Alex Blaze

And we'll even be greeted as liberators!

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 31, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: bisexual, endorsed candidates, hate crimes against LGBT people, J-FLAG, Jamaica, lesbian, LGBT, LGBT people, Michael Petrelis, murder, raggae, transgender, transsexual, violence, Wayne Besen

I Red Stripe - 330ml - 0x250.jpgwas going to stay out of the boycott of Jamaica that Michael Petrelis, Wayne Besen, and Jim Burroway started up. It's undeniable that there is violence in that country against LGBTQ people, and that several high government officials have said some pretty terrible things about that violence. But would a boycott from another country (a richer, more powerful, country that practices torture and has no qualms about buying boatloads of often useless junk from other human rights abusers like China and Pakistan, that's still refusing to prosecute or even allow investigations of war crimes to go forward) actually help the situation?

This should be a question of which tactics will work or not, not way to act out frustration with human rights violations. If we are truly standing in solidarity with queer Jamaicans, then we should be focused on finding ways to help that will actually improve their lives. I hope that we can all agree on that.

So, since the boycott's endorsement list noticeably lacks Jamaican LGBTQ people, I searched for a while in the campaign literature to see in what ways they were engaging Jamaican LGBTQ people. It's their country and their culture, they would know what works and what doesn't far better than we would, and they're the ones who will live with the results of the boycotters actions.

As luck would have it, Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays (JFLAG) has released a statement online in response to the boycott:

Over the weekend, Saturday to be precise a small group of LGBT persons launched a public demonstration against Jamaica's human rights abuses against its gay citizens. The "Rum Dump" as it also named was successful as outlined on
boycottjamaica's site and http://mpetrelis.blogspot.com/

While I appreciate the support in the cause for justice and tolerance towards everyone here despite their sexual orientation, groups planning or who have planned these events must be mindful of the repercussions such actions may have on an already marginalized grouping as we are here.

Members of the public and by extension select public opinion shapers will consider this as interference by foreigners and hence push for more hatred and opposition towards gays. Not to mention the increase in violence that occurs when a situation like this becomes public knowledge. As we have seen before during the planned Canadian group EGALE's boycott early last year many persons including lesbians suffered attacks, we saw a spike in the numbers that was never so for lesbians especially before. The stories told to us by many victims included hints that we (gays) were getting foreigners to force their nasty lifestyle on Jamaica and other derogatory remarks so the attackers felt justified in their actions.

I ask you our friends to be mindful, JFLAG is slowly working on the ground to reach several objectives which include on going dialogue and other strategies which I am not at liberty to reveal now that I am aware of. Also to consider are the limited resources available for any action that may need to be taken in crisis intervention cases.

Let us remember too that it was Red Stripe, one of the targets of this ban campaign that withdrew financial backing for events and artists who promote violence of any sort against Jamaicans some time ago, we wouldn't want to erode that small gain now, small as it was it was a step in the right direction.

Thanks to the organizers and participants however for showing concern and for taking the steps to bring the matter(s) to public light but let us communicate before any other drastic actions are taken, I know that there are passionate persons out there to our cause and I am grateful personally and by extension I know the JFLAG team and gays here are thankful too.

That's a very clear "Thanks but no thanks" to American gay activists. From the statement, we garner that:

  1. LGBTQ activists in Jamaica weren't consulted,

  2. LGBTQ activists in Jamaica think this boycott will be counter-productive, and

  3. gay activists in America picked their targets without looking much into them other than finding Jamaicanness in the US (except they appear to be endorsing Bob Marley in their site's banner).

Jim Burroway is the only boycotter who has responded so far:

I mentioned my reluctance in joining the call for a boycott, and this was one of the main reasons. It continues to give me great pause, and I do not take these concerns lightly. But when I read the State Department Human Rights Report on Jamaica, it is clear that violence against LGBT people is already at a crisis level. Jamaica is a small country. It's estimated population of 2,804,332 is similar to the populations of Kansas, Arkansas or Mississippi. Imagine the outcry we would be hearing if any one of those three states were experiencing the scale of violence that LGBT people in Jamaica are experiencing already without the boycott.

As I see it, it's damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don't. What do you do in the face of this scale of violence, and how do you weigh taking action against the threat of more violence? Do you take the modest step of declaring that you won't spend your money on that nation, or do you remain silent and hope for the best?

I'll preface my response by saying I like Jim Burroway and Box Turtle Bulletin. He runs a thought-provoking blog and has always been open-minded in the comments when I or others wanted to engage him on various topics. And the work he and his site are doing promoting awareness of the homophobic and colonialistic abuses of PEPFAR funding in Uganda is great. But....

But it's wrong to say "It continues to give me great pause, and I do not take these concerns lightly." "These concerns" are the lives and safety of other people on whose behalf he is supposedly acting. The "me" who's having "great pause" in that statement is someone who won't have to live with the consequences of these actions, who I doubt has much knowledge about Jamaican history, politics, and culture, and who, well, isn't Jamaican. Whether he has thought this over and over again isn't really that important since he's not the one who should be thinking and deciding what actions to take to improve Jamaican LGBT people's lives.

And it isn't "damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don't." It's "damned if you do, but you can stop just mindlessly 'doing,' contact an organization like JFLAG or another LGBTQ activist in Jamaica if you're concerned for their safety, and find out how you can help them on their terms."

At least Jim responded to JFLAG's un-endorsement of the boycott. None of the other boycotters, to my knowledge as of the time of posting, have acknowledged the fact that Jamaican LGBTQ people can have an opinion on what we do to help them.

Boycotting an entire country... really?

I'm also more than a bit weirded out by the idea of boycotting an entire country. It assumes that everyone in that country is doing whatever horrors we hear about here in the US (which isn't true, there are many Jamaicans who are against this violence). It also assumes that the chosen country is the worst out there, which also isn't true. Other countries people buy lots more from have far worse human rights violations than what's going on in Jamaica. Do we only care about violence if the victim is LGBTQ?

As JFLAG wrote above, Red Stripe isn't exactly the target that should be picked for a boycott because they've already been nudged in the anti-homophobic violence direction:

In a bold and possibly controversial move, brewing company Red Stripe has announced its decision to withdraw sponsorship of live music events which its says facilitate "violent and anti-social lyrics".

In a statement issued yesterday, the company said that its main sponsorship beneficiaries, the annual Reggae Summerfest and Sting stage shows will no longer have its support.

"Over the years, however, a very negative trend of glorifying violence has crept into some of the music, causing much consternation among well thinking Jamaicans and others at home and abroad. This has far-reaching and damaging implications for the industry and for the country as a whole," the release stated.

"While our most recent efforts through the Coalition of Corporate Sponsors have met with some measure of success, some performers continue to propagate, through their live performances, violent and anti-social lyrics. Red Stripe will not be party to this, and thus we have taken the very difficult decision of withdrawing sponsorship from live music events. Consequently, Red Stripe will not renew our contract for title sponsorship of Reggae Sumfest and Sting. We will, however, ensure that our brands are made available whenever and wherever our loyal consumers enjoy premium alcohol beverages."

"Murder music" is one of the targets of the boycott, earning an entire page on Boycott Jamaica's website. Red Stripe made a bold move to pull sponsorship from a popular event attended by its key market specifically because of the violence advocated on-stage.

One columnist for the Jamaica Gleaner at the time explained why Red Stripe's move was bold for the company:

The fact is someone had to take a stand, and I hope all well-thinking Jamaicans will express solidarity with Red Stripe. Dare I hope that other corporate giants will follow? It could not have been an easy decision since the concert environment provides a ready market for the sponsors' products. But a sponsor must feel comfortable that what is being acted out on stage fits its own corporate objectives. Obviously, dancehall lyrics which mostly denigrate women and promote violence do not blend with Red Stripe's corporate image.[...]

My only question to Red Stripe is this: What took you so long? Politicians, planners and parents are wringing their hands in anguish about the coarseness in society, and it is obvious that the breakdown in standards and decency can be traced to the dancehall culture. Images of artistes posing with high-powered weapons or reports about artistes being arrested for rape and violent behaviour are par for the course. The mode of dress, the disrespect for elders are all associated with this culture.

So why are we being asked to boycott Red Stripe? And why is their logo right on the top of the Boycott Jamaica website and appearing on lots of posters for the boycott? The company is on the right side of one of the biggest issues being discussed in the gay boycott of Jamaica. Shouldn't we support our allies instead of boycotting them?

Oh, wait, I forgot: all backwards, violent Jamaicans are the same. This company might have done the right thing at one point, but, in the end, if it's Jamaican, we don't want a part of it.

A healthy dose of sanctimony

Michael Petrelis wrote a blog post entitled "Jamaican Fear of Gays = More Prostate Cancer," to show just how homophobic those Jamaicans are (via the Boycott Jamaica blog):

There are many ways in which hatred of homosexuals harms a civilized society. First, there is the violence and stigma directed at same-gender loving persons. Then there is the rippling damage that strikes at the well-being and good health of heterosexuals.

The Jamaican press recently reported on the country's world ranking as a top spot for prostate cancer, and that the high level of disease is directly attributable to the fear of homo-sex and being tagged inclined toward same-sex attractions.[...]

Seems to me the Jamaican Cancer Society could do a lot to save the lives of all Jamaican men, from both prostate cancer and homophobic violence, through social marketing campaigns addressing both problems.

Oh, yes! How silly to avoid a digital rectal exam because it's gay! What kind of people would so homophobic and backwards as to be afraid of a simple medical procedure?

According to a lawsuit he later filed, Mr. Persaud was then told that he needed an immediate rectal examination to determine whether he had a spinal-cord injury. He adamantly objected to the procedure, he said, but was held down as he begged, "Please don't do that." As Mr. Persaud resisted, he freed one of his hands and struck a doctor, according to the suit. Then he was sedated, the suit says, with a breathing tube inserted through his mouth.[...]

"Psychologically, it changed his life completely," Mr. Marrone said of the episode. "He hasn't been able to work. He has absolutely no trust in the system at all: doctors or the police. He has post-traumatic stress syndrome." Mr. Persaud has been under the care of a psychiatrist who made the diagnosis, Mr. Marrone said.

Oh.

Well, maybe it's just New York City. I'll go boycott the other salsa from the Pace Picante commercials.

The point here isn't that the US is "just as bad." The point is that the boycotters aren't looking at what Jamaica's doing with a self-reflexive, critical lens. We're demonizing them as backwards, unenlightened people (and, if you doubt that, go read Wayne Besen's recent column on the boycott) when we could be a bit more mindful of our country's own actions, both when it comes to homo/transphobia and when it comes to human rights abuses. Especially since we're a country that just got out of its mini-Pinochet regime and is refusing to make amends or even end many of the policies that led us there.

In turn, that makes me question their motives and their chances for success. It's easy to say "Look at how horrible that group is!" but it's a lot harder to say "Look how horrible that action is!" and stick with it no matter who does it. But if they aren't able to do that, they risk coming off as arrogant colonialists instead of peaceful protesters seeking justice.

Ultimately, this should come down to the best way for Americans to help LGBT people in Jamaica. Boycotting a corporate ally they made isn't the way to do it. Acting without even consulting them isn't the way to do it. They have by far the biggest stake in this and if we were truly concerned we would start by looking to them for guidance.

I'm still waiting for an official response from Boycott Jamaica to JFLAG's un-endorsement, and I'll update when they release one. I fully expect it to repeat the numbers of LGBTQ people attacked in Jamaica and ask us to do something, meaning their strategy. I wouldn't be surprised if they pat JFLAG on the head and thank them for having a cute little opinion as well.

Update (7:33 PM): Michael Petrelis sent me a link to this interesting article from April 2008 when Stop Murder Music Canada was threatening a boycott of Jamaica, pointing out that Gareth Henry, former cochair of JFLAG now in exile in Canada, supporting a boycott:

But JFLAG said in a statement in March that a boycott could put the island's queers in even more danger.

"Because of the possible repercussions of increased homophobic violence against our already besieged community, we feel that a tourist boycott is not the most appropriate response at this time," said the statement. "In our battle to win hearts and minds, we do not wish to be perceived as taking food off the plate of those who are already impoverished. In fact members of our own community could be disproportionately affected by a worsened economic situation brought about by a tourist ban.

"JFLAG believes that there are a number of avenues which can be explored to bring pressure on our government to respect, protect and ensure the human rights of LGBT people in Jamaica. We have called on the prime minister and influential leaders of industry to both renounce homophobic violence and commit to a course of action that will stem this scourge that plagues our island."

But Gareth Henry, the cochair of JFLAG until he was forced to flee the country for Canada last year, says he supports the boycott. He says JFLAG can't be seen to publicly support a boycott.

"They can't be the ones to call for the boycott," he says. "They can't be that voice. But the gays, lesbians and queers on the ground are supportive of a boycott."

Henry says he's tried talking to the government.

"We have tried numerous approaches, numerous dialogues with government officials," he says. "They have been nonresponsive to the call. We have to hit people where it's going to hurt, where they'll feel it. In the Jamaican context talk is cheap. After 10 years of JFLAG's existence what else can we do?"

I'm glad Michael took the time out to email, since the more information we have, the better. From my earliest contact with him, he's only been motivated by a real desire to improve queer people's lives, so I don't doubt his sincerity here.

And if you're wondering why Henry didn't sign on to endorse this boycott, it's because Michael doesn't have his contact information.

Henry was speaking to EGALE's proposed boycott of Jamaica because of its homophobic concerts (from which Red Stripe pulled its ads). That boycott never happened because:

However, earlier this week Egale, while promising to continue its campaign, refrained from advocating a boycott.

"We have a responsibility to continue to educate the Canada LGBT (lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals and transsexual) community on countries which criminalise same-sex acts and we also have a responsibility to LGBT Jamaicans who have sought refuge in Canada to tell their story of persecution and violence whilst in Jamaica. Every Canadian citizen can then make an informed choice whether to travel to such countries," the release stated.

Egale's decision had come after Bonner had sent an official response to the group last Thursday. In the response she stated that the Jamaican Forum for Lesbians All-sexuals and Gays (JFLAG) did not support a boycott of Jamaica's tourism and trade. She added that the Government has taken action to reduce incidence of violence by the security forces and condemns all forms of violence.

I think the solutions EGALE went for instead of boycotting are reasonable: increase awareness of what's going on in Jamaica and make it easier for refugees to gain asylum in the US or Canada.

I'm still not understanding how a boycott works to LGBTQ people's benefits, though. They have less money, a few hotels and restaurants close down, those newly-out-of-work people know that American gays were responsible, so.... they lobby their government for legislation to protect LGBTQ people?

If we're thinking that there's a history of boycotting entire countries and exacting positive reforms from their governments, there simply isn't. The most that the Boycott Jamaica folks were able to site was a boycott of Coors that was successful in the 70's, but a boycott of another country is something else entirely.

Queerty recently likened a boycott of a country to economic sanctions, which is a model closer to what Boycott Jamaica is trying to accomplish: deprive a country of money and hope that its government changes whatever laws we want them to. It's a strategy that hasn't had much success in recent history, as we saw with US sanctions towards Cuba and (pre-war) Iraq, because it makes an enemy out of the country that withholds its money, and, in this case, could make LGBTQ people even more a target if they're seen as responsible for other people's financial troubles (and with the economy continuing to worsen in the US, there will most likely be a decreased number of American tourists in Jamaica anyway this summer, meaning that whether anyone signs on to this boycott or not LGBTQ Jamaicans are likely to get blamed).

And none of this really answers the question of Red Stripe. I don't see why we should be boycotting an ally, especially after all the shit they took from homophobes last year because of their support for LGBTQ people:

Thumbing their noses at gay rights groups, some Jamaican dance hall stars have offered to perform for free at events boycotted by a local beer giant called Red Stripe.

Red Stripe withdrew its financing last month from the major live shows Sting and Sumfest, which it has sponsored for six and seven years respectively. The company said it launched its sponsorship boycott in response to the continued use of violent and anti-social lyrics during performances. The boycott stopped short of a total withdrawal of Red Stripe products from the events.

"We have noticed that there is a negative trend that has been creeping into some of the music. ... This is very damaging to our culture, the music and to our country as a whole," corporate relations director Maxine Whittingham told reporters.

Now some performers are portraying Red Stripe's action as an attack on dance hall reggae, dubbed "murder music" by gay rights activists for its explicit references to killing homosexuals. O'Neil Bryan, popularly known as Elephant Man, accuses Red Stripe of having a "hidden agenda."[...]

In the past few weeks, several well-known artists, including David Brooks, who performs under the moniker Movado, and dub poet Mutabaruka (formerly Allan Hope), have voiced their opposition to Red Stripe's decision during performances and interviews. Now, they say, they taking their displeasure to another level.

Anthony Moses Davis, also known as Beenie Man, and Bryan are among those artists who media reports say have begun lining up to give free performances.

Davis, who originally planned to perform free at the upcoming Reggae Sumfest, said he will now host a free dance hall show himself. "Jamaicans should stand firm together and let [Red Stripe] know we don't like what they are doing," he said.

If we don't stand by our allies, who will?


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Anthony in Nashville | March 31, 2009 2:48 PM

I'm not mad at the idea of a boycott, but the fact that it was not suggested by actual Jamaicans is troubling. I would suggest that the boycott organizers focus on stuff in the States as opposed to exporting their activism elsewhere.

Are there that many gay men going to Jamaica or buying their products (besides weed) that it will really make a difference? Most LGBT people I know are well aware that their presence is not welcomed in Jamaica.


Great to see this, Alex!

"I wouldn't be surprised if they pat JFLAG on the head and thank them for having a cute little opinion as well." That describes their attitude perfectly.

This reminds me of the debates I had about the proposed boycott of Utah following Prop 8. When I brought up the amazing work happening within Utah by LGBTQ people who need our support, most pro-boycott folks responded with "well, they should just move."

The AFA regularly run ineffective boycotts on companies with pro-LGTBQ policies. Rush Limbaugh is threatening to boycott New York. Many queer folk don't even know or care about the historical boycotts on Coors or Cracker Barrel.

I'm a big believer in making informed and ethical decisions about consumer decisions, but we have to realize we have other tools in our arsenal. The call for boycotting strikes me as being one narrow--and somewhat classist--strategy that is being overdone.

I agree! I think it's great to educate people about the country so they can decide for themselves if they want to go on vacation to Jamaica or not. Although I do think that most LGBT people can find out about that in a context outside of a boycott.

I don't know about the employment, etc., practices of the three companies being targeted (Myer's rum, Red Stripe, and Blue Mountain Coffee), but Red Stripe was on our side when it came to the homophobic concerts so there doesn't seem to be much point to boycotting them.

But even though we're being asked to boycott these three companies, the boycott isn't really at all about them. That's troublesome.

Maybe instead of not boycotting Red Stripe a movement toward actively promoting the brand is in order.

What a shallow, disappointing and poorly researched article. I would have been happy to have answered Alex's questions - but he never bothered to contact me. You know, reporting 101.

According to the State Department report:

“The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG) continued to report human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, mob attacks, stabbings, harassment of homosexual patients by hospital and prison staff, and targeted shootings of homosexuals.”

Now, isn't it obvious that any Jamaican group, under such dire circumstances, could not publicly support a boycott? It is the same reason why gays in Iran and Saudi Arabia don't publicly support such actions. They can't. Duh.(For the record we did reach out to JFLAG and others. Again, real reporting would have revealed this)

So, Alex suggests we just sit back and watch our people be slaughtered and drink Red Stripe beer. Nice. I'm sure that will change the situation across the world.

I first read about Jamaica’s horrific violence against gay people in a 2004 New York Times editorial, “Hated to Death in Jamaica.” In 2006, Time Magazine had an article about the island headlined, “The Most Homophobic Place On Earth.”

One would think that such chilling headlines would have spurred worldwide action against Jamaica. Instead, the climate has only deteriorated with a 2008 New York Times article titled, “Attacks Show Easygoing Jamaica Is Dire Place for Gays.”

Forget business as usual - as Alex suggests. Instead, we should stop doing business with a country that is proud of its persecution against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Questioned by the BBC on his nation’s homo-hysteria, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding said that he would not allow gay people to serve in his Cabinet. He reiterated his defiance by saying, “We are not going to yield to the pressure, whether that pressure comes from individual organizations, individuals, whether that pressure comes from foreign governments or groups of countries, to liberalize the laws as it relates to buggery.”

Alex should answer this fundamental question: Why should gay people subsidize their own discrimination?

People have a right to know where their hard earned money is going. Countries with good human rights records should be rewarded. Ones with deplorable records - like Jamaica - should be shunned. We should send a message across the world: Homophobia does not pay. (Unless you're Alex - then you say, "keep the change")

Finally, Alex's rich nation/poor nation dichotomy is irrelevant. He conveniently fails to point out that there are many poor countries that treat GLBT people much better. Why not send our money to such places? Isn't it socially and morally irresponsible not to help the economies where we are welcome - like Costa Rica?

If we do not stop the hate in the one place we can - Jamaica - it will continue to be open season against gays across the world. The choice is ours, we can be passive - or we can fight back.

We have chosen action. Alex has chosen passivity and inaction.

Please support our boycott. It is time. You can make a difference.

Wayne Besen
www.boycottjamaica.org

Please read the post before your respond next time. There might be something there worth discussing before just attacking people with ad hominems.

OK, well, as for your concerns, first, it's not reporting, it's opinionating, and thanks for coming by and clearing up nothing.

Second, you repeat over and over that the climate is homophobic, but you never really address the concerns raised by JFLAG, namely that a boycott will make things worse. I understand your desire to do something, but, guess what, sometimes there are "somethings" that are bad ideas. That's what they said in their release.

Third, I don't see a response to the fact that Red Stripe has acted on LGBTQ people's behalf in the past by pulling publicity from those "murder music" concerts. Again, I ask, why should we boycott an ally?

Fourth, I never advocated spending money in Jamaica. I said:

I think it's great to educate people about the country so they can decide for themselves if they want to go on vacation to Jamaica or not. Although I do think that most LGBT people can find out about that in a context outside of a boycott.

So, in response to your question, "Why should gay people subsidize their own discrimination?" I'd say, well, let them decide for themselves. But let's face it, this isn't our own discrimination, because at the end of the day you, me, and everyone on that endorsement list isn't going home to Jamaica to live with the consequences of this action.

Your argument is basically:

1. The situation is terrible in Jamaica!
2. We have to do something!
3. Alex sucks!

Which doesn't lead to a boycott. That leads to "something." I suggest we make that "something" something productive, instead of demanding what you suggested:

To lift such a boycott, Jamaica would have to abolish its “buggery” law. Public officials would have to undergo sensitivity training. The police would be required to set up daily undercover stings - where officers would dress in stereotypically gay clothing and arrest would-be attackers. Finally, Jamaica’s public officials would have to openly welcome gay and lesbian travelers and offer enthusiastic support for homosexuals living within the country.

Is there any country that runs stings of homophobes by dressing up police officers in gay clothing?

Alex says: You never really address the concerns raised by JFLAG, namely that a boycott will make things worse. I understand your desire to do something, but, guess what, sometimes there are "somethings" that are bad ideas. That's what they said in their release.

Reply: Yes, I did. I pointed out very clearly that each year from 2004-2009 the climate has gotten significantly worse in Jamaica. Doing nothing has not worked and has actually increased the danger for those living there - and will do so exponentially in the long run unless you create change. And, it is not just in Jamaica. The dance hall "murder music" is a product that has been exported across the globe. Face it Alex,your do-nothing, treadmill diplomacy has failed. It makes life more dangerous, not less. It emboldens gay bashers when there are no consequences for their actions.

As for Red Stripe, they pulled out of one concert after pressure. Your expression of their support is greatly exaggerated.

Alex says: Is there any country that runs stings of homophobes by dressing up police officers in gay clothing?

Reply: It is way past time that this occurs. The difference between you and me is that I do not accept the slaughter of gays as the natural order. If we can have police dress up as prostitutes and drug dealers - they should also have stings for homophobes. A gay couple should be able to walk hand in hand on every square inch of this earth without fear. This is what we are really fighting for - not a laundry list of legislation.

If we fight, such changes will occur.(although it will never be perfect) If we sit back and say: "Its just the way things are" - it will remain so.

You are wrong. Your way ensures that in every anti-gay country on earth the homophobes will say: "gays will do nothing to protect their own."

That is a recipe for more State Department reports that read like horror novels.

The difference between you and me is that I do not accept the slaughter of gays as the natural order.

Why do I feel like I'm talking with Ann Coulter?

Oh, that's right, it's the whole "you're with us or you're against us," "You support terrorism/homophobic attacks if you criticize our strategy" style of debate.

Really, Wayne, you're being ridiculous here. Someone raises a few questions and suddenly they're advocating "the slaughter of gays"?

Calm down and please explain what proof you have that your action will improve the situation for LGBTQ folks in Jamaica.

Wayne,

There's so much wrong with everything you've posted, but for now, I'll just highlight a few points. Regarding Red Stripe:

"As for Red Stripe, they pulled out of one concert after pressure. Your expression of their support is greatly exaggerated."

Um, excuse me, isn't "pressure" exactly the point of economic boycotts, especially of companies? Whether it's one or more concerts, isn't the fact that a company pulled out of a major entertainment event something to be celebrated - if you're the kind who believe in the efficacy of economic boycotts - and something that's supposed to have been the result of "pressure?" And, seriously, if your calling for an economic boycott of the entire country isn't a form of "pressure," what is it? Or are you merely dismissive of what happened with Red Stripe because you, personally, had nothing to do with it?

I find your comment, "Jamaicans are attacking gay people - and there are real victims," because it cavalierly assumes that are no Jamaican gays, only gays vs. Jamaicans. And that's probably the biggest issue I have with this, the fact that you separate the "gay" from the "Jamaican" and assume that you, as a U.S-based gay man, can direct Jamaicans to do your bidding. Your initital comment about supposedly watching "our people be slaughtered" is also telling in this regard. You show no regard for the fact that Jamaican gays operate within more than their gayness - asking them, and us, to separate that one trait of their lives from everything else is demeaning and insensitive. You happily ignore the fact that Jamaica, as a country, faces a host of economic issues that create conditions rife for extreme fanatics to blame gays and other sexual and gender minorities for their woes.

It's also patently obvious from your posts that you don't care to explore the complexities of such situations and do the more difficult work of finding out how to achieve solidarity and change with Jamaican activists. Instead, you dismiss them as being obviously being "under such dire circumstances, [that they] could not publicly support a boycott..." Does it occur to you that perhaps they might be both unable to fully support such boycotts AND unwilling to support them? In your perfect world, where U.S gay men like yourself go charging in on their white horses, everything is, perhaps every pun intended, black and white. It's perfectly clear from your posts that you have nothing but contempt for Jamaicans, and you can barely disguise your contempt. And, as far as I can tell, you base all your ire on headlines in mainstream publications like Time and the NYT. Your politics seem driven by little more than sensational headlines.

As for your ridiculous idea that police should have stings for homophobes (the logistics of which along make the mind boggle): now, is that something you just want Jamaicans to adopt, or would you be willing to advocate that for the U.S and the U.K, for instance?

There's a lot more to write about this, but I'll save my energy for my own forthcoming blog on this.

I'm sorry, but you are the one who needs to calm down. I never said that you support homophobic attacks. That would he absurd and I know that you are against them just as much as I am. So, why are you misrepresenting what I said?

What I did make clear is that the status quo has lead to gays being marched to slaughter like sheep across the globe. And, you are defending the status quo. Not because you want anyone hurt. You don't. But, the result of not taking alternative action will lead to more deaths, not less. So, please, do not take my words out of context.

You asked me to: "explain what proof you have that your action will improve the situation for LGBTQ folks in Jamaica."

Um, how can I prove anything in two days - the entire time the boycott has been in effect? That's as silly as asking me to predict who will win the Super Bowl on opening day.

But, I can prove that your way has failed miserably. Read these articles and then explain to me how things have gotten better since 2004 by the passivity you preach. Read these and inform me how the old strategy has made Jamaicans safer.

2004
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/02/opinion/02thu2.html?_r=2

2006
http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1182991,00.html#

2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/world/americas/24jamaica.html

More of the same, Alex?


Um, how can I prove anything in two days - the entire time the boycott has been in effect? That's as silly as asking me to predict who will win the Super Bowl on opening day.

Well, at least we have an answer here. I only had to ask like 4 times.

So you don't know that your tactics will work, and you don't even have an explanation as to why such counter-intuitive methodology will change minds. Great.

So why are you doing this? You have no reason to believe it'll work, and yet you're insulted to the point of saying things like "Alex suggests we just sit back and watch our people be slaughtered and drink Red Stripe beer" if someone from the left even asks the question.

(So that's why I think the Ann Coulter comparison is apt. She was saying pretty much the same thing about people who didn't want to invade Iraq a while back, that Saddam is an evil dictator who's harming his people [among other things], that we have to do something, and that people who don't support something are with the terrorists/Saddam and against us/the Iraqi people. Sound familiar?)

My suggested course of action was never "passivity." It was, and I quote (since it's pretty obvious at this point that you didn't read beyond the jump and dove into hysterics immediately upon seeing the title):

And it isn't "damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don't." It's "damned if you do, but you can stop just mindlessly 'doing,' contact an organization like JFLAG or another LGBTQ activist in Jamaica if you're concerned for their safety, and find out how you can help them on their terms."

Further, I added in the update:

I think the solutions EGALE went for instead of boycotting are reasonable: increase awareness of what's going on in Jamaica and make it easier for refugees to gain asylum in the US or Canada.

I'll add that "my solution" is nonexistent in terms of ownership - I agree that I'm among the last people who should be consulted on a complex subject that involves various aspects of Jamaican business, politics, culture, and history, when I'm not at all an expert on Jamaica and I don't have to live with the consequences of actions taken against Jamaica. I'd say the same for most of the people here.

The difference here is that I accept the fact that I'm not an expert and that solutions I'd suggest that involve action in Jamaica or to pressure Jamaica would be patently stupid from the start. I say it outright and I don't try to pretend to know enough about the situation to storm in like a knight in shining armor and save the damsel in distress. That's the difference.

BTW, shouldn't you be accusing me of appeasement?

By the way, Alex. Your title is misleading."We'll be greeted as liberators."

If you recall, we attacked Iraq, a country that did not attack the USA.

Jamaicans are attacking gay people - and there are real victims.

So, you are comparing apples and oranges.

A better analogy is the international criminal court calling for the arrest of the Sudanese leader - even though he threatened the victims in Darfur with expelling aide groups, if such a threat came to pass. (it did).

You can't always pay ransom, Alex. Sometimes you have to act.

The ICC is, in fact, a terrible analogy to all this. But it is interesting that you see yourself as acting as an international, legitimate arbiter of justice that a good half of the world has to follow because of treaty agreements.

By the way, Alex. Your title is misleading."We'll be greeted as liberators."

If you recall, we attacked Iraq, a country that did not attack the USA.

I'm getting that you really don't understand why people on the left were so taken aback by Dick Cheney's comment that we'd be greeted as liberators in Iraq. It isn't because Iraq wasn't going to attack us - it was because it was so breath-takingly arrogant to assume that we could act to rescue the people of a country and that they'd just love the fact that America came to save them.

Cheney, if you recall, was discussing the how bad the human rights situation was in Iraq, how terrible of a dictator Hussein was, providing statistics about how many people were tortured, abused, and killed by Saddam (and there was real violence being perpetrated by Saddam against the people of Iraq).

But even though there was a terrible human rights situation in Iraq, Cheney made obvious that the solution (unilateral invasion to remove Saddam and cause as little damage as possible while we build a democracy) was so rooted in the arrogant idea that Americans are the saviors of the world who can bust in anywhere and the victims will thank them later, even if they weren't consulted.

It was about disrespect for the complex problems that were already in Iraq for millennia because of their complex culture and the arrogance in assuming that we could over-ride all that in a few months with our sensible solutions to their problems, because we're enlightened and they're backwards.

Chitown Kev | March 31, 2009 10:54 PM

Personally, I am supporting of this boycott.

The stories of the abusive treatment of GLBTs are flowing from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the United States lately.

While I too am concerned with a backlash against Jamaican GLBTs Alex, I also understand a feeling of complete powerlessness that Wayne is expressing as we continued to be rounded up, beaten, murdered, and "de-gayed"

How much of this can we bear to hear without doing something, anything, Alex? The Jamaican government has said and continues to say that they don't give a rat's ass what we do.

Now of course, to request action in other hugely homophobic places like the Gaza Strip, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Nigeria is problematic because of the diplomacy involved. Jamaica is not that complex, diplomatically. Let's do something.

And I would hope that we are in contact with the State Department regarding possible asylum. If we can start some sort of Underground Railroad (or Airlift) then let's do it.

How much of this can we bear to hear without doing something, anything, Alex?

Is it too much to ask that that "something, anything" be something effective and respectful of the people who will have to live with the consequences?

beergoggles | March 31, 2009 11:06 PM

Yes, lets ask around for other people's approval about where we decide to go on vacation and spend our money. Right? That's basically what this boils down to.

Well, that was my first reaction. I'm really not a big fan of boycotts or embargoes or anything of that nature that prevents more exposure to whatever it is we're trying to change. Mind you, I'm never going to set foot in some backward place like Jamaica because when I want a vacation, I want to relax, not keep looking over my shoulder, worried that I'm about to get mugged or ganged up on. But I'm not going to tell or ask other people not to go there; the more the people there that are exposed to different people, the more they'll come to tolerate them and boycotting is counterproductive to that end result.

I agree - engaging is always better than isolating.

Personally, though, I suppose one could say that I'm participating in this boycott - I don't like Red Stripe, I can't afford Myer's Rum, I've never heard of Blue Mountain Coffee, and I don't have any plans to take a trip to Jamaica.

Wow - it's time for everyone here to chug a couple of Red Stripes or light up the ganja and CHILL !!!!

Marc Paige | April 1, 2009 1:25 AM

A boycott of Jamaica is long overdo. Perhaps if they start missing American tourist dollars, they will realize they cannot terrorize a group of its citizens and still expect to play host to happy vacationers. Too many Americans who go there are either gay, or love someone who is. These folks need to know that Jamaica is a center of hatred of homosexuals. There are other nations where this is also the case, but Jamaica is in our hemisphere, is close to the US, and takes in a great deal of US tourism $$. You have to take a stand somewhere.

Perhaps if they start missing American tourist dollars, they will realize they cannot terrorize a group of its citizens and still expect to play host to happy vacationers.

But, as we've learned from the past, the result of losing money is usually the opposite. The real world doesn't work like that.

I still understand the importance of education of Americans on this topic, but an organized boycott of an entire country? Governments have a tendency to circle wagons instead of opening up when attacked, much like our own does (remember how effective those pre-iraq war protests against Bush were?).

colored queer | April 1, 2009 6:52 PM

Alex, you are right on the arguments and it is amazing that although you humbly say that you are not an "expert" on Jamaica but you most probably show far more respect for other cultures and their people including gays.

Wayne B. please wake up and realize that US is no longer in the position to morally judge others and threaten these silly boycotts or sanctions..are you still living in Bush Era that you think US can unilaterally threaten or indulge in nation building with its own interests. Infact, white gays like yourself are just an extension of those conservatives who think that rest of the world should live by their rules. May I suggest that we leave Jamaicans including gays to fight their own fight just as people throughout history have done and stop imposing our own ideas or understandings on other cultures.

Have you studied how Indians and South Africans and their own people led themselves to freedom from slavery?? Can you anaylze why people of color including LGBT ones do not view themselves as part of LGBT movement because of deep seated racism within the gay rights movement and institutions?

Also, Wayne B. since you are so passionate about plight of gays (colored in this case) in other countries why not raise issues of racism within the LGBT communities in the US. How about questioning and putting a call for orgs to become more diverse? How about breaking up those good old boy/girl networks which dominate white gay orgs and have been the primary beneficiaries of any progress made in gay rights movement? How about studying the link between HIV in colored communities and economic/socio status in the US?

Or how about using your research skills to start with a simple survey (or shame on you list) of how many people of color are in leadership roles in gay orgs. How about looking at the history of race and class of LGBT white "leaders" that gets them into certain circles and then they appoint themselves as the leaders of people of color and exploit those issues to pay for their salaries and fame.

Starting with groups which work on international issues, hiv issues, immigration issues could be primary candidates that are supposedly focusing on people of color communities here and abroad. Hopefully, you would show your leadership to take gay white orgs to task before you start preaching freedom to people of color in other countries. And perhaps then you would be in a moral position to "lead" gays in other counties to freedom once you have lifted your own to a life of safety and dignity in this country.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | April 1, 2009 10:10 PM

I think any attempt to equate a GLBT boycott of Jamaican state sponsored violence with the antics of empire building warlords like Obama is pure bull.

Our political movements, like our communities are ultimately international at their very root. The truth is that gay men in Mexico, lesbians in Egypt, bisexuals in New Zealand and transfolk in Ireland, irrespective of national and cultural differences have more in common with each other than they do with their fellow citizens. We need to support each other because for the most part no one eles will.

I think the focus of discussion like this should be:

One: we should avoid at all costs any connection between ourselves and the US government, who in their relations with countries like Jamaica and Iraq, Iran and Nigeria are little better than pirates and mass murderers. That’s as true of Obama as it was of Clinton and Bush.

Secondly boycotts against a particular product probably aren’t the best way to go about international boycotts, although we should continue to actively boycott reggae hate artists when ever they waddle up from the sewer. The question here is not about abuse by a particular company, like Coors, but about state sponsored murder. By empowering anti-GLBT thugs and protecting them from prosecution the Jamaican government can legitimately be called a rogue government.

Third, if you go after a rogue government, instead of a beer manufacturer, you have to use the big guns, not a pea shooter. The big gun that brought the SA racists to the negotiating table was divestment. The kind of divestment campaign supported by Desmond Tutu against zionist apartheid has the additional advantage of taking the onus off our brothers and sisters and placing it on the backs of the bigots.

Fourth, the strategy of divestment requires the assistance of unions whose huge retirement funds can be used to help force companies to divest. Their voices will also cut across the Jamaican government’s rabid, English inspired bigotry. That’s a win-win situation for us.

Additionally I think we should go back to the drawing boards, pull ILGA and IGLHCR into the discussions, as well as J-FLAG and try to get some nation(s) to raise the question in the UN General Assembly, Security Council, or the UNCHR. That too will take the onus off our communities in Jamaica. There is nothing intrinsically wrong in going to these bodies even if we know with a certainty that it’ll be our efforts that will turn the tide.

Chitown Kev | April 2, 2009 12:40 AM

Damn, BP, right on point, I can't believe it.

This has less to do with racism (much less, colored queer's arguments are silly, the Jamaican government has made it very clear that they don't give a good goddamn about gay Jamaicans) than poor planning. If Jamacian groups weren't consulted, then were the Canadian and British groups who have been working with JFLAG consulted. I do know that the former head of JFLAG has approved of this boycott.

He approved of last year's EGALE boycott of murder music, not this boycott. The Boycott Jamaica folks haven't been able to contact him.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | April 2, 2009 4:50 AM

Sorry, I have dyslexic fingers: that’s the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Navi Pillay the High Commissioner has often spoken out in defense of LGBT folks in trouble. She’s likely out best friend there.

and the Verdict is out WAYNE is out for self glory. CUBA as been embargo and Boycotted for 50 years and they remain resolute. NO boycott will change the minds of Jamaicans we are very determine and if the boycott impact our economy the GAYS will be fingered as the cause. especially in this economic crisis they can be easily blamed for any irregularities. Think Cautiously you are making a grave mistake for your cause. Here is an Idea seek asylum for all Gay people in Jamaica and there will be no need for a boycott. I can tell you alot Jamaicans are making use of that posiblity gay or no gay.