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The Shock of the Newt

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Newt Gingrich -- nothing if not opportunistic, and never one to decline an invitation to pontificate -- gives Bill O'Reilly a serious warning. Can you guess the danger about which Gingrich is so desperately concerned?

GINGRICH: Look, I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion. And I think if you believe in historic Christianity, you have to confront the fact. And, frank -- for that matter, if you believe in the historic version of Islam or the historic version of Judaism, you have to confront the reality that these secular extremists are determined to impose on you acceptance of a series of values that are antithetical, they're the opposite, of what you're taught in Sunday school.

This, remember, is in response to O'Reilly's recitation of a string of unspeakable, or maybe semi-speakable, atrocities: a woman "getting a cross smashed out of her hand," a church "invaded" by gay activists, a man being fired. If you had Bill O'Reilly's delicate sensibility you'd think it presaged the collapse of civilization, too.

So Newt bravely sounds the alarm. For what is it that these "secular extremists" are "prepared to use violence" to attain? For what is it that they are "prepared to use the government" to impose on the Sunday-school-going rest of us? Forced socialization of the means of production? Universal imposition of atheism? Criminalization of Judeo-Islamo-Christian forms of monotheistic worship?

They want to get married.

And not even to us (which would be awkward, embarrassing, and in many cases bigamous, however much of an opportunity it would offer to... you know...those types to plan a wedding, "help" the caterer, and pick out flower arrangements). They want to get married to each other.

There are several things to behold with wonder in this quote from the man whom the Saturday Evening Post, if it existed, would call "either out of his mind or a calculating liar." One is the explicit encouragement it offers, to religious bigots and other troglodytes, to regard "secular" (i.e., real world) society as its enemy and as a threat to its existence.

Yes, Newt "I'm A Teacher" Gingrich is saying, the fact that gays and lesbians want to get married to each other means that they want to destroy everybody else's marriages, beliefs, institutions, and lives.

At least, this quote seems to suggest that. It's hard to be sure. When Gingrich says, "If you believe in historic Christianity," what--in his quasi-professorial, semi-erudite, pompous-nudnik way -- is he saying? What does "historic Christianity" mean? Is he alluding to a belief in Christianity's existence, as one does or doesn't believe in Santa Claus as existing historically?

Same with "If you believe in the historic version of Islam or the historic version of Judaism." How are we to pass the quiz if the lecture is so unclear?

These questions have a two-part answer:

ONE: It doesn't matter what he means. He's the same intellectually vain gasbag he was back when Clinton was in office.

TWO: He really does (probably) mean, If you're a Christian, or a Muslim, or a Jew. But he tacks the words "the historic version" onto it to remind Bill-O and the rest of us that he, Prof. Gingrich, is a professor. Or whatever he is.

So much for the messenger's semantics. What about the message?

The message is beneath contempt, and is a sort of demagoguery-lite intended to keep the Newtmeister's stock as high as he can manage among the foamingly self-righteous and the devoutly, proudly stupid. If he really believes that gays campaigning for the right to marry are "a very dangerous threat" to straight society, then either he doesn't know any gays, or he doesn't know any straight people.

If he really perceives gays and lesbians as a monolithic, radical political force bent on the destruction of all the "values" he and his credulous followers hold dear; and if he thinks that no gay or lesbian is a practicing Christian, Muslim, or Jew, then he's every bit as provincial and ignorant as the people he purports to instruct.

But I don't think he believes those things. I think he's just peddling the same hard-right "culture war" baloney he's been selling since he arrived, with Whoopie Cushions blaring, on the national scene back in whenever-it-was.

After all, what else does he have to get excited about? His president, his party, his pals, and his policies have been beaten with the strap and sent to their room. Appeals to the twelve sane, intelligent Republicans across the land went unheeded. Ten of them voted for Obama and the other two stayed home and, like sensible conservatives, drank heavily.

So Newt pushes "I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country." Never mind what "fascism" really means, or that conflating "gay" and "secular" is at best sloppy and at worst dishonest. Never mind that the implicit content of this little aria is, as he knows full well, a signal to the army of the pious, that "the fags are out to destroy you. Better get 'em first."

Oh, and never, ever mind the fact that it's that constituency, the religious right, who for years (read: centuries) has sought, with maximum self-righteousness, to impose their "series of values" on everyone else. From the Inquisition to the Salem witch trials, from Prohibition to the "pro-life" clinic bombings, from the 2004 platform of the Texas Republican Party ("The Republican Party of Texas affirms the United States of America is a Christian Nation ...") to the Mormons' financial onslaught in favor of California's Proposition 8: when you're looking for a group of good, decent folk that wants to "impose its will on the rest of us," look nor further than the corner church.

Of course, it's possible that Newt Gingrich really does believe the proposition that the more gays are able to marry, the less straight people will want to do so. How's that for comedy gold? "I do love you. And I do want to get married. But two guys in Encino did last week, so forget it."

Memo to Gingrich: How about walking the walk, bro? They just legalized gay marriage in Connecticut. When are you going to file for divorce? On principle.

Cross-posted at What HE Said