By Jay Hansen
I’m sure by now you’ve heard of this Chick-fil-Armageddon sweeping the internet, most of all Facebook, by now. Dan Cathy, President of Chick-fil-A, recently reinforced his anti-gay beliefs by saying that we are invoking “God’s judgment” for our “a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.” In other words; gays bad, straights good. Bigotry is no more appropriate or moral just because you change “I think you’re inferior or unequal” to “My God thinks you’re inferior or unequal,” Mr. Cathy.
But that’s not why I’m writing this article. This news story has gone so viral it’s starting to bother me because it’s such a non-issue. A southern-based restaurant chain owned and operated by a devoutly Christian, strongly conservative family is opposed to gay marriage… WHAT THE HELL ELSE IS NEW?!
This isn’t new. The owners of Chick-fil-A have been public about their opposition to same-sex marriage for years now. On top of that, Mr. Cathy has every right in the world to say as many pig-ignorant things he wants about marriage; being an American, he has that right. All the same, I have the right to never go to his restaurant again. What I find significantly more troubling about the restaurant isn’t what the owner says, but rather what he does. Going all the way back to 2003, Chick-fil-A has given at least $5 million to very outspoken anti-gay hate groups, which is the original reason why I stopped eating their food years and years ago. Mr. Cathy has even said that he would fire anyone who “has been sinful,” indicating he’d fire an employee simply because of their sexual orientation. Obviously, this is far more severe than simply saying dumbass things about the definition of marriage.
So given that, let me set a few things straight
Do I disagree with the Owner’s comments? Absolutely
Will I ever eat there again because of it? Not likely
Am I shocked by this news? Of course not
Am I shocked by the fallout of this news? Yes. I’ve seen friends of mine who aren’t political at all start huge conversations on Facebook about this story. I’ve seen people strongly support boycotting them and mocking supporters, and I’ve seen others show a disturbing, newfound sense of pride in supporting anti-gay activism. I find it most disturbing because a significant portion of the people in the latter category are those that are almost never politically active, and yet the feel incensed to get involved on this issue to show that they’re anti-gay. Really? I would have hoped that we’ve moved beyond this, or at least the people I consider friends would have.
Which brings us to perhaps the most prevalent comment, and persona type A, I’ve yet encountered in regards to this issue; people claiming that just because they support Chick-fil-A doesn’t mean they’re anti-gay or bigots. Now it’s true, people who have always visited the restaurant and continue to at their same pace unperturbed aren’t necessarily anti-gay; they just really don’t care, or are ignorant. Honestly, I’ve no problem with those that don’t care. I’d prefer them not to, but emotionally I just can’t help but let it roll off my back as “eh, it’s a free country,” so I don’t count these people among persona type A. I wouldn’t expect these people to care enough to actually help LGBT causes, or any social cause for that matter, so I won’t waste my breath and time trying to convince them to do so, least of all by discontinuing business with a restaurant they genuinely seem to enjoy.
Because hell, even I’ll admit; they’re waffle fries were really damn good, and as far as highly processed chicken goes, it was good too (bare in mind it’s been at least six years since I ate there last).
Persona type A specifically refers to those people who supposedly have this newfound idea in their head that they have to support Chick-fil-A to protect free speech. “I’m not anti-gay,” they’ll say, “I just support their right to freedom of speech.” First of all, let’s start with the obvious; you’re intentionally going out of your way to show your support for freedom of speech, something that everyone supports without having to say it, by supporting specifically those that spread hatred or at least intolerance of others. There are hundreds of ways to show your support of freedom of speech, but you choose to do it by giving more money to the people using their right to it to express how inferior they believe a certain group of people are? What does that say about you? I’d like to ask these people a question; if the owner of Chick-fil-A had come out and said that he believes interracial marriage is immoral because non-white people are inferior, don’t’ deserve equal rights, and spent millions of dollars influencing law makers and funding racist organizations to prevent minority races from attaining equal rights and protections under the law, would you still be just as supportive of their rights to free speech? Would you still proudly take pictures standing in the restaurant, proclaiming to the world you stand by this company? If so, I again ask, what does that say about you?
So persona type A falls into two separate sub-categories; anti-gay bigots that use freedom of speech as a very, very thin veil of conscious or subconscious homophobia, or those that are so vapidly ignorant that they are incapable of thinking outside of the box that the media and the establishment have so well constructed for them. Sadly, I honestly believe the latter is the more prevalent ones among my Chick-fil-A supporter friends. They all agree freedom of speech is good, and the media and political pundits go on and on about how this is an issue of free speech, therefore, in their simplistic way of thinking about social political issues, Chick-fil-A has done nothing wrong and needs to be protected and supported from those that would oppose the company. From this persona type’s perspective, they were just exerting their right to free speech, therefore anyone who would oppose them or be offended by their comments must be opposed to the freedom of speech, and not the content of the speech (let alone, as I said before, the much more serious issue of the company’s actions as opposed to their President’s words).
Long story short, if you’ve always supported Chick-fil-A because they genuinely have good food, that’s fine. You may be a little ignorant, but that ignorance is layered over every facet of society and not specifically the political-social issue arena. If you’re only just now discovering a passionate support for Chick-fil-A, congratulations, you’re either one of the blindly ignorant sheep of society or you’re an anti-gay bigot (even if you don’t realize it).
Persona type B similarly has two subcategories. Type B can easily be summed up with one word; trolls. We all hate trolls. Trolls are those that give people grief for pretty much no reason other than to make them upset or elicit some other emotional response. In this issue, they exist on both sides. Obviously, however, one is more offensive than the other. I’ll start with the less offensive and bothersome of the two, the anti-Chick-fil-A troll. Here’s an image I found (yet another shared on facebook) in regards to which companies these Chick-fil-A supporters are actually supporting.
Like I said, I’ve less of a problem with this kind of post as it is designed from a more informative angle. It’s true; if you’re supporting any of the companies you likely used to get to Chick-fil-A or while you were there, odds are you supported far more companies that support same sex marriage than are opposed to it like the restaurant itself. Ignorance, however, is tragically powerful. Those that want to support Chick-fil-A will still do so despite this fact, and facts, as you know, enrage and terrorize the small and closed-minded. Everyone else that still falls under the type A persona supporter, however, is massively ignorant or delusional in believing that they’re only supporting freedom of speech by eating at Chick-fil-A, so they don’t care about what pro-gay or anti-gay companies they may or may not support in the process. So really the only problem I have with this image is that it basically will do nothing to actually stop a vast majority of those supporting Chick-fil-A (at least that I’ve encountered) because they’ve been tricked into thinking their support is based solely in defending freedom of speech. The bigots will be trolled, which is fine and hilarious. Just as we all support free speech, everyone (sane) loves poking and prodding at the racists and bigots of our society.
But then we encounter the problem of trolls from the other side of the issue. Again, here’s yet another facebook picture I saw perfectly exemplifying what I’m talking about.
(I know you’re not supposed to take on trolls head on, just like bullies back in school, but sometimes you have to stand up to the bully and beat the crap out of them. If not for the sake of delivering unto them what they deserve, you do it for yourself, so here I go.)
There’s a huge difference asshole, and it’s very easily explained. First and foremost, Chick-fil-A is a restaurant, a luxury, whereas oil, for many Americans, is a necessity. Secondly, and most important, is the obvious fact that Chick-fil-A is but one of thousands of restaurants around the country. It’s a true free market where people have choice in service and product providers. When it comes to oil, people do not have the same option. I can hardly call it a monopoly necessarily, but especially given how little information there is out there about exactly where the gas at your local station originated it’s also not fair to say people have a choice in which oil producing nations, organizations, or companies they support. Yes, it’s tragic some of the things many companies around the world do, from grievous human rights violations to suppression of labor rights. It’s also sad that many companies and industries that use such unethical practices often have location-based monopolies, such as a small town that only has a Wal-Mart for its primary source of consumer goods. If you don’t want to support slavery in parts of east-Asia, too bad; you don’t have a choice in the matter because it’s the only store in town. This is perhaps the most prevalent reason I consider myself a progressive; I support reasonable government regulation to ensure that these abuses of other people, be they physical, inhumane treatment or more legally-based such as in the case of worker’s rights, do not happen, or at least are minimized to a reasonable level within the prevue of human nature. Doing so would allow people to more freely support businesses without worrying if their money is going to unethical treatment of fellow human beings. This is why we need regulation. This is why we need campaign finance reform to prevent companies and organizations like Chick-fil-A, Wal-Mart, OPEC, Target, or any other from outspending voters to purchase our elections and dictate policy that allows their abuses to continue (at least within American jurisdiction).
Now that my fervent progressivism has shown its head once again, I arrive at the final person I’ve encountered yet in the Chick-fil-A scandal, persona type C, the Chick-fil-A opponent.
Like both other types, they too have sub-categories; those that just now have started opposing the company, and those that always have. For those that only just now started to voice opposition to the company, good for you. I mean, you are a little late to the party. The company has already done over $5 million in damage to LGBT equality and causes, but I guess better late than never. I can only hope that the people in this category aren’t just on this bandwagon on the idea that it’s just some sort of fad, but that would ask that people actually have principles and ethics. All too often in America, that’s asking too much. As for those that have always been opposed to Chick-fil-A, and those just now joining the opposition in earnest, whom I am among, I can’t really say anything more than don’t give up. As Michelangelo Signorile of Huffington Post aptly put it; we may have lost this particular battle, what with how it’s being framed and depicted in the media as a free speech issue, but we’re still winning the war on the issue of gay marriage. The biggest problem with the boycott of Chick-fil-A was that there was no centralized leadership or organization to it, which led to the anti-gay groups Chick-fil-A funds to smell weakness and attack. Those few political leaders that spoke out against them, mostly consisting of mayors considering banning the restaurant in their towns, quickly withdrew any opposition to the restaurant after the media fired back with charges of opposition to freedom of speech, just as I previously described. There was no good way out of it either, as pulling back at that point after such accusations would make one appear guilty of that charge.
There wasn’t a centralized effort and the framing was set by the opposition, which made the politics for our side troubling if not an outright no-win situation. Nonetheless, polling on same sex marriage is still heavily in our favor. For over a year a majority of Americans have been in favor of legalizing gay marriage, and support has only grown significantly since then. So, like I said; just keep on keeping on. We progressives are on the right side of history on this issue, and once again conservatives are on the wrong side. I’m very confident that victory on this issue is inevitable, eventually, especially if Obama wins re-election (credit where credit is due; it has been one of the few issues he’s pretty good on).
But where does that leave me and Chick-fil-A? Well, let me tell you a story I heard on the internet some time ago in a discussion about corporate sponsorship of candidates and elections. Back in the 70s Colonel Sanders, the real guy that founded KFC, was interviewed and asked a question about the hippies and the “peace” movement. He was an old fashioned southern style guy, so naturally, he disagreed with them politically – possibly quite strongly. I say possibly, however, because he almost never indicated so publically or wove his political ideology into his business. To answer the question about what he thought of the hippies, Sanders replied, “Well, they eat chicken, don’t they?”
He answered this way because Sanders knew business had no place in the political arena, and perhaps more importantly, it would be bad for business to pick a side. Chick-fil-A, sadly, will have to learn this lesson the hard way. Sure, right away it may have been a short-term publicity boom for them, but something tells me they’re going to have a harder and harder time bringing in new customers as younger and younger crowds grow ever more supportive of gay marriage and oppose the closed-mindedness so flagrantly and carelessly tossed out there by the owners of the company.
Emotionally though… I really, truly, honestly do not freaking care.
Thank you, Captain. It’s the simple, sad truth, and how I feel about the issue. WHY is this news? Why should a chicken restaurant be participating in social-political discourse? Why are the words of the President of the company only just now catching people’s attention, when their actions over the past nine years have been far worse? I’ve been a spectator in every single one of the dozens of comments and discussions in my personal social media circle thus far largely because so many participants in the conversations don’t have a fucking clue what this issue is even about, let alone politics in general. It’s almost become an entirely kitschy, empty-calorie political story to me because so many people are so uninformed or clueless in regards to the real issues and real story at hand. Virtually every comment I read can fall into one of these categories:
Persona type A1: Ye-haw! Chick-fil-A rocks because they hate them queer-o-sexuals! I don’t hate them myself, personally, necessarily… but my God sure as hell hates them!
Persona type A2: I don’t hate gay people. And I love freedom of speech. The man in the TV told me this is an issue of free speech. So people who oppose what Chick-fil-A said must oppose free speech. And I love free speech… did I say that already? So I have to support Chick-fil-A. And 2+2=5, right?
Persona type B1: You know you support more pro-gay companies eating at Chick-fil-A than you do anti-gay companies?
Persona type B2: Cool story bro, but there are tons of even more powerful, monopolistic companies that oppose gay marriage and even kill gays that you have no choice in supporting. U mad?
Persona type C1: OMG U GUYZ I HERD ON FB DIS CHICKIN PLACE HATES GAY PEOPLE DUNT EAT THERE (Posted via mobile device. LOCATION: Chick-fil-A, downtown Derpville).
Persona type C2: Where have you been for the past nine years?!?! OF COURSE Chick-fil-A is anti-gay! Welcome to the war, partner.