Social media exposes bigots

Bigots can’t hide on the Internet.

Trent M. Kays

I love social media. I often don’t proclaim my love for things so easily, but social media has afforded me experiences that I relish. I’m able to connect with people I might not otherwise have been able to meet. I’m able to collaborate with colleagues and peers in exciting ways. I’m able to study social phenomena in online discourse spaces (one of my specialties).

All of these are good things. But social media has also given an accessible platform to the sort of people we’d expect to see on a corner evangelizing. Social media doesn’t hide bigots. Indeed, it highlights the bigotry of those we’d otherwise have never known about. It’s great.

One such bigot learned this the hard way: West Union, S.C., Mayor Linda Oliver.

Unfortunately for Oliver, she didn’t take down a rant against the LGBT community and same-sex marriage before many in West Union and around the country read it.

In the rant, Oliver writes: “What’s it gonna take to get these queers to realize they don’t need a piece of paper. God will not bless their union because he plainly speaks against queers in the Bible. Want to cover your queer with insurance? Buy a policy. Want your queer to get your stuff when you die? Make a will.”

Wow. It would be dishonest for me to say my mouth wasn’t agape after reading Oliver’s words. This is an elected representative. The idea that same-sex marriage is just about “a piece of paper” oozes of ignorance.

I suppose if I were Oliver’s Sunday school teacher, I would tell her that nowhere in the Bible does an admonishment of “queers” appear. I would also encourage her to actually read the Bible. Since it’s clear that she wears poly-blend clothing, I would tell her she should take it off or risk burning for eternity in hell.

Bible kooks akin to Oliver only read the parts of God’s word that they agree with. I’d expect to find Oliver on a street corner on weekends with a Bible in one hand and her other hand clenched in a fist. When I lived in the South, I used to see these street preachers all the time. They spend their weekends making sure others can’t enjoy theirs.

Despite social media giving a broader platform to these ignorant boobs, I’m happy to know that they can no longer hide. They are exposed to the world in all their simpleminded nature. Oliver’s rant is just one example in a long line of stupidity. People hate gays, feminists, blacks, women, progressives and the list continues. On any day at any time, you can find people using social media to bemoan the existence of all sorts of people.

Perhaps most disheartening is that Oliver represents the views of her community. Her status as mayor — voted for by her constituents — gives me pause as to whether she really represents all their views. I’m sure there are some same-sex couples in her community. But, I guess it’s hell for them, right?

The old notion that we should tolerate others’ beliefs and transgressions is wrong. It is completely wrong. This isn’t to say that tolerance is something we shouldn’t strive for, but why should we allow others who devalue the existence of entire groups the luxury of tolerance? Why should Oliver’s constituents tolerate her hate?

Once something is on the Internet, it’s there forever. Oliver may have removed her rant after realizing its significance, but it was too late. She exposed her bigoted religious views to the world, and she is now rightly targeted for her hate. Indeed, if she was so proud of her position, why didn’t she leave it up for everyone to see?

When I was young, my parents always said some people learn the easy way and some learn the hard way.

If anything, social media has given us a group of people who consistently need to learn the hard way. What would ever make bigots like Oliver think their position is acceptable? The vacuum she created around herself insulates her views from those who disagree, so she has never been offered the opportunity to grow and evolve her understanding.

Social media destroyed that vacuum. I’m sure it is shocking for Oliver. I’m sure she feels singled out for views she doesn’t find wrong. If you’ve never been challenged on your views, of course you would think they are the only correct ones. This phenomenon is over for those on social media. Oliver can’t escape the fact that social media has shattered her world.

This is what social media does. It highlights those who we should condemn. It brings to the forefront all the underlying ills of society and shows us the raw hate still coursing through our nation’s arteries. Social media has aided revolutions like the Arab Spring and helped topple dictators like Hosni Mubarak.

Perhaps the greatest contribution social media can make is through societal and cultural change.

If we know who the bigots are, we can better take steps to help them or remove them from positions of power. Conversely, social media can better teach bigots how to hide their hate, but, as it was in Oliver’s case, this argument relies too much on social media maturity.

Social media can help us see these bigots. Now we only need to be brave enough to remove them from power. I hope Oliver will be thrown out of office during the next election cycle. I have my doubts, because though social media connects her with a wider world, her position is still based on her constituents — but I can still hope.