One story that made a few national headlines this week structurally falls into this category, but it actually does have a larger national significance, which probably accounts for the relatively sparse coverage it has received--certainly no feeding frenzy, here. On the surface, it's about an evil preacher in North Carolina who raved at his congregation about how, if they had young children who were displaying any characteristic that may be interpreted as homosexual, they should violently abuse said children. The greater significance of the story is that it gives a little glimpse into the reeking sewer of blackest fascism that has, for years, gestated in right-wing fundamentalist churches across the U.S. America has a serious fascism problem. These sorts of churches, like a lot of religious radio and television, are one of its incubators.
North Carolina is on the verge of voting on one of those anti-gay-marriage ballot initiatives that have become so painfully common in recent years, and it stirred the soul of Sean Harris, the putrid pastor of the Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina. His inadvertent public service is that, in his Sunday sermon, he elected to give us all a look at the abyss of hatred that lurks behind such initiatives. Have a 4-year-old that acts "a little girlish"? The good pastor Harris says you should be "squashing that like a cockroach." If the boy has a limp wrist, "Dads,... walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch, o.k.?" And so on. A mere transcript doesn't do his performance justice. Listen to it here.
What you're hearing, there, isn't just some mouthy, mentally deranged asswipe in North Carolina. What you're hearing is the voice that puts human beings in ovens. It's a voice that, in various degrees of extremity, is so often reflected in the larger body of Republican party politics today. Sometimes, it's helpful to hear it in its unvarnished, not-cleaned-up-for-public-consumption form. When the story became news, Harris offered up an "apology" in which he revealed even more of his character:
"I did not say that children should be squashed. I have never suggested children or those in the LGBT lifestyle should be beaten, punched, abused (physically or psychologically) in any form or fashion. The gospel is the only source of power sufficient to deliver anyone from the power, penalty, and presence of all forms of sin, including but not limited to, all forms of sexual immorality, including homosexuality."But apparently not extended to either advocating the violent abuse of children or lying about having done so. Having absolved himself of these, he goes on to say he may have "unintentionally offended" some, and chosen his words poorly. And he can't resist claiming this became a story because "various blogs" have engaged in "the intentional framing of my words without the context of the entire sermon." He's the victim, you see? He doesn't explicitly say "the liberal media" or "homosexual activists" were behind misrepresenting him, but that's the only part of the standard litany he leaves out.
Earlier this week, Lawrence O'Donnell, on MSNBC, offered a razor-sharp takedown of this cretin and his "apology."
Where he fell short is the same place most of the rest of the coverage fell short: O'Donnell focused on Harris himself.
Harris's behavior brought this to public attention, but he's not the real story, here. The real story, which is far more horrible, is the reaction of the assembled churchgoers while Harris raves on. He's saying things any human being with even a trace of decency in them would find utterly appalling, infuriating, and absolutely unacceptable, yet no one--not a one of them--offers even a single word in objection to it. No one gets up and leaves. Instead, it's all "amens" and "hallelujahs" and "yeahs" and laughter and applause. In his non-apology, Harris writes "I have received nothing but notes of appreciation and support from the people within the church." If there's one thing Harris has said throughout all of this that can be believed, that's it.
That's the real story.
And that's the real horror.
North Carolina votes on that anti-gay amendment Tuesday.