Alex Blaze

Does HRC have to be the anti-Christian homosexual activists from the movie?

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 12, 2009 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, The Movement
Tags: AFA, glaad, homophobic behavior, HRC, LGBT, media, Michigan, organizations, rashad robinson, silencing the christians, television, working together

You've gotta give the AFA some credit here. Their strategy was brilliant, and they're going to profit well from it.

Earlier this week we learned that the AFA had purchased a one-hour primetime slot in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to run their infomercial Speechless: Silencing the Christians. It's all about how the homosexual activists are using propaganda and their elite media connections to silence real Americans (yes, there are real Americans in the infomercial!) and push through their horrible agenda that will harm children and destroy America.

You can watch the entire thing online if you feel like it, but I'll save you the 57-minutes and just let you know that it's standard-issue rightwing anti-gay propaganda meant to stir up anger and hatred towards us and those who would give us "special rights."

Anyway, they ran the infomercial in a few small markets. They probably don't have much money to run it and they're targeting people who live in rural areas anyway. In the documentary, it's obvious that they're trying to build up some rural resentment to them city-dwellers who think they know how to run everyone's lives.

So one would think that we'd want to be discreet here, and not seem like we're censoring the movie or silencing Christians. The title of the infomercial is "Silencing the Christians," for crying out loud; they're pretty much begging for the movie to get pulled.

I'm sure they knew that it was going to get pulled and the point was to either get some earned press as the Christian lobby group gets their infomercial about silencing Christians blocked from various markets or to raise funds off the angry homosexual lobby doing exactly what they describe in the movie. It's rather clever, if you think about it. The only people who really lose here are the LGBT people who have to live in the rural areas where this infomercial was going to play.

Two Strategies

HRC sent out an email blast yesterday telling people to call or email WOOD-TV in eastern Michigan, and telling them to tell their friends to call or email the station. An hour later, the documentary gets pulled, and HRC takes credit:

The HRC alert urged members to contact the station and ask that they pull the scheduled program and instead air a fair discussion or debate on both the issues and pending legislation.

"I am so proud of our members who answered the lies and distortions of the AFA and stopped this campaign of hate and deception," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Our community stood up and would not let those lies stand."

Simple and effective, right?

Well, GLAAD has another story about why the documentary was pulled:

Since Monday, we have been working with local community members in Grand Rapids, offering them assistance as they led efforts to mobilize community members to express their concerns to the station management at WOOD-TV (NBC), where it was set to air.

The organizing was led by Colette Beighley, who serves as assistant director of the LGBT resource center at Grand Valley State University and a GLAAD-trained spokesperson. Colette is also serving as the community's lead spokesperson on the issue, and she continues to work with GLAAD on media monitoring and interview prep this week.

Thanks to the efforts of community members on the ground, WOOD-TV first postponed the airing. The station then said it offered the American Family Association another timeslot. General Manager Diane Kniowski said: "We made a gesture of the 2-3 p.m. Saturday time period. It's been 24 hours and we had no response. Our station is being bombarded with calls and messages, and we find ourselves in the middle of someone else's fight. Ours was a fair offer and we are removing ourselves from this matter."

So what happened? Did WOOD-TV pull the documentary because of GLAAD and local LGBT activists worked behind the scenes asking the station not to run it? Or did they pull it because of HRC's email blast? Because neither group is giving the other any credit, so I highly doubt they worked on a coordinated effort here.

The Timeline

Here's what I can piece together from various sources, including the AFA's website:

-AFA sends out an email to its followers in Michigan (not nationally) telling them that the infomercial will air Wednesday.
-LGBT people and allies get that email too (since we all sign up for some of that junk) and tell GLAAD about it.
-GLAAD contacts local activists.

-Local activists and GLAAD quietly pressure WOOD-TV to rescind the time offered to AFA.
-WOOD-TV rescinds its offer of a primetime hour on Wednesday night and offers an afternoon slot on Saturday instead.

-HRC sends out an action alert asking people to call and email the station to drop the infomercial. The email says that it will air Saturday, not Wednesday.
-One hour later, specifically citing the fact that 24 hours passed since the offer to AFA was made, WOOD-TV announces that it won't be showing the infomercial.
-HRC puts out a press release claiming victory, mentioning that they got what they wanted in one hour.

-AFA, through OneNewsNow, complains about how their infomercial was shut out of Grand Rapids, mentioning the offer made by WOOD-TV. They bemoan "a real threat to our First Amendment and free-speech rights because Christians are being shut down and shut out and shut up by the very people who say they champion freedom of speech."
-GLAAD's Rashad Robinson posts on the Huffington Post saying that WOOD-TV pulled the infomercial because of "local voices in Grand Rapids, Mich.[...] have been reaching out to the station management there, making them aware of how hurtful this propaganda piece really is."

What this is looking like...

To me, this is looking like GLAAD and local Michigan activists were working on getting the infomercial removed quietly and were about to do it, when HRC jumped in, like an elephant in a window shop, sent out an email, and then claimed credit. There's really no way that, one hour after sending out the email, that enough people would be in front of their computers and be motivated and able to call right away, and then for WOOD-TV to have had some sort of discussion about pulling the infomercial, and then for the station manager to have put together an announcement saying it was gone. Canceling content takes a bit of time and discussion, and there's no way all of that could have possibly happened in an hour.

Also, WOOD-TV would have had to have sent an offer to AFA for the Saturday slot in that time period. AFA said they received it and made no implication that they got it without enough time to respond. That sort of thing had to have happened with some time to plan.

Considering that GLAAD didn't thank HRC in their discussions of this matter, I really, really doubt GLAAD asked them to send out an email to put pressure on WOOD-TV. And considering HRC didn't thank GLAAD or local activists in its press release, we don't even know if they were aware someone else was working on this already.

It wouldn't make sense, either, to make this matter hyper-public when we all know that AFA was going to fund-raise off of it. I mean, they called their infomercial "Silencing the Christians," and it's about homosexual activists using media ties to silence people just like them. Maybe this is a good time to avoid appearing like we are censoring them?

This is the exact sort of thing that should be done privately if at all possible, and it seems like the folks in Michigan and GLAAD were handling it just fine. The email from HRC even acknowledges that the program will be airing on Saturday, which was the work of the folks in Michigan. Obviously, the AFA didn't want a time slot no one would watch, and they didn't even bother to respond to WOOD-TV.

Where's the coordination, people?

HRC and GLAAD weren't working together on this, and, honestly, this is more in GLAAD's domain than HRC's. It's a media issue, not a federal lobby issue. HRC could have picked up the phone and called either GLAAD or a local org in Michigan to see what was up before stepping on everyone's toes.

But to me it's worse that they would take credit for this victory when that timeline is so pressed. There's little here to make me believe that HRC's email blast did much to change the situation; AFA had already snubbed WOOD-TV's offer for Saturday for 23 hours by the time it went out.

While none of these organizations should be in it for themselves and should be thinking about what's best for the LGBTQ community first, there's nothing wrong with them claiming their own victories and fundraising off them. But to claim another org's? That's not polite.

It all works out well for AFA, though, since no one can talk about this incident without mentioning their movie, and their movie is about exactly what HRC did very publicly - silence Christians. Personally, I have no problem with it; free speech is all good and well but the airwaves are owned by the public and the people of Grand Rapids can decide what's allowed to air in their backyard.

But we all know how AFA's going to spin this one - they put it right in the title of their infomercial. It would have been nice if someone could have gotten that program off the air with as little fanfare as possible, no?

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Yeah, HRC screwed the pooch on this one. Your GLAAD alternative would have been better. Better yet, would be to have a rebuttal in the can for moments like this. Good speech not no speech is the antidote to bad speech.

Well I haven't been too impressed with GLAAD lately and HRC is always HRC, so none of this surprises me at all.

What amazes me is that given how low HRC's credibility with the community is, how could they possibly think anyone would simply take it on faith that they'd somehow pulled off this email miracle.

It's just more evidence of how completely out of touch HRC is with the average LGBT American, our issues, and our lives.

HRC tries to act like they're still top dog, but most of us just aren't buying it anymore.

Steven Kopstein | February 12, 2009 9:23 PM

This fight seems so typical of the LGBT and many progressive movements. Lack of coordination is the biggest problem here.

I think the perfect response is a) either ignore the AFA because their silly infomercial isn't going to change any minds one way or another or b) come up with another program which airs the other side. Silencing anyone is a no-win situation. You can bet this fills up AFA's coffers so they can continue to spew their lies and lobby our leaders to believe that hatred and bigotry are still OK.

I guess they were sleeping during the last election cycle. I honestly believe their has been a demographic shift in our country where folks born after WW2 are now the majority of voters and policy influencers and most of these people don't give two hoots about homersexuals.

I know, Prop 8. That was the last blip of hatred. It will be corrected. Justice and equality shall prevail. In the meantime, coordinate, organize and speak up and out. I just told a customer service rep on the phone that my boyfriend was coming up for Valentines (she asked what I was doing). That simple act has more impact than any anonymous email or petition drive could ever have.

We can move mountains with teaspoons of connectedness.

Yeah, but I wouldn't just write off prop 8 as the last of it. I'm sure these folks have much more to come. Germany was becoming a somewhat gay-friendly place to be before that whole little matter in the 1930's and 40's.

Hey btw, could I hook into some of those elite media connections (I mean besides TBP)? I could use a where did I put that membership card? :)

Haha, me too! I want me some media power! That should be my birthright to control the vast liberal conspiracy against real US Americans!

Great work piecing together the timeline, Alex, and great work overall.

Classic HRC style - they've mastered the art of hogging credit via the press release. It's time people started calling them out, as you have. I've had issues with them on how they've appropriated issues like the HIV ban, but more on that later. I'm really glad to see this.

HRC to the rescue "I'll save you Nell"...
Who are you callin' nelly?
HRC has been out of touch for a while now, but IMO so has GLAAD...NGLTF...GLSEN and so many other can-o-soup organizations.
The sad thing here is that HRC most likely wasn't trying to grab the thunder from anyone else and really believed that they had responded to a crisis and fixed everything with an email in an hour. whoohoo!!!
Because we all know that some nelly nerd with a computer and no tan is going to save the world... or destroy it.
HRC is pitiable at times.
Now where did I leave my 'nelly nerd' cape? We are the thin pale line defending you from chaos...... be right there mom..

A nelly nerd with not tan? Well, it is just February, Rob, give a boy a chance!

I agree with Rebecca; HRC is so out of touch with real LGBT Americans, it is ludicrous. They are quite uninterested in repairing their relationship with the trans community. If it happens, it happens, but they aren't going to put any effort into earning it. HRC will only continue to tout the few trans-people there as "proof" of TG-inclusion when in reality it is just an illusion.
You can bet when we get a fully inclusive ENDA passed in Congress and President Obama signs it into law, HRC will do its best to try and take all the credit for its passage. That's sad. We all need to work as a team to secure our rights as American citizens, but we can't because someone wants to take his ball and go home.

Damn, Blaze, this is why we love you. Hot, hot, hot piece.

Arrogance, prevarication, deception, and pride. These are games that disingenuous people play. Far better to simply withhold funding from the government, refuse to adhere to laws forbidding GLBT marriages, and stop dividing not only GLBT from each other, bur from those in the religious communities that support us.

Before using tools of domination to silence others,should we not examine if that is the type of community we envision for us and for future generations?

It is everyone's domain to pursue equality for everyone. I am saddened that those who would have watched the movie and would have stood with us have lost the chance to speak out.

It's hard to just break laws that don't recognize same-sex marriages, considering that we want the government to recognize them!

And there are plenty of chances for people who support us to speak out. They don't need a movie or an org to do it. They can take some initiative.

There are other options. Get married, submit your taxes as married, pursue one' life as married.

There are consequences for these actions; however, en masse, it would put our government (that is, the one we are responsible for voting in), into quite a tailspin.

If one person does this, it will not work; however, en masse, we can accomplish much. We do not need to wait for our government to give us rights. We take them, without fanfare, without ceremony (except the wedding one :-), and cover each other. Imagine what would happen if ever gay couple in the country filed their taxes as married, checked married, and refused to shop anywhere that wouldn't give them the same benefits of marriage.

It may sound unreasonable; however, it would be more effective than throwing money at organizations such as HRC who help elect people against us.

It will be interesting to see HRC's or GLAAD's response to this post and see how fast who does what as far as backpeddling to save face or donations to their respective organizations.

GLAAD - Out of touch with the Community
HRC - Out of their mind with envy and credo.

Actually, I beg to differ on GLAAD. While they've had a rough history, they've improved dramatically lately. I'd be much more inclined to give them a break on this one.

It seems according to the timeline that they had a damn good strategy in place. They had the situation under control and were moving forward. Then along came the bull in the china shop...

Kudos to GLAAD for stepping up, using a shrewd strategy and not trying to hog the glory.

Bil, I do agree GLAAD did an awesome job, this time. My apologies for not clarifying what was particular to the post and what was an overall assessment at the end, I was speaking in reference to GLAAD's actions as of late as a whole in the final comment of being out of touch with the community.

In a lot of situations GLAAD does similar tactics of the HRC and get their panties in a bind for the wrong reasons too. HRC imho just has a stronger track record of blowing through a China Shoppe like a bull that was just told what happens if it looses a fight, and then claiming that it won the fight by default, similar to a certain right wing group that shall remain anonymous. GLAAD has a habit of sticking its thumb in the wrong place when it is making its statement, ie going after the right thing for the wrong reason. Then the other reason I have issue with GLAAD is certain decisions it has made corporately where either bad timing or just bad policy played out and made the organization look like a bunch of buffoons or just greedy little trolls.

All I am asking is that Our Community's organizations hold themselves (and we must hold them also) to a higher integrity when it comes to business practices and that includes human resources or financial procurement. EG We cant ask the Mormons to be accountable to the public and reveal their funding sources if our Community Organizations are not willing to either.

I hope that made sense and if you want me to clarify my nuances, I can later.

beachcomberT | February 13, 2009 8:32 AM

Shrewd analysis, Alex -- thanks. Why are gay organizations trying to fight infomercials anyway? It just feeds the charge that we are trying to censor our opponents, and, as Alex points out, gives the fundies some martyrdom to use in their fundraising. Let's put out our own infomercials instead. With all our creative minds, I'm sure we could out-produce anything the AFA comes up with.

You see, I just don't see it as censorship. And I know there are people here with some strange ideas about free speech here who think that they have some sort of right to use the public airwaves, but I don't. People are prohibited from broadcasting at those wavelengths so that these TV stations can without interference. And because we let them use that natural resource, the airwaves, they have a responsibility to the communities they serve.

That's why it's good to deal with this locally - ultimately, it's the people who live there who own those airwaves.

If it was a cable station, well, then no problem, they can broadcast whatever. In fact, it's being rebroadcast, according to the afa's site, on Dish Network, and no one has a problem with that.

Neither one would have bothered with the AFA shennigans last year. Daddy Dobson was Wayne Besen's "Truth Wins Out" domain. We should read the writing on the wall. Where are both organizations headed ? Religion, my friends, right here in River City. HRC has Pastor Harry Knox a leading figure on the horizon, and GLAAD will probably get someone of aith with name recognition soon. It is about them receiving grants from the government for "faith based" programs. Probably good strategy since individual donations are drying up due to unemployment and economic meltdown. When they need money, they go where the money is. Get ready for bullshit e-mails from them that say "Our thoughts and prayers are with you LGBT children of god."

Both HRC and GLAAD seem to be moving into religious activism. Both have "faith based" committees. Just in time to get those non discriminatory "faith based" government grants. As things get tougher with the economy and perhaps another 9/11 or worse, you will hear more and more "Our thoughts and prayers are with you". Donna Brazil Democratic pundit said this morning on CNN about the plane crash in Buffalo, "God will look after us. He did me as I was on a flight from Buffalo". What about the 50 who were killed? A total disconnect.

Charles... Both HRC and NGLTF have had faith and religion programs for some time. They're now starting to be heard more because, I hope, both groups are finally realizing that our community has to deal with the issue of religion-based bigotry and prejudice. All our inequality rests on religion-based prejudice. We can't ignore it.

Mitchell Gold with Faith in America is doing great work. Everyone should check out "Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay In America," which Mitchell edited. I wrote one of the 40 stories. The book is a great gift for people of faith sitting on the fence on our issue and shows them real human faces and stories.

This post hit the nail and I so agree with every word! We must remember the first amendment and rather than use energy and time to react, we should be proactive and never give the impression that anything right wing nuts say or do has any resemblance to reality.

So you're telling me that HRC stormed into a situation that was already being handled, starting throwing it's weight around with no idea of what was really going on, mucked things up and then claimed credit for the "victory?" That doesn't sound like them at all.

HRC is the Junior League of the gay male community: a bunch of well-off, mostly white urbangays who throw flashy "fundraisers" and do "volunteer work," all of which is aimed more at expanding their social circles than actually doing any good.

The part that sucks is that they take up the space where an actually effective organization could be. Young and apolitical queers who decide they want to get active immediately look for that damn equals sign and then run headlong into a vortex of ineffectiveness.

I happened to get invited to a free reception in the lobby of their DC headquarters shortly after the passage of Prop 8 (and 2 and 102 and Question 1). One disillusioned supporter there said "well they couldn't win us any rights with the money we gave them, but at least they bought this nice, shiny building."

Couldn't say it better myself.

I watched the video in its entirety. Living in Kentucky, the first state to give its votes to the McCain/Palin ticket, I can tell you that this video will ring home. Except for Louisville, Lexington and northern Kentucky, most of our state is rural, white, Baptist, and very conservative. I’m surprised AFA didn’t run this first in select Kentucky markets. Obama may have won the election, but a close look at the map will reflect that the south is still very conservative.

Instead of bickering about GLAAD and HRC, I feel we should look seriously at this video and its implications. I am a Christian and a post-op woman.

The AFA's "Silencing the Christians" video is the gay "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a notoriously anti-Semetic forged document claiming Jews want to control the world, and used by many cultures for over 100 years to persecute and foment hatred of Jews. ALL gay organizations, including HRC and GLAAD, should be shouting from the rooftops about the the hatred that the AFA is trying to impose on our nation.

I spent the past two weeks writing an in-depth article on HRC, how it is structured and functions and what it does. The article also explores some of the criticisms of the organizations from Carolinas community leaders and activists.

It'll be published in the Feb. 21 Q-Notes print edition, just in time for the HRC Carolinas Gala. It'll also be online the same day.

I learned a lot while writing the article. Even I didn't know all that much about HRC's structure or finances. It just isn't something a person might think about unless they are heavily involved with the group, working for them or, like me, researching it.

One of the things I learned was that even in criticizing the group, my Carolinas leaders and activists were willing to give constructive criticism and give the group credit when it was due.

"Any large organization is going to have problems," they say, "and here is where I think they could improve to be a better organization, but here is what they also do well."

I was especially interested in some of the leaders' and activists' concerns over HRC and how they responded to local issues. Sometimes the group doesn't respond at all. I think it is a good thing that HRC at least responded to this local issue in some way. I think it is good that they are willing to throw their weight behind local activists.

HRC is HRC. Us activists know how it works. Some people might be willing to take the good with the bad. Others want improvement. Others are just screaming from the sidelines. I think the answer is to work with the group and offer constructive criticism, something I don't think their hard-working staffers are against hearing.