Bil Browning

What do teabaggers, birthers and march gossip have in common?

Filed By Bil Browning | August 27, 2009 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: birthers, blog posts, death panels, Michael Petrelis, National Equality March, Queerty, teabaggers

Have I got some gossip for you! Truly gossip1.jpgstunning. I got it from a friend who read it on a blog who says they got an e-mail tip from someone they'd never heard of, so we know it's legit.

If you go to the National Equality March, you're really going to one of Obama's death panels and since we're queer, well, if you're over 26? Pfftt. You're a goner. You'll never come home unless you can keep your birth certificate hidden in Kenya.

Sound like some breathless recent blog posts you've read lately? Let's take a closer look, shall we?

The Secret White House Meeting

Jerame and I are not involved in a vast left-wing conspiracy to secretly meet White House officials to get the President to speak or endorse the National Equality March. If I was in a secret conspiracy, I wouldn't have posted pictures of the tour on Flickr and we wouldn't have chatted in front of our guide and boatloads of tourists.

I'll admit, I wasn't able to see if there was a treasure map drawn on the back of the official portrait of Millard Fillmore during our forty-five minute trip. Next time. Next time Fillmore is mine.

The March Hates HIV+ People

Equality Across America can't be responsible if no one wants to sponsor or host an HIV/AIDS vigil. The group hopes to integrate the best part of progressive organizations with grassroots local activists needs and experiences, but they're not leading, paying for, sponsoring, or demanding any of these sessions or events.

National groups like Victory Fund, GLAAD, HRC, NCTE, NGLTF, state-level LGBT organizations, as well as allied progressive organizations have all been working to finalize details for various sessions or opportunities best suited to the various groups and attendees that weekend. Some of the organizations may not have signed on to "endorse" the march yet, but I've not met one person - either inside or out of Gay Inc. - who says, "I hope that march fails and they embarrass us all."

If you want to see an HIV/AIDS vigil/memorial service at the National Equality March, you should help organize one. Put it together. A lot of people are working hard to bring together enough resources, abilities and strengths to pull this March off. How many HIV/AIDS organizations are there? Other organizations are working together for this to succeed, can't they?

Personally, I wonder if pharmaceutical companies haven't planted operatives to steal AIDS Quilt panels from Cleve Jones when he goes to sleep so they can sell them on the black market to AIDS Inc executive directors and then blackmail them into not supporting a vigil. It could happen; those big pharma people are tricky!

The March Will Not Demand Your Pet Cause

I've always known that Dan Choi's endorsement was a top-secret military intelligence exercise designed to keep the National Equality March from calling for the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell. There's just something about him that screams rouge CIA agent, isn't there?

When US law says you can't advocate for specific legislation without losing your tax status, you don't do it. Not when the stakes are this high. Equality Across America can't be more specific than the call for full equality according to the law.

This isn't to say the group doesn't want some specifics, but only as a part of the overall theme. What part of the various bits of federal legislation doesn't constitute "full equality"? Is that where you think "full equality" ends or is there a lot more work to do?

No, this march isn't about Prop 8. It's not about ENDA. It's not about hate crimes, DADT, or Maine's marriage fight.

It's about all of that and then some. It's about saying, "I'm entitled to all of these rights. I'm not asking you to give them to me. I'm demanding them. I'm a human too and I'm just as worthy as you are."

What the National Equality March Is About

This isn't about one small legislative item or one Congress person's vote. It's about the culture shift - the new demand for equality that sees us as entitled to all of our rights instead of weakly asking for them.

This is about the interweave between our community and immigrants; some of us have partners currently caught in the bi-national trap.

This is about how we treat people of color, women, the disabled, and the ill - both inside and outside of our own LGBT community.

This is about workers and not just queer ones; we all have the same employers and how has corporate America treated you lately?

This is about police brutality, crimes meant to scare whole communities, and racial, ethnic, and gender identity profiling and stereotyping.

This is about taking our place at the table instead of fighting for scraps. This is about bringing us all up to the same place instead of narrowly advancing one small agenda at the cost of another.

I'm marching because my rights are bigger than a march. I'm marching because I want to see equality across America and not just for me. I want to see women, people of color, immigrants, workers, the LGBT community, and everyone else stand up and say, "Enough."

The wild conspiracy theories, breathless reporting and baseless accusations don't empower us. It's time we lifted ourselves out of the muck of "That's mine. This is yours.", and realized that to win true equality across America we have to step outside our usual boundaries.

What do teabaggers, birthers and march gossip have in common? They're all fueled by the looming possibility of potential nationwide change and our own fears of the unknown.

Its time to help our legally elected fierce champion (and health care advocate) push a progressive agenda that will benefit all of us. And so I'll be marching in DC on October 11.

Unless the death panels get me first.


Recent Entries Filed under Media:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


I liked it and i agree about the fear of change.

Bil, if you're referring at all to my post earlier today about the Bay Area Reporter article in the section, "The March Hates HIV+ People", I'd just like to point out that hyperbole doesn't usually help in these situations, either (and I'll admit I've been guilty of it, too, especially on blogs, which I think lend themselves, structurally, to exaggeration).

My post was based on a report from a news source quoting a march organizer, not rumors. Because I didn't know the full details of the HIV vigil happening or not happening, which I imagine only the core organizers can really know, I didn't say it wasn't and I certainly didn't say the march hates HIV+ people. I sometimes look to Projectors and readers as sources of information and community. I welcomed any comments, fuller details in my post. I did, however, feel like it was "breaking news" of a sort, and since it was reported on in the Bay Area Reporter, I felt like it was solid enough to put out there. I sort of want to go on about the March, but instead of leaving an epic comment, perhaps I'll save it for another post. Respectfully -- Dustin

No, Dustin. Your post post from today simply asked questions - it didn't imply any ill intent on the organizers. I actually linked Queerty on that section for their post that starts:

Great news if you are struggling to stay healthy while HIV-positive and thought you had a friend in Cleve Jones: He's dropped any plans to have your back in October at the National Equality March.

Yeah, I didn't get "The March Hates HIV+ People" from your post either.

You called Dan Choi a

rouge CIA agent

I love it!

I wondered if anyone else would catch that. It was a typo at first, but when I saw it I laughed and giggled so I left it in. :) It just seemed to go with it, eh?

Re: rouge CIA agent

I noticed that too. I guess you could say Dan is a Summer with just a hint of the first blush of Autumn.

Great post, Bil. You made some great points. This is the first march that is about "all of the above". No more excuses from the powers that be.

Kevin Erickson | August 28, 2009 12:27 AM

Um, if they're concerned about tax law, all they have to do is organize themselves as 501 (c)(4) instead of 501 (c)(3).

The only difference is you can't deduct donations to a 501 (c)(4).

One possible interpretation is that with the choice between compromising their message and possibly losing some donors who won't give money unless they can deduct it, the organizers of this march chose to compromise their message.

That's what I was thinking.... I've seen marches ask for stuff before! They can't all be painted in a corner like this, because so many other protests actually do ask for things.

Considering how low budget this affair is (they're saying they'll do it in under $200K), I wonder why they couldn't just organize in a way that they could have a clear message instead of mush.

One possible interpretation is that with the choice between compromising their message and possibly losing some donors who won't give money unless they can deduct it, the organizers of this march chose to compromise their message.

I'd argue that only advocating for a handful of specific pieces of legislation would be compromising the message of full equality...

That may be true, but its hard for me to shell out the cash to go to Washington when no one's in town and ask for... well... whatever. That said, its more inclusive than asking for something specific. Just not a real compelling reason for me to go.

Of course, full disclosure, I wasn't planning to go anyways. I REALLY WANT to march on Washington, but I'll have to wait another 10 years for the next one, and hopefully I'll feel less conflicted about it.

...But I do expect folks to call me from the Mall and hold up the cell phone when the speeches are going so that I can hear too!

It's about all of that and then some. It's about saying, "I'm entitled to all of these rights. I'm not asking you to give them to me. I'm demanding them. I'm a human too and I'm just as worthy as you are."

That's technically untrue if the paragraphs preceding that statement are true. It can't be about demanding all those pieces of legislation because they aren't asking for them. As you said, they lose their tax-exempt status if they ask for a piece of legislation. Asking for a dozen doesn't make the situation any better for the IRS. So they've chosen to ask for none.

Your statement that it's about no longer "asking" for rights, but "demanding" them, while it makes no sense since there is no real-world difference between "asking" and "demanding" (or, at least, no one's explained it, since we've been marching since the 70's and according to these folks everything before 2009 was "asking," not "demanding"), is untrue as well. They aren't demanding/asking for/telling/ordering or whatevering for rights - they simply aren't allowed to because of their tax status.

They are asking for free-floating "equality," and the straight people who see the protest will have to figure out for themselves that that means. Whether it means rights or bills or executive orders or whatever is, apparently, in the eyes of the beholder. Hell, a straight person could even think the marchers are asking for ex-gay therapy since that would make equality as well (we're all equal if we're the same!).

And, if this really is about a cultural shift and not legislation, then why march in DC? The culture isn't there, and they don't, as you point out, dictate what people think about us. What happens there is law, legislation, and bureaucracy. You go to that city because it's a symbol of government action. Unless the march organizers have some incredibly great messaging, straight people are going to read the march as being about whatever legislation at best, marriage only at worst. Or, most likely, won't hear anything about it because Congress isn't there.

And this:

Have I got some gossip for you! Truly stunning. I got it from a friend who read it on a blog who says they got an e-mail tip from someone they'd never heard of, so we know it's legit.

If you go to the National Equality March, you're really going to one of Obama's death panels and since we're queer, well, if you're over 26? Pfftt. You're a goner. You'll never come home unless you can keep your birth certificate hidden in Kenya.

Hahaha, that's funny because a march organizer speaking to a newspaper and being quoted directly is totallythe equivalent of an internet rumor. The picture of vapid women gossiping really drove the point home that I shouldn't believe the Bay Area Reporter, because that paper is like a stupid woman!

Wait, I just noticed that your title is "What do teabaggers, birthers and march gossip have in common?" implying that the rumors are untrue. But then you go on to say that the rumor that there will be no AIDS vigil, as well as the rumor that the march will demand no specific legislation, are true.

So, like, you imply they're completely untrue before the jump, and then say they're true (but that they don't matter) after. Hmmmm... I like your debate strategy!

So, like, you imply they're completely untrue before the jump, and then say they're true (but that they don't matter) after. Hmmmm... I like your debate strategy!

You can't argue in a debate if there's not an honest dialogue. The truth is simply this:

There is no grand White House conspiracy.
Organizers are not trying to screw over HIV+ people
Organizers are not opposed to passage of pro-LGBT legislation.

Those are the memes being floated about that are simply untrue.

Again, you can't debate a straw man. If I say, "Alex Blaze is of Latino descent therefore English must be his second language" and you reply, "It's not my second language, but I am of Latino descent," does it make my sentence suddenly "true" because you acknowledged the one nugget of truth I added to my baseless conjecture?

Same thing.

Then what's baseless? I'm still looking for it. I made a factual claim: "The march organizers have no real demands because of tax reasons" and a normative claim: "That's bad because no one will know what they want, and it's a sign that they themselves are having a march for the wrong reasons." You then start out the post by saying that my factual claim was incorrect (the tea-bagger/birther reference, because the reason problem with them is that they're lying, not that they have a different opinion), calling me a liar, but then go on to confirm the factual claim and just disagree with the normative claim.

In other words, you imply before the jump that the marchers will in fact be asking for specific legislation when you liken the claim that they won't to a tea-bagger conspiracy theory. And then you confirm the claim but say it doesn't matter.

To use your example, it's like you said "Alex Blaze is of Latino descent and god I can't stand latino people," and I responded, "Everything you said is a lie... [5 minutes later] But I am of latino descent but that doesn't mean I'm not cool."

In the end, I know it doesn't matter to you that they have a mushy message at the march that only people with a decoder ring will understand. But can we at least debate this on the premise that just because someone disagrees with you, it doesn't mean that they're a liar?

Hahaha, that's funny because a march organizer speaking to a newspaper and being quoted directly is totallythe equivalent of an internet rumor. The picture of vapid women gossiping really drove the point home that I shouldn't believe the Bay Area Reporter, because that paper is like a stupid woman!

Yes, there was a newspaper article. But did you add to it with your conjecture that march organizers want "something" without delving deeper into the "why" and "what does it mean?" Or did you just help circulate the meme that organizers don't support the repeal of DADT, DOMA and others? Just because there was a nugget of truth doesn't mean the end result is truthful.

And I think you can admit, that the big White House conspiracy theory - complete with lifting my tour pictures without permission (and continuing to use them after being asked not to do so) - is just an internet rumor. As with your article, it started with a bit of truthiness, but ended up in la-la land.

As an aside, the reporter who wrote the article you quoted also called me to try and confirm that I was involved in the White House "secret meeting." I said the photos were mine, but that it didn't mean there was a secret meeting. Still, I had to repeat several times that just because there were tour pictures of us in the White House didn't mean there was a grand conspiracy...

Yes, there was a newspaper article. But did you add to it with your conjecture that march organizers want "something" without delving deeper into the "why" and "what does it mean?" Or did you just help circulate the meme that organizers don't support the repeal of DADT, DOMA and others? Just because there was a nugget of truth doesn't mean the end result is truthful.

Um, actually, no. And I'm assuming you know so because you left a comment on my post that means you read it.

The issue isn't whether deep down inside the organizers support DADT repeal or whatever. That was never a concern and saying that it was what I wrote about is, like Dustin complained about above, a strawman hyperbole used in order to avoid having a real discussion. Dustin didn't say the organizers hate people with AIDS, I didn't say that they don't support X, Y, or Z legislation, and you know both those facts. Mentioning lala land right now is just another way to avoid responding to criticism, which honestly is what the organizers of the march have been doing since the beginning when Cleve Jones responded to your arguments with what amounted to "Bil Browning is stupid."

The real issue is what they're allowed to say at the rally. Because, according to the most recent scientific evidence, most Americans are not psychic and will have no idea what the organizers support deep down inside unless they say it. There was a reason they're avoiding mentioning what they want, I understand, but, like Kevin pointed out, it's a reason they could have avoided if they wanted to. It just would have cost a few bucks to their donors.

As I said above, I didn't mention Dustin's post - instead I linked Queerty for their breathless reporting that Cleve Jones was a sellout who suddenly hated HIV+ people. Bringing Dustin into this doesn't help your case; he asked a question seeking more information. You didn't ask if it was true - you said that we don't support various bits of legislation that you said you don't prioritize.

In your situation, you did start out with a fallacy. In your description above you characterize it as:

I made a factual claim: "The march organizers have no real demands because of tax reasons" and a normative claim: "That's bad because no one will know what they want, and it's a sign that they themselves are having a march for the wrong reasons."

And then follow up (in a separate comment with:

I didn't say that they don't support X, Y, or Z legislation

How are those two not opposites?

We have no demands = we don't support the passage of X, Y, or Z legislation. We do support X, Y, Z, and even go further than that.

And the point still remains that by claiming organizers aren't pushing for DADT and DOMA repeal, ENDA, hate crimes leg, but a whole lot more that you do support. I'm shocked - in our many years of friendship, I would have assumed that looking beyond the 4 big Gay Inc demands would make you more likely to support the march.

This was fun flirty and entertaining with just a hint of sarcasm. the perfect ingredient to any good recipe. I even love how one man feels slightly guilty and then Opps! "No honey your not the one."

Now on to my comment.

This march is about the all for one, one for all causes demanding rights. We should not be asking for these rights are already ours.

That would be like buying a home and then having to ask your neighbor if its OK to have your porch light.

We should have full use of our homes. our autos our public spaces, our work spaces, Insurance single or shared With out reproach

And we have the right to marry. We have the right to bare arms (weather smooth or hairy!) Its my second amendment.

AND THE 14TH AMENDMENT

The right to the pursuit of happiness. That is a right in this country and it includes marriage as one of its provisions.

provides that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws". It does not state that some states are exempt or that laws can be passed to exclude certain people. This was to stop discrimination and to be all inclusive regardless of race creed or color and no regard for religion. This in an inalienable right granted to a free society. Let us walk in freedom and demand freedom like all people of the united states.

As one of those who worked for an AIDS Advocacy group for a number of years, I find your commentary about AIDS Inc. incredibly insensitive. The fact of the matter is that running around the country, attempting to influence people to change their behavior, schelepping up to Capitol Hill to engage politicians and 20 year old interns about public health policy that has been so politicized, and constantly trying to raise money to care and treat for people pretty much sucks the life out of you. You try and have a conversation about needle exchange, condom distribution or even drug access with someone that only wants to talk about the poor victims and children in Africa.

I dare you to try to live one week in the life of someone that you consider to be part of AIDS Inc. It takes dedication, passion, compassion, strength of conviction and so much energy. I can take the bs from the right wing, the ultra-religious, but to have the LGBT community goad the people who work very hard, with increasingly fewer resources is repulsive.

Yes, the HIV Advocacy community has made some mistakes. I am man enough to pony up and admit it, but we had to build a system of care, a system of treatment, a system of prevention, a system of advocacy, and all at a time when we were burying friends every other day and in a very harsh political reality.

So while I might applaud your efforts for LGBT advocacy, you might want to think about your so called AIDS Inc., and consider that HIV and AIDS led to people more and more people coming out, and maybe AIDS Inc. gave you a platform from which to preach.

This isn't about past failures or successes of AIDS Inc, Scott. It's about HIV/AIDS activists castigating the march for not holding a vigil when no one is willing to step up and organize one.

It's not a condemnation of HIV/AIDS orgs - just a statement that blaming organizers for the failings of anyone to step up to the plate is disingenuous at best.

Charles Jones | August 28, 2009 10:33 AM

Hey guys - No one needs to divide and conquer us - we're bashing each other over the head all on our own.

Wait 'til Rush gets wind of this.

AMEN! We ALWAYS seem to slip into this mode, don't we? I think in a way, it shows how diverse and amazing our community is. On the flip side, it shows how much LIKE our enemies we can be. I'm not EXACTLY happy about the march--its the timing and the organizing more than anything. However, I want to see it succeed. I want to see ALL OF US succeed. We should wish success on anything any of us take up. The success of this march is JUST as important as the success of 'No On 1' in Maine or 'Approve Referendum 71' in Washington, or the dozens of other campaigns we ought to be supporting and helping succeed this fall. I look forward to seeing the great things that come out of this March, and I hope we all send our good thoughts and vibes that way. Let's not doom our progress by once again beginning to tear at one-another's throats, and fill the air with vehement negativity and malevolence.

Bil, Cleve, Jerame and Kip, God speede at the march, and Good luck to ALL OF US in ALL of the battles we're about to undertake this fall--I hope we ALL win.

HRC has already publicly endorsed the march see news item here: http://www.washblade.com/thelatest/thelatest.cfm?blog_id=26720

and the Equality Federation has come out publicly as not endorsing the march see news item here:
http://www.washblade.com/2009/8-21/view/columns/15071.cfm

Thanks Ethan - good links we've shared elsewhere, but are good to add to the discussion.

Two quick points about the Eq Fed non-endorsement.

1) They are made up of state organizations who jealously guard two things - they're membership lists and their money. Both of these could threaten those. They've been unsuccessfully trying to build both for years; if someone else was able to do it, they'd look like failures. Indiana Equality helped lead the opposition in the Eq Fed board meeting just for those reasons. Their piss-poor leadership makes anyone else's success only a spotlight on how little they've accomplished.

2) The board met and voted not to endorse the March without ever hearing from a march organizer or an in-person advocate. (Nadine Smith of Florida sent an impassioned letter in support of the march since she couldn't attend, but that was it.) They made the decision in a vacuum after it was pushed for by some state leaders with ulterior motives. When I called Toni Broaddus to invite her to sit down and listen to the organizers, her opinion post had already been written and the decision made weeks before.