The media's irrational fear of Chick-fil-A

I was reading this Bloomberg analysis by Josh Barro of the most recent movement against Chick-fil-A, which I'll share before I get to what I really want to talk about:

In Chicago, each local alderman has de facto control over neighborhood zoning. And Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno has announced that Chick-fil-A is not welcome to build a planned restaurant in his Logan Square ward because of Chief Executive Officer Dan Cathy’s comments in opposition to gay marriage.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

"If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don't want you in the 1st Ward," Moreno told the Tribune on Tuesday.

Moreno stated his position in strong terms, referring to Cathy's "bigoted, homophobic comments" in a proposed opinion page piece that an aide also sent to Tribune reporters. "Because of this man's ignorance, I will now be denying Chick-fil-A's permit to open a restaurant in the 1st Ward.”

This isn’t just bad policy; it’s unconstitutional. Local governments generally have broad discretion over zoning, but they cannot use it to violate the constitutional rights of landowners. You can block a project because you think it’s too big but not because the developer is black, wants to build a Mosque or opposes gay marriage.

This issue last popped up in the debate over the so-called Ground Zero Mosque, whose opponents floated various wrongheaded, and unconstitutional, strategies to block its developers from building.

Ah yes. The so-called Ground Zero Mosque. The media obsession of August 2010. You might remember how the mainstream media covered that debate. Anyone who expressed even the slightest discomfort about a mosque being built near Ground Zero (much less raising funds because of this fact) was branded Islamophobic. That was the term used whether or not those citizens expressing discomfort wanted to do what Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Chicago Alderman Proco Moreno have said they'll do: use the power of the government to block the group they oppose. In fact, most of them didn't. They just said they didn't like it. Now my own view is that in a free country people should have the right to build whatever they want on their own property, but I wrote several posts (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) about the shoddy media coverage of people who did not agree with my views.

Time, for instance, wrote a cover story headlined “Is America Islamophobic?” The actual text of the story acknowledged no evidence to substantiate the charge, but had paragraphs like this:

Although the American strain of Islamophobia lacks some of the traditional elements of religious persecution — there’s no sign that violence against Muslims is on the rise, for instance — there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that hate speech against Muslims and Islam is growing both more widespread and more heated.

So of course I was curious how Time would cover actual government crackdowns on Christians for their speech. Boston and Chicago are big cities. The mayor of Chicago, one Rahm Emmanuel, actually backed his alderman up after he said he'd use the power of the state to block a private company for the religious views of its CEO. By contrast, you might recall Mayor Bloomberg actually moved to ease the mosque's bureaucratic burdens back in 2010. And you have celebrities saying stuff like:

anyone who eats [expletive] Fil-A deserves to get the cancer that is sure to come from eating tortured chickens 4Christ

Her follow-up tweet is even better. You know, just "anecdotal evidence of hate speech" against Christians. So is Time's approach going to blare the headline "Is America Christianophobic? What the anti-chicken sandwich uproar tells us about how the U.S. regards Christians"? Is it? I just know that they are going to refer to phobias, right?

We all know that phobias are irrational fears. And if feeling uncomfortable about the construction of a large mosque near the site of a massive terrorist attack committed in the name of Islam is an irrational fear, surely using the power of the government to keep perfectly-fried chicken sandwiches away from the good people of Chicago and Boston is an irrational fear, right? So let's check out the -phobia headline used by Time magazine in its story about this recent manufactured media outrage. Christianophobia is clunky but it's the best parallel. Is that the phobia that will be invoked in the headline? Let's check it out:

Boston Mayor Blocks Chick-fil-A Franchise from City over Homophobic Attitude

Wait, what?

The attitude that Time wants to call out is not the mayor's but the one that's on the receiving end of government's big stick here? And we're going to call the belief that marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman ... "homophobic"? Really? Or as one political reporter I follow on Twitter put it:

Did Time magazine ever call Clinton or Obama "homophobic" when they were against gay marriage?

I don't think we need to do a Nexis search to answer that one. These same views are called "anti-gay," a phrase I also don't remember being used against President Obama to describe his support of defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The article is just embarrassing in its obvious support for Menino.

It includes some more basic information about how Chick-fil-A has more than 1600 restaurants in 29 states and brings in $4.1 billion a year. And we learn that while Menino blatantly discriminates against people who hold views that differ from his, Chick-fil-A doesn't. I suppose that's helpful information.

But nowhere do we learn anything about people having any fear of homosexuals, much less an irrational fear of them. If you are a reporter, I think that you should learn what phobia means. And then when you learn what it means, you should use it only when referring to, well, phobias. Phobia is not a civil way to discuss views you disagree with. Leave the childish taunts to the children. And when you become a big boy or girl with a real job, start writing and speaking like an adult.

And when government officials in positions of authority are talking about infringing upon another group's freedom because of someone's religious views, go ahead and call up a First Amendment expert. This Time piece, you won't be surprised, didn't even mention First Amendment concerns. The Chicago Tribune barely mentioned them before scooting right on to something else. This New York Times piece was fine, but it didn't mention the issue either.

Please respect our Commenting Policy