Louis Marinelli, the NOM organizer who defected, has a post up about how NOM uses imagery of racially diverse crowds in their promotional materials. The entire thing is worth a read - he publishes a bunch of emails that NOM staffers send each other asking who has pictures of black people at their rallies to put in newsletters and YouTube videos.
Her e-mail message itself wrote:
Does anyone have one they can send Eve Tushnet???
He's black, he's on our side, he's COGIC, I need a close-up please advice [sic]. Maggie
Later on in that same e-mail dialog between the three of us, we came to an agreement about which of the photos that I took would be a good choice for the newsletter to tout the black Bishop's role with NOM and in opposition to same-sex marriage. Maggie wrote:
great! Eve, work with Louis if nec. to figure out how to display this in the newsletter tomorrow. We'll make a big deal of Bishop Battle and COGIC. [sic]
That wasn't the end of it. About two weeks later I received an e-mail from Matt Haas of Syndicate Pictures, which handles NOM's visual media items, like the videos they post on YouTube. The August 11, 2010 e-mail was addressed to the two videographers on the road with us from Syndicate Pictures, Justin Haas (NOM's Director of Operations) and to me with the follow subject line: "please interview bishops, at Maggie's request".
It was a short message letting us know that Maggie Gallagher wanted us to arrange interviews with any of the Bishops that came to the rallies in Harrisburg, PA and Washington, D.C., the last two stops of the summer bus tour. That e-mail included quoted text from an e-mail between Maggie and Matt Haas which wrote:
I believe these are COGIC bishops, black bishops. That's why I'm saying make sure we feature and focus on thjem. [sic]
Any Catholics [sic] bishops that show up interview them too! Maggie
Here's an email from one of their consultants:
This is a great contrast shot of our people all happy and smiling (majority black, only one non-black in the picture) versus the angry counter-protesters. (Josh, this would be a good post. Luke / Colton: We may not a spot right now but keep this one close for future use - maybe a dynamic picture that rotates between positive, happy shots of our people versus our angry foes?) [sic]
I'm not naive enough to believe that conversations like that haven't happened at some point in half the corporate marketing departments in the US. We're a people who's easily duped by imagery of diversity, and white people often like it because it makes them feel less guilty about slavery, Jim Crow apartheid, segregation, and institutionalized racism and think that things are changing materially because Benetton has pretty ads.
Is it right for an advocacy group to be doing the same thing? Well, it's easy to criticize when it's NOM and Maggie Gallagher. Gallagher is just about the most hated person there is in the LGBT blogosphere and when someone we hate does something wrong it's always easy to point it out.
But it's not like LGBT orgs don't do the same thing, keeping power away from minorities, deciding the agenda on their own, and then using stock images as a veneer to make it seem like it's all inclusive. Perhaps the language used to discuss that is less crass, but the effect is the same.
It would behoove us to work on our own diversity to short-circuit these arguments, because complaining to outside parties that NOM is only superficially diverse will ring hollow otherwise.
img a screencap of NOM's website, taken 5/2/2010 by Alex Blaze