Now some of you will wonder, when a speaker addressing a national conference of high school journalists on the topic of anti-bullying measures starts a hateful rant against the Bible, religion, and any students in the audience who believe in either, why the speaker wouldn’t be the designated dunce. The speaker in this sorry case, however, was Dan Savage. Savage is a talented writer, a gay rights advocate, and a gifted humorist; he is also a very angry, self-righteous, arrogant gay man with a tendency to be unapologetically vicious. While it is true that angry, “take-no-prisoner” activists have their uses on the road to social change, lecturing about the evils of bullying is not one of them, because these people are themselves prone to bullying. No, the ethics dunces are the organizations that inflict such individuals on young, idealistic student journalists who didn’t travel to a conference to have a speaker call them “pansy-assed.”
That’s what the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association did when they irresponsibly invited Dan Savage to speak to the students, about 100 of whom walked out as Savage launched into an angry, but thoroughly Savage-like diatribe against Christians and Christianity.
Savage, has legitimate anti-bullying credentials, at least when the bullying involves gay kids. He is the founder of the “It Gets Better” project. He is also, not to mince words, a self-satisfied and and often mean-spirited jerk. He may hate people who bully gays, and many of those bullies may be motivated by a warped reading of the Bible, but in no way does that justify his hijacking what is supposed to be an inspirational and educational speaking invitation to vent his hatred, which is what he did to the unsuspecting students at the conference. At one point, Savage mocked the students who, quite appropriately, had left the auditorium under his barrage of anti-Bible vulgarity, saying, “You can tell the Bible guys in the hall they can come back now because I’m done beating up the Bible. It’s funny as someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible how pansy-assed people react when you push back.”
Only massive incompetence and failure to do basic vetting of their invited speaker could explain the two associations subjecting their young conference-goers to Savage’s inappropriate ravings. What they should have done in response was to issue a sincere expression of regret, apology and responsibility. But in the fine tradition of ethics dunces throughout recorded history, what was issued as a response to criticism was this mealy-mouthed gibberish:
“We appreciate the level of thoughtfulness and deliberation regarding Dan Savage’s keynote address,” the NSPA wrote. “Some audience members who felt hurt by his words and tone decided to leave in the middle of his speech, and to this, we want to make our point very clear: While as a journalist it’s important to be able to listen to speech that offends you, these students and advisers had simply reached their tolerance level for what they were willing to hear.”
What? So are you apologizing for the disgraceful conduct of your self-absorbed and hateful speaker, or aren’t you, NSPA?
“While some of his earlier comments were so strongly worded that they shook some of our audience members, it is never the intent of JEA or NSPA to let students get hurt during their time at our conventions.”
Wait…huh? Is the NSPA blaming the students for being too sensitive when their speaker on anti-bullying began using the language of bullies on them and their colleagues? Is the last sentence some kind of half-baked apology, or is the NSPA just saying “this wasn’t our fault”? Still, it is remarkable to see a weasel draft PR releases, since most of them are, you know, hunting rabbits.
As for Savage’s culpability, it is one of those frog and scorpion situations. Dan Savage is a wretched choice to have address students on anti-bullying issues, his laudable project notwithstanding. Like so many advocates for traditionally marginalized minority groups, his enmity for those who abused him throughout his life has left him eager for payback: he doesn’t oppose bullying; he only opposes bullying of people like him. If you hire Dan Savage to speak, you get Dan Savage. You shouldn’t depend on Dan Savage to make a principled decision to tone down his usual rhetoric just because it’s inappropriate for his audience. True, that’s what a responsible and ethical speaker would do, but if you want a responsible speaker you don’t invite Dan Savage. He acted like a jerk, but that’s how Dan Savage acts. If the JEA and the NSPA knew he would behave inappropriately, then they are responsible. If they didn’t, when all they had to do was do minimal research to see what they would be inflicting on their conference attendees, they are still responsible.
Either way, they are the Ethics Dunces.
[ Note: If anyone can point me to a transcript of Savage's entire speech, not just the Bible comments, I would be grateful. I can't locate them.]
Source: Fox News
Graphics: American Catholics
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