A coordinated rightwing effort raises $840,000 for a pizza joint in a small town in Indiana through crowd-sourcing when the pizza place supposedly closed down in the face of an avalanche of threats after the owners told local news media that it wouldn’t cater a same-sex wedding.
Doesn’t it smell a little cheesy? And not the fresh buffalo mozzarella you sometimes get in upscale enotecas in Manhattan and Washington, D.C.? No, this is definitely a phony processed cheese product that’s stayed in the back of the fridge far too long that we’re whiffing here.
Let’s start with the question unasked so far by any of the horde of pundits who have commented on Memory Pizza’s venture into social significance: Who serves pizza at a wedding? A Bar Mitzvah or Sweet Sixteen party—sure! But a wedding?
My guess is that the local TV news reporter who first covered Memory Pizza’s intolerant attitude towards those different from them had spent the day asking multiple business owners whether they wouldn’t provide services to an LGBT wedding and went into Memory’s Pizza out of desperation. Or maybe Memory faxed out a news release about the superficially religious stance its owners were taking. In either case, Memory’s closed down after dozens of negative reviews on Yelp and what the owner says were a bunch of threatening messages. No pickets at Memory’s doors, no rocks through its windows. Just condemnation over social media. That certainly shows the courage of one’s convictions—unless the owner knew that someone at Glenn Beck’s media empire was going to stoke the fires of rightwing indignation at a crowd-sourcing site.
It’s perhaps the first entirely virtual cause célèbre ever; Internet spread the original local TV story. Online expressions of ire were enough to intimidate the pious pizza purveyors, who were supposedly rescued from financial ruin by online ad hoc charitable contributions.
But at the heart of it all is the small fact that very few people if anyone would order pizza for a wedding banquet, so the effect of the new law on Memory’s ability to assert their so-called religious freedom was theoretical. Note, too, that the handful of other small businesses who have said they would refuse service to gays have not run into difficulties.
Does it sound familiar, all this hullaballoo about a rightwing cause célèbre who turns out to be a little bogus?
Let’s start with Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, AKA Joe the Plumber, who took on Barack Obama at an Obama rally during the 2008 presidential campaign because Obama wanted to raise taxes on people making more than $250,000. As it turned out, Joe the Plumber wasn’t even registered as a plumber in his home state and made about $40,000 a year. The McCain campaign and rightwing Republicans touted Joe as an example of the average Joe and Jane being crushed by Obama’s tax proposals, but in fact this particular Joe would have been helped by Obama’s plans.
Just as federal subsidies help two of the three individuals in whose name the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) filed King v. Burwell, which seeks to overturn federal subsidies to individuals who buy insurance on the federal healthcare exchange because there is no state exchange in their states; the third plaintiff, by the way, qualifies for Medicare. In other words, CEI filed a lawsuit in the name of three victims who were not victimized in the slightest.
A variation of the phony victim of what the rightwing considers to be pernicious Socialist-like programs of the left-leaning center is the phony perpetrator from whom the right insists on protecting all of us. That’s certainly the case with the dozens of voting restrictions passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures over the past eight years. All have as their stated purpose protecting American society from fraudulent voting, a problem that statistically speaking does not exist. By statistically speaking, I mean that there are less than a handful of cases of suspected fraud by individual voters at the polls among the hundreds of millions of people to vote over the past 30 or so years.
Just as the Bush II administration manufactured reasons to go to war in Iraq when there were none, so does the rightwing routinely manufacture victims, villains and heroes when none exist, all in the name of justifying duplicitous positions: laws that say they protect religious rights but really discriminate against gays or take rights from women; laws that say they protect us from voter fraud but really serve to make it harder for millions to vote; and policies they say will lead to growth and prosperity but only for those already rich and connected.