If there was any doubt about whether the LGBT political establishment wields cultural power in the United States, it was put to rest last week with the Kevin Hart Oscars-hosting debacle. Hometown comedian Hart, a Hollywood workhorse who might have struck the right tone at the helm of a show that apparently nobody wants to host, was hounded off and publicly shamed almost as soon as he was announced.
In what is now a depressingly common phenomenon, old tweets of Hart’s, including some that contained homophobic jokes, were “revealed” (they were publicly available), and a protest movement was mounted. As soon as the rumblings began, the end was written. Hart stepped down from hosting last Friday.
The optics of the shaming of Hart, a successful black comedian, by a mostly white LGBT Hollywood establishment were horrible, as was pointed out by black entertainers like Nick Cannon — who surfaced similar tweets from white comedians like Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman.
Why was Hart punished, and why won’t somebody like Schumer — of Democratic royalty, sharing a name with her cousin, Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer — be forced to pay a penance? Hart is a run of the mill, everyman-type comic whose politics are difficult to decipher, while Schumer et al. are outspoken progressives whose politics are in line with those of the Hollywood establishment. As long as you toe the progressive party line, you get the benefit of the doubt.
As if this wasn’t enough, USA Today reporter Scott Gleeson then took it upon himself to publish tweets from Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray just as he was announced as this year’s Heisman Trophy winner. At the age of 14, Murray apparently had some homophobic things to say — much like many 14-year-old boys. Overshadowing Murray’s life achievement for some juvenile tweets was, in a word, cruel.
Do I like homophobia? No. I have experienced it personally. It hurts. It has left lasting scars on my life and has hurt others far worse, when it has morphed into severe and violent bullying.
But I don’t really care to see people publicly punished for jokes they made years ago.
I don’t look to comedians to make me feel comfortable and use only language that I approve of; I look to them to spin humor from the threads of dread and chaos that are inherent in the human experience. I don’t need football players to “affirm” me; I want them to show off exceptional agility and clobber their opponents.
It feels to me that the LGBT movement has largely won our cultural battles here in the U.S.: in our battle for marriage, many but not all legal protections, and cultural representation. Some have now moved on to punishing our perceived enemies now that we have gained cultural clout. Aside from Hart and Murray, nowhere is this more evident than in the cases of the Christian wedding-cake bakers who will happily serve gay customers but do not wish to create custom cakes for gay weddings. The legal plights of such business owners have reached the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court and imbued among the Christian right an understandable feeling that there is no tolerance being shown for their beliefs.
What could possibly be motivating some on the LGBT left to drive these people out of business but a total vindictiveness? Surely, there must be some room in our society for them too.
We demanded tolerance and to be able to exist safely back in the era where coming out was still dangerous and gay people were regularly scorned in public society. We should display some grace in our victories, or risk becoming the bullies we used to fight against.
Albert Eisenberg is a Philadelphia-based political consultant who works on LGBT and urban issues from the right. @Albydelphia