Why Rachel Maddow Is Right To Be Outraged
When Politifact said the assertion that you can get fired for being LGBT was only "half true," Rachel Maddow lost it. And here's why we all should too.
Sometimes I feel like I'm a walking glitter bomb. As a gay person who, for obvious reasons, spends a great deal of my waking hours following LGBT news, I come across infuriating stories on an hourly basis. Before going to sleep last night, I emailed a note to myself to do a post on Rachel Maddow going off (again) on Politifact — which is to say, I woke up pissed off this morning.
In case you missed the occasion which drove Maddow to look directly into the camera and declare, "You are truly terrible," here's what happened. On Sunday, Martina Navratilova appeared on CBS' Face The Nation to talk about NBA player Jason Collins' now famous announcement. Navratilova, ever eloquent and awesome, reminded viewers that, though there have been a lot of recent victories regarding LGBT rights, "We still don't have equal rights." She continued: "I have been getting [questions] on Twitter, 'Why does this matter? I don't care. ' Which is kind of code for, 'I really don't want to know.' But it does matter because in 29 states in this country you can still get fired for not just being gay but if your employer thinks you are gay. […] We don't have equal rights."
She, of course, is right. Twenty-nine states have no protections for LGBT people written into their state non-discrimination laws. Thirty-eight states have no protections for transgender employees. For LGBT Americans, Ohio teacher Carla Hale among them, this is more than mere information; this a reality that bears down on a daily basis. Nine in ten American voters incorrectly believe that there are already laws in place to protect LGBT employees in the workplace.
Politifact, it seems, writes for the nine. After "evaluating" Navratilova's comment, the site rated it "half true." You can read the laughable justification here. (Laugh in order to keep from throwing your computer out the window in a fit of rage.)
Addressing Politifact, Rachel Maddow didn't hold back. "Until somebody figures out how to sue you to retrieve the meaning of the word 'fact' from the dark and airless hole you stuffed it into, then it is not okay to make this stuff up. [...] You are truly terrible."
Perhaps I should take comfort in the fact that someone like Rachel Maddow exists and has a major platform in which to call out this bizarre combination of idiocy and casual homophobia, but it's not enough. I woke up on fire this morning with the awareness that to simply do a post on Rachel Maddow's segment on Navratilova and Politifact would further the tendency to look at this as an isolated incident, another scuffle in the broader media game.
But this is not a scuffle; it's a cog in one really fucked up machine. A gay couple in New York City is brutally attacked by eight Knicks fans in broad daylight. Jay Briscoe, a pro wrestler, says he'll "fucking shoot" anyone who tells his kid gay marriage is okay. Senator Chuck Schumer won't commit to protections for bi-national couples in immigration reform. The erasure of transgender Americans from mass media coverage marches ever on. Some mornings, while looking at tweets about these kinds of stories on my iPhone, I'm exhausted by my own anger — without even having gotten out of bed.
And I have this unfortunate habit of needing to write essays when I'm angry. I sit at my computer, grating my teeth, hearing Zora Neale Hurston say over and over again, "If you are silent about your pain, they'll kill you and say you enjoyed it."
Supposedly objective dismissal of inconvenient facts as "half truths" or dramatics is more than galling; it's oppressive. The questions, "Why does this matter?" and, "Why are you so angry?" are conjoined twins, both hissing that we don't even have a right to our own outrage.