Jeffrey D. Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University Shreveport. If you're an elected official, political operative or anyone else upset at his views, don't go bothering LSUS or LSU System officials about that because these are his own views solely.
This publishes Sunday through Thursday with the exception of 7 holidays. Also check out his Louisiana Legislature Log especially during legislative sessions (in "Louisiana Politics Blog Roll" below).
I have been publishing opinion columns for over a quarter century and reading them from longer ago than that, but I’ve never seen such a flight from reason as evidenced by various fulminations concerning the politically incorrect statement of Shreveport City Councilman Ron Webb. Far more than his statement it has been the reactions to it that make the area look bad.
For those readers how haven’t paid attention to city news at the beginning of the year, when queried why he didn’t want to appropriate the Robinson Film Center another $25,000, Webb famously said, “it bothered me that they supported gay and lesbian rights.” Whereupon presumed tolerance police launched a series of criticisms that labeled him “homophobic” (always an amusing word to behold – literally it means “fear of man”), opined that the remark indicated “intolerance,” and predicted dire economic consequences as a result of the remark. Webb eventually issued a reply that said he was following what he perceived his constituents wanted, to which other self-assigned cultural avatars proclaimed was too convenient if not incorrect.
Although Mayor Cedric Glover would not admit that the remark had anything to do with the timing, shortly thereafter he proclaimed an executive order for city personnel matters that now would include “sexual orientation, gender identity and disabilities” as protected categories. This useless gesture in practical terms – city, state, and/or federal statutes already mandate that personnel actions take place only for work-related reasons for any individual – nonetheless seemed to provide some symbolic action connoting that the city’s officials “cared.”
But apparently nobody in the media, government, or of the self-indulgent crusaders, set emotions aside and used reason to analyze the meaning and relevance of Webb’s statement to come to a proper understanding of its public policy impact. And if they had from the start, many could have saved exerting themselves in the production of alarmist, half-baked, and irrational responses.
To begin, Webb seemingly was referring to a festival put on at the RFC that featured films with themes dealing with the practice of homosexuality and consequences. It would be a reasonable inference that any film covering this ground could be seen as supporting “gay and lesbian rights” because, as anybody who studies and teaches about the politics of film will observe, today the American film industry only makes products that present homosexual behavior as natural and depict those who oppose public policy treating it as such as one or more of ignorant, intolerant, or villainous. It’s not direct advocacy, but it would not be a mistake to assume as Webb did. (Whether it did propagandize anybody is another matter.)
Also, note that the RFC is not a public institution, but a private organization that in part lives off city largesse – money coming from taxpayers. The city has no obligation to give it any of its citizens’ earnings. And it is a very illogical argument to say that because the city refuses to give a gift to a private organization that therefore it is “against” the kinds of things that the entity does – is Bossier City “against” celebrating Carnival because it refused to fund the Mardi Gras museum within its borders? Rather, it is a recognition that the activity either is nonessential and/or of such controversy that to support it would be a statement of acceptance of the activity that would be considered misuse of tax dollars of many of the citizenry by a significant portion of the citizenry.
In essence, without speaking for him I think what Webb was trying to do was to indicate that the city should not be subsidizing an entity whose activities, whether that organization intended it, in part allowed promotion of an agenda that would have the political impact of accepting as permissible within public policy a lifestyle choice that many believe should not be legitimated. Certainly evidence was on that side of the argument: witness the almost 81 percent in Caddo Parish that voted against the most vigorously sought-after policy change by those that would seek to have government permit wider acceptance and subsidization of homosexual behavior, redefining marriage as something that is not uniquely between one man and one woman.
But for some inane reason in the minds of some for a policy-maker to make this argument is akin to promoting a fresh set of Nuremburg Laws. Notice that there was no attempt to legislate to the RFC to whom with what political agendas they could rent facilities or what material could be shown, which would be a sign of genuine intolerance. The problem is, to these unreasonable folks it is considered “intolerant” not to have government behind public policy that subsidizes and facilitates homosexual activity, when in fact this action initiated by Webb is merely prudent neutrality that means government neither promotes nor hinders it.
This in part explained the hysterical reactions while others made a more rational, but just as ineffectual, argument that there will be economic ramifications for this stated reason of funding cutting, that this would discourage “creative” types like moviemakers from hanging around town. While this view has a stereotypical air about it, more particularly this event or many similar to it happening would do nothing to discourage the film industry because it is driven by the ludicrously expensive tax incentives at the state and local level that bring in far fewer tax dollars than go out in this form of corporate welfare. Hang in effigy daily producers if you like, but as long as the people’s money keeps flowing to them, they aren’t going anywhere.
While all parties to the dispute seem to have let passions cool since, it was disheartening to see the visceral, unthinking initial reactions to Webb’s volunteered explanation. One can only imagine what the rest of the world thinks of a place where a policy-maker’s refusal to give more taxpayer dollars to a private vanity project because what comes out of it presents controversial views opposed by many gets termed by a vocal minority as “intolerant.” In the end, it is such a maniacal reaction that makes the area’s people look small and stupid, and one hopes in the future that public policy debates here put reason before emotion.