Monday, October 12, 2009

New lie lodged against Kevin Jennings - he 'advocates' murder

Don't be fooled by the fact that we haven't heard anything new regarding the right's war on Obama appointee Kevin Jennings.

We probably haven't heard anything because those who oppose him are digging through the manure trying to find something that will stick when they throw it at him..

Such as this bit via the rightwing site Gateway Pundit:

Obama's Safe Schools Czar Wrote That Killing Someone Who Called You Names Was "Not Aberrant Behavior"

Verum Serum discovered this article by Obama's Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings in 1998:

We need to own up to the fact that our culture teaches boys that being “a man” is the most important thing in life, even if you have to kill someone to prove it. Killing someone who calls you a faggot is not aberrant behavior but merely the most extreme expression of a belief that is beaten (sometimes literally) into boys at an early age in this country: Be a man – don’t be a faggot.

As Suzanne Pharr so eloquently explained in her landmark work Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism, antigay bigotry is inextricably intertwined with the maintenance of “proper” gender roles by which little girls are supposed to be “sugar and spice and everything nice” and boys are supposed to be, well, quite the opposite. When boys take up guns to kill those who torment them with words like “faggot,” we shouldn’t be surprised. They’re just doing what we have taught them to do.

And on Free Republic is this piece:

Safe Schools Czar Absolves Murder for Anti-gay Slurs

Here we go again. Expect Hannity and company to jump on this.

Of course the claim that Jennings advocates murder is a distortion of what he actually said - and a rather bad one.

The piece in question, Be A Man, was originally published in September 29, 1998 in The Advocate magazine.

Jennings never advocated anything even resembling murder. He was actually saying in his piece that society contributes to violence in schools by pushing gender stereotypes.

At the beginning of the piece, he says the following:

When I was 8, my dad died unexpectedly of a heart attack. As the youngest of five siblings (four of us, boys), I looked to my brothers for guidance on how to act in this unsettling and unfamiliar territory. At dad's funeral I got the message. When I started crying, my brother Mike looked down and barked, "Stop crying. Be a man.
Don't be a faggot."

While astoundingly insensitive in his timing, my brother was simply passing down the code of masculinity he'd been taught. "Real men" don't show their feelings, and those men who do are faggots—which is the last thing any real man would want to be. It's a lesson I have spent nearly three decades trying to unlearn. Many important lessons—the kind that shape our lives—are learned long before college or grad school. Sadly, today's boys seem to be learning the same lesson—with far deadlier results. Consider these examples:

Then he proceeds to list examples of violent incidents that took place in America's high schools; incidents precipitated by someone being called a "faggot.

Then he says the following:

Why haven't you heard more about these incidents? Well, sadly, homophobic harassment in our schools is so commonplace that it is no longer news. But surely this seemingly novel phenomenon of youth taking up firearms in response should have made headlines. And here's the real kicker: None of the boys who perpetrated these attacks identifies as gay.

What's going on here? As we begin another school year close on the heels of one in which schoolyard shootings became a dreary staple of the nightly news, it's time to analyze why some young people are driven to kill. Obviously, we could prevent some killings if we restricted the ease with which anyone can get a firearm, but that would not get at the root cause of the problem. We need to own up to the fact that our culture teaches boys that being "a man" is the most important thing in life, even if you have to kill someone to prove it. Killing someone who calls you a faggot is not aberrant behavior but merely the most extreme expression of a belief that is beaten (sometimes literally) into boys at an early age in this country: Be a man—don't be a faggot.

From that perspective, it doesn't sound like Jennings is advocating violence, does it?

It's sad to watch how desperate people get when trying to destroy someone's reputation.

Bookmark and Share


JohnVS said...

Gateway Pundit got this from my blog. If you'd bothered to check out our site, you'll see that we used the quote in context and provided a link to the full document. GP provided a link to us, I'm not sure how you missed it.

The issue is not that Jennings is condoning murder, he clearly is not. The issue is that he's drawn a straight line between manhood and murder, even going so far as to say the violence isn't aberrant but should be expected.

The fact that the safe schools czar has identified "manhood" as the chief culprit in school violence is news.

BlackTsunami said...

I checked your site and I checked other sites, including Free Republic. And all of those other sites are pushing the lie that Jennings advocated murder.

Your argument is not with me, but with them. You need to get them to clarify their claims.

BlackTsunami said...

And if I may point something else out, from the link you provided (and I refer to the link you provided) it is obvious that Jennings is not identifying "manhood" as a culprit of school violence but gender stereotypes as well as inaccurate ideas of manhood.

Morgen said...

When Jennings says "we need to own up to the fact that our culture teaches boys that being 'a man' is the most important thing in life..." it seems pretty clear that he is referring to the traditional view of gender roles broadly. And thus manhood.

Jennings - and apparently you - may view this as an "inaccurate" view of manhood. But this is not the way a majority of the American people view it.

And for Jennings to malign so broadly all of us who believe that it is important to teach our boys to "be men" suggesting that this automatically means we are telling them to not be "faggots"...can only be defined as intolerance on his part for our values.

And to draw a link between the teaching of traditional gender roles (and nursery rhymes!) to this sort of violence based on a few isolated cases, is just ridiculous. It's a prime example of the lack of intellectual rigor underlying most of Jennings opinions.

Morgen-Verum Serum

BlackTsunami said...

The main point of my post was that some bloggers were using part of what you said to make a false claim that Jennings advocate murder.

Now, it's clear what Jennings said speaks to an unfortunate ultra alpha male view of manhood, i.e. men are not supposed to cry or show weakness. His point was that some overcompensate to this view by acting extreme in situations where their "manhood" is supposedly questioned. He places a bit of the blame on society this need to overcompensate.

Morgen said...

And you were right to call them on it - they've gone way overboard with this claim. We have been doing the same. I'm actually a little miffed that they missed my point!

JohnVS said...

Black Tsunami,

Just to echo what Morgen said, you're right that some blogs missed the point. Once we caught on to the error, we did try out best to address the confusion.

First we changed the headline of our post which apparently threw some people (with a note retaining the original because we don't "disappear things at VS"). Next, I personally followed backlinks to several blogs and left comments pointing out where necessary that they had misconstrued our meaning and asking for corrections.

We may not have spoken to everyone but our efforts did have an effect. One blogger apologized to me privately this afternoon and corrected a post. A second blogger wrote an entire apology on his own site to both us and Jennings for his misunderstanding. You can see it here.

My point is that this was not a smear or a lie. We were making a serious critique that we believed (and still do) was valid. When that accidentally got muddled beyond our blog, we did our best to correct it. We'll continue to do so. If you see it pop up anywhere, please let us know or direct them to this comment thread or to our site for clarification.

Anthony said...

checked out FP - what a surprise to find it's a total wingnut site with all the obligatory delusional ravings. fantasyland for bullying chickenhawks, condoning violence by appearing to abhor violence.