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03/17/2009

Video: Fed up Feder packs his false stats and goes home

by Jeremy Hooper

Don Feder is, quite frankly, a far-right propagandist whose work is fringe even among "pro-family" circles. Back in July of 2006, while Don was blaming conflict in Israel on God's anger over a gay pride parade, he "jokingly" suggested that the gays should move their parade to Gaza, an area that was embroiled in widespread, daily-reported violence. Then there was June of 2008, when Don called gays "a sorry collection of individuals (connected only by their carnal appetites) caught up in a perverted lifestyle," directly compared marriage-seeking gay couples to the North American Man/Boy Love Association, and rolled out that tired "pro-family" nugget about gay marriage leading to man/poultry unions. And that's just two of many, many examples culled from a five minute perusal of our archives.

Yet despite (because of?) his obvious extremism, Mr. Feder was recently invited by the UMass College Republicans to speak on the topic of inclusive hate crimes legislation. But as you will see in these video clips, the reception was less than warm. And you will also see that Mr. Feder is much better at dishing it in a private setting than he is at taking it in public:




Free speech goes both ways. Would we have acted the same way if we were in that crowd? No. But harsh rhetoric like Mr. Feder's can understandably elicit emotional responses, especially when dealing with a problem as serious as bias crimes. And when people, born out of their own organic passions and beliefs, show up to express their own right to assemble, speak, and demonstrate, the speech itself can stir unimaginably intense reactions. That's what we would seem to have here: Passionate people who are seeing a man paid and presented as an "expert" to convey flawed, biased facts that keep LGBT people more vulnerable. Unable to let the Federic rhetoric go on unfettered, they put those passions to voice. We get it, even if we see better, more tasteful ways that it could have been handled (e.g. protest silently, waiting until the Q & A session for the opportunity to state your positions clearly and staunchly).

The breakdown of the crowd, with large representation from the opposition, is itself an expression. It is an expression that the militant anti-gay agenda will not be allowed to hurt people in an unchecked fashion. It is a reminder that while everyone has a right to speak without government intervention, everyone also has a right to organize in resistance to hurtful, hateful views. It's a statement from the students regarding the kind of bashings that they will unabashedly reject. That's one thing that is often overlooked with situations like this: The fact that the speech brought out such opposition in the first place. You have to consider the inflammatory body of work that inspired these students to show up, not just the incident at hand.

Of course it's frustrating for Mr. Feder and the Republicans who wanted to hear this speech to have these demonstrators on-site. But you know what else is frustrating? TO BE CALLED 'A SORRY COLLECTION OF INDIVIDUALS' WHO ARE NON-DESERVING OF BEING PROTECTED FROM REAL, DEMONSTRABLE HATE CRIMES! And if he is going to go around spouting such things about human beings who are sick and tired of being hurt, then Mr. Feder is going to have to deal with strong (and growing) push back. Minority groups eventually get tired of being harassed, waiting for the day when the population at-large will reject condemnations of their lives in the same way they reject bias against other population sects. If he truly believes in the righteousness of his cause and his power to seize public opinion, then nobody should have the power to shut him down. We know that as long as there is breath when us, no crowd, big or small, will ever be free to do the same to us.

**ALSO: It should also be noted that in his introduction, Feder completely provoked the crowd:

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Your thoughts

This speach is even more vile with the spike in hate crimes since the passage of prop8.

Posted by: RainbowPhoenix | Mar 17, 2009 4:30:23 PM

Ironic he can't take a little heckling, yet thinks it's okay for gays to be harassed day after day.

Posted by: Bill Ware | Mar 17, 2009 7:03:31 PM

I think he should have been given a chance to speak, with silent forms of protest (signs, sitting with backs turned like they did), and then torn a new one during Q&A.

But it's easy for me to say that sitting here, privileged all ways but one, maybe having forgotten what it's like to be student in that situation.

I'm sure it's much different being a queer person of color listening to some old white ideological fossil telling you that hate crimes aren't a problem.

Posted by: zortnac | Mar 17, 2009 7:14:42 PM

What bugs me is how often they say that they have a right to express their OPINION. OK, express your OPINION, but DO NOT express lies and suggest that they are fact. You do not have the right to repeatedly lie and go unchallenged. Tell me I'm a sinner and going to hell, but do not tell me that all I want to do all day long is have sex with animals and recruit children as I sit here working on yet more paperwork for my husband and I to adopt our own child!

Posted by: nashtrav | Mar 17, 2009 8:04:01 PM

Agreed, zortnac. In a perfectly scripted world, most of us would want it to play out differently. But life is not a directed movie. This man, via his life's work, has invited gay ire, and in this case, that ire manifested into this particular scenario. It's hard for me to come down too hard on it, even if I wish things had gone more smoothly.

Plus, as mentioned, Feder was provoking the audience.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Mar 17, 2009 8:09:32 PM

Nashtrav: If they allow us to be seen as humans, their side loses.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Mar 17, 2009 8:11:16 PM

Everyone in this country has the right to speak freely without any governmental intervention. That doesn't mean that they have the right to be heard, or that their freedom of speech is any more valuable than the heckler's freedom is. In a public forum, especially one where a large percentage of the audience disagrees with the incendiary rhetoric of the speaker, it is pretty doubtful that they will be quiet.

Verbal, non-violent civil disobedience that is a direct response to an inflammatory speech, is in every way free speech. Does Feder have the right to speak, surely. Do the hecklers have the right to boo him off the stage, absolutely. That heckler's veto is exactly the free speech that our founding fathers fought, and died for - just as much as for Feder's free speech rights.

And, Bill Ware, you make a very good point. In his case, the little bit of verbal harassment that he endured was specifically in response to his purposeful rhetoric. His actions elicited the response that he got, and he invited that ridicule. And even knowing that, he couldn't withstand even the barest minimum of harassment. And at exactly the same time, he was up on that stage suggesting that the unprovoked, unsolicited verbal and physical harassment and abuse that LGBTs suffer everyday is unimportant. The words hypocrisy and duplicity were never more appropriate.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Mar 17, 2009 9:15:35 PM

Well said, Dick.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Mar 17, 2009 9:20:21 PM

Forget all the rhetoric and the massaged data (No, not everyone has a 0.0013% chance of being the victim of a hate crime. Mr. Feder's chances as a white, straight, umpteenth generation American are lower, while a lesbian Hispanic immigrant's is much higher). Mr. Feder made the cardinal sin of speech-giving: He wrote a really bad speech. It's dry, it's got too many numbers packed together too tightly, it's impersonal. And to top it all off he pounds his fist on the podium. HUGE NO-NO! Feder gets paid for this?!?

Posted by: Matt Algren | Mar 18, 2009 12:41:18 AM

Interrupting him speaking is not helpful to our side. I understand people being mad but protest outside. Your stance will still be known. This makes our side look intolrant and only gives fuel to our enemies who already fear that we will silence them. Protesting like this makes the people protesting feel better but its about as helpful as comments RAndy Thommason makes to the anti-gay side.

We've got to stop tactics like this if we're going to win hearts and minds.

Posted by: Pomo | Mar 19, 2009 3:11:33 PM

There have already been well-articulated reasons why protests like this can understandably come to be, so I won't address them again. But I do want to address two points.

(1) The idea that they should only protest outside. I find that completely unfair. The opposition has just as much right to turn out as the supporters. And as I stated in the post: The fact that they opposition did turn out in such large numbers is itself a form of expression. So regardless of how we might feel about the way it played out inside, I don't think it's right to say that they should have just waited outside while blatant and dangerous lies were passed off as fact inside the walls.

(2) I reject the common "this makes us no better than [insert name]" comparisons that often arise in discussions like this. I get it, in practical terms. But I think those lines of thinking often overlook the simple fact that there is a premium placed on certain ideas. And in the fight of gay acceptance vs. bigotry, the former innately holds more value.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Mar 19, 2009 3:34:48 PM

Youre right G-A-Y, so lets just keep on doing things the way we've done them. Its working well so far. We're changing lots of minds by our refusal to let the other side have their meetings.

Had a group of Christians done this to one of our meetings people would be crying "bigotry!" "hatred!" "homophobia!" But we do it and its ok because it "innately holds more value."

I'm not saying out position isn't justified for I certainly believe equality is right and spreading lies is wrong. But I used to be one of those people. I know how they think. And I know these types of tactics are looked down upon and only add fuel to their disgust of what we stand for. It doesn't help our cause, it hurts our cause. Thats the point. The only people who felt good about themselves after that was the protestors. It did not bring us one step closer to equality. And thats what i want.

Posted by: Pomo | Mar 19, 2009 5:23:22 PM

Pomo: I find your comment to an unfair reduction of what I have said, both in my comment and the post itself. So that being the case, I'm gonna respectfully move on and not engage you any further on this one.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Mar 19, 2009 5:29:46 PM

I think its just that I have a good point you can't answer but thats your right seeing as how this is your blog :) And i'm not gonna stand up and scream and interrupt you until you adress what i've said. That wouldn't further OUR cause... And we are on the same team! I just want us to be willing to change our tactics to something thats actually going to help us with the other side.

Posted by: Pomo | Mar 19, 2009 6:40:00 PM

Feel free to think that, Pomo.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Mar 19, 2009 6:58:51 PM

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