While the American public clearly recognizes the problem with Dan Savage attacking Christian high school kids as “pansy-assed” for walking out on his anti-religious diatribe, the media either ignores the story entirely, or maintains that what he’s done is just fine. Instead of focusing on Savage’s bullying behavior, they’re focusing instead on whether he’s justified in his criticisms of the Bible – which, of course, is irrelevant to the question of whether Savage is a bully. The bullying question is the only question here – Savage has made precisely these same claims in the past, with no ramifications, because he wasn’t bullying people at the time.
There are plenty of anti-religious speakers who don’t bully their audiences, lick doorknobs, suggest that their opponents be murdered, and the like. But the media thinks that the message justifies the means of expression – and since they agree with Savage, all is well with the world.
Take, for example, the Los Angeles Times, which suggests that Savage is facing “a holy war” from conservatives. Yes, as it turns out, calling high schoolers pansy-asses while mocking their religion makes you a victim!
Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post simply puts the bullying issue aside, although that was the entire source of the controversy: “His crude language aside,” she writes, “can a public speaker to a bunch of journalists make the argument that religions are followed selectively?” Actually, she not only ignores his language, she ignores he was talking to high schoolers. Talk about burying the lede!
Boorstein isn’t the only writer at the Post to defend Savage. Alexandra Petri compares religious people to Josef Stalin – seriously – and says that Savage is justified in “sock[ing] him one right back,” because “Whoever said that words can’t hurt you was never hit on the head with large chunks of Leviticus.” So bullying is fine, so long as it’s of religious people. Even if we’re talking religious high school students.
David Graham of The Atlantic says that this is all “manufactured outrage,” and that while Savage “could perhaps have been less deliberately inflammatory,” the teenagers were at fault for walking out: “if these teenagers wish to become journalists, they will have to get very comfortable with listening to views they do not agree with, or even object to passionately. Savage may have set out to make a point about bullying, but he seems to have unwittingly taught a more important lesson about journalism.”
The Economist said that Savage’s words about the students were inappropriate, but added, in the same vein, “He could, of course, have opted to make a broader point: that nobody should be so quick to take offense; that journalists will hear a lot of things over the course of a career that they find offensive and even hurtful, and walking out anytime that happens will result in a short career and a narrow mind; that, however ugly his language Mr Savage was at least advancing arguments, and that surely at least one of those offended souls hoping to make a life out of words could have found a few to hurl back at him rather than just flouncing out in a huff.” So, as it turns out, Savage was providing a teachable moment to the students!
The hypocrisy here is insane. The same media that says that Rush Limbaugh is a bully for calling out Sandra Fluke – a woman who put herself in the public spotlight – says that Dan Savage is a hero for attacking Christian students who did nothing to earn his ire, save acting with dignity. When the palace guards come out, they sure come out in force.