Hanlon’s Razor teaches us that even when a person may appear to be doing us wrong, it’s likely that there’s a simpler, stupider explanation:
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
Marriage equality, and gay rights as a broader ideal, is one such area where it’s easy to jump the gun and declare people to be acting evilly, when usually it’s just rampant stupidity coupled with an unhealthy dose of bigotry. Take, for instance, the British MP, Sir Gerald Howarth, who during the marriage equality debates in the UK, warned about the perils of an aggressive homosexual community. This spawned a mocking Twitter hashtag, #aggressivehomosexuals, with ditties such as:
Electrifying your garden fence and boarding up your windows will buy you valuable time in the event of an #aggressivehomosexuals apocalypse.
Of course, the irony of the term, aggressive homosexual is that if anything our history has been littered with examples of aggressive heterosexuals. Gay panic defence, gay beatings, gay lynchings, lesbian rapings – the list goes on. #aggressiveheterosexuals would in many cases be a more apt hashtag.
The problem with wantonly calling out behaviour as evil, of course, is that it dilutes the meaning of the word – and in turn, dilutes the description each time it’s applied. Evil is generally meant to be about profound immorality. Not just casual immorality spawned by stupidity.
The couple in New Zealand who decided that gay and lesbian couples couldn’t stay in their boarding house unless they slept in separate beds – not evil, just a good example of bigotry.
Equally, the Australian Senator who insisted that marriage equality would mean a next step of bestiality was just stupidly bigoted in his attitudes.
Then you’ve got the Australian Christian Lobby, a body about as unrepresentative of mainstream Australian christianity as you can get, running around blathering that same sex marriage will lead to large numbers of same-sex couples adopting children. That, they say, will result in another stolen generation, something the real stolen generation have deplored as highly insulting. As an individual act, it’s just histrionic bigotry; when you evaluate all the fervent denunciations of the ACL however, you’re starting to approach an organisation that is guilty of profound immorality, and thus worthy of the moniker, ‘evil’. Starting to. They’re not there yet.
If you want to see real evil in the arena of gay rights, you need to look at extreme right-wing fundamentalists who aren’t content with just fighting against civil rights in their countries, but also look outside their borders to destroy the lives of people in other countries.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa — Conservative U.S. Christian groups are setting up fronts in Africa to fight for anti-gay and anti-abortion legislation to promote their convictions, a report by a Boston-based think tank said Tuesday.
Huffington Post, US Religious Right Presses Anti-gay Laws in Africa, 24 July 2012.
When you look at the struggle non-heterosexuals have in various African countries, you understand that even in areas such as Australia without marriage equality, we’re doing pretty well by comparison. We don’t have governments legislating for us to be put to death, for instance. We aren’t directly suffering the most pernicious effects of these bigots. Their message is diluted in much of the western world, and unless you’re a believer in homoeopathy, that can only be a good thing.
Yet in places like Uganda, where hateful religious figures wander about ‘educating’ people? (NSFW link.) The people inflaming this bigotry on the ground, such as the preacher talking in the video, are bad enough in and of themselves. To think though there are powerful, rich religious organisations in the United States funding anti-gay movements – throwing fuel onto an already dangerous fire … that’s evil. That’s your profound immorality right there.
Be careful where you use ‘evil’, but make sure when you spot it, you call it out.