All of this is true even if the bigot in question happens to also be a member of the community the bigot is expressing bigotry toward.
I’ve started a blog post with this title several times over the last two years, and then trashed most of it—usually extracting a small part out to use as the basis of a slightly less provocative blog post. A pair of news stories crossed my stream within the last week that got me thinking about this again, and once again I pulled this out of the drafts and tried to start writing it. I am not going to link to the news stories in question for reasons I hope become clear. The reason I have toned down previous blog posts on this topic can be summed up by something I saw this morning on twitter from Alexandra Erin, a writer and satirist I follow, in reference to a completely unrelated topic: “…when you put something out in the world, you are responsible for how it lands.”
Erin is talking about satire and how easily it can be misunderstood, but the principle applies to all writing. It doesn’t matter whether I intend something to hurt someone else, if it hurts them, it is still my fault. That doesn’t mean the intention doesn’t matter, it means that intentions don’t negate the fallout. Here’s a simple example (which I think I first read in a blog post on tumblr, but I don’t remember for certain): say you’re an adult tasked with watching some small children playing on a playground. One kid, in their excitement, inadvertently bumps into another kid, who falls off the jungle gym and skins their knee. Do you run up to the crying kid with the skinned knee and lecture them that they shouldn’t cry because the other kid didn’t mean it? No. You clean up and bandage the skinned knee, you comfort the hurt child, you caution the other kid to be more mindful of what they’re doing, and you have them apologize for their carelessness.
I’ve written more than once about self-hating closet cases who cause harm to our community and whether they deserve our sympathy. The whole reason they are self-hating is because of the homophobia they faced growing up. Our society is steeped in toxic notions about what is and isn’t acceptable for one to be interested in depending on one’s gender. And also steeped in just as toxic notions about mannerisms—including how one talks and walks—that are acceptable depending on your gender. Not all queer people are obviously gender non-conforming (and not all gender non-conforming people are gay), but gender non-conforming kids are bullied and harassed. Even the gender conforming queer kids are hurt by that, because they know that if anyone finds out about their same-sex crushes or whatever, that they will be subjected to the same kind of hatred from some classmates, some teachers, and some family members.
We are taught from a very early age to loath ourselves and to expect loathing from others. For many of us, the need to deflect at least some of that loathing causes us to denounce and participate in the shunning and bullying of others. Because if we denounce the faggots loudly, no one could possibly believe we’re queer ourselves, right?
Which means that I feel a lot of guilt for some of the things I said and positions I endorsed in my early teens.
So yes, I feel a lot of sympathy for kids who are living in terror inside those closets. The sympathy starts to go away when those kids grow up, are exposed to examples of how life can be better out of the closet, but they continue to attack other queer people even while cowering inside their own closet. There is a bit of pity, sometimes, but the longer they are exposed to better information (sexual orientation isn’t a choice, all those stories about health issues for queers are myths, queer people can live healthy and happy and long lives, et cetera), they less they deserve our consideration.
And that doesn’t change if they happen to come out of the closet but still insist on vilifying and otherwise attacking their fellow queers. A young man who comes out of the closet but lends his voice and face to campaigns to deny civil rights to his fellow queers—who goes on national news shows and records political ads saying, “I’m a gay man, and I agree with these people that think gay people don’t deserve equal rights” isn’t simply expressing an opinion. He is contributing to the hostile environment that sometimes literally kills other queer people.
Because we’ve long had proof—from medical studies first conducted by a Republican administration—that contrary to that sticks-and-stones saying, words do hurt. All that anti-gay rhetoric leads to the death of hundreds of queer and gender non-conforming kids every year, among other very real harms.
So-called homocons who assist anti-gay organizations in oppressing other queer people should not be surprised when they face blowback. Queers and allies standing up for themselves in the face of that oppression are not bullying. It isn’t a both sides thing, it’s self-defense. Particularly in a case where, say, the adult homocon who has already appeared on TV more than once to denounce gay rights campaigns, then leads a bunch of haters in a loud protest angrily chanting anti-gay slogans at a children’s event. That isn’t a “morally ambiguous transgression” it’s despicable—plain and simple. Especially when you go on TV again to defend your actions.
When other people call out the bigotry, that’s not mob violence, that’s consequences. Maybe you should have thought about that before agreeing to go on TV. Again.
Yes, when we say things we are responsible for how they land, regardless of our intentions. But that’s a two-way street. And when a self-loathing queer who assists bigots has been given a number of chances over a few years to reconsider his hateful words and deeds, there comes a point when there is no one to blame for any of the consequences except himself.
And now we have another round of me commenting on some news that broke after I composed this week’s Friday Five, or new developments in a story I’ve linked to and/or commented on before.
First, let’s talk some more about that so-called Straight Pride parade! So yesterday I linked to the story about how Brad Pitt disavowed the parade and threatened to sue the organizers if they kept using his name and image, right? That didn’t really surprise anyone. I was, frankly, confused as to why the organizers even went there—Pitt’s support of marriage equality long before it became legal was well known, for example. And clearly the only sort of people who even think a Straight Pride parade needs to be a thing are insecure homophobes, right?
We already knew that the leader of the group who applied for the permit was an alt-fight rabble rouser who has organized or been a featured speaker at various neo-Nazi/alt-right rallies over the last few years. And now we know what was up, because the group has responded to Pitt’s threat of legal action: ‘Straight pride’ group removes Brad Pitt as mascot after backlash, replacing him with Milo Yiannopoulos.
Before I go further, I want to give a tip of the hat to Joe Jervis of the Joe.My.God web site for correctly predicting predicting days earlier that Yiannopoulos had to be involved.
So now everything becomes clear. They knew that announcing a straight pride parade and applying for a permit would get them some news coverage. Mentioning a well-known celebrity like Brad Pitt as the parade’s “mascot” without Pitt’s permission served multiple purposes. First, it increased the odds that mainstream news sources would carry the initial story. Second, because they didn’t just name Pitt, but had pictures of him on their web site, it guaranteed a response from Pitt and/or his agent no doubt threatening legal action. Which git them a second day of being in the news. Then, they can announced the change in the mascot the next day, before any official cease and desist letters arrive, and get another day of press coverage. And they announced the change on their web site with some digs at Pitt (that aren’t actionable) that are phrased in exactly the way needed to appeal to any Incels/Men’s Rights Activities who weren’t already cheering them on.
This also explains why they are using the term “mascot” instead of “Grand Marshall” or something (I know there are headlines out there using saying Grand Marshall, but the official web site uses mascot exclusively). Because Milo isn’t just a neo-Nazi apologist who incites hate against muslims, jews, and trans people, he is also infamously gay. Which is a weird person to pick to symbolize and lead a straight pride march, but mascot? Sure, the lapdog gay boy—who loves to spout off the same genocidal racist, anti-semitic, sectarian, misogynist, transphobic nonsense that the rest of the organizers of the event believe—he can be a mascot.
Based on the past histories of all the folks we currently know are involved in this, the real point of the parade (beside publicity, which they hope will translate into donations) is to try to get a situation where protesters show up, one or two of whom might be provoked to take some action that will give the cops an excuse to go after the anti-fascists, as police are wont to do. So the purpose is to generate headlines and video that can be used to try to paint those of us who are opposed to the goals of the alt-right as the bad guys. And, of course, to provide money to Milo, who is deeply in debt.
With Milo’s involvement, the other thing we can expect is if the City of Boston requires parade permit holders to pay for police services, et cetera, those bills will not get paid (that’s how he racked up a couple million dollars of debt in Australia alone!).
One last thing before we change topics. The same group as officially announced a straight pride flag. They have had at least one made and, oh my goodness, is this the ugliest thing ever, or what? I understand that there are actual studies that show a high correlation between lack of cognitive skills and holding very conservative beliefs, but really, that attempt at symbolism is an insult to the intelligence of the people they hope to embrace the flag. Maybe they think they’re being ironic?
Okay, these don’t really need much in the way of commentary: to the surprise of no one with a functioning brain cell: State Dept Bans Embassies From Flying Rainbow Flag. It was only a week ago that the alleged president was tweeting about supporting LGBT people and joining the international fight against the criminalization and state-sponsored killing of LGBT people. And yet, this… I mean, compared to the very long list of anti-gay actions the trump administration as taken against us, this is pretty minor, but still!
Oh, well, let’s end on a better not, shall we? WISCONSIN: Dem Gov Flies Rainbow Flag Over Capitol For First Time, GOP State Rep Rants “This Is Divisive”. I suppose it is divisive: it divides the haters (so-called Christians like the GOP representative in question) from those who actually love their neighbors as themself.
This week we had a few sign-offs in the field of news reporting or commentary. I included at least one article about each one in yesterday’s Friday Links. I’d like to follow up on at least one of them today. We begin with a former writer for Gawker writing an op-ed of The Guardian: I was callow, it was unkind, and together we did some pretty ignoble things. So why am I sad to hear that after 14 long years, Gawkerdämmerung is nigh?
In case you don’t know: Gawker started out many years ago as a snarky/gossipy blog that covered “the scene” in New York City, which quite often involved covering other news sites and publications and the people who wrote for them. This was back when founding editor Elizabeth Spiers wrote almost all of the content and treated it almost as a personal blog. Spiers moved on and other people took over. Gawker expanded and changed, becoming, as Joshua David Stein says in the Guardian peace, “bullies.” He goes into a bit more detail, calling Gawker “a fertile ground for many things – ego, fame, alacrity, wit, a quick turn of phrase – but kindness was not one of them.”
I’m not writing to apologize for Gawker nor to say they were justified in what they did (Stein attempts to do that in his article, but I remain unconvinced). What I do strongly believe, however, is that Gawker’s death isn’t anything to cheer about, either. There are simply no heroes in the story of its demise. In 2007 they “outed” Peter Thiel. Thiel is often described as a billionaire investor (though he’s probably not as rich as he claims), but a more accurate description would be, man who got rich by mismanaging other people’s billions in a way that enriched him and impoverished them. If you want to know what kind of person he is, he’s the man who agreed to be Trump’s token gay speaker at the Republican National Convention; it’s harder to get any sleazier that being a gay spokesperson for a convention that adopted the single most hateful anti-gay political platform in the history of the U.S. He’s also one of the guys who thinks that women shouldn’t have the right to vote.
I put “outed” in quotes because Thiel wasn’t exactly closeted at the time. He wasn’t exactly out a proud, because like most homocons he held most out and proud queer people in contempt, but he had gone to no pains to hide his orientation, and was a public figure who regularly sought publicity and was often still trying to get people to invest in his managed funds. Being outed didn’t cause any measurable harm to his reputation. He was in no danger of losing his job, et cetera. Still, he was pissed off at Gawker because of the incident, and swore to destroy them.
Gawker, in just one of the many cases of bullying, published a sex video of former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan. Hogan had been a public figure, but he was generally retired. He wasn’t the public spokesman for one of those anti-gay/anti-sex organizations campaigning for laws restricting other people’s rights in the name of morality. Which wouldn’t have, IMHO, been justification to publish the video, but could have been a legitimate rationale to report on its existence. But they didn’t have such a rationale, so publishing it was just a puerile bid for clicks.
Hogan sued. And as we now know, he was able to afford to fight it out in courts, refusing all settlements, for as long as he did because Thiel was actually paying the legal bills. Thiel has since admitted that he’s funding several other lawsuits still pending. Hogan won a large settlement (and I’m glad he won; I just wish he had done so without getting involved with a sleaze like Thiel). And the settlement was so huge, that it forced Gawker Media, the parent corporation of Gawker.com, into bankruptcy. Which has left a bunch of people who work for other, less sleazy news sites that Gawker has been buying up over the years, in a position of not knowing whether they still had jobs.
And I want to be very clear here: the other news sites were not run like Gawker, and the people working for them are not complicit in any way with the sorts of sleazy stories Gawker is known for. The other sites were purchased by Gawker to shore up Gawker’s financial position, and were allowed to be run as before so they’d keep producing the cashflow needed to support the business. Which is why Univision, which won the bankruptcy auction, has announced that the other sites will be allowed to keep operating as before. Univision has absolutely no interest in the Gawker.com name or its brand of “journalism.”
It’s not just the Thiel is a sleazy hypocrite and a bully—the real shame here is that he’s used his wealth to completely shut down a news site because he didn’t like their coverage. Gawker’s owner and managing editor, Nick Denton, has been deservedly hung out on a rope of his own making. But the actual executioner, Thiel, is not on the side of justice.