Roland Martin Fumbles the Ball

Roland Martin Fumbles the Ball

TWITTER FUMBLE: CNN suspended pundit Roland S. Martin indefinitely following the uproar over his offensive tweets during the Super Bowl. (Photo: RolandMartin.com)

So GLAAD (Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has gotten someone suspended again. This time it’s political pundit Roland Martin, who was sacked by CNN “for the time being” from his contributor’s gig. I know Roland. I sent him a text of prayerful encouragement to “hang in there … take in the lessons learned … this too shall pass.”

However, despite being his friend, this is actually an easy commentary to write.

Roland deserved the penalty flag. Period. He admitted as much in his statement on his website. He’ll take from this setback that not everyone is anticipating his every tweet, nor is it in his best interest as a public figure to thumb type every impulse in his head — comedic, philosophical or otherwise — out to the Twitterverse.

CNN had little choice but to suspend Roland. Most legit news organizations have some type of morals clause that basically says an employee or associate of the organization must always be on their game, even when the cameras aren’t officially on. Roland knows this.

In a series of comments during the Super Bowl on Sunday, Roland, an award-winning journalist and devout Christian, tweeted the following that landed him on GLAAD’s hit list:

“If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him!”

Not exactly something Jesus would say — and, frankly, not that funny. GLAAD, not surprisingly, wasn’t amused, which is why they called for CNN to kill Roland’s contract. Though Roland is not anti-LGBT and was simply being playful, the comment is still from another era — like when most TVs were black and white. I liken it to a joke about my wife being better off in the kitchen with the gals making punch and clam dip than in the living room with the fellas watching the game. The fact is, my wife was in the kitchen and other than when our sons played football, she could care less about watching muscle men in tights grabbing and pushing each other for an oddly shaped brown ball and then patting each other on the butts. Nonetheless, the joke’s unintended sexist connotation is obvious.

So, yup, Roland fumbled and should’ve been suspended. But fired? C’mon now, GLAAD.  Is there a black man pattern here? A few years ago it was actor Isaiah Washington, last year it was NBA star Kobe Bryant and comedian/actor Tracy Morgan, now Roland. Black men certainly aren’t the only ones getting into this kind of hot water with the PC Police, but the pattern sure is curious.

GLAAD is definitely right to fight anti-LGBT rhetoric and violence. In fact, we Christians should be defending the rights of all of God’s creations, especially those made in His image — even if we disagree with how some of our brothers and sisters exercise those rights. (We’re not calling for bans against divorce are we?) Sadly, Christians are often the tail instead of the head regarding human rights, cherry-picking the sins we deem most contemptible. As Americans we should never be for restricting the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness of other Americans, because to do so puts our own liberties at risk.

Roland knows this and simply dropped the ball this time. (I suppose the New England Patriots weren’t the only ones.)

GLAAD, on the other hand, is running the risk of undermining its own mission by over-pursuing every misdirected play.

What’s also curious is where the black gay organizations, like the National Black Justice Coalition, stand on this? Will they call for TV One and the Tom Joyner Morning Show (Roland has contracts with both) to suspend Roland too? What does it say about GLAAD that they apparently only focused on the majority white-owned CNN and not the black media outlets? Are the black gays “punking out?” (Oops, can I say that?) Or are they simply wise and more reasonable?

Perhaps a bigger question is whether in this Internet age, where thoughts in a living room can spread globally in an instant, we are going to have to lighten up on PC. Most “tweets” are not fully constructed thoughts like a letter, op-ed, essay, or book. They barely qualify as sentences.

Stringing together a list of someone’s tweets over a period of time does not necessarily construct a reliable narrative of their views either. Haven’t people been doing this with the Bible for centuries, pulling passages together out of context to fit their agendas?

We’ll either have to lighten up on people, or we all better learn fast to tightly script everything we type. Or, maybe we need to realize that not all of our witty musings are profound or interesting enough to post publicly and should just remain in our heads.

Roland knows part of being good at dishing it out is being able to take it.

Roland can take it.

He may no longer be as funny on Twitter, but he’ll be a wiser man.

Update

Now there’s word that GLAAD aims to enlist Roland Martin in its cause against anti-LGBT violence and is no longer calling for Martin’s firing.

GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro said after the suspension, “CNN today took a strong stand against anti-LGBT violence and language that demeans any community. Yesterday, Martin also spoke out against anti-LGBT violence. We look forward to hearing from CNN and Roland Martin to discuss how we can work together as allies and achieve our common goal of reducing such violence as well as the language that contributes to it.”

Ferraro added early Thursday, ” . . . Our goal is to ensure better coverage that works toward ending anti-LGBT violence.”

Googling for Meaning, Part 1

Googling for Meaning, Part 1

NOT FEELING LUCKY: A gay activist used a clever Internet campaign to create a new meaning for GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum's name on Google. Has the culture war gone digital? (Photo by Mike Segar/Newscom)

Since vaulting to a virtual tie with Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum has become headline news in short order. And so, too, has his so-called “Google problem.”

For the uninitiated, Santorum’s name was dragged through the virtual mud after a series of controversial statements regarding homosexuality drew the ire of sex columnist and gay activist Dan Savage. In an effort to retaliate against Rick Santorum for linking homosexuality with polygamy, bestiality, and moral relativism, Savage polled his readers to find the most offensive definition possible with which to associate with the word “santorum,” settling on a byproduct of anal sex. He then launched an Internet campaign, complete with its own website, designed to point search engines to this definition when users searched for the name Santorum.

(Relax, people. The link was to Wikipedia.)

Because this happened awhile back, few people knew about this outside of Santorum’s campaign staff, his small-but-loyal following, and liberal bloggers who intentionally linked to Dan Savage’s website in order to embarrass the then-U.S.-senator. But since his Iowa resurgence, in an effort to play catch-up, political reporters and pundits have been delicately referring to this as Santorum’s “Google problem.”

But the problem has very little to do with Google. And in the big picture, it has little to do with Rick Santorum directly, although his feud with Savage vaulted his name into the internet spotlight. See, Google’s search algorithms direct users to what they’re looking for based on a complex set of criteria, which includes how many and how often people link to a particular website. The way that Dan Savage and his supporters were able to defame Rick Santorum is by intentionally manipulating that process, a term sometimes referred to as “Google bombing.”

But Rick Santorum’s problem is really not with Google, which is why his attempt to get Google to remove the offending search result, rather than proving his fighting mettle, mostly showed his ignorance regarding how the search engine, and by extension the Internet in general, works.

Instead of a Google problem, what Rick Santorum has is a meaning problem. And unfortunately, so do many other Christians in politics.

Words have meanings

See, the crux of the clash between conservative and liberal activists is often in the meanings or connotations of words. For Santorum and other Christians who believe that God’s standard for marriage and sexuality is for one man and one woman, the word “homosexual” or “gay” is shorthand for “deviant.” As in, “if you deviate from our standard, then you’re wrong.”

For Dan Savage and many of his ilk, I think that what’s so offensive is not simply the idea that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin, but that this sin in particular is so vile and morally objectionable that people who engage in it deserve whatever dehumanizing rhetoric is flung in their direction. That’s what they get, I’m sure they imagine Christians saying, for choosing that lifestyle.

Unfortunately, because of the decades-long conflation in American churches of Christian doctrine with Republican politics, many left-leaning, non-religious Americans have adopted distorted definition of Christianity. For them, the word “Christian” is an adjective akin to “hypocritical” or “judgmental.”

Many postmodern, Gen-X and/or Millennial Americans have similar cultural leanings, even if they grew up in Christian households. I have a friend who is a Christian, the child of a Presbyterian pastor. In his household, growing up, the term “conservative” was usually a slur, and to this day any reference to The 700 Club brings up a slight wave of nausea.

By itself, this barely qualifies as news, as it’s been covered ad nauseam by younger, hipper Christians trying to ditch the stench of stuffy cultural superiority.

But in this situation, it does explain a lot.

The gay civil rights movement

For starters, it explains why so many gay activists have borrowed the tactics, imagery, and rhetoric of the civil rights movement.

A galvanizing force in the Black community, the African American church has been, for decades and even centuries, the focal point of political activism for Blacks in America. And it’s easy to forget this now, but there were plenty of White people in the late ’60s who denounced Dr. King and the civil rights movement as rabble-rousing nonsense. So entrenched were these Whites in their typical Christian Baby Boomer upbringing, with an idea of Christianity as American as baseball and apple pie, that they failed to see the civil rights struggle as a biblical issue. It was countercultural, so for them it was wrong.

By contrast, many liberal White people voluntarily joined the struggle — especially those whose parents grew up in that time and for whom it became de rigeur to adopt many of the cultural artifacts of the Black church experience without actually believing in God, Jesus, or salvation. It’s like they got swept up in the passion of the struggle and came along for the ride, sort of.

(For a pop culture example, imagine Steven and Elyse Keaton from Family Ties in their twenties, singing “Kum Ba Ya” during a protest.)

So when these liberal White folks (or others close to them) struggle with their own sexuality, then later come out of the closet and choose to adopt publicly gay identities, it makes sense that they would generalize the Christian response to homosexuality as just another example of people in the church rejecting anything countercultural. It’s logical. They did it to the Blacks, now they’re doing it to us.

Understandably, many socially conservative Blacks are uncomfortable and even resentful when queer activists link their struggle to the civil rights struggles for African Americans, if for no other reason than because Black folks hardly ever had the luxury of staying in the closet for political or business reasons. But despite being socially conservative, most churchgoing Blacks are still an overwhelmingly Democrat voting bloc, which means that popular African American politicians usually have to work a delicate balance between having a positive voting record on gay rights but not being too outspoken on the issue.

(This is one of the reasons why President Obama, regarding gay rights, tends to let his subordinates do the talking.)

*******

So the questions abound: How can we accurately represent Christ and the church for those who don’t believe? Is there or should there be a theologically orthodox, African American Christian response to the civil rights movement? And what does any of this have to do with Rick Santorum?

For these and other answers … stay tuned for Part 2.

This Week’s Pendulum

This Week’s Pendulum


1 U.S. POLITICS NEWT GINGRICH RESTARTING OR SHUTTING DOWN?

A month into his presidential campaign, Newt Gingrich must regroup because his entire senior campaign team has quit. While Senator John McCain did lose his campaign manager and campaign chief strategist, the majority of his staff downsizing was a result of financial woes. Gingrich, on the other hand, has lost his campaign manager, campaign spokesman, New Hampshire based consultant, strategist, South Carolina consultant, Iowa consultant, and additional Iowa staffers due to a difference in opinion about political direction. Gingrich was already under scrutiny because of his anti-GOP comments concerning Medicare, $500,000 Tiffanyís tab and luxury cruise to Greece. His staffís lack of confidence in his political potential is just another sign that Gingrich isnít in this race for the long haul.

2 WORLD BUFFER UP YOUR FOREIGN LANGUAGE SKILLS ON BBC.COM

Americans are known throughout the world for their insensitivity to foreign cultures, and often their disinterest with learning other languages. If you’d like a tool to help boost your foreign language skills and take a step towards slightly improving our foreign reputation, visit BBC.com. They offer extensive tools in all the major languages as well as tools on a vast array of dialects. Their tools include, 12-week email courses, programs, dictionaries, guides and more!

3 BOOKS PRICE OF KINDLE EXPECTED TO DROP BY CHRISTMAS

If you’ve been thinking of buying a Kindle and joining the E-Book craze, you may want to hold off for a bit. The Kindle is rumored to be under $100 by Christmas based on the success of the product thus far. Analyst Mark Mahaney predicts that eBooks will surpass print book sales in 2-3 years. Kindle sales are already up 200% from last year. I do not currently own a Kindle, but may look into a purchase if the price drops as expected.

4 MUSIC WHY RAPPERS SHOULD REFRAIN FROM POLITICAL STATEMENTS

Ever since Kanye’s “Bush hates Black people” outburst, rappers have had a bad rep for their political correctness. It looks like they’ve done it again, this time the culprit is Lupe Fiasco. Not only did he say that “the biggest terrorist in the United States is Obama,” but he followed that up with a more intelligent reason for not voting, “It’s meaningless.” (INSERT ‘BOO’ HERE) Why Mr. Fiasco do you feel that politics is a viable platform for you? I’d prefer the next time a pop artist picked up a book, that they chose not to make their “enlightenment” public. Who do you think will be the next culprit?

5 EDUCATION SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE CLASSROOM

Today’s youth are living in an era where there is not only a dependence on technology, but also a dependence on social media. Love it orhate it, social media has changed the way we interact and it is here to stay. As a result, L.A. based teacher, Enrique Legaspi, has incorporated the use of Twitter in his 8th-grade history class. Instead of raising theirhands, students tweet their answers. Some may find this use of technology in the classroom disturbing, but with 8-18 years old consuming ‘10 3/4 hours worth of media content everyday’ it might benefit teachers to engage youth in creative ways. Will tweeting the teacher during class become a trend? I think this will become more of a problem than a solution to student participation, but maybe teachers should consider using Twitter for afterschool homework assistance.

6 MONEY STOCKS SUFFER SIX WEEKS OF LOSSES

On Friday, the Dow dipped below 12,000 for the first time in three months. Energy stocks took the biggest hit, after Saudi Arabia reported that it would increase oil output and reduce prices to $99 per barrel. This is the 6th straight week of decline, the longest streak since 2008, and analyst are worried this might be more than the temporary glitch in a stock come-back. Frank Davis, director of sales and trading with LEK Securities, stated that “nearly all (traders are) leaning toward the bear side.”

7 TECHNOLOGY FACEBOOK TO START SCANNING AND IDENTIFYING YOUR PHOTOS

Facebook is changing the way you tag your friends. They will now be able to scan faces in your photos and suggest friends, based on facial recognition. The new feature has people up in arms about the violation of privacy. Facebook has allowed for users to opt out of the feature in their privacy settings. Google had planned to release an application that would allow someone to “Google” them from a picture and find out their information. They later decided not to release technology in that capacity, due to privacy issues, and has used it for less invasive technologies.

8 TV KEKE PALMER STARS IN NEW FILM FOR TV DIRECTED BY NICK CANNON

Keke Palmer will play an international pop star named Kadee Worth in Rags, an upcoming film on Nickelodeon. The movie is a modern-day fairy tale that centers on Charlie Prince, an orphan played by Max Schneider, who lives with his evil stepfather and dreams of being a singer. When Kadee finds Charlie, they work through their differences to gain a  new perspective on their worlds and an appreciation for each other.

  

9 MOVIES WILL “MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS” BE A HIT OR GET AN ICY RECEPTION?

Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a family comedy starring Jim Carey and based on the children’s book Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater. The movie is about the workaholic Mr. Popper and his journey to truly understanding the important things in life. While, the film sounds awfully similar to Carey’s Liar, Liar, this production is unique because Carey shares the screen with real Emperor Penguins. Mr. Popper’s Penguins opens Father’s Day weekend and appears to have humor for the whole family, so this may be the flick for dads and their kids. While the plot is sure to be predictable, the knowledge that it features real penguins gives the film bonus points in my book!

10 CELEB IS TRACY MORGAN ASKING FOR TROUBLE?

You think Tracy Morgan would have taken a hint from the “Kobe Bryant homophonic slur incident” and subsequent NBA public service announcements and just avoided saying anything about the LGBT community.  But he didn’t, and now Morgan is apologizing to “the gay & lesbian community for [his] choice of words at [his] recent stand-up act in Nashville.” In his apology, the comedian and 30 Rock actor, says he is not hateful and is “an equal opportunity jokester.” While everyone is entitled to their opinion, Morgan took it a step too far. It is reported that he said if his son were gay, he’d better come home and talk to him like a man or he’ll “pull out a knife and stab that little nigger to death.” The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is condemning Morgan for his remarks. The alliance has asked that 30 Rock investigate and Morgan remove the remarks from his routine. If Morgan doesn’t do something drastic, his career could be in jeopardy.