the subject on his Web site this week.” If we’re going to calculate and reward who’s bigger, sir, you’re going to lose.

Having failed math, Mr. Schneeberger now tries extra-sensory perception.

“…When it comes to lobbying liberal journalists like Olbermann, the sad reality is that getting them to acknowledge - let alone to respond respectfully - to our point of view is the longest of long shots. Theirs is a 24/7 secular world - in most newsrooms, especially those in big cities, about the only time you hear the word ‘God’ is as the first part of somebody’s second-favorite swearword.”

Wow. Talk about creating your own reality.

My newsroom is in Secaucus, New Jersey - population 15,931.

“Focus On Family” headquarters is in Colorado Springs, Colorado - population 360,890.

And not to let the facts get in the way of FOF’s prejudice, but I happen to be a religious man. I believe in God, I pray daily, and if I’ve ever gotten any direct instructions from my maker, they were that I’ll be judged by whether I tried to help other people, or hurt them. Also, that true belief should not be worn like a policeman’s club, nor used like one. And, finally, that I’m in big trouble for helping to introduce funny catchphrases into sportscasting.

The producer of Countdown - Mr. Kordick, you’ve met him here, the guy who goes on vacation and celebrities die - is not only a religious man of the finest kind, but actually sings at Church-related events out in the community. And there are many others on the staff who are similarly spiritual, although, admittedly, none of us is pushy nor self-congratulatory about it.

I might also say that I feel a little disappointed in my workplace. Mr. Schneeberger, who claims to have spent a dozen years in “secular newsrooms,” writes of all of these “God Damns” flying around the ones he knows so well. I honestly think I’ve heard that phrase used at MSNBC once or twice in the last year. I feel short-changed. Where did Schneeberger work, The Sodom and Gomorroh Picayne?

Ultimately, Schneeberger’s piece claims that I have not presented a “cogent defense” of our coverage of Dobson’s faux pas. Well, I have mentioned that we played the entire video at the center of the controversy, and read the three references in the accompanying teacher’s materials to what to do if a child asked about same-sex families (the only references to any of that in, or with the tape), in an effort to let the viewer decide if Dobson’s complaint was legitimate or laughable.

And, before we went on the air that night, we contacted Dobson’s office for a statement that might disconnect SpongeBob from the contretemps, and outlined how we intended to cover the story. We got no “that’s not right,” no “you’re demeaning Dr. Dobson,” and especially no “you’re taking Dr. Dobson’s words out of context.”

All that came after Dr. Dobson realized how much damage he’d done to his cause.

I suspect, long-term, that this is how Dr. Dobson’s followers are going to react in the next few months and years as the world around them gets increasingly tolerant and less reactionary. Several of his spammers warned of the coming Constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriages (which the President many of them also claimed they personally elected used so efficiently in the campaign, but has already dropped with that “whaddya gonna do” shoulder shrug of his).

More importantly, at some point, some of these people are going to wake up to find that the great secular assault they see on their children was, in fact, a bogeyman created to hide their own bad parenting. If they can’t convince their own kids of the appropriateness of their religion and values, then the religion, the values, or the convincing, must not have been very good. Ask my folks if I was an easy sell - yet most of my tenets turn out to have been their tenets - not my teachers’, not television’s, not the secular world’s.

It goes back to the core of the Dobsonian point of view here: the fear of the “pro-Homosexual” agenda. That may be the way he delicately phrases it, but it is not shared by most of his followers who emailed me. They were clearly angry that there was no anti-homosexual agenda. And one of the most fascinating things about the studies of homosexuality in this country is that while there is still debate between the creationists and the environmentalists, I’ve never heard anything suggesting that a child is more or less likely to be gay, depending on whether he’s taught not to hate nor be intolerant, of gays.

Schneeberger finishes his piece with the hope that I’ll experience the same kind of epiphany he claims to have in 1997. “Let’s pray, if he ever does, that he comes up with the right answer - and not because it may lead to fairer reporting. But because it may lead to a redeemed life.”

Hey, guys, worry about yourselves. You’re spewing hate, while assuming that for some reason, God has chosen you and you alone in all of history to understand the mysteries of existence, when mankind’s existence is filled with ample evidence that nobody yet has been smart enough to discern an answer.

You might try keeping it simpler: did you help others, or hurt them?

I’ll be happy to be judged on the answer to that question, and if it’s a group session, I don’t expect I’ll find many members of “Focus On Family” in the “done ok” line.


• January 27, 2005 | 11:51 p.m. ET

More fun with Dobson's spammers

PINEAPPLE UNDER THE SEA— H.L. Mencken’s biographers always note that the great cynic used to enjoy jousting with the religious extremists of his day. But he usually had to type up a letter and waste a stamp on them.

While making no undue comparisons, I should note the ease with which I can do the same: a quick hit of the reply button, and they seem largely confounded that anybody has disagreed with them, or that their leader, Dr. James Dobson, might have made a fool of himself.

This, if you haven’t read previous entries, is about the SpongeBob video controversy. Dobson, of a group called “Focus On The Family,” told a largely congressional audience of his complaint about a video and accompanying teaching materials sent to 6,000 elementary schools, by referring to its distributors as a “pro-homosexual” group. Dobson invoked SpongeBob SquarePants as the centerpiece of the video, raising the specter of the laughably infamous “Tinky-Winky” controversy of the ‘90s.

Before we first did the story on "Countdown," we contacted his group, asked for a comment and a clarification of the implication that SpongeBob was being used as part of a “pro-homosexual” effort. Dobson’s spokesperson made no effort to alter the impression, and made no complaint about our story as we outlined it to him.

Then, of course, the Krabby Patties hit the fan.

Dobson came across as a nut job, the story was picked up around the world (often with the admittedly oversimplified headline “SpongeBob is Gay?”), and Dobson immediately blamed the messengers. Suddenly it was the media that had interconnected the cartoon character with the “pro-homosexual” effort, and, of course, the media needed to be feel The Wrath. As part of his weekly newsletter, he conveniently included an e-mail generating device so that people who never saw our broadcast nor knew who I was, could spam my mailbox full of what I must say is some of the most unintentionally entertaining e-mail I’ve ever gotten.

Firstly, you wouldn’t think a member of this group could misspell “Christian,” but sure enough, one of the missives had the word as “Christain” three times. I think just about every word you could imagine was butchered at some point (and we’re not talking typos here - we’re talking about repeated identical misspellings):

Spong, Spounge, Spnge - presumably meaning “Sponge.”

Dobsin, Dobsen, Debsin, Dubsen, Dobbins - presumably Dr. Dobson.

Sevility— I’m not sure about this one. This might be “civility,” or it might refer to the city in Spain.

The best of them was not a misspelling but a Freudian slip of biblical proportions. A correspondent, unhappy that I did not simply agree with her fire-and-brimstone forecast for me, wrote “I showed respect even though I disagreed with you and yet you have the audacity to call me intelligent.”

Well, you have me there, Ma’am. My mistake.

The real problem with Dobson’s campaign, which produced an e-mail volume far less than the average post-election blog, was that he publicly posted my internal e-mail address (the one used for interaction with my office co-workers), not the high-volume ones we established for viewer and reader reaction. This served merely to wear out a bunch of IT folks (and me) and had the cumulative effect of a group of clowns toilet-papering my office and then saying “You agree with us now, don’t you, that you are a heathen?” The volume served only to overshadow any validity that might have been included in their complaints.

To the credit of many of them, when I informed them of this, they were mortified. I got a lot of very heartfelt apologies, as I also did when I pointed out that Dr. Dobson had taken a lot of my comments out of context, or when I suggested the writer hadn’t seen the show, nor the video in question (which is as inoffensive as a sunset).

Still, if there was one disturbing element, it was the number of emails— maybe 20 percent—which invoked Dan Rather and “what we did to him.” There is evidently a mass misunderstanding of the history of Rather’s retirement from the CBS Evening News. He was not hit by vengeful lightning, although don’t go telling that to the religious right. That his retirement was being planned last summer is an irrelevancy to them.

Even in this, though, one emailer provided mirth. “We got Tom Brokaw at ABC,” he warned, “and we can get you.”

I’ll have to drop Tom a note.

Something approaching 10 percent of the e-mailers used Dobson’s generator to send notes of thanks for exposing “Focus On The Family” for the knee-jerk reactionaries they are. One wrote in genuine fear that these people were wielding influence in the country. I wrote back, thinking of the mangled language, that a much more immediate concern was that these people are out there, driving on our highways.

Address to e-mail would be

11:49 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Dr. Dobson's Study > Setting the Record Straight

Dr. Dobson's Newsletter: January, 2005
Setting the Record Straight

Newsletter ImageDear Friends:

If you had told me a month ago that I’d be devoting my February letter to a cartoon character named SpongeBob SquarePants, I’d have said you were crazy. Nevertheless, by now you probably know that I have been linked to that famous talking sponge by hundreds of media outlets, from the New York Times to "MSNBC" to "Saturday Night Live." The story of how this situation unfolded is somewhat complicated, but it must be told.

In truth, this tale has very little to do with SpongeBob himself, and everything to do with the media’s ability to obscure the facts and to direct lies and scorn toward those of us who care about defending children. It all began on an evening in late January, during Inaugural Week in Washington, D.C. At that time, I spoke briefly to 350 guests attending a banquet hosted by Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and Gary Bauer’s American Values. I concluded by sharing a word of concern about a video that will be distributed to 61,000 public and private elementary schools across the nation, for use on the proposed "We Are Family Day," March 11.

The video, which millions of children will soon see, features nearly 100 favorite cartoon characters that kids will instantly recognize, including not only SpongeBob, but also Barney the Dinosaur, the Muppets, Dora the Explorer, Bob the Builder, Winnie the Pooh, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Jimmy Neutron and Big Bird. The video itself is innocent enough and does not mention anything overtly sexual. Rather, it features the children’s cartoon characters singing and dancing along to the popular disco hit "We Are Family."

But while the video is harmless on its own, I believe the agenda behind it is sinister. My brief comments at the FRC gathering were intended to express concern not about SpongeBob or Big Bird or any of their other cartoon friends, but about the way in which those childhood symbols are apparently being hijacked to promote an agenda that involves teaching homosexual propaganda to children. Nevertheless, the media jumped on the story by claiming that I had accused SpongeBob of being "gay." Some suggested that I had confused the organization that had created the video with a similarly named gay-rights group. In both cases, the press was dead wrong, and I welcome this opportunity to help them get their facts straight.

I want to be clear: the We Are Family Foundation — the organization that sponsored the video featuring SpongeBob and the other characters was, until this flap occurred, making available a variety of explicitly pro-homosexual materials on its Web site. It has since endeavored to hide that fact (more on this later), but my concerns are as legitimate today as they were when I first expressed them in January.

So let us consider the evidence. One of the first resources to catch our attention on the foundation’s Web site was a booklet that lists a number of organizational "allies," including five of the largest pro-homosexual organizations in the nation: the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, and Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Also, the Web site made available school lesson plans that suggested teachers ask these questions of students:

* "How are you affected by homophobia?"
* "How would you be affected by your sexual orientation were it different than it is now?"
* "How will understanding these definitions change your thinking about compulsory heterosexuality and homophobia?
* "How will it change any of your behaviors?"

From a handout entitled, "Talking About Being Out" there was this:

* "Do you know of any people in your school whose sexual orientation differs from yours?"
* "How do you know?"
* "Are you comfortable with that person or those people?
* "What are some factors that might encourage or discourage a person about being ‘out’ as homosexual or bisexual in this class or school?"
* "Answer the above questions in regard to people in your class or school who consider themselves atheist."

One of the lesson plans, titled, Uncovering Attitudes About Sexual Orientation, presents what are deemed "stereotypical definitions" of words that encourage bigotry and bias. If you have any doubt about the pro-homosexual agenda inherent to these materials, check out these loaded terms, which could be coming soon to an elementary school near you. (All are direct quotes.)

* Compulsory Heterosexuality: The assumption that women are "naturally" or innately drawn sexually and emotionally toward men, and men toward women; the view that heterosexuality is the "norm" for all sexual relationships. The institutionalization of heterosexuality in all aspects of society includes the idealization of heterosexual orientation, romance, and marriage. Compulsory heterosexuality leads to the notion of women as inherently "weak," and the institutionalized inequality of power: power of men to control women’s sexuality, labor, childbirth and childrearing, physical movement, safety, creativity, and access to knowledge. It can also include legal and social discrimination against homosexuals and the invisibility or intolerance of lesbian and gay existence.

* Gender: A cultural notion of what it is to be a woman or a man; a construct based on the social shaping of femininity and masculinity. It usually includes identification with males as a class or with females as a class. Gender includes subjective concepts about character traits and expected behaviors that vary from place to place and person to person.

* Heterosexism: A system of beliefs, action, advantages, and assumptions in the superiority of heterosexuals or heterosexuality. It includes unrecognized privileges of heterosexual people and the exclusion of nonheterosexual people from policies, procedures, events and decisions about what is important.

* Homophobia: Thoughts, feelings, or actions based on fear, dislike, judgment or hatred of gay men and lesbians / of those who love and sexually desire those of the same sex. Homophobia has roots in sexism and can include prejudice, discrimination, harassment, and acts of violence.

Is this the kind of nonsense you want taught to your kids, especially if the nation’s most popular cartoon characters are used to get across the concepts? I pray not!

If you’re planning on visiting the We Are Family Foundation’s Web site [] to verify the accuracy of the above information, don’t bother. In the days since this story broke, the majority of overtly pro-homosexual content has been removed. The founder of the organization, Nile Rodgers, appeared on the "Today Show" and said that we had the wrong site and that they had nothing to do with homosexuality. That was Jan. 21. Two days later, most of the homosexual content disappeared or became inaccessible. I will leave it for you to determine the motive behind the mysterious vanishing of such material by the We Are Family Foundation. Suffice to say that we have clear documentation that these materials were being promoted on the Web site as recently as late January, despite denials to the contrary.

I’m sure you can see, now, why I expressed great concern about the intention of the We Are Family Foundation in using SpongeBob and company to promote the theme of "tolerance and diversity," which are almost always buzzwords for homosexual advocacy. It seems evident that had this connection not been exposed, the materials accompanying the video would have promoted a pro-homosexual ideology. Again, why do I believe that? Simply put, it’s because the past is often the best predictor of the future. In addition to the above material, a 2003 manual, produced in partnership with the We Are Family Foundation, featured exercises that attempted to equate homosexuality with immutable characteristics, such as race or gender.

Of particular significance is a so called "Tolerance Pledge" that appears to complement the pro-homosexual propaganda found within the once available school curricula. The second paragraph of the pledge reads as follows:

"To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own." [Emphasis added.]

The words "sexual identity" in that last sentence hold the key to understanding what is going on here. They reveal a very clever and subtle intent lying below the water line. The stated purpose, as we have seen, is to teach children to respect each other and to accept those who are different. We are entirely supportive of that message. I have been teaching it for years. There appears to be another agenda operating here, however, that has serious implications for your kids. Quite simply, it is to desensitize very young children to homosexual and bisexual behavior.

During my remarks in Washington, I shared my suspicion about children being coerced into signing this "Tolerance Pledge." My critics quickly sought to marginalize my warning. Nile Rodgers exasperatingly explained to "FOX News’" Bill O’Reilly that, "Even on our Web site, we don’t ask people to sign the pledge." Oh really? Prior to my speech, the pledge, as it appeared on the foundation’s Web site, concluded with the following paragraph:

"To fulfill my pledge, I __________________ will examine my own biases and work to overcome them, set a positive example for my family and friends, work for tolerance in my own community, speak out against hate and injustice. We share a world. For all our differences, we share one world. To be tolerant is to welcome the differences and delight in the sharing."

Once the individual filled in his or her name, there was a "submit" button to the right of the pledge that would, ostensibly, officially record that "pledge" commitment. This portion of the pledge has also disappeared from the Web site.

Let me say it again for emphasis: Every individual is entitled to respect and human dignity, including those with whom we disagree strongly. The problem is not with acceptance or kindness, certainly. But kids should not be taught that homosexuality is just another "lifestyle," or that it is morally equivalent to heterosexuality. Scripture teaches that all overt sexual activity outside the bonds of marriage is sinful and harmful. Children should not be taught otherwise by their teachers, and certainly not if their parents are unaware of the instruction.

This is why I brought up this subject at the FRC banquet, explaining that there is a spiritual dimension to the culture war that many parents and grandparents are too busy to have noticed. It targets the values and attitudes of children, which after 12 years of propaganda in the public schools, can mold and shape the next generation. If a million or more very young children are going to be exposed to an organization through a video that encourages people to sign a "tolerance pledge," shouldn’t their moms and dads be told about it? We are just a few days away from the proposed "We Are Family Day" in the schools. Have you been informed of the discussions that may take place in your child’s elementary school in connection with the video, or the pledge that could possibly be placed before them?

What appears to be the case in the We Are Family program is an effort to replicate nationwide the curricula being implemented in California’s elementary schools. From my perspective, it is terribly dangerous.

Imagine a classroom full of wide-eyed five-year olds, sitting in a circle in front of the teacher. These kindergarteners will believe anything they are told, from the notion that reindeer can fly on Christmas Eve to the idea that bunnies lay candy eggs during "Spring Break." They are vulnerable to whatever adults tell them. In this instance, the kids are not learning about the alphabet or about exciting fairy tales; they are potentially hearing incomprehensible references to adult perverse sexuality. And the rationale for this instruction is "tolerance and diversity." Generations past would have been shocked and outraged by the very thought of such nonsense. Yet many parents either don’t know of the teaching or are passively willing to go along with it.

Well, this is the story behind the SpongeBob issue that outraged the media. There was a New York Times reporter at the banquet who wrote an article based on my comments. His factual representation was not entirely inaccurate, but it was written in such a way as to imply that it was SpongeBob whom I was attacking. From there, the story rapidly escalated. You won’t believe the way I was described by major news organizations. Here are a few examples:

* posted a commentary on the matter which read in part, "[T]here is a frightening number of so-called Christians who can be best described as creepy, rigid, arrogant, cruel, know-it-all, pompous, obnoxious and treacherous — better known by the acronym C.R.A.C.K.P.O.T."

* James Carville offered these words of wisdom on "CNN": "You know what I think? I think these people have sponge brains."

* The Los Angeles Times was among the many who mocked my remarks by distorting the truth: "SpongeBob holds hands with his starfish pal Patrick, and likes to watch the imaginary television show ‘The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.’ Evidence enough, to Dobson at any rate, that the guy’s a menace."

* "MSNBC’s" Keith Olbermann, one of the most hostile of the commentators, characterized my account of the situation as the goofiest story of the day. He cited a lawyer for the We Are Family Foundation who said that critics of this effort "need medication." Olbermann then added, "We here found it hard to argue with him." It might not surprise you that when one of my listeners wrote Mr. Olbermann a polite but pointed email in response to his comments, he replied by saying that emails such as hers would be "treated with the lack of respect they deserve." He went on to chastise her, and wrote, "…you might ask yourself if your actions are any different than someone in a cult." And some people still wonder why Americans no longer trust the mainstream media!

* A columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, "Though the cartoon’s gay agenda has forced Dr. Dobson to denounce it in the strongest terms, at least he hasn’t sunk to the level of the Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan. No one is talking about marching with signs that read ‘GOD HATES BOB.’ At least, not yet."

* The New York Times published an editorial entitled "Nautical Nonsense" that referred to me as "the intolerant Dr. Dobson."

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

In response, we received more than 100 requests for interviews within 24 hours from media entities within the United States and around the world, including the "Today Show," "CNN," the "BBC," "ABC News," the CBS "Early Show," "Good Morning America," "MSNBC," "National Public Radio," and "Hannity & Colmes" (the only one I accepted). Some of you heard the bogus story and believed it. We received more than 1,200 e-mails in the first few days, almost all of them critical because of my perceived attack on poor SpongeBob. One more time, let me say that the problem is not with SpongeBob or the other cartoon characters. It is with the way they will be used in the classroom.

And that brings me to the larger issue. It does not matter what the secular media says about me. In the final analysis, who cares? What is vitally important, however, are the children of this country and the effort being made to manipulate them for political purposes. As my father reminded Shirley and me when our daughter was in preschool, "Danae is growing up in a world much farther gone into moral decline than the world into which you were born." How much more true that is today than then!

We just came through a Christmas season where, in many schools, traditional carols were prohibited and the birth of Christ could not be mentioned. Macy’s Department Store in New York City banned any reference to Christmas. Bible reading and prayer in schools have been outlawed, and since 1980, the Ten Commandments could not be posted on bulletin boards. The Ninth Circuit Court in California did its best to prohibit the words "under God" from being cited by children in the Pledge of Allegiance. On March 2, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments on government property. Easter has become "Spring Break," and the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ cannot be celebrated. But Earth Day can be observed in the curricula. "Father God" is out and "Mother Earth" is in. And in the midst of all this secularism, some schools that are having a hard time teaching kids to read, write and compute are giving precious classroom time to homosexual propaganda. That was the observation that motivated my remarks, not some fictitious cartoon character that children love. If you believed the media after having heard me and read my books for years, the question I would ask is, "Why?"

Parents, I urge you to keep a close eye on your sons and daughters. Watch carefully everything that goes into their little minds. Monitor their textbooks and the words of their teachers. Do not turn them over to harmful television programs. When God’s name is used in vain, or when sex and violence come on the screen, turn off the tube and then read and discuss together the scriptures found in Psalm 103:1: "I will set before my eyes no vile thing" [NIV]. Read uplifting and inspiring stories to your children daily. This obligation to teach your children biblical truths continually is unmistakably written in Deuteronomy 6:6-8, which tells us:

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands, and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. [NIV]

Focus on the Family will continue to help you fulfill this task of bringing up your children "in the fear and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). If you have little ones at home, you might consider signing up for our Focus on Your Child program, which provides a wealth of resources that will help parents implement a decidedly Christian approach to raising children. This donor-sponsored service delivers practical, age-appropriate advice and encouragement right to your home each month. In addition to receiving newsletters and audio journals, members have round-the-clock access to a Web site filled with helpful articles and topical advice. For more information, please visit our Web site at

Thank you for helping us continue to nourish and defend the institution of the family. We would appreciate your help in two ways. First, to pray for us as we seek to fulfill this mission, and second, to assist us financially as you can — after you have met your responsibilities to your local church. Together, we can make a difference.

Sincerely in Christ,

11:50 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Bush breaks with GOP on same-sex unions

Washington, DC, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- President Bush broke with the Republican Party platform in supporting states' rights to permit same-sex civil unions.

"I don't think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that's what a state chooses to do so. ...

"I view the definition of marriage different from legal arrangements that enable people to have rights. And I strongly believe that marriage ought to be defined as between a union between a man and a woman.

"Now, having said that, states ought to be able to have the right to pass laws that enable people to be able to have rights like others," Bush told ABC's Charlie Gibson in an interview broadcast Tuesday on "Good Morning America."

"So the Republican platform on that point, as far as you're concerned, is wrong?" Gibson asked the president, to which Bush replied: "Right."

9:15 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Education chief rips PBS for gay character
Network won't distribute episode with animated 'Buster' visiting Vt.
The Associated Press
Updated: 7:53 a.m. ET Jan. 26, 2005

WASHINGTON - The nation’s new education secretary denounced PBS on Tuesday for spending public money on a cartoon with lesbian characters, saying many parents would not want children exposed to such lifestyles.

The not-yet-aired episode of “Postcards From Buster” shows the title character, an animated bunny named Buster, on a trip to Vermont — a state known for recognizing same-sex civil unions. The episode features two lesbian couples, although the focus is on farm life and maple sugaring.

A PBS spokesman said late Tuesday that the nonprofit network has decided not to distribute the episode, called “Sugartime!,” to its 349 stations. She said the Education Department’s objections were not a factor in that decision.

“Ultimately, our decision was based on the fact that we recognize this is a sensitive issue, and we wanted to make sure that parents had an opportunity to introduce this subject to their children in their own time,” said Lea Sloan, vice president of media relations at PBS.

Airing in Boston
However, the Boston public television station that produces the show, WGBH, does plan to make the “Sugartime!” episode available to other stations. WGBH also plans to air the episode on March 23, Sloan said.

PBS gets money for the “Postcards from Buster” series through the federal Ready-To-Learn program, one aimed at helping young children learn through television.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the “Sugartime!” episode does not fulfill the intent Congress had in mind for programming. By law, she said, any funded shows must give top attention to “research-based educational objectives, content and materials.”

“Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode,” Spellings wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of PBS.

“Congress’ and the Department’s purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television.”

She asked PBS to consider refunding the money it spent on the episode.

First act as secretary
With her letter, Spellings has made criticism of the publicly funded program’s depiction of the gay lifestyle one of her first acts as secretary. She began on Monday, replacing Rod Paige as President Bush’s education chief.

Spellings issued three requests to PBS.

She asked that her department’s seal or any statement linking the department to the show be removed. She asked PBS to notify its member stations of the nature of show so they could review it before airing it. And she asked for the refund “in the interest of avoiding embroiling the Ready-To-Learn program in a controversy that will only hurt” it.

In closing, she warned: “You can be assured that in the future the department will be more clear as to its expectations for any future programming that it funds.”

The department has awarded nearly $100 million to PBS through the program over the last five years in a contract that expires in September, said department spokesman Susan Aspey. That money went to the production of “Postcards From Buster” and another animated children’s show, and to promotion of those shows in local communities, she said.

The show about Buster also gets funding from other sources.

In the show, Buster carries a digital video camera and explores regions, activities and people of different backgrounds and religions.

On the episode in question, “The fact that there is a family structure that is objectionable to the Department of Education is not at all the focus of the show, nor is it addressed in the show,” said Sloan of PBS.

But she also said: “The department’s concerns align very closely with PBS’ concerns, and for that reason, it was decided that PBS will not be providing the episode.” Stations will receive a new episode, she said.
© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


10:15 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Zero Tolerance

February 2, 2004
By The Plaid Adder

Editor's note: The Plaid Adder is still on hiatus. This is a special one-off column.
Yesterday I forced myself to read through Dr. Dobson's defense of his attack on SpongeBob Squarepants at a Focus on the Family event. While I found it 100% emetic from beginning to end, I do want to point out that he is absolutely right about one thing. The mainstream media coverage of this story has, as it so often does, oversimplified the story by reporting it as, "Dobson accuses SpongeBob of being gay."

As Dobson quite rightly points out, he never did say that SpongeBob himself was gay. He did something much more sinister and much more dangerous, and I am coming out of retirement to explain exactly what that was and why, as ridiculous as Dobson has made himself and Focus On The Family look, we are making a big mistake if we fail to take what's happening here seriously just because it looks crazy to us.

Dobson's argument throughout, both in his original 'remarks' and in his post-controversy apologia, is that SpongeBob is now "promoting homosexuality." How? By appearing in a video put out by the "We Are Family Foundation," which is intended to, as they put it in their press release, "promote tolerance and diversity to America's children."

Now, to understand why this is terrifying, it is essential to realize that there is actually no mention or representation of homosexuality, or sexuality in any form, in the video itself, which is just a cover of the disco hit "We Are Family" featuring the voices and images of many different characters from popular children's programs. All it does is what the press release says it does: celebrate the idea of a common humanity that unites all of us in one global family, and which the We Are Family Foundation makes bold to say might encourage children to learn and practice such notoriously radical values as "loving thy neighbor."

Is the We Are Family Foundation some kind of gay rights organization in disguise, as Dobson charges? If they are, it's a pretty good disguise. The "About Us" section of indicates that the organization was founded in the weeks after September 11, 2001 - when, if you will recall, there was a mini-epidemic of hate crimes against Muslims, Arab-Americans, and people who were mistakenly identified by their hysterical attackers as Muslim and/or Arab-American. The original writers of the disco hit "We Are Family" thought their song might be useful as a way of counteracting this by "promoting our common humanity and the vision of a global family."

So... how do you get a pro-homosexual agenda out of this? Simple. You turn to a different right-wing organization, the Family Research Council, which was good enough to explain the logic to a baffled reporter at the National Business Review:

A "homosexuality detection expert" at the similarly conservative Family Research Council told the NY Times that words like "tolerance" and "diversity" are part of a "coded language that is regularly used by the homosexual community."

In other words, the very concept of tolerance - the idea that we should all try to live together in peace and harmony instead of being constantly at war with each other - is now obnoxious to the religious right. Tolerance is a bad thing. Tolerance, in fact, will make your children gay. And since being gay is absolutely the worst thing in the world that could possibly happen to them, we must all fight tolerance anywhere it lurks - on the beaches, in the hills, in the streets, and of course in big yellow pineapples under the sea. We must never be misled into tolerating tolerance where it encroaches on our families, our schools, or the public airwaves. We must work ceaselessly and with constant vigilance toward that glorious day when we can say, finally, that we have achieved zero tolerance.

This is the point at which, for many mild-mannered moderates, the brain begins to freeze up, and to refuse to process the argument. How can you argue that being tolerant of other people is bad? What's so wrong with not insulting people, or abusing them, or excluding them, or discriminating against them, or trying to teach your children not to do the same? Isn't tolerance what allows a society like ours, with so many different ethnic and religious groups coming out of so many different national or regional traditions, to function smoothly without erupting into violence? Wouldn't creating a nation of intolerant people be, uh, dangerous? So now these people are saying that teaching tolerance is bad and wrong? Sorry. That can't be. I keep trying to understand that, but all I'm getting is an error message.

Indeed, Dobson claims in his post-SpongeBob screed that he has no problem with the concept of tolerance, no doubt because he realizes that that would make him look bad. Unfortunately, the rest of his piece completely undermines that assertion. There's so much to choose from, but here's the money shot, right here:

Every individual is entitled to respect and human dignity, including those with whom we disagree strongly. The problem is not with acceptance or kindness, certainly. But kids should not be taught that homosexuality is just another "lifestyle," or that it is morally equivalent to heterosexuality. Scripture teaches that all overt sexual activity outside the bonds of marriage is sinful and harmful. Children should not be taught otherwise by their teachers, and certainly not if their parents are unaware of the instruction. (Emphasis added)

So, from Dobson's point of view, it's all right to tolerate gay people as long as you make it perfectly clear that we're sinful and harmful and riding the hell-bound express. And the reason it is necessary to impress upon all people, children especially, that we are sinful and harmful and riding the hell-bound express, is that otherwise, you're teaching them something that goes against "Scripture."

How children are supposed to be able to figure out how to accept or be kind to people who are designated by all the adults they ever hear from as sinful, harmful, and hell-bound is a question Dobson doesn't seem to feel a need to address. But the real problem here, stated baldly for all to see, is Dobson's unquestioning assumption that no child should ever be taught something that contradicts what Dobson and his fellow-fundamentalists believe to be the One True Reading of the One True Scripture. Even in a public school classroom, where not all the students are Christians, and not all the Christians are fundamentalist evangelicals, it is not permissible or justifiable to teach anything that contradicts the fundamentalist Christian world view.

In other words, what these people really want is to create a world in which their value system is the only one that is ever made available to children. That's why they're always exposing themselves to ridicule by targeting cartoon characters. True, a grown man looks pretty ridiculous saying the words "SpongeBob Squarepants" at a black-tie dinner; but though that grown man may be a lunatic, he's no fool.

The religious right has correctly determined that television has a tremendous impact on children, and they have also correctly determined that much of the programming currently available for children is being produced by people whose first priority is not to indoctrinate their audience with the principles of one particularly extreme sect of one particular religion. The right has responded by producing their own children's programming, which allows them to use the electronic babysitter to manipulate children just like all the other advertisers do.

But for them, you see, it is not enough that their point of view is represented. It has to be the ONLY point of view available. Because once you give people alternatives, then they have free choice, and then they might choose the wrong thing, and then they would go to Hell, and it's Dobson's job to save us all from that terrible fate.

Now, there are Christians who would argue that free will is what makes humanity unique, and that God wanted us to have it, and that that's why he allowed Eve to eat the apple in the first place instead of striking the tree with lightning as soon as she reached for it. But that doesn't seem to be part of right-wing fundamentalist doctrine. They want a monopoly - on the schools, on the airwaves, in the political arena, and, well, anywhere they can establish it.

Well all right, you say, I get that; but why is 'tolerance' a challenge to their monopoly? Isn't 'tolerance' a kind of a, well, kind of a Christian value? I mean my Sunday school training is spotty, but seems to me I remember hearing things like, uh, "turn the other cheek," "forgive your brother not seven times but seventy times seven times," "take out the giant beam in your own eye before you go looking for tiny specks in other people's," "love your neighbor as yourself," and wasn't there some story about Jesus stopping a bunch of people from stoning a woman who had committed adultery by reminding them that there were some other sins in the world?

And as long as we're talking about other sins, if Jesus was really as worried about homosexuality as these fundamentalist types seem to think he is, how come he never once mentioned it?*

Well, see, we're really only dealing here with a specific kind of Christian, and this specific kind of Christian takes a very different view of who Jesus was and what he was put on earth for. This specific kind of Christian is also convinced that any attempt to encourage tolerance of - or even to represent - homosexuality is simply a veiled attempt to recruit. Why? Because all of us tend to assume that everyone else, under the skin, is really just like us. Therefore, people who themselves are aggressive, tireless, fanatically driven recruiters - as many evangelical Christians are - assume that everyone else is recruiting too.

Dobson, himself, would never stop at simply encouraging tolerance of fundamentalist Christianity. The whole point of being an evangelical is that your goal is always, and everywhere, to convert as many people as you can reach.

Fundamentalist demoninations have come up with a number of ingenious methods of recruiting new members, often relying on things like the "classic bait and switch" (come for the free food - stay for the Bible study!) that they accuse the We Are Family Foundation of pulling with the video. There are plenty of fundamentalists out there who have no problem with extortion or coercion as a prelude to conversion (one is reminded of the enterprising preacher in Iraq who was offering American soldiers a chance to bathe on the condition that they would let him baptize them). Naturally they assume that everyone else around them is constantly trying to do the same.

The idea that for others it might be enough just to get people to acknowledge their basic human rights simply doesn't compute. If you believe something, how could you NOT devote your life to forcing everyone else to believe it? Isn't that what everyone does?

It isn't, then, that the fundamentalist right-wing rejects tolerance so much as that they simply do not believe it really exists. 'Tolerance,' as they understand the world, can only ever be a mask for evangelical zeal. So anything that promotes 'tolerance' is necessarily promoting recruitment and conversion, and therefore must be stopped.

The course of recent history appears, to them, to provide proof of this assertion because, in fact, as our society has become more tolerant, there appear to be a lot more gay people in it. Actually, it's easy enough to understand why that's happening: as it has become less painful and risky for gay people to acknowledge their sexuality, more of them are coming out. Slamming the door on tolerance will not reduce the number of gay people in this country; but it may well reduce the number of gay people who are willing to identify themselves as such, and increase the number of gay people who deny themselves, their desires, and their chance at happiness by attempting to live as straight people.

And that's exactly what they want. The ultimate goal of things like the anti-SpongeBob crusade and the push for a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is to begin the process of forcing gay people back into the closet. That way, their children will never even know that a Plan B exists; and so no matter how miserable Plan A makes them, they will, in theory, stick with it, even if it kills them.

Well, all right, you say, but really. SpongeBob? This Dawson guy is a lunatic. Fundamentalist Christians make up a minority of the American population, overall. What bozo would really allow extremist wing-nuts like him to dictate public policy?

Meet Margaret Spelling, new director of the Education Department. Spelling has told PBS - which produces and airs much of America's children's programming - not to air an episode of Postcards from Buster in which Buster the bunny visits Vermont to learn about how to make maple syrup, and meets a child whose parents are a lesbian couple. "Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode," she said. And furthermore, "Congress's and the department's purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television."

This is what makes the SpongeBob controversy not funny. It's one thing for a crazy man to make an ass of himself in public by frothing about the subversive dangers of cartoon miscreants. Spelling's missive to PBS proves that under the Bush administration, this minority has accumulated enough political and social clout to dictate to the rest of the country. "Many parents" may object to this episode, but many other parents don't, and still others are deeply offended and bitterly angry about the fact that the head of a government department funded with their tax money has just ordered PBS, on pain of losing federal funding, to pretend that either they don't exist or they exude a radioactive toxicity that will blight and destroy any child exposed to them.

The "many parents" who win are the "many parents" who support Dobson's view of Christianity and of the world. A friend of mine called up her local PBS affiliate to complain about their refusal to air the episode, and was told by a trembling lackey, "We don't want to offend anyone." That doesn't make any sense; they are offending large numbers of people by caving in to Spelling on this issue. What he really meant was, "We don't want to offend anyone powerful." They have their orders: reproduce the world view Bush's backers want, or suffer the consequences of the king's displeasure.

At the same time, we are learning that the Education Department paid pundit Armstrong Williams $240,000 to promote No Child Left Behind, and that Health and Human Services has paid at least two conservative pundits for promoting Bush's "marriage initiatives." These are not isolated and unrelated incidents. SpongeBob, Buster the bunny, and the three payola pundits are all characters in the same story. The Bush administration is using its power to turn a minority religion into the dominant - and, eventually, the only - public viewpoint. They are subsidizing journalists to plant articles that create the impression that there has been a spontaneous 'sea-change' in public opinion about marriage and the family, when in fact the people who appear to be 'reflecting' this change are actually being paid by the government, with our tax dollars, to produce it. They are also using the power of the executive branch to squelch opposing viewpoints.

Right now, they are doing it to us, because they figure they can get away with it. But my straight brethren and sistren, I urge you to pay attention, because we are the canary in the coal mine. The crackdown on tolerance and diversity hits us first, because it is still socially acceptable for people who aren't Trent Lott to demonize us and discriminate against us. But remember, the We Are Family video is not about us.

It's about the acceptance of difference and the recognition of a basic human kinship that transcends ideological, confessional, gender, and national boundaries; and it was produced by an organization dedicated to stopping Americans from turning on their Muslim and Arab-American neighbors in the wake of 9/11. Dobson wants the whole project suppressed - he says - because some of the peripheral materials associated with the video include GBLT people in their anti-discrimination message. But my feeling is that we are simply being used as a means to an end. Through us, he's attacking the basic idea that difference - differences of race, creed, class, and sexual identity, but also differences in world view and opinion - should be valued and respected instead of hated, feared, and fought.

These cartoon characters are serious business. Spelling is right about the "powerful and intimate" nature of television. It's precisely because they recognize its power that the right wants to control what comes out of the box. And for the past 35 years, with Sesame Street leading the way, the dominant ethos in children's educational programming (as distinct from, you know, the crap that corporations produce just to sell toys with) has been that children's TV should teach them to cooperate with, respect, and learn from cultures and people who are different from them. And that has had an enormous impact.

I was born the same year Sesame Street premiered. Sesame Street taught me to read. It also introduced me to a universe very unlike the suburban neighborhood in which I was growing up. It was set in an urban neighborhood tenanted by a multiracial cast in which working-class families were well represented. It introduced me to a whole range of brightly colored creatures who expanded my idea of the boundaries of the possible, and to a zany sense of humor that taught us to expect the unexpected and greet it with shrieks of delight. I was enthralled by it, and the effects were lasting and permanent.

Once, when I couldn't have been more than 7, I visited a friend of my mother's and was flabbergasted when she told me that she thought Sesame Street was "just awful." I asked her why. She said, "It's teaching children Spanish!" I still didn't get it. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with learning Spanish. Weren't we supposed to like learning things? Wasn't that what school was for?

Now, of course, I realize what that woman's problem was. And, in her own way, she was right: Sesame Street didn't make me a Spanish speaker, but it did teach me enough Spanish so that I now recognize a number of words and I could still count to 20 in Spanish if you gave me enough time and a few do-overs. Spanish doesn't now seem to me like a completely foreign language. It's more familiar, and therefore less frightening, and when I hear people speaking Spanish, I don't think of them as aliens from a hostile planet. And the ideological descendants of this woman, 35 years later, want to make damn sure that no PBS program gets a chance to do for gay people what Sesame Street did for African-Americans, Latinos, the disabled, Native Americans, and all the other cultures and identities that were represented on that show.

This battle matters, people. No matter how stupid it looks. This is not just about whether same-sex parents will ever be visible in children's television, or whether gay people will ever be treated right in this country. This is about whether the voters of the next generation will believe that tolerance is a virtue to be encouraged or a vice to be avoided. These people are playing long ball. We have to understand the importance of what they are doing, and dedicate resources to fight it. Otherwise our children - or, well, your children, in Bush's brave new world I am clearly not entitled to have any - will grow up not even knowing what tolerance means.

The Plaid Adder's demented ravings have been delighting an equally demented online audience since 1996. More of the same can be found at the Adder's Lair.

*Nope. Not once. The prohibitions on homosexuality in the Bible are all included either in the Old Testament or in Paul's letters. Jesus never went on record on the subject. Read the Gospels if you don't believe me. They're very interesting, and there's a lot in there that you're never going to see the fundamentalists discuss. But I digress.

10:16 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home