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08/14/2013

Todd Starnes smears lesbian writer, her amazing book, its supporters; so being Todd Starnes, basically

by Jeremy Hooper

Funhomecover
Fun Home is a fantastic book. I'm not the only one who thinks so, either. Alison Bechdel's much celebrated memoir, a hit with readers and critics alike, topped multiple prominent outlet's lists of 2006 books and vied for major awards.

But while a great book, it's not a particularly sexy book. As in, you would never read this book because you were looking for some quick jollies. Far from it, in fact. It's neither overt nor salacious, with any sexual encounter played as a life event, be it run of the mill or formative, rather than as anything remotely resembling eroticism.

But leave it to anti-LGBT shit-stirrer Todd Starnes to take Bechdel's laudable literary fete and turn it into something it's not. In a new column for Fox News, one typical of virtually everything the network's in house anti-LGBT commentator writes these days, Starnes is going after the College of Charleston for daring to offer this book to its students. And in order to drive home his resistance, Starnes is trying turn the tome into "college-sponsored pornography":

The college spent nearly $40,000 to give the book to incoming freshman and will spend another $13,000 to bring the author to campus in the fall.

According to a reader’s guide, the college wants students to explore “erotic truth.”

“What does Bechdel suggest we risk by denying our erotic truth,” the reader’s guide asks.

But some parents called the graphic novel college-sponsored pornography.

“I was appalled,” one parent told Fox News. “This is a gay-rights coming-out book and it has some pretty strong anti-Christian themes in it.”

FULL: College Wants Students to Discover Their ‘Erotic Truth’ [Fox News]

In truth, the cited college reader's guide doesn't speak to the college's wishes but rather quotes Bechdel about "erotic truth"—and not at all in a salacious way. It reads:

Screen Shot 2013-08-14 At 12.17.12 Pm
Fun Home Reading Companion [C of C]

The book is about an out lesbian and her closeted father! The "erotic truth" she is talking about is the erotic truth that exists within all of us. She followed hers and her father stifled his; that is the point here. The college is not telling students to go out and be "erotic," but that is absolutely what Starnes is suggesting.

And of course Starnes quotes only an anonymous parent(s), another trick he regularly employs. It's likely not more than one parent but rather the same, lone, conservative Fox News fan who reached out to him with anti-LGBT complaints, which he is then trying to turn into some sort of larger and angrier coalition. He then, of course, adds the local "pro-family" spokesperson to his column to make the resistance movement to seem even more fleshed out. In fact, it's all a ruse.

But that's the deliberate danger in what Todd Starnes now does. For a job. For Fox News. He takes these non-incidents, brought to him by activist-minded people, and gives them the "mainstream" credibility of the Fox News brand. That's why I call him a shit-stirrer. Every other day he comes out with another one of these formulaic columns in which he wildly misrepresents the actual set of circumstances, sources an anonymous person who always has some sort of excuse for why he or she must remain shrouded, and then tries his damnedest to create a national incident out of whole cloth, working with pals like Tony Perkins and Bryan Fischer (Starnes is a regular guest of both gentlemen's radio shows) to rile up the choir. He is creating "news" rather than reporting it—and he knows EXACTLY what he is doing.

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