It’s a common meme now for conservatives to try to hold themselves up as victims, but especially when they are trying to cast aspersions on others and are, in part or in full, prevented from doing so. They then immediately look for any event that could show a double-standard, and, without really thinking about it very hard, indignantly shout about how they are being mistreated.
Part of it is simply a matter of wannabe martyrdom, somewhat of a long-standing niche favorite amongst conservative Christians. Take this story of a woman who went to Walgreens to get some bible verses printed up. The clerk noticed that there were images in the documents that could constitute a copyright violation. The woman was asked to sign a waiver stating that she attested to the fact that she had the rights to print them. Fox News elevated this to a national-level story about how Walgreens was discriminating against Christians by making the ludicrous claim that Walgreens had somehow claimed that the bible verses were under copyright, with the implied meaning that Walgreens just wanted to harass Christians because, you know, whatever. Even after everything was made clear and the store even offered to print the documents for free, the conservative media still trumpeted this as an attack on Christianity.
A more specific form of this phenomenon is when conservatives are on the defensive regarding some issue or another, and try to use some event in the news or elsewhere to show how the opposition is being hypocritical. After Ferguson, for example, when it was becoming more publicly clear that white police officers are killing unarmed black men in large numbers, conservatives rushed to find any cases at all of black police officers killing unarmed white men. They found a few, and proceeded to make a huge deal about it. “Why aren’t liberals in an uproar when this happens?” they lamented. The obvious reply: because that’s just two cases. It’s not a few hundred each year. Show me a rash of black cops killing unarmed white men on a massive scale, nationwide, and I’ll join in your indignation.
Another aspect of this is when conservatives accuse liberals of being okay with something when it happens against Christians but not when it happens against Muslims. For example, after a Christian bakery refused to make a cake for a gay wedding, some conservatives came up with a great idea: let’s go to Muslim bakery shops and see if they refuse to make the same kind of cake. Some Muslim-run businesses in fact did refuse, and conservatives whooped it up: “See! A Muslim bakery did the same thing, why aren’t liberals upset about that?!? It’s because of a witch hunt against Christians!!”
Except that the point is stupid. If a Muslim bakery had been the one to refuse service in that first now-famous case, the result would have been no different. Liberals and activists would have been just as appalled and the media reaction would have been the same—or, actually, stronger, as right-wing news sites would likely have piled on in that case as well. Liberals never said that Muslims discriminating against gays was okay or more acceptable; conservatives simply jumped to that conclusion without even asking. Nor have liberals had the chance to really protest, as these bakeries did not refuse any actual service—just fake, partisan, gotcha-style we’re-the-real-victims-here idiocy, which is kinda hard to rally behind. If tomorrow a gay couple went to one of these bakeries (which, you’ll have to admit, are not exactly everywhere) and they refused service, the protest would be no different than if another Christian bakery did so. But not because of some asinine political stunt.
This conservative desire to be outraged has become almost a reflex reaction now, with right-wingers taking offense at the drop of a hat, assuming that anything that could even remotely be a sign that something may be biased against them is in fact full-fledged persecution, and running full-speed to the media crying about how they are being victimized, without first bothering to check if their outrage is in any way justified.
This is in some ways similar to the right-wing practice of banning Sharia law, as if there were somehow a real danger of Sharia being instituted publicly anywhere in the United States, so of course we have to make special laws to avoid that. We’re so much in danger of being subjected to Muslim authority that we have to take action now!
This bizarrely ludicrous fear came to light recently when Allen West published a blog post about how how “Sharia law” resulted in “Christian persecution” at a Walmart in Dallas.
There was a young man doing the checkout and another Walmart employee came over and put up a sign, “No alcohol products in this lane.” So being the inquisitive fella I am, I used my additional set of eyes — glasses — to see the young checkout man’s name. Let me just say it was NOT “Steve.”
I pointed the sign out to Aubrey and her response was a simple question, how is it that this Muslim employee could refuse service to customers based on his religious beliefs, but Christians are being forced to participate in specific events contrary to their religious beliefs?
Boy howdy, that is one astute young lady.
Imagine that, this employee at Walmart refused to just scan a bottle or container of an alcoholic beverage — and that is acceptable. A Christian business owner declines to participate or provide service to a specific event — a gay wedding — which contradicts their faith, and the State crushes them.
Except, as it turned out, that’s not why the sign was put up. The sign was put up because the cashier was underage, and so under Western law, he was not allowed sell alcohol.
It’s not just that West was wrong, it’s that he ignored a number of indicators that made it obvious that he was wrong. For example, since when does Walmart cater to the dignity of its employees, much less inconvenience customers and slow down business to serve their religious sensitivities? Second, if this were a case of catering to Muslim sensitivities, why only restrict alcohol sales, and not sales of pork products? Critical thinking rules also demand that you consider alternatives—which would not even have required West to think, only to ask either clerk why the sign was put up.
West processed none of this. He only saw an Arabic-sounding name and a no-liquor sign, and jumped right to the conclusion that he was being persecuted because he was a Christian. He did not do this mindlessly; he had to go to a good deal of trouble to connect certain dots. He just followed dots that served his interests and prejudices, and ignored the dots that any reasonable person would follow.
But hey, let’s imagine that West was in fact right, and that Walmart had inexplicably begun to go out of their way to respect the religious rights of their employees. Would this be, as West proclaimed, a matter of injustice because Christians were “crushed by the State” (that’s “State” with a capital “S”!) for the same kind of thing?
As it turns out, no. For two rather blatantly obvious reasons. First, Walmart was not refusing to sell alcohol, they just did not allow it in that one specific register line. West or anyone else could simply move to a different line and buy whatever they wanted. And second, Walmart was shutting down service in that one line to anyone buying alcohol, not just Christians or any specific group. If the bakery that refused to make a gay wedding cake had simply refused to make wedding cakes period, there would be no fuss.
But West’s indignation is even more striking, considering that liberals would not approve of even the one line being shut down because of the cashier’s religious beliefs—they would tell the cashier that if they don’t want to do what the job requires, they should take a different job.
It would, however, be exactly what conservatives want, which is the ability to refuse service of a specific type because it offends their religious beliefs —something that conservatives are fighting for, and have succeeded in enforcing by law in at least a dozen states, and have been reported to happen in any case in nearly half of all states.
But when the Walmart throws up a no-liquor-sales-in-this-line and the cashier is named Ahmed? PERSECUTION! SHARIA LAW! RUN FOR THE HILLS!!
Shoot off your mouth first, ask questions later.