Clowns, prophets and the Chick-fil-A Flustercluck

I suspect James McGrath is probably right when he says, regarding Chick-fil-A: “Satire is likely to be a more effective weapon in the controversy … than protests and boycotts.”

That calls to mind an exchange from Robert Wiede’s Directors Guild  interview with Mel Brooks:

Q: On the surface, The Producers is simply good, silly fun. But do you take personal pleasure in the subversive element of making fun of Nazis? There are Nazi jokes in many of your movies.

A: Yeah. If you can make them seem foolish and silly, then you’ve won. But if you get on a soapbox and go head to head with Herr Hitler and Goebbels, you’re not going to win. They’re good at that [stuff]. But they’re not good at comedy.

It isn’t just The Producers, Brooks is always making fun of Nazis — in everything from Blazing Saddles to his bittersweet remake of To Be Or Not To Be.

But Brooks applies the same approach to other targets as well, because the same principle that holds for superlatively evil tyrants also holds for incomparably lesser bullies and bigots, prudes and scolds, Comstocks and corporate overlords. None of them is any good at comedy. “If you can make them seem foolish and silly, then you’ve won.”

And the good news in all such cases is that you don’t need to do much to “make them seem foolish and silly.” Since they are foolish and silly, sometimes all you really need to do is point and laugh.

As the flustercluck swept through the news this week, Conan O’Brien introduced us to Chaz the Intolerant Chick-fil-A Chicken:

YouTube Preview Image

This is not what “winning” looks like for Chick-fil-A. And it’s really not good news for the chain that Chaz was popular enough that he’s becoming a recurring character with his own catchphrase: “Eat up you Godless Sodomites!

Meanwhile, at Funny or Die, we find the great John Goodman as Col. Sanders — icon of the rival Kentucky Fried Chicken. “I love gay people, always,” Goodman/Sanders says. “And we’re open on Sundays.”

Kristie Stremel chimes in with the beginnings of a song.

People are laughing.

People are laughing and Chick-fil-A cannot laugh with them because they are laughing at Chick-fil-A. The joke has taken hold and they are the punchline.

And people are likely to be telling this joke for a long time — or at least until the company gives them a reason to stop.

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When white supremacy is 'conservative' (and vice versa)
  • Jim Roberts

    Yeah, because the words of the mayors? That’s at least threatening to free speech, quite probably in direct violation of it.

  • Tonio

    My post wasn’t saying that the company’s supporters were correct. I was asking which group is getting the supporter’s goat, the boycotters or the mayors.

  • Wingedwyrm

    Really, the 1st Amendment does play in here.  The 1st Amendment is what makes what Cathy wants to accomplish, via his donations to Family Research Council, illegal.

    That’s right, at no point does his personal faith get to be codified into law that he can use to bludgeon homosexuals with.

    So, what we have here is people defending Chik-Fil-A’s right to do verifiable harm to people absent the consequence of other people deciding not to, even tangentally, support that and, in order to defend said right, they’re referring to an Amendment that does not enshrine said right but does enshrine a right that Cathy, in effect, wants repealed.

    It’s either Oceana’s perfect doublethink in action or people just being selfish and stupid.

  • Nequam

    Relevant.  Also.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Can someone please tell me how refusing to zone a business violates the First Amendment? Cities do it all the time and sure, there’s lawsuits after the fact sometimes, but this is not some great omgfreedom thing like the CFA supporters want to make it out to be.

  • Mark Z.

    Can someone tell me how refusing to approve a building permit violates the First Amendment?

    Oh, it’s for a mosque, and they dragged their feet approving it because some dumbasses made a lot of noise about not wanting a mosque in town.

    In this case we’re talking about threats (I don’t think anyone has acted on this yet) to deny permits based on the political speech of the owner of the business. Local governments have lots of discretionary powers like zoning, but they can’t use those powers to retaliate against someone for speech they don’t like, just like they can’t refuse to zone a business because they don’t like your skin color.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     I thought it was because the building permit was denied explicitly because of what Cathy said rather than because his business violated any regulations in those cities. If the government is penalizing his business because of (legal) speech, they can do it to anyone. You’re right though, there have been problems with the past with municipalities using zoning regulations to punish people that they don’t like for whatever reason (driving racial minorities away from economic centers, denying Muslims the right to build mosques and community centers, etc) but just because misconduct occurs in the past doesn’t mean that it was acceptable then or should be accepted now.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Question for people who have superior Google-fu:

    I’ve seen a lot of people saying that the FRC are a hate group because they supported Uganda’s anti-homosexuality laws; and also people saying that, no, they didn’t support it. Alas, I am unable to find out one way or the other.

    Where can I find info about FRC’s opinion on Uganda?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    It’s probably both. I get the impression that some of these guys can’t tell the difference between being punished by the government and being opposed by ordinary citizens.

  • PJ Evans

     I understand they supported it, and pretty much wrote it.
    here’s one list

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     But in most of the US, they *can* refuse to zone a business because the owners are gay.

  • Lori

     

    But if you want to bury your head in the sand and reject the idea that a
    sizeable contingent of the overflow crowds were there to express a
    principled stand for freedom of speech, you’re certainly free to do so.  

    There is no free speech issue at stake. You can believe people’s self-serving (and woefully Constitutionally ignorant) yammering if you want, but anyone who was in a CFA to support free speech was in the wrong place.

  • Lori

     

    As I said, the voters were fully aware of his handling of the energy crisis  

    No, they weren’t. The full story of the blackouts wasn’t clear until long after the recall. People were assessing Davis’ performance and “leadership” based on false information about the source of the problem and the remedies available to Davis at the time. If the blackouts hadn’t happened and people hadn’t blamed Davis the recall campaign would never have gotten off the ground, let alone put Arnold in the Governor’s mansion. I wasn’t a fan of Davis as Governor, but the whole thing was bullshit pretty much from start to finish.

  • aunursa

    Lori, Slacktivist commentator: There is no free speech issue at stake.

    ACLU: There is a free speech issue.
    Boston Globe editors: There is a free speech issue.
    Chicago Tribune editors: There is a free speech issue.
    Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor: There is a free speech issue.
    Eugene Volokh, UCLA law professor: There is a free speech issue.
    Nate Silver, New York Times: There is a free speech issue.
    Glenn Greenwald, Salon: There is a free speech issue.
    Kevin Drum, Mother Jones: There is a free speech issue.
    Adam Serwer, Mother Jones: There is a free speech issue.

    Your opinion is duly noted.  And rejected.

  • aunursa

    The full story of the blackouts wasn’t clear until long after the recall.

    Not the full story.  But the public was aware that Enron played a central role in causing the blackouts by early 2002.  A great deal was known by the date of the recall election.

    Western Energy Crisis Chronology

    What would have happened if the blackouts never happened is a pointless question.  The price increases and blackouts did happen.  It was Davis’ actions in response to the crisis that demonstrated his poor management skills and lack of leadership.  One didn’t need to know the entire story to assess his performance, and to realize that a true leader would have done a better job of responding to the crisis.

  • PJ Evans

     The other issue they were making a big thing out of was him ‘raising the car tax’ – by which they meant he was ending the temporary reduction in registration fees, to which the GOP in the legislature had agreed when it was passed in the first place. Which made them two-faced liars, and they should have been called on it then, very very loudly.

  • PJ Evans

     There is NOT a free speech issue. Unless you consider financial support of hate groups to be free speech.

  • PJ Evans

     No, it didn’t play a role in the recall. If that had been part of it, everyone in the state would have been aware of it. Instead, we got a lot of talk about the ‘car tax’ (that is, the mandated registration fees, which decline with vehicle age).

  • Mark Z.

    That depends. Are they hate speech groups, or hate crime groups?

  • Lori

    The first amendment issue that the chicken chowers are going on about and the one that the people you listed are discussing is not the same. If you’ve read a couple blog posts from people who explicitly said that they were eating at CFA because a couple mayors said that CFA wasn’t welcome in their cities then I’ll grant that they may have been eating chicken to support free speech. However, if they didn’t explicitly, in so many words, say that the free speech issue was all about the mayors then I’ll retain my doubts.

    Because when the Right talks about free speech 99% of the time what they mean is the right to say shitty things and not face any consequences for it as long as they’re the “correct” shitty things. Virtually every person that I’ve seen talking about free speech (and I’ve seen a lot of them the last few days) meant that kind of free speech. You can tell because they don’t mention the mayors at all, but they sure do talk a lot about supporting traditional values and blah, blah, blah.

    You’re ability to find some non-representative thing and hang a whole case on it would amaze me if we hadn’t seen it so many times.

  • http://twitter.com/mikailborg Michael O’Brien

    Their opinions, should they be backed by citations, are duly noted and rejected. I have the right to say that I think Cathy is a jerk. I have the right to say his financial contributions hurt people. I have the right to say that because his financial contributions hurt people, people should stop buying his chicken. Absolutely fucking none of that takes away Cathy’s right to keep blathering on.

  • Lori

    Oh for fuck’s sake, you don’t have to send me a link about it, I was there.

    And I have no idea who the hell this mythical “true leader” would have been, but it wasn’t anyone who was actually an option. It wasn’t Bill Simon and it most certainly wasn’t Arnold.

    And there’s really no point in saying anything else about a decade old election in a state neither one of us lives in any more.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, because the words of the mayors? That’s at least threatening to free speech, quite probably in direct violation of it.
     
    My understanding is that Dan Cathy can say any damn thing he’s a mind to. This includes but is not limited to saying he’s going to open a restaurant that discriminates against LGBT folk in a jurisdiction that bans employee-discrimination against LGBT folk. What he’s not allowed to do is actually open that discriminatory restaurant in that nondiscriminatory jurisdiction. Preventing Cathy from infringing upon various rights of LGBT folk is not an infringement of Cathy’s right to free speech.
     
    Not, mind you, that anyone is actually doing anything to keep those discriminatory restaurants from opening in those nondiscriminatory jurisdictions. They’re just talking about it. Things that are most definitely NOT an infringement of Cathy’s right to free speech? Other people exercising their own free speech rights.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    So

    When cities say “Wal-Mart isn’t welcome” and point to Wally world’s bullying practices to their suppliers, their workers, and their customers, everybody applauds and Wally world just sort of mopes off, and nobody really seems to think this is news (even though the Wal-Martization of the USA should be a huge study in and of itself)

    But when cities say “CFA isn’t welcome” and point to the CEO of CFA openly endorsing discriminatory behavior

    all hell breaks loose?

    Ok, whatever.

    If ever Americans wanted to reinforce the “Americans are weird” stereotype? Well, they’ve done it in spades with this rally to support a homophobic bigot AND trying to cast it as some sort of divinely ordained right that any business shall do business whenever and wherever it pleases without the need to get permission from anyone.
     

  • aunursa

    No, it didn’t play a role in the recall. If that had been part of it, everyone in the state would have been aware of it.

    CNN: Genesis of recall rooted in California energy crisis

  • aunursa

    If you’ve read a couple blog posts from people who explicitly said that they were eating at CFA because a couple mayors said that CFA wasn’t welcome in their cities then I’ll grant that they may have been eating chicken to support free speech. However, if they didn’t explicitly, in so many words, say that the free speech issue was all about the mayors then I’ll retain my doubts.

    Three days ago on this blog I posted that most of the patrons would be there because they agree with Cathy.   I was wrong.  Even since we’ve begun this discussion , I’ve read several blog posts and articles and seen video interviews.  It’s certainly true that there were attendees who indicated that they were patronizing CFA to show support for Cathy’s position.  But many more people responded that regardless of their personal view on the issue, they were there to show support for his right to speak.

    Lori, if you want to retain your doubt, don’t let me stop you.  I’m only reporting what other people have said.  If you want to believe that they’re lying or that they are not representative of the customers as a whole, you go right ahead.

  • aunursa

    Except for the words “and rejected”, I agree with you.

    The free speech aspect came into play when local government leaders threatened to punish CFA because of Cathy’s expression of his views.

  • aunursa

    Oh for fuck’s sake, you don’t have to send me a link about it, I was there.

    I’ll let ya in on a little secret, Lori.  You’re not the only one who reads my comments.  The link wasn’t just for you.

    And there’s really no point in saying anything else about a decade old election in a state neither one of us lives in any more.

    Speak for yourself. 

  • aunursa

    Opposition to the opening of a Wal-Mart is based on Wal-Mart’s policies, actions, or the effect of a mega-store on the local economy.  Those are entirely valid reasons.  Threatened opposition by local government leaders to the opening of a CFA is based on the protected speech of the company’s owner.  The First Amendment does not allow government to punish a company because of the CEO’s protected speech.

    If the rest of the world cannot understand the difference, then too bad.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Question: If the owner of a company spends corporate assets on an outside agency that performs certain tasks, is that an example of “policies and actions” or an example of “protected speech”? Or does it depend on something else?

  • Lori

     Pardon me. I forgot that you’re still in CA.

  • Lori

    Even since we’ve begun this discussion , I’ve read several blog posts and articles and seen video interviews.  

    So “several” blog posts and interviews have changed your whole view of the composition of supporters of CFA Appreciation Day? Sample problems, you have them.

    The interviews are especially unlikely to be representitive. People have to be interviewed voluntarily and what are they more likely to say on the record, that they support free speech or that they hate the gays? If a TV station or newspaper is covering the story because they feel their customers are interested due to general support for Cathy and CFA, who are they more likely to quote, someone who says s/he’s there to support sacred free speech or someone who say the Lord tells him/her that gays are an abomination? Which one of those people makes the Tribe look better in public?

    But many more people responded that regardless of their personal view on
    the issue, they were there to show support for his right to speak.  

    To borrow from cyllan in the other thread—would they go to a cross burning to support the Klan’s free speech rights? If not, why do they think this is different? They’re either lying about their reasons or they’re incredibly shallow thinkers. If you want to act like they’re not that is of course, up to you.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Oh, please. Governments have punished and prevented all kinds of businesses. Cuban tobacco. Drugs of various kinds. Child labor. Pornography (in the past). Gambling.

    The only difference between ‘punishing’ CFA and punishing a numbers racket is that the numbers dude isn’t socially regarded as a member of the favored class.

  • Delurker

    You are going to defend hatred and bigotry by claiming it as a free speech issue? Are you glad that me and mine had to witness huge lines of bigots, and feel that we are the lowest of the low in this country? Do you really believe it is a free speech issue? What the hell is wrong with you? I am so disappointed and hurt by the actions of my neighbors, I don’t really have the words to adequately express my feelings.

    Shame on you, aunursa.

  • aunursa

    Question: If the owner of a company spends corporate assets on an outside agency that performs certain tasks, is that an example of “policies and actions” or an example of “protected speech”?  Or does it depend on something else?

    If the tasks are related to running the business of the company, then it’s “policies and actions.”  That said, if you could offer me a couple of hypothetical examples, then I could better answer the question.

  • aunursa

    If you don’t want to believe that the blog posts and interviews are representative, then don’t.

    would they go to a cross burning to support the Klan’s free speech rights? If not, why do they think this is different?

    The opponents of SSM don’t view it as a matter of civil rights or equal rights.  Therefore, they don’t believe that they are denying anyone a civil right.  The proponents of SSM who support CFA do see it as a matter of equal rights.  But they believe that opponents are merely misguided and not bigots.  Those proponents believe that reasonable people can disagree.  One of the bloggers I mentioned wrote, “I support same sex marriage, but I am not self righteous in my condemnation of those who don’t.”

    That’s all I’m gonna say on the matter.  I’m not going to try to further explain SSM proponents who patronized and continue to support CFA.  If you want to believe that they are insincere or irrational, go right ahead.

  • aunursa

    I haven’t defended Cathy.  I have said that while many patronized CFA to express support for Cathy’s views, many others showed up in response to the threats by government leaders in response to his statements.

    Do you really believe it is a free speech issue?

    The patrons are the ones who said it is a free speech issue.  I tend to believe people.  If you want to believe that they are hiding their true, sinister, hateful motives, go ahead and don’t believe them.

    Shame on you, aunursa

    [Yawn]

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I refuse to believe anyone is that ‘principled’ these days. Anyone who is srsly claming to wear a halo on their heads regarding being virtuous supporters of QUILTBAG people but also being virtuous supporters of ‘free speech’ is likely just grabbing for convenient cover to have an excuse to keep eating their favorite food without feeling guilty about it.

    If this was 1972 instead of 2012, I’d give more credence to the notion that people claiming to have complex reasons for their outward simple expression of support for something ostensibly distasteful are telling the truth.

    Why?

    Because people were taught their civics in those days, for one thing.

    For another thing, people at least grudgingly accepted the idea that governments had a responsibility to more than just the corporate bottom line.

  • aunursa

    Say, that SherryLevine is a piece of work, isn’t she.  She’s definitely the same bigot who has recently been commenting on the Volokh site.  If our host is alert, I’ll bet she gets banned by the time I return from my Shabbat break.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Sure. Suppose Sam, the CEO of HypothetiCorp, donates 5% of HypothetiCorp’s annual budget to Third Party Corp, an organization that devotes the majority of its budget to buying up public properties and painting them red.

    So if I’ve understood you, on your account whether we treat that as (protected) speech or (non-protected) corporate policy depends on whether having a lot of public properties painted red is related to HC’s business. If it is (for example, if HC is a paint manufacturer), then it’s the latter. Otherwise it’s the former.

    Yes?

  • Kubricks_Rube

    That she is. The comment of hers you linked to earlier is tame compared to some of the stuff she’s been saying in the other thread. She’s posting elsewhere on the Progressive Christian Channel as well. (As is our old friend Frank, assuming it’s the same guy- his views and manners certainly suggest it’s him.)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     See, Protip: If you say “I support equal rights for gay people, but it is okay that other people feel differently,” then you don’t actually support equal rights for gay people. “I won’t personally oppress you but I don’t believe you deserve to be protected from oppression by others,” is a position that probablyt makes you a better person than Cathy, but you still fall on the “bigot” side of the spectrum.

    Because that’s part of what “rights” mean. When you say “I support equal rights for gay people, but it is okay that other people feel differently,” what you really mean is “I don’t think you deserve equal rights, but I am magnanimous enough to grant you the privilege of being treated the way the full-people are.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    The proponents of SSM who support CFA do see it as a matter of equal rights.  But they believe that opponents are merely misguided and not bigots.  Those proponents believe that reasonable people can disagree.  One of the bloggers I mentioned wrote, “I support same sex marriage, but I am not self righteous in my condemnation of those who don’t.”
     
    Okay, fine, I admit it, I was horribly wrong every time I said someone who opposes same-sex marriage is a bigot. All those people are merely misguided.
     
    THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT OKAY TO OPPOSE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE.
     
    THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT OKAY TO OPPOSE ENDA.
     
    THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT OKAY TO SUPPORT UGANDA’S ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY LAW.
     
    Anyone who knows Chick-Fil-A supports the Family Research Council, which is at the very least everybody here, and who supports Chick-Fil-A anyway, is contributing to the opposition of same-sex marriage and the opposition of ENDA and the support of executing gay people in Uganda.
     
    THAT IS NOT OKAY.

  • Lori

    If you don’t want to believe that the blog posts and interviews are representative, then don’t.  

    And now we get to the heart of the problem. Whether or not the posts and interviews are representative or not is not a matter of opinion.

     

    The opponents of SSM don’t view it as a matter of civil rights or equal
    rights.  Therefore, they don’t believe that they are denying anyone a
    civil right.   

    So they support SSM as what? Some sort of gift that the straights might agree to give the gays or not, as they see fit?

     

    Those proponents believe that reasonable people can disagree. 

     

    Spoken like a person whose ability to exercise full civil rights doesn’t depend on marriage equality becoming legal.

     

    One of the bloggers I mentioned wrote, “I support same sex marriage, but
    I am not self righteous in my condemnation of those who don’t.”  

    This is such a load of self-serving crap. Is this wonderfully open-mined and tolerant blogger also not self-righteous about people who think that African Americans should still be sitting in the back of the bus?

    Oh wait, under some mystery logic marriage is not a civil right so it’s totally not the same. How ever convenient for that blogger.

     

    If you want to believe that they are insincere or irrational, go right ahead. 

    And if you want to participate in their self-congratulatory delusions about their beliefs you go right ahead.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    To add to your commentary: The coarsening of the US political dynamic from the 1970s to today is another reason I’m less sanguine about supposedly “principled” stances taken by people who write or speak for public consumption. Given how much of our views of the world can be shaped and molded by well-paid PR flacks who spend a great deal of effort deducing how to massage perceptions, on the one hand, and on the other hand, this affects even relatively ordinary people who start to have an eye on the camera or audience when they talk or write. Supposedly ‘straight from the heart’ is anything but.

    So self-serving fatuous rhetoric becomes the order of the day as society and culture, ever more attuned to the almighty dollar and instant gratification along with superficiality overlaying everything, rewards dishonesty towards oneself and towards others.

  • aunursa

    Question: If the owner of a company spends corporate assets on an outside agency that performs certain tasks, is that an example of “policies and actions” or an example of “protected speech”? Or does it depend on something else?

    Suppose Sam, the CEO of HypothetiCorp, donates 5% of HypothetiCorp’s annual budget to Third Party Corp, an organization that devotes the majority of its budget to buying up public properties and painting them red.

    I’m sorry, I misunderstood the question.  I was thinking along the lines of a tasks directly relating to the corporation, like an outsource or subcontractor.  I don’t know why I was thinking that … I must have been spaced out.

    If the task is not related to the running of the HC business, then it’s a donation, and does not constitute “company policies and actions.”  Companies are allowed to donate money and items of value.  The government may not punish individuals or companies for making a donation. 

    If I’ve understood you, on your account whether we treat that as (protected) speech or (non-protected) corporate policy depends on whether having a lot of public properties painted red is related to HC’s business.

    No.  If the task is related to HC’s business, then the action is “policies and action.”  Depending on the task/expense, it may also be protected speech, since the categories are not mutually exclusive. 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Just to make sure I followed that… on your account, if I run a company and spend corporate assets on a donation to a second organization which performs a task with that money, that’s not “company policies and actions,” no matter what the task is.

    If, instead, I spend corporate assets on hiring a second organization to perform a task (like an outsource or a contractor), it might be “company policies and actions” (if the task is related to my company’s business) or it might not.

     And none of this determines whether it’s protected speech or not.

    Did I get that right?

  • Delurker

     Go to hell.


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