The Problem with Trolling as the Future of Culture Wars
Mark Joseph Stern reports that the culture wars are making him want to move to a country without any Internet connections and I can’t blame him.
The fight over LGBT equality has taken a turn towards extreme trolling with a new lawsuit coming from Colorado. A man named Bill Jack went to an LGBT-friendly bakery and requested that the Baker make a homophobic cake. The cake was to feature a gay couple holding hands with an X over them and the words “God Hates Gays.” The Baker refused and now Billy Jack is suing the Baker for religious discrimination. This is seems to be trolling revenge for the recent successful suits against bakers who refused to bake wedding cakes for Same-Sex Couples because the bakers opposed Same-Sex Marriage on religious grounds.
I believe Mark Joseph Stern is right when he says that the two lawsuits are not comparable. He comes up with a truce for opponents and proponents of Same-Sex Marriage but believes that Same-Sex Marriage opponents will not go for it because: “But I am also extremely confident that the Bill Jacks of the world will not accept it. Why? Because the cake wars were never about what was written on a cake. The cake wars were about who was buying the cake. The Colorado baker who was sued by a gay couple didn’t face penalties because he refused to write “congratulations on your marriage” atop the cake. He was sued because he refused to sell the gay couple a cake at all, simply because they were gay. The baker wasn’t sanctioned for refusing to depict a pro-gay message. He was sanctioned for openly discriminating against gay customers by refusing to provide them a basic service.”
My question and concern is whether we are heading to a world where the Billy Jacks of the world are constantly engaged in games of trolling and gotcha and whether this will be good for Democracy. The Obama years has seemingly seen a lot of right-wing trolls spring up.
My more narrow question is who came up with the idea of this trolling lawsuit against the LGBT-friendly baker? Was Bill Jack acting on his own or is there a larger organization/movement behind him or did he merely get support once he got a refusal from the baker? There is a hidden intent here. I can’t see someone just going into a bakery and requesting a homophobic cake unless they knew there was a good chance of refusal and they wanted to play gotcha.
I am not a utopian. I think there will always be a percentage of the population that is homophobic and unaccepting of Same-Sex Marriage. I am also not super-religious (being a pork and shellfish eating Jewish person who goes to services two or so times a year) but I suppose that if someone has sincere religious beliefs about same-sex marriage, they are always going to have sincere religious beliefs against same-sex marriage. Not that this water carries any weight on the legal status of LGBT people who deserve all the rights as the rest of us.
I suppose the real issue is when do you realize that you are on the losing side of a political fight and let it go or change your priorities. To me the trolling indicates that there are people who are not willing to ever let it go and will fight to the bitter end and beyond. Who knows if this is just a one off or will be part of a broader political trend? Will it expand to gotcha actions against other minority groups.