The Church of Satan and Chick-fil-A

Remember in 2012 when the fast food company Chick-fil-A got in trouble over Dan McCarthy, the owner of the company, making public statements about how he opposes same sex marriage on the grounds that it opposes his Christian beliefs? Well after 2012 I was under the impression that the controversy had sort of gone away, though I later found out that the company has apparently continued to donate to anti-LGBT groups. But apparently the Church of Satan has gotten dragged into all of this a few days ago, over a few comments they made on Twitter about recent developments related to Chick-fil-A.

On Friday, the Texas governor Greg Abbott announced via Twitter that he had recently signed a bill known as Senate Bill 1978, which has also been colloquially dubbed the “Save Chick-fil-A Bill” despite not being specifically about Chick-fil-A. According to the bill, the state or other governmental entities are prohibited from taking “adverse actions” against private companies in response to the stated beliefs of the ownership. This in practice means that a company cannot be denied loans, agreements, grants, contracts or other benefits from the state, nor can they be barred from making tax deductions for charity events, nor can they be denied access to a property for forum for their purposes, among numerous other things, all based on the religious views expressed by the company or its leadership. The bill seems to have gotten the nickname “Save Chick-fil-A Bill” in response to Chick-fil-A recently being barred from opening a franchise at the San Antonio airport by the San Antonio City Council due to the anti-LGBT stance attributed to the company, most likely through the owner’s statements and the donations made to anti-LGBT groups. You can make of the bill itself what you will, but it can inferred that it has something to do with the rhetoric of “religious freedom” that has been employed by conservative US politicians over the years. Indeed it shows in Abbott’s tweet when he ends it with the statement, “Texas protects religious liberty”.

So how did the Church of Satan get involved in this one? Someone on Twitter responded to Greg Abbott’s tweet by mentioning that his business donates to the Church of Satan and bragged about how if he faced discrimination in Texas (presumably from Christians) then he could sue and win. The Church of Satan responded to this reply by asking the person not to get them involved, saying “Please leave us out of this”. When another person asked what the Church of Satan’s opinion on Chick-fil-A was, the Church of Satan responded by saying that they don’t have an opinion on the subject, saying “We don’t. Leave us out of it.”. Apparently, it was this that resulted in the Church of Satan being condemned on Twitter by progressives. Such condemnation would be understandable, perhaps even justified, if the Church of Satan took a decidedly wrong opinion on the subject, or at least straight up said that they support Chick-fil-A or Dan McCarthy (which would be absurd because that would mean the Church of Satan siding with Christian conservatism), and to be fair some of the condemnation I’ve seen still is understandable from the perspective that they are refusing to state any opposition to religious reaction, but there is a side of the condemnation that is essentially just calling the Church of Satan a far-right organization at the moment where no far-right opinion was actually being expressed. It’s a classic case of “if you are not with us, you are against us”, and I find it very fitting that such a line is being taken in particular by two Muslims. It seems that the progressives have not figured out that the Church of Satan has a policy of not getting involved in political matters or making political statements (at least not as they please anyway).

Now I must state for the record that I do not agree with this philosophy of non-involvement and non-engagement with politics, in fact I think that for them to be not evangelizing a political message attached to your organization while both their Christian enemies and their progressive rivals seize the opportunity to wage culture war puts them in grave danger of becoming irrelevant to the larger social environment (a sentiment that would surely find me no favours in the ranks of the Church of Satan). But the fact is, the Church of Satan has no desire to get itself involved in politics as a matter of organizational policy. It’s not exactly in our power to change this, and to be honest I don’t think even the membership has any real say in that, not that most of the membership are inclined to disagree anyway.

I do, however, find it quite telling that all you have to do to be a far-rightist these days is to not have an opinion on a given subject. Not even have the wrong opinion on something, just not having an opinion on something apparently suffices. Again, “if you are not with then you are against us appears to be at play”. Oh but apparently Anton LaVey (who’s been dead for over 20 years) being a “skinhead” (read: bald, not actually a skinhead) in addition to that fact is enough for the organization to be deemed far-right, never mind that the actual organization takes great pains to avoid categorical definition. I personally think of them as nominally right-wing due to their embrace of Social Darwinism and what appears to be an unstated support for classical liberalism insofar as various social positions, but this for me is not enough to simply refer to them as far-right.

For my part, I am actually prepared to offer my own take on the Chick-fil-A controversy. Obviously it is detestable that Chick-fil-A’s ownership opposes gay marriage on the grounds of religious opposition to homosexuality and that they actively support anti-gay causes, and I think that such reaction is to be opposed unequivocally. At the same time, however, I find it rather tiresome that the whole debate comes down to how immoral it is that people still buy fast food from them even after their anti-gay religious stance is public knowledge. And of course, this bothers me in particular because, if you’re at all entrenched in a socialist perspective, one based in a structural view of material conditions, you know practically at the back of your head that this view smacks of the liberal, libertarian and even (ironically enough) Randian view of humans as being purely rational agents, and that this view is profoundly unreflective of the way human behaviour actually works (seriously, do some even light research on advertising; it will change your perception of how humans think). Moreover, because cultural debates like these allow us to escape debate over the productive forces of capitalism, we are invariably led to a position where we end up condemning people for making choices that conflict with any sort of high values in a system that is engineered in such a way that you rarely get to make decisions based on any such values, and the materialities of the system unavoidable condition many people into making the wrong decisions. In sum, there’s no such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism. Deal with it.

A Chick-fil-A building

The fight for liberalism in the West – Part 2: Liberal culture needs to be re-asserted

The fight to preserve the values of liberal democracy won’t be fought in the battlefield where the armed forces of the Western world are currently engaged in conflict or will be in the future, nor will it be fought on our behalf by the state. It can only be fought by all of us as individuals on the battleground of ideas, where all of the other culture wars fought in our societies are fought. For make no mistake, this is in truth a culture war.

It should not have escaped your notice that the illiberal (nay, anti-liberal) identity politics championed by the likes of feminists and Black Lives Matter is not just endorsed by celebrities and the mainstream media, but in America’s case it is also being endorsed by the current president Barack Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That to me suggests that politics and the state is dancing to the tune of prevailing identitarian progressivism and the division that it engenders, perhaps because the people who support it are the loudest voices. But the prevalence of progressive identity politics is not the only problem. The values of Western liberal democracy are being eroded culturally by other factors as well. And again, not so much by the state but by the people, even though they stand to benefit from these values prevailing in our society.

For instance, freedom of expression. We have witnessed several instances in the Western world where artistic media and advertisement can be censored by the whim of public outrage, even if that outrage is in the minority like in the case of the Protein World ad saga. In Australia Grand Theft Auto V got banned at Target Australia by a large number of people who have never played any Grand Theft Auto game but presume to know what it is about. When DC Comics released a Batgirl comic depicting the Joker holding, tons of people. When video game companies like Lionhead Studios and Obsidian Entertainment have intended joke content in their games (like the a depiction of a woman with large breasts in Fable III for National Cleavage Day, and a poem about a Don Juan type character named Firedorn Lightbringer within Pillars of Eternity) that happens to offend someone on Twitter, the people on Twitter take it upon themselves to shame them into changing or removing that content and eventually the companies capitulate and apologize for content that they made as a joke. And don’t criticize social justice warriors Stephanie Guthrie for shaming the creator of an Anita Sarkeesian face-punch game, or you could be the center of a witch-hunt and be accused of harassment simply for disagreeing with her. On YouTube, you can actually have a video removed for the ever-vague notions of hate speech. And more recently, after everyone’s favorite gay super-villain Milo Yiannopoulos published a scathing review of the new Ghostbusters movie on Breitbart, actress Leslie Jones reported Milo and now there’s a hashtag campaign aimed at getting Twitter to ban Milo Yiannopoulos. And it worked: Twitter has recently suspended Milo Yiannopoulos, and I can only assume he has been getting the blame for the ire directed at Leslie Jones.

It seems to be lost on the people advocating that Milo be suspended that while he can be censored for a scathing movie review, and perhaps blamed for the actions of those who might have harassed Leslie Jones, there are examples of people who threaten others with violence publicly, and yet they have not been banned. Indeed, I can’t say if any of the people shouting for killing police officers in the wake of Alton Sterling have been banned yet either. It is thus entirely obvious that people with the wrong opinion in the eyes of the Twitterati are punished with censorship and accused of harassing other people, while people who actually call for violence against individuals remain active on Twitter.

The power of social pressure is such that a man can land a spacecraft on a comet, but he can be reduced to tears because of constant pressure and shaming by a large number of feminists for nothing more than the fact that he was wearing a T-shirt with a lot of scantily-clad women on it. If a public figure makes so much as an innocuous joke that offends the wrong people, they’re harassed and shamed by people with puritan mindsets and too much time on their hands. Like Tim Hunt’s joke about female scientists, or Richard Dawkin’s sharing of a video by SyeTenAtheist on Sargon of Akkad’s channel. In the former case, Tim Hunt lost his job. In the latter, Richard Dawkins may well have suffered a stroke brought on by the stress of being constantly harassed by SJWs shaming him for sharing the video. And sometimes it happened to private individuals who weren’t so famous before, like Justine Sacco, a senior director of corporate communications at IAC who posted a sarcastic tweet about AIDS during a trip to South Africa and found herself publicly shamed and trending on Twitter as a result.

It’s also at a point where the phenomenon of “trial by Twitter” is fairly well-documented. That’s right, online social pressure is even valued above the rule of law – one of the cornerstones of any liberal democracy worth its salt. Like in the case of Kesha’s attempted to sue produce Dr. Luke, accusing him of sexually, physically and emotionally abusing her. She was denied a temporary injunction, and tons of people sided with her and condemned Dr. Luke simply because Kesha broke into tears over being denied that injunction, and despite a lack of hard evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Dr. Luke. There’s also the case of Afrika Bambaataa, who was accused of sexual assault by several individuals who claim he abused them in the 1980’s when they were underaged, including a Democrat activist who released a video accusing him of rape (apparently for the purpose of “emotional healing”, seemingly as a substitute for calling the police). There has been no criminal conviction against Bambaataa, at least not as of yet, and unfortunately the case can’t be tried in court and police investigations are apparently not possible due to New York’s statutes of limitation, but despite this there have been calls for Cornell University to discard their collection of records released by Bambaataa and he has been effectively disavowed by the public and Zulu Nation. When Jian Ghomeshi, a Canadian radio personality accused of rape, was acquitted, the Twitterati were outraged that people chose not to automatically believe the plaintiff, and there were even voices suggesting that the premise of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, along with the adversarial legal system, be abandoned entirely.

To me, it seems that the power of social pressure magnified by social media has not been lost on people living in the age of social media. Indeed, I think it seems like social media either has too much power or gives too many people too much power to coerce private entities and individuals or just shame them.

Another force that working against the values of liberal democracy is cultural relativism – the idea that there are no greater or lesser cultures, just different ones that are all equal. The problem with this prevailing is obvious. Every time, nowadays, when there is a serious terrorist attack committed by someone shown to identify with radical Islam, there are too many people unwilling to address the culture within which they are raised or raise themselves. In fact, we too often have a media and politicians who want to turn us away from the motives of the culprit. Not to mention, in the UK, there are actually sharia courts in operation and it is feared that they basically operate as sub-legal or parallel legal courts, similar to how the Khap Panchayats operate in India. And I’m sure the phenomenon of Salafist Muslims taking to the street to agitate for the supremacy of sharia law is well-known. It seems evident to me that the idea of individuals from different cultural backgrounds existing under a common banner is fading in the West, and we are actively allowing this by not questioning any aspect of it whatsoever. And it is worse in Europe, where it is starting to feel like there’s going to be a new Islam-inspired terrorist attack that takes the lives of tens of innocents every month or so. And every time it happens, people are discouraged from talking about a radical Islamic culture that has been fostering for a long time and currently inspires future terrorists whilst going unchallenged by a society that seems uninterested or unable to tell them . And all because of the bizarre conflation of the Islamic religion with the Arab ethnicity or race, despite the obvious fact that being a Muslim and being an Arab are not the same thing – one is a religion you can be raised in or choose to be part of, the other is a race, something you are born as.

I believe that all of the following needs to happen in the West if the values of liberal democracy are to be saved.

  1. Private companies must exert their right to refuse to censor themselves in order to suit the whims of social justice warriors.
  2. Individuals must not allow themselves to be silenced by the same social justice warriors.
  3. Social media companies need to show that freedom of speech and expression is a right guaranteed to all.
  4. Private media companies should refuse to cave to social pressure and refuse to fire people for saying the wrong thing.
  5. We must delegitimatize the phenomenon of “trial by Twitter” in which people are “tried” by court of public opinion via social media, and instead trumpet the rule of law.
  6. We must reject cultural relativism, and embrace the values of secular liberal democracy as a common banner under which we all live under instead of encouraging self-segregation.
  7. We must challenge bad ideas in forum of public debate and the media, especially the bad ideas that have inspired an increasing number of terrorist attacks.
  8. People who are easily triggered need to just block people who harass them instead of further stoking the flames. Better yet, get off social media for a little bit or turn off the phone.

If none of these things happen, then I predict that the values of liberal democracy will be eroded, and Western civilization will truly decline.

Unveiling of the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World (1886) by Edward Moran.