Georgia, the NRA, and the Conservative Definition of Discrimination
Fox News and the right, in general, have a tendency to confuse a lack of preferential treatment with abject persecution. The War on Christmas, apparently waged anew each December, and the threat by same-sex couples to the institution of marriage are prime examples. They are absurd and appear so to those not absorbed completely in the rhetoric of their proponents, but every now and again an example comes along that is so patently ridiculous it bears distinction.
In the wake of the massacre in Parkland, Florida and the National Rifle Association’s continued opposition to any and every attempt at preventing more such incidents, Delta Air Lines saw fit to end a discount program it had provided for NRA members. Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle (Delta is headquartered in Atlanta) immediately lashed out on social media, threatening to revoke state tax exemptions that Georgia had given the company and stating that “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.”
The threat seems to have had teeth. The Georgia legislature, amid a firestorm of right-wing media, voted to remove tax exemptions for jet fuel from a bill they had passed just days earlier.
The confrontation is a near-perfect encapsulation of the wider context. Conservatives were outraged not over overt discrimination but over the loss of an advantage that many other people actually don’t receive. This confusion appears so absurd to those who face actual discrimination, not just in this particular situation but in similar situations with more immediately serious consequences.
Charles Cook of National Review, however, points out the real danger of this sort of confusion (though I’m not sure he makes the wider connection). He states that:
“This is a bad idea. Delta and the NRA are both private organizations; the state should not be taking sides on the basis of elected officials’ opinions about their private arrangements. This is viewpoint discrimination.”
In over-reacting and mistaking an end to preferential treatment for an enormous injustice the hard right frequently “ corrects” it by engaging in or entrenching real discrimination and injustice. The feeling that Black Americans are threatening to the social order translates to support for specific police even in cases of egregious misconduct or equivocating with white nationalist extremists. The response to same-sex marriage is often a drive to legally enshrine in law the right to discriminate based on sexual orientation and religious affiliation.
I happen to be a squishy moderate in that I believe in the need for a serious moderate conservative opposition to the progressives with whom I identify. These explosions of childish entitlement would be laughable to anyone who had ever experienced real oppression or discrimination if they didn't so often erupt in truly harmful backlash. The phenomenon predates Donald Trump and the conservative crisis of the last three years and it completely undermines what little credibility the conservative movement retains in the eyes of anyone not entirely in thrall to right-wing media.
Get it together guys.