Alex Blaze

Gay dog whistles

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 23, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Anita Bryant, gay marriage, Maine, marriage, marriage equality, McDonalds, Nate Silver, pedophilia, people, same-sex marriage

Nate Silver got phone-banking talking points from the No (homophobic) campaign in Maine. Under a title that says that they've "literally stopped making sense," he summarizes the arguments as they'd be heard by a normal, functional human being who has no major problems with LGBT people:

1. The new law won't make gay marriage equal to straight marriage. Instead, it will create a new kind of marriage in which gay people and straight people are equal.
2. Although we may not have proven any connection between gay marriage and public education, our opponents haven't disproven the connection, and it's their fault that the subject came up.
3. If gay marriage is upheld, then marriage will exist solely to make people happy.

Indeed, those arguments either don't make sense or are unpersuasive reasons to ban same-sex marriage. But they were never meant to make sense in terms of logic. While the anti-gay side in Maine has been beaten back better than in any other marriage ballot initiative campaign I've seen, their basic arguments still ring true to their followers, and, they're hoping, to enough people who don't really know too much about the issue to win.

Each of these arguments isn't about saying what they mean, it's about sending people messages to make them angry and scared while staying polite. When we listen to the dog whistles, the arguments change to this:

1. You know how society's gone downhill since the 50's, what with the culture and abortions and jobs being shipped overseas and impoliteness and kids having kids and all? Vote no to express your resentment about that.

2. "Homosexual + children = homophobic hysteria" is a winning formula, so try to push that in these phone conversations even if it's not really true. We want people to be thinking about their own kids being turned gay at school via child molestation by gay teachers as they vote.

3. If same-sex marriage is upheld, then marriage will exist to make people happy, not just men. People will be confused because they won't know their gender role, and there will be general chaos as people have to figure out their lives for themselves instead of a benevolent authority you agree with telling them what to do. Again: abortions, jobs being shipped overseas, impoliteness, and kids having kids.

These are good taglines in a serious discussion because they get their points across. These arguments might not make sense to people who don't have a problem with LGBT people or "the culture," but to those who do, or who have free-floating fear around these issues that they just can't place, these talking points will speak to them.

And they've won far more of these campaigns that they've lost with the same arguments. In fact, the talking points spend a lot of time pushing "homosexual marriage in schools" because people have been voting to keep gays and lesbians out of schools since the 70's (remember Anita Bryant?). It's the most popular homophobic tactic in the book.

They've been staying away from religion in Maine because it isn't part of the Bible Belt, true, so they've had to focus almost entirely on kids and schools, but, then, I'm not going to say right now that it won't work. They've won ballot initiatives with less. They won't really "convince" anyone on the other side, but it's not like they need to.

In this election, turnout will be key. It's not a presidential election, it's not a Congressional election, it's not even an election for statewide office. It's a few initiatives and some local elections, and that's it. That's why the Yes campaign has been focusing on turnout, and I'm sure the other side is doing the same. These arguments won't do anything to turn someone against same-sex marriage, but they're trying to get their folks, their base, the average, inactive homophobe in Maine out to the polls. And scaring them is an easy way to do that.

The polling in this election is immaterial at this point because we can't assume that people will turnout or that we know who will turnout. State officials said this week that they've already been overwhelmed with absentee ballot requests, so people are engaged. But is it our people, their people or no one's people who are engaged?

It's be easier to get a straight fundie to the polls than to get a straight ally out there. Fundies get fired up easily. They get fired up when they see an unmarried woman going to a Planned Parenthood clinic. They get fired up when the cashier at McDonald's speaks with a Spanish accent. They get fired up when they think the government is going to take over Medicare. They get fired up when schools talk about a certain elected official in SF in the 70's.

Our side? Outside of people who are actually L, G, B, or T or are close to someone who is, it's an abstract issue that they don't think affects them personally. So we'll see.

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"If gay marriage is upheld, then marriage will exist solely to make people happy."

Changing it from its original intent of causing misery.

You know how society's gone downhill since the 50's, what with the culture and abortions and jobs being shipped overseas and impoliteness and kids having kids and all? Vote no to express your resentment about that.

Hell, I might vote no now! Oh, wait. I'm just grumpy tonight. Get off my yard, you damn kids. I need some Sanka.

the_czarina the_czarina | October 24, 2009 2:52 AM

hey, alex.
excellent post!
you really speak the truth about the subliminal memes that plague a painfully large segment of straight society.

these people aren't teabaggers and wingnuts; but their willful ignorance, self-centeredness, inability to think outside their traditional comfort zones, and lazy lack of attention to facts when their are talking heads to do their thinking for them are every bit as dangerous with their one vote.

introducing myself: i'm a long-time lurker and rabid (won't use 'fierce')straight ally - an old bitch with teeth. folks at my workplace, strangers in supermarkets, and anyone who i can collar, quake at my prostelytizing;)

and, no; by choice, i'm not a breeder so do not have any queer children, though i do have dear queer friends: i come by my progressive activism and commitment to civil rights as if i were born that way:)

i don't blog (except on myspace; don't laugh now) but i belong to a small number of active 3-D GLBTQ groups here in New York, and also belong (and donate) to a shitload of netroots GLBTQ sites.

all eyes are on Maine now, of course: and all the pennies in our piggy banks should be going to this one.
you know better than me that there are other imperatives up the yinyang to come - many won't have to do with just marriage, but with basic civil and human rights - but we have some momentum, this issue is upon us, and the religious right social reactionaries need a big, fat black eye NOW.

by the way, what brought me 'out' to write here is that - call me crazy - but it appears that your blog is saying Yes is No, and No is Yes.

am i reading you wrong?
NO ON 1/MAINE EQUALITY is the correct vote.

the_czarina the_czarina | October 24, 2009 2:54 AM

how the hell do i delete one of my doubled comments?

please do it for me?

Done. No problem. Mistakes happen. :) Glad you decided to stop lurking and join the conversation.

FANTASTIC post Alex! I'm forwarding this about!