Last week, Gary Glenn went on Linda Harvey’s radio show and proclaimed that gays aren’t the “best or the brightest” employees. The earned Glenn, the head of Michigan’s chapter of the American Family Association, coverage by news and blogs such as the Daily Kos, the Muskegon Chronicle and mlive.com, Towleroad and others. This isn’t the first time that Glenn has attracted gads of media attention for his conservative views, and it certainly won’t be his last.
To which we ask: Why?
Think about it: Does Glenn represent all conservative views? No. Does he represent all Christian views? No. He represents the far right and extremist views. He is likely speaking for a tiny portion of citizens in our state and across the country. So why is Glenn, one person who makes sense to so few, easily able to steal the spotlight?
Because we listen. Because whenever he says something obnoxious and hateful, we all rush to hear exactly what he said and how he said it. Because news outlets like inflammatory stories, which often deliver lots of online hits. Because for some reason, we worry that the average conservative-leaning politician or citizen secretly thinks or believes the horrific things that Glenn has the temerity to say.
Well, what really is behind the conservative Michigan lawmakers who were happy to introduce lots of anti-gay bills this session? They said it was the economy or the state’s anti-gay marriage amendment. But they didn’t say anything as crazy or extremist as Glenn, because they have some semblance of reputation and professionalism to uphold. Glenn’s job is to be as loud as possible, and he knows that shocking messages are easily amplified.
Glenn has offered to pay for the next campaigns of the Holland City Council members who voted against the anti-discrimination ordinance last month. That ordinance would have protected LGBTs from discrimination in housing and employment. These kinds of protections aren’t offered at the state or federal level. But there’s something very important to note in this story: even though the vote failed, it failed by a surprisingly slim margin. Just one vote different, and the historically conservative city of Holland could have turned progressive.
Glenn clearly must think that he has a lot of clout and power in order to openly back city council candidates. After all, when he talks, people listen, no matter how absurd or irrelevant he sounds. But he’s probably getting louder because he feels threatened. There was a lot of support for the ordinance, and it’s not going away. Groups of concerned citizens are attending every single city council meeting until it votes again on the measure, and in favor. These amazing citizens – many who are Christian and/or straight – are not letting the ordinance stay a failure. They’re organizing through social media, roping in area businesses and are even selling bumper stickers and t-shirts. This is the power of people banding together for positive change.
Gary Glenn is just Gary Glenn. He’s one man with one voice and one bizarre, unchanging message. Between Glenn and the concerned citizens of West Michigan, who do you think we should listen to? The thoughtful people who care for their community, or the screaming lunatic? The person who thinks he has power, or the group of people who actually has power?
We highly doubt that if we stopped listening, Glenn would stop talking. He’ll never do that. But if we stop reading news stories and blog posts about him, perhaps writers and editors will fail to take him seriously enough to cover him in the future. And wouldn’t that be much less of a bother to all of us?