The Epic Conclusion of the 2012 Chick-fil-A Anti-Gay Saga, or, Everyone Needs to Stop Talking about Chick-fil-A Right Now

August 2, 2012 7:25 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
Chick-fil-a
Chick-fil-a comes under fire for anti-gay remarks. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Dear Fellow Supporters of Gay Marriage,

We've been played. Completely. By a company that serves lowest common denominator fried chicken to lowest common denominator bigots, and will continue to do so under the same constitutional rights that give us the ability make our disagreement known in multitudes. Unfortunately, this isn't a simple case of whether or not we should've known better than to take the bait, it's a super simple case wherein we categorically did know better than to fall for a horse as hollow as this. But we let our emotions get the better of us, and we welcomed Trojan Chicken into our city limits, in spite of politicians and city officials claiming we weren't going to do exactly that.

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Here, let me explain why we should all be ashamed of ourselves, and then give a solution on how we can (and must!) do better next time.

It's been roughly two weeks now since Chick-fil-A president and secret billionaire Dan Cathy came forward in full, embarrassing support of traditional, biblical marriage. Predictably and appropriately, the media provided extensive coverage of those who spoke out against him, then of those who spoke out at those who spoke out against him. In the most famous bullet-points from Cathy's public shaming, the Jim Henson Company pulled its line of Muppets toys from their stores, Boston and Chicago spoke out in soft boycotts of the store, and Buzzfeed published a viral story on the Chick-fil-A's efforts to defend its reputation by, hand-to-God here, posing as a pretty teenage girl.

I don't want to come off as too cynical here. We're living in a world wherein some major corporations, which have just been acknowledged as "people with the constitutional right to free speech," are using that free speech to support a minority group whose opponents--

(And make no mistake, these people are not opponents of the LGBTQ in our country as an issue of their/our marriage rights; rather, they're opponents of the LGBTQ in our country as an issue of their/our peoplehood. There is no such thing as loving the sinner and hating the sin. There are only love and hate, and the people that choose to define themselves by the powerful prospects of either choice)

--have used, use, and will continue to use an almost anachronistic form of bigotry to keep them down. And that support is brave, unprecedented, and welcome.

So rather than questioning the intent of whether or not Starbucks truly believes in same-sex marriage or isn't simply trying to drum-up sales from a demographic with money to spare, we should simply applaud them. Even if the gesture's empty, we shouldn't be so jaded as to ignore that the gesture could still seems full to someone out there. And an empty gesture, by definition, can go either way. In other words, if your corporation doesn't believe anything, it can support anything. So it's good that an empty show of support does some good. Creating a safe-space in the interest of drumming up sales is, at the very least, better than creating a bigoted one for the exact same reason. 

It's what makes John Goodman's surprisingly dark submission to Funny Or Die especially compelling. When he launches into an explanation of how he'll tell us anything we want to hear to get us into his fried chicken joint, it's quite an alienating moment. Every company's branding that goes beyond the merits of its product is, at bottom, just telling someone something ze wants to hear.

And just as love and support can be a part of that story and help drum up sales, so can divisiveness and bigotry. So let me propose a hypothetical marketing stratagem for you. It's 2012, and shortly after one of the states in our fine union votes for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, our President supersedes them (sort of) by becoming the first to speak out in favor of gay marriage as a concept, if not as a piece of legislation.

It's a powerful gesture symbolically. Andrew Sullivan cried, or something. But its tepidness, its half-hearted commitment to an evolved viewpoint that same-sex couples should have equal rights while falling short of being the man to give them those equal rights, ensures that it's done more harm than good. We're no closer to the legalization of gay marriage on the national scale, but opponents of gay marriage can now play the victim. We're hearing conservatives toss around phrases like "Big Gay" to monger fear for this great, big strawman that has the power, the voice, and the numbers to make good on the gay agenda. Heck, we saw conservatives notoriously play martyr when Miss California claimed she was bullied by Perez Hilton just for making her opinion on gay marriage known.

Granted, her opinion isn't important, but the shamelessly ignorant sentiment promulgated by those who defended her is. And that's exactly what Dan Cathy was counting on. We played right into a trap. A man expressed an opinion that only had symbolic power. Opponents of that hateful opinion were the first to do anything that drew (fiscal) blood.

So all of a sudden, Big Anti-Gay gets to play victim. Again. And when former politicians Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee claim that Cathy needs support, it feels real and urgent to these delusional people. And when Chick-fil-A reports that record sales came from that distorted and delusional martyrdom, well, bigotry is as much to blame as we are. They won.

And I know you'll say, "Well, we got Boston, Chicago, and some other liberal cities on our side. That's something, right?" Well, it would be. But take a look at this map of where Chick-fil-A stores are in this nation and you can continue in the great American tradition of drawing a sociopolitical line down the middle of our nation. There's a half of America into which they haven't aggressively expanded. In other words, those boycotts are about as useless as black highlighters. But because of those boycotts, and similar actions, their bigoted base is rallied. They've just done the most aggressive marketing they ever could. Now not only do its patrons know that Chick-fil-A is a restaurant whose values are in line with theirs (whatever that can really mean), but they feel that buying Chick-fil-A's fried chicken is synonymous with supporting the First Amendment and defending one regular guy from liberofascist censorship.

So supporters of gay marriage, heed my words: stop calling attention to this. You're only making a bigot richer and proving that hate is more powerful marketing than love. If we who support gay marriage will not go in similar throngs to a company that expresses that its views are aligned with ours, then we cannot fight the battle on this front. The next time this happens, just ignore it. That's how we'll win on this front. Save your two cents and spend it on a company that cares or something you love. Just remember, whenever Dan Cathy and his ilk get under your skin: all houseflies go away or die after two weeks.

And before you accuse me of blaming the victim: it's 2012. We don't have to be the victim anymore.



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