As I wrote in a Tennessean op-ed column several years ago, whether you believe the Bible teaches that the practice of homosexuality is wrong or that condemning it is the greater offense, you have to admire the masterful public relations machine employed by the gay-rights community.
With great patience and PR skill, GBLT advocates have made incremental gains over the years by consistently advancing their cause as alternative lifestyles. As with any PR initiative that aims to change public opinion, they recognized early on the importance of winning over opinion leaders in Hollywood, the news media, government and education, and they proceeded to do so with great success.
In textbook style, gay-rights advocates have consistently positioned themselves as loving victims and repositioned those who disagree with them as hateful, ignorant bigots, similar to the way Scope so effectively cast Listerine as “medicine breath.”
Every once in a while, though, the T&T (Talk & Thought) Police go too far and there’s a backlash. Such was the case with last year’s Chick-fil-A controversy, which I wrote about from a PR perspective in a Baptist Press article.
Now another backlash is brewing, this one over remarks made by Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. What did Robertson say that got folks so riled? He had the audacity to warn people not to be deceived about what the Bible calls sin, citing I Corinthians 6:9-10. Talk publicly about the Bible and sin, and feathers will fly every time.
Robertson, like many millions of Christians (including me), refuses to conform his religious convictions to accommodate those who seek to legitimize a lifestyle he believes the Bible teaches is wrong. Speak truth and presto, we have instant “hate speech.”
Referencing the controversy, CNN’s Piers Morgan tweeted, “Just as the 2nd Amendment shouldn’t protect assault rifle devotees, so the 1st Amendment shouldn’t protect vile bigots.”
Morgan apparently believes that free speech should apply only to those who agree with him, and that he should be among the ones judging what is appropriate to say. Anyone who disagrees is, well, a vile bigot. Robertson was a bit crude in some of his language, but he’s not vile or a bigot.
If you want to see real bigotry and hate, read some of the things that have been said and written about Sarah Palin.
Agree or disagree with him, at least Robertson has a standard – the Bible. What standard would Morgan use to determine right and wrong? His own wisdom and insight? God help us . . .
As a society, we moved from adherence to traditional Judeo-Christian values to an obsession with tolerance and political correctness. Now we’re seeing a rising movement away from tolerance to suppression of speech and ideas that are unpopular with a large segment of liberal influencers.
People of faith have rights, too, and many are fed up with the clear teachings of the Bible being labeled as hate speech by individuals who either refuse to engage in conversation or lack the capacity to substantively discuss such issues, preferring instead to simply shut down expressions of alternative points of view.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is already feeling the heat in what is being called the biggest backlash in years.
The biggest loser, though, will be A&E. The network’s knee-jerk response to suspend Robertson lit a fire under his fans and scores of others who believe in free speech.
A&E could have simply issued a statement saying that Robertson’s views are his own, and that they do not reflect the views of the network. That’s PR 101, and it would have put an end to this thing pretty quickly.
My friend and PR colleague Chris Turner has written a post on his blog about the controversy titled, “Three interview tips you can learn from Phil Robertson.” I intentionally waited to read it until I finished writing this post so that it didn’t influence my thinking. Chris makes some great points about working with places like GQ. I previously wrote a similar post about ways to counter media bias, including my advice to avoid media outlets you know aren’t going to give you a fair shake.
In Robertson’s case, though, I’m not so sure he didn’t know exactly what he was doing. Look at how much conversation there has been about sin, morality and the Bible the last few days – which as a Christian is conversation he welcomes.