Social Media Is Making It Harder To Be A Bigot
From BBQ Becky to Permit Patty, lawsuits may actually the least of America’s bigots’ problems.
In yet another effort to govern solely to an increasingly extreme and concentrated base, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the formation of a “Religious Liberty Task Force” which will exist for, let’s face it, the sole purpose of making sure bigots are allowed to be bigots with no legal repercussions. So if your delicate sensibilities are offended by a gay couple trying to get married or order a cake, or women having birth control, or seeing a transgendered person in the flesh, the Trump administration is ready to swoop in and save you from the wrath of all those nagging anti-discrimination laws. But before America’s religious bullies and bigots rejoice, they need to think about the power of the internet.
Consider the cases of “BBQ Becky,” “Permit Patty,” Theodore Decker, and Aaron Schlossberg, whose racist antics brought down the fury of Americans and gave them digital scarlet letters they will never be able to erase. It will take them a long time to recover professionally, and they could face a new wave of backlash as soon as a new client’s or employer’s due diligence quickly unearths their viral claims to fame. When pharmacists refuse to fill birth control prescriptions, doctors dismiss transgender patients, or restaurants kick out gay couples, Jeff Sessions may be there to watch their back, but Americans with ubiquitous internet connections will come down on them with scathing reviews, posts, and memes, broadcasting the bigots’ names and misdeeds — often with videos and photos to back their cases — to the world with just a few taps.
Note that 72% of Americans support anti-discrimination laws to protect the LGBTQ+ community, including two-thirds of self-identifying Republicans, only 4% think that contraception is somehow immoral, and 82% support sexual education in schools, with 68.5% favoring instruction in the proper use of condoms and other contraceptive methods. As much as the Trump administration wants to believe that the world remains fundamentally unchanged since the early 1950s, the numbers paint a very different picture. Americans may not be universally accepting or tolerant of everything and everyone, but the data shows that they’re much more open-minded than they were even a few generations ago, and are happy to take the intolerant to task.
So when a government increasingly detached from overwhelming majorities of the people it governs refuses to do anything about behaviors they find dangerous or unacceptable in a modern civil society, and even goes so far as to tacitly encourage it, the people will fight back with social media. And since they’ve been doing exactly that for years, it seems logical that backlashes to religious bullying and attempts to defend discrimination will also escalate. The bigots who cheered Sessions’ announcement will be acting on their urges at their own risk. They may be shielded from the law, but not from a public which sees them as loathsome throwbacks to a shameful era and is ready to both let them know it, and make sure they never forget it.