Marcus Bachmann, the husband of GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, is having a bad month. Not only is his counseling clinic under attack for offering gay conversion therapy, he's being pursued by an angry mob. Composed of gay activists, comedians, left-leaning bloggers and members of the alternative media, this mob is not only angry about Bachmann's "pray the gay away" ideas, it's growing ever more willing to give voice to a nudge-nudge flurry of middle-school locker-room innuendo. All from people who in other circumstances would be asking for an injunction against the stuff.
It's easy enough to see why the Bachmanns are under attack from gay activists. Both have devoted much of their careers to the notion that homosexuality is a societal scourge. Michele has likened the "lifestyle" to "personal despair and personal enslavement." Marcus has called gays "barbarians that need to be educated."
What's more, Marcus Bachmann supposedly provides that education. The notion of gay conversion has been decried by medical experts and even linked to suicide. But based on past statements, he seems committed to the idea that homosexuality is a psychiatric disorder that should be treated and that same-sex urges don't have to correlate with same-sex acts. "Just because someone feels it or thinks it," he has said, "doesn't mean that we are supposed to go down that road."
The mob on Marcus Bachmann's tail, however, has moved beyond his quotes. Although he is a husband and father in a traditional marriage and family, some of his debunkers are suggesting there's more than meets the eye in his anti-gay pronouncements.
No one has caught Bachmann in anything resembling a "wide stance." No one has come forward with an incriminating text message. No one has even said that they know a guy who knows a guy who might know something. But that hasn't stopped suggestions that Bachmann is a deeply closeted gay man.
Some of this is coming from rabid tweeters, anonymous commenters and a host of unreliable sources. But it's also coming from people who usually aim a little higher. Observing footage of the Bachmanns dancing together, Jon Stewart remarked that Marcus was "an Izod shirt away from being the gay character on 'Modern Family.'" Advice columnist and gay activist Dan Savage, who has made a point of fighting bullying with his "It gets better" campaign, nevertheless performed a campy imitation of Bachmann's speaking style on his podcast. And gay conservative Andrew Sullivan also mocked him as having a lisp, calling him a "ssuper-sserial hunter of gays."
Now, Marcus Bachmann is a grown-up. And so is Michele. Moreover, no one expects a presidential campaign to be a genteel, bully-free affair. But isn't it a little ironic that the Bachmanns are being hectored by people who regularly preach tolerance and rail against stereotypes?
In their defense, the anti-Bachmann crusaders would say that the target here isn't Marcus' perceived sexuality, it's the hypocrisy that would be exposed if it turned out he weren't as straight an arrow as he purports to be. But that doesn't mean the jeering and sneering doesn't have the potential to backfire.
Because, from the looks of things, it isn't acting gay that Bachmann deplores; it's gay acts. And there's no evidence he's broken his own rules about the latter. Based on what is known, you could call Bachmann sad, retrograde and deluded by a fantasy that devastates instead of helps the majority of gay and lesbian people who might seek his counsel. As for his own life and dancing style, what we know is that the Bachmanns have a long and apparently successful marriage. And even if there were truth to the innuendo, how do you pin hypocrisy on someone who practices what he preaches?
As odious as the Bachmanns' views are, harassment is still harassment, even in the name of fighting bigotry. That's why the mob might do well to stick to the facts. It shouldn't be too hard. Besides, when the stuff someone says is this ridiculous, there's no need to ridicule the tone of voice in which it's said.