Since They've Failed at Home ...

Now NOM, said its president, would up the ante by calling attention to the coffee chain's pro-gay stance among consumers 'in the Middle East ... where Starbucks wants to expand.'

James Kirchick
James Kirchick
James Kirchick
James Kirchick

Dinesh D'Souza's 2007 tome "The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11" is perhaps the most sinister book released by a major publishing house in recent memory. It was not liberals' alleged appeasement of various overseas antagonists that led D'Souza to blame them for 9/11, but rather their cultural degradation. Britney Spears, the increasing acceptance of homosexuality, "The Vagina Monologues" - practically anything that would offend an upstanding, conservative, Midwestern white male circa 1905 was offered up by D'Souza as "the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world."

President George W. Bush's much-maligned claim that the terrorists "hate our freedoms" was not only a correct diagnosis, D'Souza argued. The terrorists are actually justified in their hatred because America has become a decadent, rotten society.

Many conservatives, including those who largely agreed with D'Souza's gloomy view of American culture, trashed "The Enemy at Home" as an appalling piece of culturally relativistic justification for terrorism. "It's a Blame America First argument," former Reagan administration official and conservative radio host Bill Bennett told me at the time, using a term popularized by his former colleague, UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick.

Indeed, much like those American leftists who faulted the bipartisan practitioners of U.S. foreign policy for "bringing 9/11 upon us," D'Souza blamed another group of Americans for the attacks. If there's one thing both he and his left-wing adversaries agree upon, it's that the terrorists who actually murdered 3,000 Americans were not chiefly responsible for the crime.

D'Souza's ugly little book came to mind when I read about the latest antics of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM ), the largest American group fighting to prevent legal recognition of same-sex unions. It suffered crushing losses in the U.S. elections last month, when voters in three states chose to legalize gay marriage and those in a fourth rejected a constitutional amendment banning it. On a conference call with supporters shortly after election day, NOM President Brian Brown was asked what could be done "to stop the wave of corporate sponsorship of gay marriage."

Citing the world's largest coffee-shop chain, Starbucks, which supported a marriage-equality referendum in its home state of Washington, Brown said such companies would have to pay a "price" for taking sides. NOM had already launched a boycott of the company back in March, but now it would up the ante by calling attention to its pro-gay stance among consumers "in the Middle East ... where Starbucks wants to expand.

"These are not countries that look kindly upon same-sex marriage," Brown said, in a massive and cynical understatement. He knows full well that, save Israel (where Aroma has the coffee-shop market largely cornered anyway ), the right to marry is not on the agenda of any gay person in the Middle East. Basic survival is.

That doesn't matter to NOM. They're taking their "Dump Starbucks" campaign to such gay-friendly places as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait. "What happens in Seattle won't stay in Seattle," Brown warned in March. "By making gay marriage core to his brand, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is telling millions of customers and partners who support traditional marriage in the Middle East, China, South America and North America that they aren't truly part of the Starbucks community."

NOM's international strategy goes back to at least 2009, when the organization asserted that "The movement for gay marriage is global," and that it would "assist groups fighting marriage battles in other nations."

Reasonable people can disagree about whether gays should have the right to marry. Personally, I'm of the opinion that opposition to marriage equality is not always necessarily based on bigotry. But what NOM is doing by attacking Starbucks is playing on the prejudices of people in countries where homosexuality itself is a crime and where gay people are routinely harassed and punished by the state.

It's not hard to see why it's chosen such a strategy. The November 6 election was the beginning of what will be a series of defeats for anti-gay marriage forces. The simple fact is that young Americans of all political stripes overwhelmingly back marriage equality and many will not support candidates who stand for anything less. The leaders of NOM probably realize this, though they continue to raise money from gullible Americans who think that the instantiation of gay marriage will bring about the country's downfall. Either way, there's much more fertile, gay-bashing ground to be found in Muslim countries.

This foreshadows a disconcerting predicament for Israel, which has long enjoyed unconditional backing from the U.S. evangelical religious right, in spite of the fact that it allows gays to serve openly in the military, recognizes same-sex marriages performed abroad, and that Tel Aviv is ranked as the world's top gay-travel destination.

As some on the American far right grumble about how they feel estranged from their own country in the wake of President Obama's re-election, and as NOM makes common cause with religious reactionaries in the Muslim world, Israel and its friends need to ask if this is the sort of support the Jewish state wants.

James Kirchick is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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