Self-made martyr

Canadian Broadcasting Company
“Porno Pete” LaBarbera tried several times to goad Canadian authorities to arrest him. They finally did.
Pete LaBarbera, head of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (an organization designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2010, among others), has the colorful nickname “Porno Pete” among gay and liberal bloggers because he is famous for going to churches and showing slide shows of photos he takes at places like the International Mister Leather Conference and similar events of men scantily clad in leather and fetish gear. He makes a big deal in his talks and on his website about how he disguises himself and sneaks in undercover to these events to get these shocking pictures and reveal the hidden truth. Which he then posts all over his organization’s website, includes in all his mailings begging for donations, and displays in those slide shows.

Why that is so hilarious is that the IML conference, the Folsom Street Fair, and the pride events he “sneaks into” are all open to the public. Furthermore, all of those events encourage their members to send in the pictures they themselves take at events to post on their web sites. You can go to the IML website and find links to attendees’ Instagram streams of themselves and their partners in all their naughty gear. In other words, he doesn’t need to go in disguise. He doesn’t need to sneak in. He doesn’t even need to attend in order to get all these shocking pictures. He can just go to a few social media sites and search on a few hashtags to gather all the shocking pictures he wants.

So in addition to being a hate monger (he and his organization continue to quote long-debunked and wholly disproven “research” claiming that all gay people are pedophiles, that being gay is caused by incest, that kids who come out as gay will rape their siblings, et cetera, et cetera) and a sleazeball who leverages prurient imagery to titillate and shock in order to manipulate people into donating to his cause, he’s also a liar. Because he isn’t sneaking into any of these places. He isn’t uncovering things that people are trying to keep hidden.

On Friday he was briefly detained at the Canadian border because the literature he was carrying with him appeared to violate Canada’s hate speech laws. Not surprising, given how hateful his stuff usually is. Eventually they decided to let him and his papers enter the country, but he spent the entire weekend appearing on every rightwing radio show and so forth that he could, talking up how horribly he was treated and how the Canadian policies violated his religious liberty.

He has since escalated, having gone to a university to distribute his literature and spout off his hate. And when he was asked to leave, he refused, then proceeded to kicked up a fuss until the police were called to arrest him. I think he assumed he would be released on his own recognizance right away, just like the Canadian anti-abortion/anti-gay activist who was arrested with him. But he’s been held in custody until he can face a deportation hearing.

Given his long-running history of using lies, titillating imagery, and shocking “facts” to attract attention and donations, one must conclude that this was all on purpose. We know from tax filings of most of the other anti-gay organizations that donations have been plummeting the last several years. Support for gay rights in general and gay marriage in particular has been going up, up, up throughout the country.

We also know he’s done this sort of thing before: picking fights with audience members at the speaking events of gay rights activists, getting removed by police, then going on the rightwing talk circuit to explain how he was abused “merely for stating his religious beliefs.”

He isn’t merely stating his beliefs. Demonizing gay people has been his livelihood for about two decades. For nearly twenty years he has earned his living by doing things like convince evangelical and fundamentalist parents that they must kick their gay kids out or bully them (often leading to suicide), then turn around and use those gay homeless teen death and gay teen suicide statistics to beg for more donations and convince more parents to abuse and reject their children.

And now the money seems to be drying up. So, sitting in a jail cell in a nice, civilized country like Canada is probably a smart move. It will amp up the sympathy from that shrinking rightwing base. It will get him appearances on radio and TV shows where if he doesn’t get paid, he’ll at least get free advertising. It will probably land him some new paid speaking gigs. Donations will take an uptick for a while.

A few nights being held by the mounties in a low security cell is a very small price to pay for that.

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