The Pride Flag Nontroversy: Can’t the Press Just Ignore the Right Wing Outrage Machine?

Gay lgbt flag painted rainbow heart
Gay lgbt flag painted rainbow heart on white background

Perhaps a few statistics best explain why I’ve been so frustrated by the decision of the state’s major newspaper chain to let right-wing bigots snowflake their way through multiple news stories and offensive op-eds about Governor Bullock’s decision to fly the Pride flag at the state capitol during the Big Sky Pride celebration a few weeks ago.

Here they are:

  • Additional research shows that LGBTQ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness, meaning that while “about 7% of youth in the United States are LGBTQ, while 40% of youth experiencing homelessness are LGBTQ.”
  • Research shows that LGBTQ high school students are as much as seven times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers because of “bias, discrimination, family rejection, and other stressors associated with how they are treated.”

Bigotry, it seems, has consequences, but none of the seemingly endless blizzard of news stories, op-eds, and editorials have concerned themselves with the simple fact that Republicans in Montana have not only been ginning up another fake controversy to score political points, but that this effort has real impacts on the lives of LGBTQ Montanans, especially young kids who already face enormous challenges negotiating their identities in a state that still expresses hostility and discrimination against them for the simple act of being who they are.

What’s frustrating about the coverage is not that the original story was written, although one could quite easily make the argument that three Republicans falling on their fainting couches of faux outrage is hardly newsworthy, but the amount of coverage the story has received combined with the decision to let Republican legislators express their retrograde, harmful views in op-eds.

Perhaps a person could make the case that this nontroversy over the flag deserved one small, page six story, but there is no justification for it taking center stage across the state’s papers over the past few weeks.

And while we’re at it, if the newspapers are going to devote this much space to the story, why did none ask one of these Republicans or the Montana GOP if they would, as their platform suggests, try to invalidate the marriages of hundreds of Montanans? That seems a lot more damn important than the flag, right?

Policy, not petulant posturing.

And while a story about the mental health needs of LGBTQ youth or one about the absence of resources for homeless youth would be welcome, somehow the focus has been—as it all too often is—on the politics of outrage, not the policies needed to solve these pressing concerns.

Now that we have exhausted the Republican outrage over a flag flying at the State Capitol, perhaps the state’s newspapers can skip the next manufactured crisis—whether it’s the governor of the state using his state plane to travel the state or a concert poster at a Pearl Jam concert—and start to dig deep into the white supremacist and anti-government ideologies that have infiltrated the Montana Republican Party and our state or the public health consequences of bigoted social policy directed at LGBTQ youth.

If Republicans want to wail about a flag flying for a day, let them get a blog. That’s the kind of place that should cover stories like that, isn’t it?

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • Any excuse, I guess, is better than none if you’re trying to stir up a fake controversy to energize the cesspit that the far right has become.

  • One of the op-eds you refer to was penned by public service commissioner Roger Koopman. Koopman is termed out in 2020 which has me thinking he’s going for another office. A Montana Senate seat? A tier B? Only Koopman knows for sure, but why else would he write a bigoted, convoluted opinion piece on the rainbow flag (a subject he is eminently unqualified to comment on). Too bad he’s not as invested in the job he’s supposed to be doing: regulating our utilities and planning for our energy future.

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