Monday, April 06, 2015

This false equivalence takes the cake


(Headline presented in all its verbatim, clickbaity glory)

How does the whole gay-marriage pizza/cake issue manage to be both seriously relevant and utterly absurd?

It's seriously relevant in the sense that a business shouldn't have the "freedom" to discriminate against people with religion as the excuse any more than it has the "freedom" not to serve a group of people based on skin color. That is a gross distortion of the "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone" policy, which is intended to thwart disruptive customers on a case-by-case basis based on behavior.

It's utterly absurd in the sense that a baker would think that making a cake, or a pizza, for hire is somehow a referendum on their personal beliefs, or that refusing to make them out of principle is a heroic stand. I'm sure at least a few people who made chicken sandwiches for me on Fridays during Lent thought I was hellbound, but they made them all the same. Similarly, during my own fast-food stint, I put mayonnaise on sandwiches when people wanted it, even though I'm certain that it's the devil's condiment.

As a slinger of foodstuffs (or other slingworthy items), your job is to sling and not to conduct presumptive analysis on the minds and libidos of the strangers who may (or may not) consume your product. If people walk in with money and aren't breaking laws or disturbing the peace, then you get them what they want, if you have it available. That's how free countries do free enterprise.

The only exception to this rule is, or should be, anything that promotes bigotry and other forms of hate. This subtle nuance is somehow overlooked in the trenchant investigative reporting linked above.

Let me say first that this particular case in Ireland appears to be straight-up trolling both ways. The linked blog claims that gay activists demanded a cake saying "Support gay marriage" from a Christian bakery, and then sued when they were refused. If this is true, then both sides lost — the activists for strong-arming the Christian bakery (especially given that there apparently 13 "gay bakeries" in the area, according to the writer), and the bakers for not taking the higher, arguably more Christian road and accommodating the request.

(Do people now routinely commission cakes with their political views written on them in frosting or in festive candy letters? I don't know; I haven't been to a party since 2014.)

In any case, the author's "shocking" effort to call up all the gay bakeries in the phone book to whip him up a cake that says "Gay marriage is wrong," and failing, is the most toothless move of all. To think that such a denied request is remotely akin to being refused service simply for being, is to subscribe to a poisonous untruth: That along with being liberal or conservative or religious or atheist or having red being your favorite color, bigoted is just another thing people are. How dare the forces of tolerance be so hypocritically intolerant of that?

(He does address this argument in his blog, but he does it by invoking Nazis, so Godwin's Law is in full dismissive effect. I'd also recommend putting down any cake you're eating before reading it, because he crosses every line of taste. Sorry if that warning came too late.)

So, yeah, don't overthink your food service, and don't underthink your equivalencies.

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