Extremist vs. Bully: Chris Kluwe vs. Emmett C. Burns (and lamenting the apparent death of civil discourse)

Before you read this post, you kinda need to be familiar with what we’re talking about here. As such, you need to read THIS and then THIS in that order (both are fairly short, don’t worry), the second of which is what inspired me to write this ‘response to a response’.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear before I respond to what Chris Kluwe had to say; yes, Emmett C. Burns‘ letter to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, essentially demanding he enforce censorship over his players, was arrogant, ignorant, disgraceful, utterly stupid, and above all else, un-American. Is that clear? I’m about to criticize Chris Kluwe’s rant, but I don’t want anyone thinking I’m doing so in defense of this Burns guy. Hell no. I am not easily offended, but that letter is offensive. However, so too, I believe, was Chris Kluwe’s response to it.

So let’s get to Kluwe’s now infamous, profanity-laced response letter. I didn’t even know about it until 3 or 4 of my friends posted it on Facebook within an hour of each other. When I read it, I had a much different reaction than my friends did. First, I admire his passion about the issue. It’s good to see an NFL player going against type and being thoughtful about topics other than football (note the distinction- I know there are plenty of smart NFL players, but you rarely get to see or hear them talk about anything other than X’s and O’s). I especially like that it’s an informed opinion about a hot-button social issue. It’s good to see him defending the First Amendment rights of another NFL player on a completely different team. Because I respect his passion and the fact that he’s apparently a pretty good writer (I liked his piece for Deadspin just a couple days prior about the replacement refs), I will do my best to resist easy punter jokes. What I strongly dislike about this letter is the condescending, mean-spirited way he chose to express those passionate views. Unfortunately, I believe his tone in this letter is representative of a growing trend in the way many gay marriage supporters choose to defend their views.

Disclaimer: This post will not be a referendum on gay marriage. It’s not about cursing to make your point (I’d be a hypocrite to be against that. Have you read this blog before?). It’s about the tone of the discourse with regards to the issue, it’s about why this kind of tone should not be celebrated, and how some people need to be reminded of that simplest of adages; two wrongs don’t make a right.

Maybe it’s because I’m personally not up in arms about the gay marriage issue that I was put off by the tone of it, instead of immediately thinking, “Yes! Brilliant! Must share immediately!” I found Kluwe’s assault (which is the only accurate word for it) to be highly distasteful. Not because I’m unsympathetic to his views or because I think this delegate from Maryland was right, but because it was more abrasive than thoughtful. More than anything, I don’t think he advanced the cause even an inch. All he did was get a bunch of people who already agreed with him to sit at their computers, pump their fists and yell, “I agree with you!” Well whoop-dee-damn-doo. What does that accomplish? This isn’t the first time someone has put down opponents of gay marriage. These people have been called bigots, they’ve been called homophobes, they’ve been accused of being full of hate, and been told (definitively!) that they despise freedom and equal rights. In fact, Kluwe hits almost all of these bullet points during the piece (which leads me to believe he reads a lot of stuff similar to what he wrote from other hardcore gay rights advocates). In the end, other than providing laughs for some at the expense of another (aka what the internet seems to be all about these days), what’s the point of calling someone a “narcissistic fromunda stain”?

I’m tired of people trying to make their points on political issues with crude humor and by saying the meanest things they can think of about the people on the other side of the issue. You see this done most often on the internet, on TV by those super cool comedians (paging Bill Maher), and of course by outspoken celebrities, who LOVE making their point by insulting the other side, which proves how smart they are by comparison. Or something. Have you been on Twitter, like, EVER? People can’t wait to take their ubersnarky, 140 character jabs 24/7/365 at those who dare have dissenting points of view. They detest people who use strong, ignorant wording in opposing gay marriage, but then resort to cursing and insults to make their own counterpoints. Pot, meet kettle. And I’m sorry, but you see this much more on the left than on the right. The far right may have more offensive and crazy views on some issues, but the far left specializes in the politics of personal attacks in lieu of calm debate. (Then they complain about how the other side refuses to engage in a debate. Interesting!)

These same people can’t get through a sentence without whining about the other side being hateful and arrogant, but don’t see the utter hypocrisy when they use hateful language themselves. And why? Because they think their hatred is acceptable because they are on the right side of the issue. And they will not budge from that. Being right excuses anything inappropriate they might say. To them, you should hate people that disagree with you on this particular issue. They should be called out and shamed publicly. They deserve it, goddammit! Again, you don’t excuse your bad behavior by pointing to previous bad behavior by your opponents. People discussing serious issues with the intent of affecting change should discuss those issues in a civilized way. That’s how business is done in government, and if you expect to be taken seriously by the people who make policy decisions, you need to be civilized as well, instead of reacting to things you disagree with with pure visceral emotion.

Being clever with your insults doesn’t make you more right. I’m looking at Kluwe’s Twitter feed, and he seems to admit the rant was borne out of the outrage he felt at reading Burns’ letter. I don’t know if he’s always this mean toward people he disagrees with, but from perusing his Twitter feed, he does seem to love being snarky (which is oh-so-original on the internet these days). So instead of stepping back and considering the options of what to do with his strong opinions, he seems to have acted quickly on emotion, which is hardly a good idea in any circumstance.

You know what would have actually been productive, Chris…if you’d taken the time to think before acting? Using the same writing skill to craft a response that is passionate but respectful in tone, that isn’t rated-R, that serious people could see and admire, and that could be shown on TV by the major news outlets, thus increasing the visibility of your message. I guarantee you’d have gotten even more coverage if you’d been more thoughtful instead of mean, and shown that you are both correct and above using personal attacks to get your point across. Also, if you could’ve gotten some of your teammates and coaching staff to co-sign the letter in solidarity, that too would have gotten a lot of positive coverage that could have been helpful in the debate. THAT kind of response is much more valuable than coming up with clever insults so that people can read it and say, “Fuck yeah!”

Chris Kluwe, and those who think like him (and it’s increasingly clear there are many of you out there), would rather ignore, insult, or be dismissive of people with differing opinions and try to get the gay marriage agenda passed in spite of them. That’s not gonna happen, friends. Not when, at best, gay marriage is still a 50/50 issue across the country. People who base their political views on religious doctrine are here to stay, like it or not. These people aren’t going away any faster than religion is going away.

Here’s something you screamers seem to be overlooking: practicality. For same-sex marriage to ever go national, to defeat the diehards on the other side, you need the support of people like me who are moderates on the issue, people who don’t think this is the most important thing since Lincoln ended slavery. People who don’t think marriage is a civil right, equivalent to the right to vote or the right to attend the same schools as everybody else (real civil rights, which, last I checked, every gay person in this country already has). And people like me are turned off by immature rhetoric like this (“shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.“) when it comes to the discussion of important issues. Militant blowhards don’t get big things like this accomplished by themselves (recent example: the fringe anarchist element that singlehandedly destroyed any goodwill Americans had toward Occupy Wall Street). That’s reality. You’re never gonna get the religious diehards and the homophobes. That’s obvious. However, when you scream past the moderates straight to the diehards on the other extreme just to get your shots in and remind yourself that you’re right, there are two results, 1) to the people in the middle, the screaming back and forth is nothing but annoying noise that gets tuned out, and 2) you invigorate and mobilize the opposition even more. You need to be more Martin Luther King Jr. than Malcolm X.

This is just like the presidential election. Who’s gonna determine whether Barack Obama is reelected or Mitt Romney is the 45th president? Independents in the swing states. This is why Romney isn’t gonna campaign in Massachusetts or California or Washington, because it’ll do him no good. Nor will he commit time to Oklahoma or Mississippi, because he’s already winning those states. Mr. Obama isn’t gonna try to win Texas or Nebraska, and he doesn’t need to lock up support in Vermont or New York. Instead, they’ll both be in Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, etc., trying to sway the voters who matter in this election. So why do Chris Kluwe and those who think like him believe preaching to the base is gonna do any good in the big picture? Gay marriage advocates need to convince moderates that this is something worth giving an up vote the next time it comes around on the ballot. Pretty simple. And insisting that those who are on the fence and those against gay marriage are freedom hating bigots scores you no points with the people that will ultimately decide which way this issue turns. I for one am sick to death of both sides’ vitriolic arguments, which is why gay marriage probably doesn’t even make my top 10 list of most important issues facing the country right now.

I’m gonna say that word again; practicality. You have to be realistic in how to best accomplish your goals. Screaming “Fuck you, I’m right! Fuck you if you disagree!” accomplishes absolutely nothing other than making you feel better about yourself. If your convictions are strong, you shouldn’t need your opinion validated. I believe I’m 100% right when I say people should stop paying to go see Michael Bay‘s Transformers movies. Has that affected the box office one iota? No, so I’m done bitching about it. At least until the 4th one comes out. I digress.

Pro-gay marriage bullies are of no more use to me than the anti-gay marriage bullies. You might be on the right side of the issue, but the tone and tenor of your presentation is intolerable (perfect example: the Chick-fil-A fiasco this summer, which brought out the entirety of the pro-gay bully community). It’s all noise, and irritating noise at that. It’s like a thousand knives being scraped across a chalkboard. It’s like 50 screaming infants in a packed movie theater. Yes, I know, if the two gay guys living next door are married it doesn’t directly affect me, worsen the droughts in Texas or increase gas prices. Yes, I know, everyone deserves equal rights, and if I disagree with your definition of equal rights, I’m a fascist bigot pig. We’ve all read the “defense of gay marriage” playbook. Yes, I know, fuck me and you hope I rot in hell if this isn’t priority #1 for me. Yawn. You got anything new? No? Then for the love of god shutup and stop repeating yourselves. I get it. I’m with you. Calm the fuck down.

When I look at how a large portion of gay marriage supporters on the internet carry themselves, I wonder if anything would have been accomplished had the internet existed in the 60’s, when people were literally fighting for their lives for actual civil rights. I find it difficult to imagine that the people fighting for desegregation and equality for blacks and women were this annoying. Wake me when you’ve done something useful for the issue in the real world, Mr. Kluwe. Internet Screamers make real live trolls like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton seem measured by comparison. I’m just disappointed by how irrational and angry some people get over this issue, including some of my friends, who are otherwise willing to calmly debate most other issues.

It’s easy to read Chris Kluwe’s tirade (and other posts like it, of which there have been many over the years) and instantly agree. It riles up your emotions. It validates your opinion. And when someone who’s on your side of the fence is making a passionate argument, it’s easy to give in to those emotions on the issue and say, “YEAH! Fuck you, guy who’s against gay marriage! You’re a worthless piece of shit whose opinion doesn’t matter, yet here I am writing a rant in direct response to your opinions! Go fuck your sister again, neanderthal!” It’s easy to do that. Hell, it’s more fun. But again I ask, is it productive? Does it do anything to advance the cause? I say no, not one bit. Instead of advancing the cause, you alienate the people you need to get on your side. What’s harder, yet more rewarding when successful, is compromising with people you disagree with, or- god forbid- making a legitimate attempt to sway their opinion with positive examples and success stories from people on your side. I know the pessimism of today’s political climate makes that virtually impossible, but I’d at least like to see it attempted, instead of continuing with this stupid, endless flame war on the internet.

If you offer your opponent an open hand instead of running at him full bore with two gold pistols blazing like Nicolas Cage in Face/Off, you might be surprised at the results you get.

Put simply, Chris Kluwe’s letter represents the meanness of the internet at its lowest. You can be right without being an asshole about it.

“And there’s Chris Kluwe, PUNTING away his dignity!”

Dammit, looks like I couldn’t resist after all.

Further: Kluwe posted a cleaner version of his letter HERE, and responded to some of the backlash he’s received similar to what I’ve written in this post. He acknowledges the cursing may be off-putting to some, but that those who focus on that are missing the deeper purpose of his message (that freedom and equal rights are awesome) and that golly gee, it’s just fun to come up with clever insults! I actually agree, but common sense might dictate to some not to do that while trying to make a serious point. He doesn’t seem to understand the link there.

Here’s one reaction from a commenter on Deadspin that I liked:

What a sad and immature way to express your thoughts. The tragedy is that you seem somewhat witty; perhaps in the future you could use intelligent and socially acceptable language so that whatever views about which you’re ranting might be read and discussed. As it is, you’ve made your argument moot because no one in any position of influence would ever stoop to read very much of your foulness. For someone accusing others of utilizing vitriol, you are hypocritical at best; at worst you have zero credibility. Perhaps you might grow up and rethink your language and the way you present your argument before you do any more thinking about policy. …you should at least learn to speak in the way of fully grown adult human beings before you enter a debate. This offensive, knee-jerk letter did nothing to help your cause.

Finally, if gay marriage supporters are counting on the Supreme Court to change the fate of this issue in one fell swoop next year, you can think again. Yes, California’s Proposition 8 will likely hit the Court’s agenda in the 2013 session (at least it should). However, at most, they will potentially rule that banning gay marriage is un-Constitutional (though it doesn’t help that the California State Supreme Court upheld the law). And while striking down all the bans currently in place across the country is a big victory, the court cannot singlehandedly declare gay marriage legal in all 50 states. That’s what the legislative branch is for. Even if it’s found un-Constitutional to ban it, you still have to get pro-gay marriage legislation passed state by state, or pass a federal law allowing it, which is even less likely to happen. Just sayin. It’s going to be bad for your health to be this stressed and angry over it for years to come. Listen to the British…keep calm and carry on. That’s the only thing you can do.

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4 Responses to “Extremist vs. Bully: Chris Kluwe vs. Emmett C. Burns (and lamenting the apparent death of civil discourse)”


  1. 1 vigrx September 12, 2012 at 6:13 AM

    I’ve been surfing online greater than three hours today, but I by no means discovered any fascinating article like yours. It is lovely value enough for me. In my opinion, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you probably did, the internet shall be much more helpful than ever before.

  2. 2 Chris Kluwe September 15, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    What? Are you a gay?

  3. 3 Patrick January 10, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    Sorry Biggie (?), I wish you could live through ONE day of the crap that I have had to put up with most of my life. Speaking as a 52 year old gay man who is currently separated from his partner of 14 years because the federal government doesn’t offer immigration rights for gay couples, I will take my ‘Big Brother’, Chris’ brand of support over your ‘formula’, any day of the week. I’m tired of waiting and no one (including you) has been around to defend me from the vicious words that have been lobbed at me ad nauseum over the years. Chris is not afraid to call these folks out for what they are. I’m good with that


  1. 1 patrick attorney Trackback on August 6, 2014 at 2:07 AM

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