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The Power Of Conformity

Twenty years ago, they hated gays. Today, they hate those insufficiently progressive on gay rights

A reader writes:

Watching my Facebook feed over the past several years, I’ve come to understand what bin Laden meant when he said people naturally back “the strong horse.” Now that it appears that LGBT+ is the Winning Team, a lot of folks are suddenly super-duper in favor of pretty much the entire LGBT+ agenda, despite whatever they might have said in the past.

I grew up in a conservative, Bible-belt environment. When I was in high school about two and a half decades ago, open hatred of gays was viewed as perfectly acceptable. I vividly remember one of my classmates, a perfectly lovely and sweet-natured girl, telling me she thought all “faggots” should get the death penalty — this was around 1991, I believe. When I was brave enough to speak up with a qualified defense of gay rights, people called me a “fag-lover” and a pervert.

Today, I see some of these exact same people on my Facebook feed, and suddenly they’re far to the left of me on everything involving LGBT+ issues. It’s really amazing. In about 25 years, I went from being a “fag loving” perv to a hateful right-wing bigot without ever changing my views on the subject.

To be fair, the switch seems to have been most pronounced with the people who never had any strong principles to begin with; the most devoutly religious folks I know are still not on board with any of this, although they’ve obviously toned down their rhetoric by a few orders of magnitude. But the rest? It’s like night and day. I’m getting lectured on “tolerance” by people who would have been happy to pack gays into ovens back in the day. I know people can evolve and change, but this is just incredible. I mean, a lot of these people just show zero awareness of how much they’ve shifted.

Heck, the dad of one my high school friends said today he doesn’t care one way or another about all this transgender stuff, and everyone should be allowed to go potty where they want. This was a guy who told his son when he was a teenager that he’d disown him if he “came out” as gay and said if his son ever came home wearing an earring he’d rip it out and take a chunk of his ear with it.

In theory, of course, I always knew that most people don’t engage much with the big questions; they just go through life following the herd. Still, it’s been quite unnerving to see this play out so drastically in real life. What OTHER policies would the majority heartily endorse if the culture commanded them to do so?

It used to confuse me how the Bolsheviks were able to take over Russia when, by all accounts, they were such a tiny minority at the time. Now I understand how, and it’s starting to frighten me. If you’re on the other side of this LGBT+ debate, it should frighten you, too: You should know that a lot of those folks posting LOVE WINS memes on Facebook would be happy to abandon you and join the rabid fundamentalist side if they suddenly felt it was in their interest to do so; furthermore, a distressing number of them would do it without any awareness of what they were doing. In view of that, do you REALLY think it’s that wise to import millions of Muslim fundamentalists into the west?

Incidentally, this is why I think Trump’s chances in the general are better than most people think. Political “majorities” are, in some sense, an illusion. The vast, vast bulk of the population, it seems, will happily switch sides if it suddenly appears that the side they’re nominally allied with is headed for a crushing defeat. Trump could win a lot of voters just by creating an aura of invincibility; he wouldn’t have to change people’s minds — if he appeared strong enough, they’d change their minds FOR him.