Dave Weigel, the new Washington Post blogger (whose bosses want him and his new co-workers to take aim at brands like Politico), finds himself in a heap of trouble, or whatever, after calling people who don’t believe in marriage equality “bigots.” Which is a silly thing to get upset over, because people who endorse discrimination are, by the very definition of the work, bigots.
No, really. That’s what it means to be a bigot: “one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.” Conservatives can dress up their defense of “traditional marriage” any way they want to, but it’s folks like Weigel who are guilty of nothing more than practicing journalism by calling shots when they see it.
The backlash against Weigel — hired away from the Washington Independent, where his job was to cover the right-wing — began with this tweet, which was followed by angry folks at Newsbusters, the right-wing version of MediaMatters, followed by the conservative AOL political blog Politics Daily, among others.
“Perhaps Weigel will turn out two decades from now to have been prescient,” writes Matt Lewis at Politics Daily, “but ‘bigot’ is awfully strong language for a person who is making the case for tolerance – and this comment simply reinforced a longstanding view among social conservatives that The Washington Post and most of the rest of the mainstream media are not only implacably opposed to their policy agenda, but personally hostile to them as well.”
Wrong. Wiegel is, this very minute, “prescient.” He is calling out bigotry where he sees it, and he should be commended for doing so. It’s about time reporters begin identifying opposition to same-sex marriage as a religious-based affront to equality. Fifty years ago, maybe we wouldn’t have called interracial marriage opponents “bigots”; today, we would, and should, do exactly that. BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT THESE PEOPLE ARE.
Concerned Women for America’s chief Penny Nance — A CAPITAL-B BIGOT — has the audacity to tell a reporter: “If (Weigel) ever tweeted that African-Americans are bigots on this issue he would no longer be employed by The Washington Post. His own arrogance disqualifies him as a serious journalist assigned to covering conservatives . . . for The Washington Post to assign him to cover Concerned Women for America is like assigning a weasel to watch the hen house.” Lady, your own advocating for the destruction of women’s rights disqualifies you to speak on behalf of women, let alone black Americans.
So it’s too bad that Wiegel is now caving — and apologizing for identifying marriage equality opponents.
Over the weekend, I got an e-mail from one of the organizations that campaign against gay marriage. The tone was boastful and celebratory about the push for a same-sex marriage ban in Minnesota. It irritated me enough that I tweeted: “I can empathize with everyone I cover except for the anti-gay marriage bigots. In 20 years no one will admit they were part of that.”
That comment offended some people, so I want to do two things. First, I apologize for calling same-sex-marriage opponents “bigots.” I was specifically referring to people who spend their working hours opposing gay marriage, not just people who vote to ban it. But those people aren’t bigots, either.
Second, let me explain what it meant. I’m a bystander in the same-sex marriage debate — I haven’t given to any cause on either side. But in 2006 I did vote against a Virginia same-sex marriage amendment, which passed. I didn’t, and don’t, think social issues should be subjected to votes like that. I don’t support much direct democracy in general — this is a republic, and we shouldn’t throw these kinds of decisions to the electorate at large.
(For what it’s worth, “Weigel’s politics are, as he says, ‘all over the map’: He views himself as a libertarian, though he opposes legal abortion in most cases. He is a registered Republican who voted for Ron Paul in his party’s primary, but says he has voted for the Democrat in every presidential election.”)
Weigel’s employer, the Washington Post, has a growing history of uneasiness with how it portrays bigots. With NOM’s Brian Brown, it ran a fluff piece, and its reporter later acknowledged some regret over its tone. And the paper’s public editor defended a decision to put a photo of two men kissing on its front page, because really, what era do you think we’re living in?
It is Weigel’s job, as an ostensibly objective reporter, to call the facts as he sees them. And if he sees bigotry, he is by all means responsible to identify it in his coverage. We need more journalists like him, willing to identify intolerance, hypocrisy, and outright lies. Like when a White House tells you one thing but does another, that is a lie. And the word “lie” should be printed. Just like the word “bigots,” when used to describe people actively endorsing discrimination, should be used when the definition fits.
And it did.
We’d say “give this man a raise,” but he doesn’t deserve one — unless “doing your job” qualifies.