I almost said something. Almost. Just stopped myself at the last minute. When I read that Donna Summer had died, I very nearly mentioned the whole controversy regarding alleged homophobic remarks she’d once said but decided against it. The woman was dead, her voice silenced forever. Inevitably, though, Scott Creney took her to task on the issue over on Collapse Board. Don’t get involved, don’t step in … too late. “But someone is wrong on the internet!“
My fingers made the decision before I did. “It didn’t happen. Like the bit about Mariah Carey wishing she could be skinny like those starving children in Africa, it’s just something someone made up that caught hold.” I present evidence, they present evidence, all of it from both sides he-said-she-said with no real proof of anything. But none of that matters, does it? (What do you want me to do? LEAVE? But then they’ll keep being wrong!”) Because ultimately it’s not about what Donna Summer supposedly said at all.
The comment underneath made that abundantly clear: Donna Summer was bad because religion is evil. That’s not the words used, but that was the point of it. I read last week a heartbreaking statistic: that 91% of those polled said that the first thing they think of when they think of Christianity is “anti-homosexual“. The very first thing. This is because when Jesus made his famous Sermon on the Mount, he denounced … bigotry, cruelty, arrogance, hypocrisy and lack of compassion. What he said about homosexuality was … oh wait. He didn’t mention it. Ever. (The oft-quoted verse is in Leviticus, which also bans short haircuts, tattoos, eating shellfish and wearing polyester.)
The real problem with religion is that people are involved, and it’s people who say stupid, maddening things. So, Donna Summer sued the New Yorker for $50 million for libel for accusing her of these homophobic remarks, and they settled, which suggests she probably didn’t. But what if she did? Well, you have someone who seeks fame and took cocaine. The former is symptomatic of an acute need for approval; the latter gives temporary feelings of self-confidence. Without knowing anything more, we can assume she really needed to feel accepted and liked. Take that same person and give them religion, and suddenly they’re part of the Club. They feel accepted, liked and part of the group, and anyone who is not part of the group is missing out.
Say that after converting to Christianity, she suddenly woke up one day and didn’t believe in God any more? Then she’d become one of those Atheists. Not an atheist, like someone who happens not to believe in God, but an Atheist like Richard Dawkins who goes around trying to “educate” the 70% or so of the world’s population who profess a faith that everything they know to be true is Wrong. If she was right-wing she’d be infuriating and if she was left-wing she’d be exactly the same, but with an extra dollop of smug. The common factor in all of this is people.
A while back, Cracked ran an article on logical fallacies that we use in arguments and I think of it basically every time I’m tempted to get drawn into yet another irritating debate on something that I don’t ultimately care much about.
“When they were shown proof [...] did they back down? Did they get this look of realization on their face and say, “Wow … if this is untrue, then maybe the other ‘facts’ upon which I’ve based my fringe beliefs also aren’t true. Thank you, kind stranger, for helping me rethink my entire philosophy!” That has literally never happened in the history of human conversation.
“It’s called the argumentative theory of reasoning, and it says that humans didn’t learn to ask questions and offer answers in order to find universal truths. We did it as a way to gain authority over others. That’s right – they think that reason itself evolved to help us bully people into getting what we want.”
That’s basically what internet message boards are for – they make us feel powerful by “winning” arguments, which we do not through superior reasoning but through making the other person give up first. Scrabbling around trying to find links to old Donna Summer interviews wasn’t about trying to help the other person gain a greater insight into the issues close to the singer’s heart; it was about being the person with the most points to win the round.
So, who’s really prejudiced here? Scott Creney, who jumped up to defend his Team (LGBT community) against the other Team (Donna Summer) without bothering to look at Wikipedia, which had the whole sorry saga laid out there. The commenter, who’s defending her Team against the other Team (Christianity) under the assumption that Summer’s mind had been twisted by a creepy cult. (Most Christians, even “born again” ones, are generally OK – they’re just sometimes smug because their Team is better than your Team. You know, like hipsters and ipad users. Beards are always involved somewhere.)
What’s my prejudice? For a start, I basically regard America as Deliverance with nukes. That’s right – all 300 million of them are screamingly bats*** insane with a terrifying arsenal of weaponry which is basically why British people are so polite. I mean, you can’t leave your front door without getting molested, oppressed, forced to have an abortion, forced not to have an abortion, blown up, turned gay, “cured” of being gay, subjected to Dickensian levels of poverty, lured into debt, executed by the state on false charges, force-fed weird food chemicals in giant portion sizes, and baptised by a screaming infant.
I know all this because you tell me this stuff every freaking day on Twitter. I am now absolutely f***ing terrified of Americans!
By which point I’m paralysed with the sheer bone-chilling horror of it all and quite beyond arguing with random people on the internet. It’s pointless, anyway.