Highlighting the “hypocritical liberal” is a regular meme of Stephen Miller’s Indegayforum CultureWatch blog. Miller’s contention is that when conservatives bash gays, everyone goes nuts, but when liberals reveal their homophobic stripes, nobody notices. So he points out the hypocrisy. Fair enough. Sounds like a reasonable enough blogging project to me. But does it work?
Unfortunately, the most recent three examples from Miller’s posts that I can find are positively loopy. First, there was his critique of Maureen Dowd’s “hateful Brokeback column.” It seems that she said jokingly that now John Wayne “sounds like a guy who might get arrested in a bus station bathroom.” In Miller’s eyes, this makes her “hateful” and “mean-spirited.” He is shocked, shocked, that none of the liberal “gay watchdogs” has criticized her column. Criticized her for what? For besmirching John Wayne? For suggesting that men who frequent bus station bathrooms might be less than completely savory? Or should we criticize her for mentioning a gay stereotype in the column, specifically playing off the stereotype that gay men are fashion-conscious and therefore concerned about having a “bad hair day”? I’m sorry. I’m not feeling the outrage yet.
Then Miller went after this cartoon by an “Iraq-war opposing, Republican-despising” cartoonist, Jeff Danziger. A joke between two cowboys concludes with one cowboy acknowledging an intimate relationship with his (talking) horse. He’s working on a screenplay. It’s a clever cartoon that parodies the slippery slope argument about gay marriage (let two cowboys marry, then you won’t be able to stop them from marrying a horse!) Once again, Miller doesn’t think it’s funny. He thinks the cartoonist is comparing homosexuality to bestiality, and that the only reason nobody’s complaining is that the cartoonist is liberal. Does that sound like a sensible response to you? I’m scratching my head.
Most recently, Miller attacks this parody of homophobes by Larry David. David, in his best deadpan style, says:
I haven’t seen “Brokeback Mountain,” nor do I have any intention of seeing it. In fact, cowboys would have to lasso me, drag me into the theater and tie me to the seat, and even then I would make every effort to close my eyes and cover my ears.
Later in the piece, David goes on to mock several other homophobic memes, including the ever popular “I have many gay acquaintances” defense. Miller seemed to miss the humor, implying that David should be called to testify about his presumably “unimaginably neurotic and puritanical” attitudes about sex and/or gays.
If these three examples are supposed to illustrate how there is a hypocritical double standard between liberals and conservatives on homophobia, count me unpersuaded. What they seem to demonstrate, on the contrary, is that conservatives can be humorless and tone deaf in their efforts to score points by attacking their opposition.
I’m willing to buy the idea of a double-standard, but not with evidence this foolish. There is something interesting about Miller’s rough efforts though that is mildly disturbing, a highly suspicious demeanor that overturns every liberal rock convinced that there will be a buried secret there. Like the sad efforts by religious fundamentalists to find gay conspiracies behind Tinky Winky or the Barbie doll, there’s something about this line of criticism that backfires badly. My advice to Miller and other conservative bloggers: if you persist in offering this line of critique, the next time you want to demonstrate a double-standard, pick examples that really, truly offend.
There are other examples Miller cites to prove his liberal hypocrisy meme (Mickey Kaus on Slate, a crtical movie review somewhere else). There’s no point in denying that liberals are capable of homophobic responses. If you look hard enough, you’re sure to find examples of homophobic liberals. I don’t find it a very interesting sort of blogging to score partisan points by tarring the opposition. Miller and other conservatives would attack liberals for not feeling outrage at liberal homophobes; but if they did, they would probably be attacked for being in a “victim mentality” by showing their outrage. They’re in a trap, a no-win situation.
What I think would be very interesting is looking at the different ways that liberals and conservatives each reveal their homophobia, for it doesn’t express itself in the same ways. When liberal Mickey Kaus got caught with his fingers in the homophobic cookie jar, you get the feeling that the moment came as a growth in self-awareness. He learned that his purported reasons for wanting to avoid the movie were more like lame rationalizations once he wrote about them and thereby began to hold them up to scrutiny, and later he acknowledged that he was learning stuff about himself. Why should liberals, or anyone, express outrage at something like that? Miller is demanding that liberals do just that in order to avoid charges of hypocrisy, but who wants to walk into an obvious trap?