How comments made on FB could affect election

Faith Merino · October 29, 2010 · Short URL:

Inflammatory anti-gay comments made on Facebook puts a public face on hate

As Election Day draws near, social networking sites like Facebook are having much more of an impact on state and federal politics than they may realize—so much so that events that take place on those sites could have very real influences on voting outcomes.

A small school district in Arkansas became the subject of national outrage earlier this week when an elected school board official, Midland School District Vice President Clint McCance, posted comments on his Facebook page calling for the suicide of all gay teens.  His remarks came in response to Spirit Day, a campaign by GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, to mourn the deaths of five gay teens who committed suicide recently as a result of bullying.

 The Arkansas Department of Education openly condemned McCance’s statements on Thursday, but insisted that there was nothing to be done unless McCance resigned.  “The ballot box is the remedy for patrons that are dissatisfied with a school board member,” said Midland School District Superintendent Dean Stanley.  “I can certainly suggest to the board that it affirm its commitment to all students as that commitment is expressed in its mission statement and affirm its commitment to eradicating bullying.”

The violence of McCance’s comments have prompted a nationwide outcry for his resignation.  A “Fire Clint McCance” Facebook page has 52,000 supporters and Human Rights Campaign has placed a full-page ad in the Batesville Guard, the local newspaper in Independence County (home to Midland School District), calling on McCance to resign.

McCance made several comments on his Facebook wall, each more violent, graphic, and grammatically incorrect than the last.  The first wall post read:

“Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE.”

His comments (with varying colors of bad grammar not typically seen in a school official) go on to call gay teens “fags” and “queers,” and describe how he “enjoy[s] the fact that they often give each other aids and die."  He also mentions that he would disown his own children if they were gay: “They will not be welcome in my home or in my vicinity.  I will absolutely run them off.  Of course, my kids will know better.  My kids will have solid christian beliefs.”

It is worth noting that McCance’s Facebook profile was public (it has since been taken down), and his comments were not restricted to friends only, but could have been visible to anyone who looked him up, including the families of students in his school district.Tyler Clementi

“McCance is a high-tech one-man Klan rally,” said Rick Jacobs, founder and chair of Courage Campaign, in a phone interview.   Courage Campaign, a member-driven and member-supported organization some 75,000 strong, is an online organizing network for progressive issues in California and the U.S., such as campaigns for gay marriage and equality, environmental issues, and more.

Though repulsed by the remarks, Jacobs expressed satisfaction over the fact that McCance’s comments were made on a public forum like Facebook, as it calls attention to the homophobic rhetoric of anti-gay groups like the National Organization of Marriage (NOM), which went on a nationwide tour this year to rally opposition to same-sex marriage.  “I’m glad that he is putting a public face on groups like NOM.  When a public education figure uses language and hatred like that, he’s just taking a page out of the book of NOM and vice versa.  NOM’s nationwide tour was designed to bully people.”

With Election Day right around the corner, the publicity anti-gay political groups have been receiving over McCance’s comments may impact voters’ decisions in the voting booth.  While there are no gay rights initiatives on the ballot this year, Prop 8, the initiative that would ban same-sex marriage, is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and many political candidates for governor and attorneys general have taken a side in support or opposition of the ban.

“Hate speech is un-American and unacceptable for anyone who respects people who live in this country,” said Jacobs.

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