Fifteen Minutes, and Then Some

Detail of 'This Modern World' by Tom Tomorrow, 6 April 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.

Cynicism can be difficult.

Well, okay: Cyncism can be difficult for a person with a conscience.

Not long ago there emerged in my circles a notion that bakers and florists refusing to serve gay weddings “were probably going under before”, a note that prompted a brief and general reflection at the time: “blaming the government and calling yourself a victim is one way to appeal to the fifteen minutes”, and, “It seems like almost a side note, but watch how showbiz and the fifteen minutes become so many Americans’ backup plans”. It really is a cyncial outlook, except reality keeps suggesting it; funds raised on behalf of picking a fight with gay people reinforce the notion that “a stunt like this would seem more plausible to the actors because they can reasonably hope for a crowdsourced bailout”.

That seems to be where this is all going. Over at Huffington Post, Cavan Sieczkowski reports on the fundraising response to over $840,000 given in support of an Indiana pizzeria that picked a fight, cried that they were being bullied, and shut down their business; it’s been a profitable “fifteen minutes” for the O’Connor family. And Dominique Mosbergen reports on Baronelle Stutzman, a bigot from Richland, Washington, who has collected $94,000 in donations with a similar publicity stunt.

Meanwhile, also via HuffPo, a bit of good news: At least the courts can still tell the difference.

Or, as Curtis M. Wong brings word that Marjorie Silva did not discriminate against William Jack when she refused to decorate a cake with “derogatory language and imagery”.

It is really easy to be cynical toward these stunts posing alleged acts of conscience as an appeal to crowdsourcing and the proverbial fifteen minutes of fame. To the other, we hear a lot from conservatives about “sincere beliefs”, so it’s not entirely fair to be so condemning in our assessments; after all, there remains a strong possibility that people like the O’Connors and Ms. Stutzman really are that stupid.


Image note: Detail of This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow, 6 April 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.

Sieczkowski, Cavan. “That Anti-Gay Indiana Pizzeria That Received $840,000? This ‘Pizza’ Supports The LGBT Community.” The Huffington Post. 5 April 2015.

Mosbergen, Dominique. “Supporters Raise More Than $94,000 For Florist Who Refused To Sell Flowers For Same-Sex Wedding”. The Huffington Post. 6 April 2015.

Wong, Curtis M. “Colorado’s Azucar Bakery Did Not Discriminate By Refusing To Bake Anti-Gay Cakes, Court Rules”. The Huffington Post. 6 April 2015.

Crossposted (Facebook Fairy Cake Edition)

One thing about the American attitude is that we’ve transformed our outlook during my lifetime; one opens a business not with careful planning, but with an idea and a perception of opportunity. Many of these small, family-run businesses survive by the skins of their teeth, and develop functional business plans on the fly.

There is this aspect; a small bakery in Indianapolis likely does face constant financial challenges, and that in turn sucks the vitality out of the dream of being a baker or confectionist. As with all things, art is much more fun when it’s not a living.

Detail of 'Mary Death' by Matt Tarpley, 27 February 2015.But we are also a nation that believes in the proverbial fifteen minutes. Fame brings opportunity for profit. Though it is unclear what role this plays, the Indianapolis bakery is the second or third to gain headline traction for closing as a protest of conscience against civil rights; there was one in Oregon, and I believe also down in Arizona, but I’d have to check.

What we’re noticing on our plentiful American ground is that nobody really gives a damn. It’s as if American society is simply shrugging and moving on, and nobody is making the explicit point because nobody wants to be the one to pretend it is important enough to stop and take the moment to explain it to a bunch of people who won’t listen, anyway.

But there it is: Whether they were going under before, or simply fell out of love with their business dream, or are genuinely pursuing their consciences according to some perverse assertion of self-interest, the conventional wisdom on these outcomes seems to be that they did it to themselves. On some level, people are thinking, “Well, you could have just made the fucking cake and found some other way to chase everyone away from your business beating your chest about the conscience of your bigotry.”

This way, though, whatever the reasons one’s business is going under, blaming the government and calling yourself a victim is one way to appeal to the fifteen minutes; maybe social media will bring them a pile of cash from sympathizers. Then again, it’s not like we only left them a Negro―that is to say, nobody’s dead―so it’s not quite spectacular enough to get people sending that reward money.

It seems like almost a side note, but watch how showbiz and the fifteen minutes become so many Americans’ backup plans. Maybe one of these bakers will run for state legislature. Or, hell, Congress. House seats carry a low bar for admission among Republican voters.


Note: Would you believe this was crossposted from Facebook? Yeah, it happens sometimes. A special tip of the hat and many thanks to Sean and Ben for inspiring this brief consideration in the wake of reports that another bigot bakery broke.

Image note: Detail of Mary Death by Matt Tarpley, 27 February 2015. I’ve been looking for an excuse to use this one.