ADA president Bill Johnson cites a recent report from Baptist Press that confirms the corporation is still offering more than 1,000 book selections in its online store that cater to the "gay and lesbian" crowd. It quotes a WalMart.com spokeswoman who said the store is just trying to provide customers with a "broad, online book selection at a great value." Johnson disputes that assertion.
The evangelical right maintains a fiction that gays and lesbians have been accorded special privileges and rights. One way that the special privilege fiction is perpetuated is through misuse of language. Wal-Mart is in the book business and Wal-mart is merely refraining from discrimination against gays and lesbians in the online sale of books. This is described as catering to gays.
Using the word ‘cater’ to characterize refraining from discrimination creates a particular meaning or gist in the understanding of Wal-mart's actions and will plant a false memory of special privilege being extended to gays and lesbians in the minds of many. That is because human beings tend to remember gists rather than specific facts.
Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus conducts research on false-memory creation and eye-witness memories. She has shown that memories and beliefs can be altered merely by changing a single word in a sentence. In one experiment, Loftus showed study participants a film of a two-car accident. After viewing the film, participants were asked a number of questions about the accident including whether or not they had seen broken glass. Although there was no broken glass in the film, those who saw the phrase ‘when the cars smashed’ in an earlier question were much more likely to report that they had seen broken glass than those who saw the phrase ‘when the cars hit.’
The notion of 'false-witness' is far more complicated than many evangelicals would acknowledge. For example, Loftus has also shown that people are less likely to create false eye-witness memories if they are warned about methods of memory manipulation. But what about those who would prefer to believe a self-serving lie? Do they really care that their memories have been manipulated and that their 'witness' is false? Not from what I've seen.