This post is dedicated to the memory of Lauri Carleton, who was murdered for her faith recently. Her blood and that of many others is on Pat Robertson’s hands.
Have you ever heard of the “Tyson Zone”?
If you were a sports fan back in the early aughts, you remember Bill Simmons, back before his ego got bigger than most major cities and he feuded with ESPN (who happened to be writing his paychecks) and he ended up mostly fading from view. (Probably with enough money from his sale of his website, The Ringer, to retire.)
Simmons isn’t really the subject of this post, but his early “Boston Sports Guy” column for ESPN, besides being a lot of fun, gave rise to the term “Tyson Zone.” It wasn’t his idea, actually, but a reader, “Brendan from Philadelphia,” who opined that there are people who are so out there and unpredictable that if you saw a ludicrous headline about something they allegedly did, you would have no difficulty in believing it.
I mean, everything from “Mike Tyson announces unicorn breeding program” to “Mike Tyson steals police car” and everything in between. The guy bit off a guy’s ear, used his infant’s pee to pass drug tests, and got weird tattoos on his face, so….plausible, right? His endorsement of Donald Trump and his punching of a flight attendant last year didn’t even make news - hey, he’s Mike Tyson, so of course he did!
So, when someone is in the Tyson Zone, it means that they, like Mike Tyson, are essentially capable of anything. There is literally no floor to their behavior, no level below which they will refuse to sink.
I think a good word for this is depravity.
A person who has no moral floor below which they refuse to sink has no limits to the depth of their depravity.
When a person has repeatedly demonstrated that they have no moral floor, no limit to the depth of their cruelty and hate, they have become so depraved that others will cease to be surprised at whatever evil thing that person says or does.
A person like that can be said to have entered….The Pat Robertson Zone.
(And yes, my wife and I started using that pretty soon after The Tyson Zone was coined.)
Once upon a time, Pat Robertson was just an ordinary religious and political grifter. You know the sort: a televangelist making bank off the donations of gullible people who think he speaks for God. The sort who hobnobs with right wing politicians who decide he is worth coddling in exchange for votes. The sort who rides the coattails of moral panics, while offering laughable (and often racist) pablum as a cultural alternative.
But he had bigger plans. A university, a legal firm devoted to dominionist goals, a weight-loss shake, and eventually a run for president. And then, when that failed, like anyone who was anybody in the Religious Right back in the 1990s, a political advocacy group. Grift however you can.
It was about this time, that Robertson found his signature move. Which he cribbed from Jerry Falwell Sr.
Whenever anything bad happens, blame LGBTQ people for it.
Falwell kicked it off in an interview right after 9/11, when he went on Robertson’s show and the two of them decided that the real blame for the terrorist attacks on America lay with certain people.
Now, any rational person would conclude that the immediate causes of the attacks were pretty obvious. Some rich Saudi fucks imbibed a bit too much Wahhabism and political resentment against the West, and concocted an elaborate plan to hijack jets and fly them into buildings. Which they then did.
A more critical thinker might look beyond the immediate causes and, like David Fromkin, examine the long history of Western meddling in the Middle East, and also the US role in sponsoring coups to install governments favorable to Western corporate interests.
A later examination also placed blame on the Federal agencies that failed to communicate vital information about the plot and stop it before it happened.
All of those are….logical and helpful in understanding what went wrong. And, indeed, the changes that were made have been a factor in preventing another large terrorist attack.
But for Robertson and Falwell? None of this was important.
For them, the REAL cause was…..
….wait for it….
GAY AND LESBIAN PEOPLE.
And also, college professors, the ACLU, feminists, non-Christians, and people who get abortions.
Yeah, that’s it. God caused a bunch of violent terrorists to bomb the United States because we allowed LGBTQ people, atheists, and political liberals to exist. That makes total sense, right?
And THAT became Pat Robertson’s schtick from then on.
A big hurricane floods New Orleans? Totally the fault of LGBTQ people.
Earthquake? Fire? Drought? Mass shooting? Pandemic?
It doesn’t matter. Literally everything bad is the result of letting LGBTQ people exist.
Now, to be clear, Robertson did change things up a bit once in a while. For example, he said that every Muslim is part of a terrorist organization, and that the US should treat them the way we would any terrorist group. (So, presumably arrest and imprison them for believing in their faith. Gee, how nice.)
And he came out with the bizarre theory that the massive earthquake in Haiti was God’s punishment on them for the slave rebellion.
Yes, you read that right.
When Haitians overthrew their enslavers, that made God unhappy.
Okay, that makes no sense, right? At least unless you are a total fucking white supremacist. (Which I strongly suspect Robertson was - all the Religious Right guys were.)
Here is how he couched it: In order to overthrow their white masters, Haitian blacks needed a lot of help. (I presume because he thinks stupid black people couldn’t win against the far superior white people? He dog whistled this, but never explained.) So, the only way they could win was to make a pact with the devil. And since their leader was also a vodou priest, well, that proves it, right? I guess because white enslavers were “Christians,” they were on the side of God. I see.
And then there are his documented connections to brutal African dictators - who openly stated that Robertson was their advocate to American government leaders.
Want a few more? Oh yeah: men are naturally prone to adultery and it is their wife’s responsibility to be charming enough to prevent that.
Feminism “encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
When tornadoes struck the Midwest, he claimed that if enough people had prayed hard enough, God would have stilled the storms. Um, really? So it was the fault of the victims?
And of course the usual “everyone who isn’t my particular sect of Christian is evil” - unfortunately endemic to Evangelicalism itself.
But while other targets seemed to rotate, the LGBTQ community was always a target. Every time.
At some point, this vilification of an unpopular minority starts to sound sadly familiar.
This was literally Hitler’s schtick too: blame every national problem on sabotage by a vulnerable and already distrusted minority. Whip up hate and fear and eventually violence.
In Robertson’s case, his depravity is, if anything, even worse. After all, of GOD HIMSELF hates people so very, very much that he will murder thousands or millions of innocent people as a result, then there is ultimately no option other than mass genocide.
Pat Robertson set the stage for all of the later political and religious leaders who continue to vilify LGBTQ people and blame them for everything that goes wrong in America.
Not just Fred Phelps.
Let’s tie this together a bit now. One of the successors to Pat Robertson (in more ways than one) is the disgusting bigot Matt Walsh. Who has gone on a series of tirades against LGBTQ people generally, but particularly against transgender folks. As in, the very existence of trans people fills him with a “boiling rage.” As in “all rainbow flags should be burned.” As in “I’d rather be dead than have a trans kid.” (Which more likely means that he is more than willing to murder any kid of his who comes out.)
And guess who loved and reposed all of this bilge? That’s right: the douchebag who murdered Lauri Carleton.
When you spew rhetoric like this, you cause this violence.
When you claim that God hates LGBTQ people, you invite others to hate them too.
When you claim that God punishes innocent people because of how much he hates LGBTQ people, you invite some of those people who believe you to undertake a Solution to the problem. A Final Solution.
As the result of Robertson’s decades of feeding fear and hate, we now have a significant population of armed bigots, convinced that their problems aren’t caused by their own mistakes, or by unjust systems in our world, but by the existence of people they don’t like. A disturbingly high percentage of Republicans and Evangelicals are seething with rage like Matt Walsh at the idea that people different from them are allowed to exist without being murdered.
They are convinced that all LGBTQ people are pedophiles, that they have a sinister agenda to corrupt the kiddos, and that God is more upset that LGBTQ people are permitted to exist than he ever was about, say, the mass enslavement of African Americans for hundreds of years. (For Robertson, apparently, God was a-okay with that…)
Needless to say, this, combined with America’s worship of guns and violence, creates the sort of environment in which murder is a legitimate fear for LGBTQ people - or even those of us who support them.
After all, Lauri Carleton wasn’t gay - she was just an ally. She made sure that she flew the flag that proclaimed that her place was a safe place for LGBTQ people. And she was murdered for it.
Now, I do not know what Carleton’s specific religious beliefs were. But what I - and everyone else can see - is that she believed deeply in loving her neighbors. And, ultimately, it was that belief that led to her murder. She died for that faith.
Her blood is on the hands of Pat Robertson. And Matt Walsh. And the hands of every person who has followed those false prophets down the path of fear and hate and violence towards others.
If you proclaim that God hates LGBTQ people, or that he will punish the innocent because of that hate, then you are expressing that they might as well be dead. And that maybe they should be, if only someone would do it…
The Pat Robertson Zone is when you become like Pat Robertson. So full of fear and hate and rage toward people different from you that you would scapegoat them for anything. When you become the sort of person who, rather than helping the victims of disaster, you put your evil face on television and hurl slander at innocent people. And, of course, along the way, line your pockets with wealth.
Which is why, when a satire site claimed that Robertson had blamed Covid on women having oral sex….I had to remind myself to fact check, because it was totally believable given his utter lack of character or connection to reality.
By the end of his life, he had that Mike Tyson vibe: his depravity had no floor. There was nothing too evil for him to say or do.
So here’s to Pat Robertson. May he find a better mercy than he ever showed to others.
And he had better be praying hard that the hell he believed in doesn’t exist, because he sure as fuck is burning in there right now if it does.
This post is part of my ongoing series:
If you see that a false prophet has died (check my criteria for identifying them), send me an e-mail, and I will consider writing about him or her.