The most educated generation of humans with the most access to information in history falls, yet again, for another hoax. The latest this week is from Jordan Brown, a gay pastor in Austin, Texas. He put out a video claiming that the Whole Foods in Austin altered his custom cake to say “Love Wins Fag.”
On the surface, one might be horrified that a baker would write a slur on a cake ordered by a gay man. If true, then we would assume that this man was the victim of bigoted attack on his very soul. It would then be reasonable that something ought to be done and we as a society cannot stand for such things.
But that’s only true if you believe Jordan Brown. You shouldn’t, because this didn’t happen.
Perhaps it’s premature to say this. Maybe Whole Foods will cave-in, pay him an undisclosed sum of money, and issue a non-statement full of double speak that admits nothing. Perhaps it will turn out I am completely wrong. I don’t think I am.
First, let’s look at the facts of the case. Mr. Brown went to a Whole Foods, in Austin, to buy a cake and wanted “Love Wins” written on said cake. He claims they added “Fag” to it.
If you’re a gay man looking to have a pro-LGBT message inscribed on your cake, you can’t do much better than Whole Foods. If you’ve ever been to a Whole Foods, you’d notice that there’s more “Coexist” stickers in the parking lot than a Bernie rally. This place isn’t exactly Westboro Baptist Grocery.
On top of that, it’s in Austin. That’s the San Francisco of Texas. It’s like the Castro District with more cowboy hats. If you have a problem with gays, Austin isn’t the place to be and Whole Foods isn’t the place to work.
Mr. Brown explains in his video that he purchased the cake and didn’t notice the slur until afterwards. That’s your second red flag.
My first job was in a grocery store. Oftentimes I would help out in the bakery when the baker went on break or had gone home. More often than not I was simply giving a custom cake to a customer that was picking it up. It was standard practice to show them the cake to make sure it was to their liking. Even if you didn’t show them, they would look at it themselves before they purchased the cake.
If we were to accept Mr. Brown’s story as gospel, we are to believe he picked up a cake in a see-through box, from a baker that Whole Foods claims identifies as LGBT, walked across the store to the cashier, set it on the conveyor belt, paid for it, and didn’t notice the massive word “FAG” glaring at him through the clear box.
Mr. Brown then claims that the box is still sealed and hasn’t been opened, as if those price tag stickers are impenetrable walls. Throughout the video, he frequently reassures the viewer that the box hasn’t been opened, as if he was worried we might not believe him.
Well, I don’t. And you shouldn’t either. This is another hoax in a long line of “bigotry” hoaxes. Add this to the list of fake arsons, beatings, and vandalisms that reporters and readers have routinely fallen for.
Why is it that these hoaxes get so much oxygen? All of those situations, including this cake incident, have gaping holes in them. Any reasonable person could read the story and at the very least conclude them to be doubtful. How did we get to this point where everything we see on Facebook and Twitter is fact?
It’s simple, really. It confirms the narrative we’ve accepted. When you operate from the mindset that LGBT Americans face constant persecution and bigotry in their lives, then this simply confirms your narrative. Right-wing Christian leaves homophobic messages on receipt instead of a tip for a lesbian waitress? Of course! Christians are just seething with bigotry. Bullying led a gay teen to kill himself? Why not? Every gay teen obviously faces relentless bullying and is teetering on the edge of suicide.
This ignores the reality that the waitress could be lying to gain some 15 minutes of social media fame or maybe a few bucks for her troubles. This ignores the fact that suicide reflects much deeper psychological problems than anything a bully could be responsible for.
It confirms our narratives. Everyone views reality through a certain paradigm. When something comes up that verifies what we believe to be true then we’re more willing to accept it.
This is a problem on several levels. The first of which is that these hoaxes overshadow actual incidents of bigotry. Why is it that white individuals are reluctant to believe that minorities experience discrimination by the police? Maybe because for every legitimate issue of police brutality, there’s an O.J. Simpson being lumped in with the innocence by grifters that make money off of outrage. They ignore the real problems because they’re sick of being tricked.
These hoaxes will only hurt the LGBT cause. If you’re genuinely concerned about issues of discrimination facing those of alternative sexual orientations and identities, then you should be horrified by the grifters that taint your cause. Eventually, people will stop listening and will dismiss you entirely.
The second problem is that these hoaxes expose the fact that the most educated class of human beings that have ever existed is incapable of discerning fact from fiction. Sure, we know that the Earth isn’t flat and that Jesus didn’t ride a dinosaur, but we can’t read past a headline. What good is accumulating all this knowledge if we can’t put it to use? We can explain why people long dead from a different era held problematic views and were ignorant, but we can’t hold a candle to our ancestors when it comes to logical discernment.
This says a lot about our culture. We grew up with fiction-laden chain emails that promised true love if we forwarded it to everyone in our inboxes. There were Myspace bulletins claiming that if we didn’t repost then a ghost would murder our dog and defecate in our sock drawer. We had Nigerian princes promising us millions of dollars if we just sent our bank information. For the most part, we navigated through it and saw that it was nonsense.
Despite this rigorous training we’ve had, millennials are prone to following the crowd based on a headline. We have all the right morals, concerns, and views. We consider ourselves superior to our parents, grandparents, and everyone else in history. But yet, when the hook drops we gladly take the bait.
Read past the headlines. Recognize that it’s possible that not everything someone claims is true. Learn to discern. If we’re to take advantage of the resources our generation has been gifted, we need to step it up and quit being so gullible.