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Latest Right-Wing Propaganda Ploy: Bullies of the Christian Right Pretend They're Oppressed

They act like they're the real victims.

The religious right has many potent weapons in its arsenal—sanctimony, bigot-pandering, and dishonesty rank right up at the top—but lately, pretending to be victimized seems to top the list. We have a soundbite-driven, points-scoring political culture that resists deeper analysis of the issues, making it perfect for bad actors to muddy up the issues. All you do is accuse your opposition of doing what you, in fact, are actually doing. If you want to oppress people, claim you’re being oppressed. If you want to deprive people of their rights, whine about how your rights are supposedly under attack. The idea is to confuse audiences about who is actually oppressing who long enough that they give up actually bothering to learn the truth. Unfortunately, it can be devastatingly effective propaganda. 

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s commencement speech at Liberty University was a masterpiece in this type of dishonest projection. Posing as a champion of free speech and freedom of religion, he actually made a chilling argument in favor of stripping both of those freedoms away from ordinary Americans, businesses and anyone who might disagree with turning this country into a theocratic state. He started by defending Hobby Lobby for trying to strip contraception coverage out of their employees’ own healthcare plans. “Under the Obama regime,” he argued, “you have protection under the First Amendment as an individual, but the instant you start a business, you lose those protections. And that brings us to the second front in this silent war: the attack on our freedom of association as people of faith.”

It’s all nonsense, of course. In fact, Hobby Lobby’s intention here is to reduce religious freedom by forcing their employees to adhere to certain religious rules in order to get the benefits they already earned. ( They have a history of trying to impose their religious dogma on non-believers through other means as well.) The only people in any real danger of losing freedom are women, who are in danger of losing their freedom to use their insurance benefits in a way that fits their personal beliefs.

But Jindal was just warming up, claiming the “Obama administration” was gunning to decide “who can preach the Gospel.” This outrageous conspiracy theory was justified, in his opinion, by supposed other attacks on “free speech,” namely that TV networks are reluctant to house the opinions of open bigots. “The left no longer wants to debate. They simply want to silence us,” he said of Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty, who was never silenced and has, to this date, been allowed to say any fool thing he wants. But he was briefly suspended from A&E, leading conservatives to decide that “free speech” means you have a right to your own TV show.

Jindal worked this entitled-to-a-TV-show argument in by referencing the Benham brothers, who lost a show they were working on for HGTV when it came out that they are hateful homophobes. Jindal called this a “demonstration of intolerance from the entertainment industry.”

The strategic projection was all over the place here. The intolerant people in this equation are the Benham brothers, whose intolerance of gay people leads them to support stripping gay people of actual rights, such as the right to marry. HGTV was instead making a show of their tolerance and their unwillingness to create a hostile environment for LGBT viewers and employees. Nor are any liberals opposing freedom of speech here. On the contrary, Jindal and his fellow conservatives seem to want to strip free speech rights from A&E and HGTV by compelling them to host speech coming from anti-gay bigots. Just as they define “religious freedom” as the ability to force others to use their own insurance policies the way you want them to, now they’re trying to define free speech as compelling companies to play host to speech they disagree with.

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