The gay rape gang that never existed, and how it spread through fundamentalist Christian social media

    Earlier in the week, in a response to something that I’d written about Michigan’s “License to Discriminate” legislation having passed the House, a reader by the name of EOS posted a link to a ridiculous video intended to demonstrate, if I understood it correctly, that gay people can, when pushed, be just as intolerant as Christians. In the video, a man calling himself Theodore Shoebat calls various bakeries asking that they make him a cake covered in homophobic slogans. And, when they invariably refuse, he looks knowingly into the camera, like he’s just proven something of great significance. A Christian baker refusing to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple, it would seem, at least to Shoebat, is exactly the same as a regular, non-homophobic baker refusing to spell out “fag” in icing on top of a lemon chiffon cake. The idea was so ridiculous that I decided to search the web for other articles written by Mr. Shoebat. And that’s when I found this, which was posted just a few days ago.

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    “A horrific event has taken place in Jamaica, in which a group of homosexuals took a man who was about to go jogging, stripped him naked, tied him up, and gang raped him until blood poured out of his anus,” said Shoebat. “We are going to be seeing this type of violence from homosexuals in the future. Expect homosexual rape gangs to be more numerous.”

    Such vivid imagery. Blood running from the anus… If it were true, it would be absolutely horrible… Of course, it isn’t, though. And Shoebat could have discovered as much if he’d done even the most rudimentary fact checking. But his objective, I think it’s pretty clear, never was to share the truth. It was to stoke the fires of homophobia and further his fundamentalist, anti-gay agenda. And it worked. According to Facebook, 20 people shared this post of his. And it got a really positive response from his followers. “Kill them all, God will recognize his own,” said one. “Homosexuals are violent,” said another. “Their not all puffy fagits, we need to realize this, militancy is the answer. I don’t want to kill them, I would rather convert them and save them from hell, but if they want a war we will give them it.”

    If any of these folks had checked, they would have found that no evidence exists to show that there was an attack of this nature on the day in question. Furthermore, they would have found that it’s not unusual for fake stories such as this to run in the Jamaica Observer, where this piece of propaganda originated. The paper’s owner, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, the conservative owner of Sandals resorts, apparently has a reputation for this kind of thing. According to a November, 2014 feature in Vice, “LGBT rights have featured heavily in (the pages of the Jamaica Observer) over the past six months and, although the paper claims to support freedom of expression and balanced journalism, critics note that some of the content has been overtly anti-gay.” One article, appearing beneath the headline “Homo Thugs!,” warned of “gun-toting gays” taking over Jamaican towns. And , not so coincidentally, these articles about armed gays, and the rape of straight men, came out at a time when Jamaicans were actively debating so-called “anti-buggery” laws directed against homosexuals… Oh, and it’s probably also worth noting that, between 1981 and 2004, Sandals resorts barred gay couples.

    As for the image that Shoebat chooses to use in the above post, it isn’t of a gay Jamaican gang. A reverse image search revealed it to be a photo taken in Kenya. And the men pictured weren’t masked because they were in the process of committing a crime. They were masked because they were protesting an anti-homosexuality bill which had been passed by Uganda’s parliament and they were, quite justifiably, fearful of violent retribution… And, speaking of anti-gay violence, it doesn’t just happen in Africa. Jamaica has a long history of it as well.

    Here, if you’d like to hear more about this event, which didn’t happen, and what it means for the future of mankind, is Theodore Shoebat.

    Homosexual men, who will lift a lot of weights, they’re very robust, they’re very strong, and they will go after people that they don’t like, and they will sodomize them… It’s already happening!” -Theodore Shoebat

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Observations, Other, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

    The Porking of Michigan: We were promised high-tech jobs. Instead, we were given a pork processing plant.

    A few years ago, I interviewed an author here by the name of Ted McClelland, a former Michigander who, as you might recall, had stirred up a little bit of a shit storm after referring to our home state as “Michissippi” in an article on Salon.com about our passage of so-called right-to-work legislation. “Michigan,” said McClelland in the article, “has lost so many educated workers that the state’s leadership seems to feel it has no choice but to become a low-wage haven. The kind of place that attracts chicken processors, not software engineers.” Well, here we are, almost exactly two years later, knee-deep in yet another lame duck, race-to-the-bottom legislative session, and it looks as though McClelland was pretty much right on the money. Today, the Michigan Economic Development Council proudly announced that, thanks to their efforts, there would be 810 new jobs in the state of Michigan… at a hog slaughtering facility.

    Merry Christmas, Michigan! All of your dreams have come true!

    The following comes from today’s Detroit Free Press:

    In the biggest such project landed by Michigan since Gov. Rick Snyder targeted food processing as a jobs-growth sector, Clemens Food Group, of Hatfield, Pa., plans to build a $255-million pork processing plant in Coldwater that will employ 810 workers.

    The Michigan Strategic Fund approved $12.5 million in Community Development Block Grant funds Tuesday for the city of Coldwater for infrastructure improvements, land acquisition, workforce development and on-the-job training for the plant.

    Clemens Food CEO Doug Clemens, in an interview with the Free Press, said he aims to have the new Coldwater plant operating by late 2017, and that processing of hiring and training employees will begin in the next six months. Entry-level production jobs will pay about $13 an hour, but a wide range of higher-skill management and technical positions will also be available, he said.

    Michigan took an unusually proactive approach in courting Clemens Food, a sixth-generation family-owned outfit founded in 1895 that now has 2,200 employees, nearly all based in eastern Pennsylvania…

    You read that right, we’re not only getting a pork processing plant, and all of the lost fingers and environmental degradation that will invariably come along with it, but we got to pay for it!

    Yup, we have the distinction of living in a state that, while cutting public education to the bone, has decided to invest millions in pork processing. That, my friends, pretty much says it all. We were promised high tech jobs, and, instead, they took our money and used it to lure one of the dirtiest industries this side of fracking to our state.

    This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. These are the industries that thrive in areas where unions are legislated out of existence and public schools are being closed to make room for for-profit charters. Bright people do not want to live here. And that’s why, right now, we’re talking about luring an enormous slaughterhouse to Michigan instead of a cutting edge manufacturer of wind turbine blades. This is what we’ve chosen for ourselves.

    Before we go any further, I’d like to share a little something from the National Institutes of Health about what the folks of Coldwater can expect in exchange for those $13 an hour, non-union jobs slitting the throats of pigs.

    …Meat processing involves animal slaughter at facilities where the meat is to be sold or kept on-site for canning, cooking, curing, freezing, or making meat products. It also includes preparing byproducts such as lard, gelatine, or tallow.

    Meat processing uses large quantities of water and generates wastewater which includes significant amounts of organic matter such as fat, blood, manure, hair, feathers, and bones. This wastewater can also contain disease-causing organisms, bacteria, parasite eggs, oil, grease, salt, nitrogen and ammonia compounds, phosphorus, and chlorine.

    Air pollution generated by meat processing can include particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and hazardous air pollutants. Other byproducts of meat processing include odors, noise, and solid waste for treatment or disposal.

    The slaughtering, processing, and packaging of meat has long been associated with a high rate of accidents, injuries, and illnesses caused by handling bacteria or infected carcasses or tissues. Meat processing has a much higher injury and illness rate than the average U.S. factory. Because of the repetitive motion involved in meat processing, worker safety and health issues also include ergonomic concerns…

    It’s hazardous work. And, with the increasing speed and volume of production, working the “cut line” is fast becoming one of America’s most dangerous profession. Here’s an interesting little anecdote from a recent feature in Business Week on the true cost of pork.

    …A Fremont worker, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals in the workplace, describes a recent incident involving a “gut snatcher,” the person responsible for pulling innards from the abdominal cavity. One day last year, the snatcher still had one of his hands inside the carcass when a saw cut through the spine of the animal and sliced off four of his fingers. “I think he lose two of these,” the witness says, pointing to his middle and ring fingers. Then as if an afterthought, he adds that he too has lost part of a finger—the tip of his left pinkie—to a rib cutter. And his wife also lost her index finger, severed by a fat trimmer. In every case, he says, “they washed it up but never stopped production.”

    And then there are the environmental costs associated with pork processing, which, as stated above, is a very resource intensive industry, especially when it comes to water… My hope is that the folks living along the Coldwater River fare better than the folks who live along the Trinity River in Dallaw, which is known to run red with “pigs’ blood and other toxic biohazard refuse.”

    porkmi

    I should add that I know that that there are likely good reasons to have a facility such as this located in close proximity to the animals to be processed. (As it is now, as I understand it, many animals raised in Michigan are exported for slaughter.) Putting aside for the moment the fact that American meat consumption isn’t sustainable, and can never be at present levels, given the negative impact the industry has on the environment, and the resources required to produce a pound of meat, I do imagine that having a facility like this in Michigan could perhaps cut down on highway miles traveled by meat industry trucks, and thereby have some environmental benefit. (Granted, it’s likely a drop in the bucket when the industry is looked at holistically, though.) Furthermore, not everyone is well-suited for a high-tech, “next-generation” job, like those Snyder used to talk so eloquently about. I get that. For war it’s worth, I’m also aware of the fact that this processor, Clemens Food, the 16th-largest pork producer in the United States, may not be the most evil company in the world. A friend just pointed out, for instance, that they’ve committed to switch from crates to “free-to-roam” pigpens across their operation. Sure, they’ve said that it will take them until 2022, to get all of their suppliers on board, but it’s probably still worth pointing out. Furthermore, the company states on its website that it requires employees to sign a “swine handlers code of conduct” and complete a training program in animal welfare. And, to their credit, I have not found any evidence of severe violations in the reading I’ve done thus far. (Granted, I haven’t invested a lot of time thus far.) With all of that said, though, I’m still disappointed in our State. I’m disappointed that it’s gotten to the point where dangerous jobs inside a hog processing plant for $13 an hour are seen as something to be proud of.

    Posted in Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

      The Ypsilantian of the Year

      ypsilantianoftheyear

      [The following post is kind of rambling. I apologize in advance for the stream-of-consciousness nature of it.]

      A few nights ago, half joking, I posted on Facebook that I was considering the possibility of bestowing a “Local Person of the Year” award in Ypsi, the same way that Time magazine does every year for the nation as a whole. Well, the conversation evolved in a direction that I hadn’t really foreseen… People actually took the idea seriously… By the time the online conversation finally died down, not only had several dozen people been nominated, but people were actually committing themselves to the idea in significant ways. Rob Hess, the owner of Go Ice Cream, offered to contribute a sizable amount of ice cream to a gift basket for the winner, suggesting that others do the same. “You should just pick a person,” Rob said, “Then we can load them up with gifts like a goddamn walking, talking Ypsilanti Christmas tree.” And, then, someone by the name of Ginny Golembiewski contacted me, offering to organize a parade on behalf of the recipient, which would culminate at the person’s home, where members of the community would bestow baked goods, and share a toast in their honor.

      To be honest, the last thing I need right now is one more big project, but, judging by all of the responses, this thing clearly has potential, and I feel as though I should probably see it though, wherever it might lead… The question is how.

      As I see it, I have two options. I could either do it myself, and just pick someone, giving them a plaque saying something, like “Mark Maynard’s Favorite Ypsilantian of 2014,” or I could do it right, drafting a committee representative of the city, agreeing to a number of guiding principles, taking nominations, and then going through the process of meticulously weighing the merits of every nominee… The problem, of course, is that the people I’d want to serve on the committee would likely be people who themselves should be considered for the honor.

      And that’s another thing to consider. Would it really be an honor? Would someone want an Ypsilantian of the Year award to begin with, let alone from a blog that an old guy writes in his bed, while chewing on cough drops? Of course, I don’t guess I’d even have to mention the blog. I could just start up a whole new entity to present the award, calling it something grandiose like The Society for the Betterment of Ypsilanti, right?

      And then there’s the question of just where to draw the geographic boundaries. As this site has just as many readers in Ann Arbor as it does in Ypsilanti, should we include them as well? Or is it better to just focus closer to home and honor someone who’s busting his or her ass to make life here better? (People in Ann Arbor get enough awards, don’t they?)

      Or, I could just make the whole thing a joke, and give the award to myself, and then continue to do so on an annual basis for the rest of my life, watching my living room wall slowly fill with “Ypsilantian of the Year” plaques. Or, would that be too douchey? If so, I could change the name of the award, calling it something like, “I’m Being The Best Mark Maynard That I Can Be Award.” And, every year, on the last day of December, I could walk out of my front porch, bestow it upon myself, and give a little speech. I think that would be nice. Or, better yet, I could give it to a different Mark Maynard each year. I like the idea of a “Best Mark Maynard of the Year” trophy that could travel from town to town between those of us named Mark Maynard.

      So many things to think about.

      [Time passes.]

      …OK, here’s what I’m thinking. There’s too much of risk in trying to do it correctly. Invariably, people will be disappointed. They’ll argue that the panel of judges isn’t representative enough. They’ll argue that our criteria for judging was skewed in favor of one person, or one type of person. They’ll argue that we picked the wrong person. They’ll argue that we didn’t even consider people who we should have… This, of course, had occurred to me early on, but I thought that it would still be worth it. I thought that the ensuing conversation, even if it might get a little ugly, would be a good thing, as it would get people in the community talking about what we collectively value, and what we’re all doing to make life here better. Now, though, I’m thinking that the risk outweighs any possible benefit that we might enjoy as a community. So, for that reason, I’m deciding against the “do it right” option, at least for the time being.

      What I’m thinking instead is that I’ll just do it myself, and I won’t call it the “Ypsilantian of the Year” award. I’ll call it something like, Mark Maynard’s “From My Admittedly Limited Knowledge of the Community in which I Live, this is the Ypsilantian Who I Think Kicked the Most Ass This Year, and I Apologize if You Disagree, and I’ll Try to Pick Someone Better Next Year” Award.

      So, if you have people to nominate, please do so by leaving a comment here. Just name the person, and briefly explain why it is that you think they’re awesome, and how they made life here in Ypsi better.

      As for the prize which will accompany the award, if you’d like to join Go Ice Cream and contribute toward it, just send me an email. I’ll probably go and buy an old bowling trophy or something, and have a new brass plate etched for it. At ten cents a letter, or whatever it is, Mark Maynard’s “From My Admittedly Limited Knowledge of the Community in which I Live, this is the Ypsilantian Who I Think Kicked the Most Ass This Year, and I Apologize if You Disagree, and I’ll Try to Pick Someone Better Next Year” Award will cost a small fortune, but I reckon it’s worth it.

      And, if all goes well, I’ll hand it over to someone on New Year’s Eve.

      Posted in Mark's Life, Special Projects, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , | 39 Comments

      Is this something that a lot of local waitresses are expected to participate in?

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      I know it’s highly unlikely, but it occurred to me as I was walking by our local strip club this evening that it’s at least conceivable that their big, upcoming event was the result of a grassroots campaign waged by local waitresses, who, perhaps jealous of the attention given to “sexy librarians” and “sexy nurses,” had demanded a day of their own. I know it’s more likely that the men in charge were just looking for another fetish to exploit, having run through all of the more obvious ones, but I do like the idea that different sectors of our professional community have begun to demand their opportunity to appear nude in front of sad, middle-aged men drinking from juice boxes. (That is what happens inside, isn’t it?) I know it’s unlikely, but I’m imagining that, in the near future, we could see speech pathologists, dentists, biomedical engineers and government employees honored in the same way… One can dream.

      Posted in Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

      Noam Chomsky on Ferguson: “This is a very racist society”

      It’s been a several years since it happened last, but someone just used the n-word in a comment on this site. I don’t know that the context really matters, but it was said in relation to the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. As I’m not in the practice of editing or removing comments, I’m going to keep it up, but I thought that I’d take the opportunity to respond by sharing this video of Noam Chomsky, who appeared a few days ago on something called GRITtv to talk, among other things, about how pervasive racism is in America. Here’s the relevant part of the transcript, courtesy of Salon.

      “…This is a very racist society; it’s pretty shocking. What has happened with regard to African-Americans in the last 30 years actually is very similar to what Blackmon describes happening in the late 19th century.

      The constitutional amendments after the Civil War that were supposed to free African-American slaves — it did something for about 10 years, then there was a North-South compact that granted the former slave-owning states the right to do whatever they wanted. And what they did was criminalize black life, in all kinds of ways, and that created a kind of slave force… It threw mostly black males into jail, where they became a perfect labor force, much better than slaves.

      If you’re a slave owner, you have to pay for — you have to keep your ‘capital’ alive. But if the state does it for you, that’s terrific. No strikes, no disobedience, the perfect labor force. A lot of the American Industrial Revolution in the late 19th, early 20th century was based on that. It pretty much lasted until the Second World War, when there was a need for free labor.

      After that, African-Americans had about two decades in which they had a shot at entering society. A black worker could get a job in an auto plant, the unions were still functioning, and he could buy a small house and send his kid to college. But by the 1970s and 1980s it’s going back to the criminalization of black life.

      It’s called the drug war, and it’s a racist war. Ronald Reagan was an extreme racist — though he denied it — and the whole drug war is designed, from policing, to eventual release from prison, to make it impossible for black men and, increasingly, more and more women and hispanics to be part of society.

      In fact, if you look at American history, the first slaves came over in 1619, and that’s half a millennium. There have only been three or four decades in which African-Americans have had a limited degree of freedom — not entirely, but at least some.

      They have been re-criminalized and turned into a slave labor force — that’s prison labor. This is American history. To break out of that is no small trick…”

      [note: As I recall, the last time the n-word was used on this website by a reader was in early 2007, in the wake of Laura Dickinson’s murder at EMU.]

      Posted in History, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

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