Cathy Renna

GLAAD: Get on Track and Fight Back!

Filed By Cathy Renna | February 20, 2009 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: Barack Obama, chimpanzee, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, gay cartoons and comics, GLAAD, homophobic behavior, media, NY Post, Sean Delonas, Vito Russo

This week, we saw something unprecedented happen in the media. The New York Post apologized (sort of, which for them is saying a lot) for a nasty editorial cartoon by Sean Delonas, a longtime fixture on the editorial page of the New York tabloid. The cartoon was racist in this case, not one of his regularly appearing homophobic and sickening cartoons.

It was a grotesque piece of editorial, depicting President Barack Obama as the raging chimpanzee shot dead by police in Connecticut with the officers saying "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." Delonas has a long-standing reputation for offending and is, as my Dad used to say, "must not be prejudice, because he seems to hate everybody."

So what does this have to do with GLAAD?

It was not news, really, since Delonas has a long history of offending many people with his "work." The news was the apology by the Post.

I was thrilled to see the swift, strong and unified response from those offended by the racist cartoon. But it put into context and frankly saddened me to realize how effective this was when I continue to see the same fruitless strategy implemented after every homophobic cartoon Delonas puts on paper.

And it happens often.

And the blame for this sits squarely in the lap of our community's media advocacy group, GLAAD.

Some history is helpful here. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has e-mails flying and phones ringing every time Delonas depicts our community as sick, perverted or just plain gross. Which he does often. I should know, I worked there for over a decade.

It's also important to note, by the way, that GLAAD was founded because of homophobic and AIDS-phobic coverage in the NY Post in 1985. Hundreds of activists gathered and threw rags at the front door, getting attention and facilitating the birth of a much needed advocacy organization concerned with media representations of our community. One would think that repeated defamation and the sheer symbolism of the NY Post would prompt larger action. For all we love to hate it - and would love to write it off as a rag - the NY Post is an influential paper in both the news and entertainment industry and millions read it.

Now let's be clear what we are talking about here. Cartoons depicting a man carrying a sheep wearing a bridal veil to a "New Jersey Marriage Licenses" window. Nasty, personal, and homophobic cartoons about Rosie O'Donnell, Jim McGreevy, and LGBT pride organizers.

So what does GLAAD do virtually every time another Delonas cartoon runs? Here's a headline from July 17, 2007: "NY Post publishes yet another gratuitous vulgar anti-gay cartoon." Here's one from October, 2006: "New York Post Publishes Second Anti-Gay Cartoon in Three Weeks."

Great headlines for alerts. But it clearly will take more than headlines and emails to general addresses at the NY Post to deal with this issue. I believe we should be smart enough to understand that the NY Post is not interested in being held accountable for giving Delonas a platform to spew sexist, racist and homophobic "art" (as he calls it). While he has a First Amendment right to his opinions and an ability to draw whatever he wants, the NY Post gives him the platform and that is their business and editorial decision.

My suggestion? Let's do what has worked well in the past when faced with repeated, entrenched and unrepentant homophobia in the media. Simply put, if a media outlet's hearts and minds (to use the phrase all over GLAAD's web site) are not moved by our action, maybe having them feel it in their wallet will get them to do the right thing.

Remember Dr. Laura? If we could get one major advertiser to sit down and look at a broad, diverse sampling of Delonas' cartoons, I am betting they will think twice about being associated with the paper.

I think letter and calls to Macy's, a major advertiser that has a long track record of LGBT support and fairness, would not go into a black hole like the ones that go to Hell, these are the folks who had Harvey Firestein dressed as Mrs. Claus with Santa in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. They have had a registry for same-sex couples for a long time and advertise in LGBT community publications.

I say it's worth a shot. How about it GLAAD?

Too many people in the community tell me they feel like GLAAD has lost its bite and only see the celebrity-filled events and entertainment-focused work. GLAAD was founded by pioneer Vito Russo and others to take on exactly the kind of defamation Delonas is peddling - in the very publication that prompted the organization's birth! Let's get back to our roots and take them on.

I sometimes wonder myself if GLAAD - an organization I devoted so much of my career to and who mission I care about deeply and carry on in my current work - has started to lose its way. Maybe Sean Delonas can be the unlikely person who helps GLAAD get back on track.

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From what I have seen lately, may of our LGBT organizations al all lavels (1 or 2 in particular immediately come to mind) have expanded their mission, focus, services, outreach, etc. over the last several years. We all know there is no free lunch, so fundraising activities have increased as well. Faced with the prospect of cutting back or eliminating programs, fundraising has become almost the sole purpose of their existance. Unfortunately, the funds are just not there in this economy, so the cutbacks still occur.

In addition, several organizations have not learned the hard lesson of how best to manage their resources. I hate to see good orgs fail, especially considering in some cases they are the ONLY resource of that kind available.

IMHO, several of the 'big national orgs' need to stop siphoning off precious local and state dollars and become relevant so they represent the entire LGBT community, not just a chosen segment. We have to work together or we will all go nowhere.

Actually I agree with the New York Post’s apology. They said, “But it has been taken as something else - as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.”

President Obama is a tall, handsome, African American, half white, half black guy who does not look anything like Travis the chimp. And even though the President of the United States signed the stimulus package, Nancy Pelosi and members of Congress wrote it.

The cartoon artist obviously has a thing against gays, but what gays has he had to deal with ? Govenor McGreevy ? What a fucking loser. He should have remained as govenor and said "in your face world". Instead of that he enrolled in a seminary to become a priest.
And Rosie O'Donnell cartoon. She built a career on demeaning public figures, and I think the one funny cartoon was her and Kelly being squashed flat. Lesbians are nortorious on letting their bodies go and not giving a shit.
I don't think GLAAD should be riding on the apron strings of Al Sharpton who has a bone to pick with the New York Post.
Page Six reported my tax protest against President Bush's amendment to the constitution defining same-sex marriage beautifully. I didn't read the article because I don't subscribe to Page Six nor do I want to, but here is a brief summary in the Wall Street Journal.

Sorry, I didn't mean to kncok lesbians per se, age does unattractive things. I am someone who "let myself go" also but at 74, what the hell. The cartoonist is a jerk but if you study all of his cartoons, the celeb looks like the celeb. Also in Travis the Chimp case. It looks like a chimp, not Sharpton, Not Obama, Not anyone I know of that is black. Had he portrayed President Obama he would have picked on an obvious facial feature or ears. You would know it was President Obama.

Rick Elliott | February 21, 2009 2:22 AM

Living almost 2000 miles away, I'm not hip to what the NEW York Post does. Intimate knowledge of the editorial policy of the NY POST doesn't register much Richter heat.
One of the beauties of the Pride Parades is that they are FOR something. Those who constantly carp--whether right or not--become ignored as--Once again they objected and the effective of the campaign for change looses luster for its sameness.
Here are a few radical suggestions:
--There's bound to be a good cartoonist among GLBT New Yorkers. Offer a funny cartoon is positively homo-friendly--or even better one that satirizes Delonas in his blanket homophobia. Or even more satires the New York POST AS A RACIST, HOMOPHOBIC INSTITUTION. Just off the top of my head I thought of a lanky cowboy wearing a rainbow bandanna, crying in his beer while the jukebox blare--dELONAS aGAIN Or Delon..Again.

Another cartoon for the Post satires: Show headlines of the NEW YORK PASTE and picture kindergartners finger painting all over the front page. Even more take one or two of their major subscribers. Picture two obviously gay guys looking at wallets full of money to spend in front of the store start to go in, but one says to the other--"They're so last year!" to which the other replies, "You mean--so last DECADE!."(Nothing gripes a store more than to be thought behind the times. Then the two flounce off.
Begin a recycle New York Post campaign as a way to honor or troops during latrine duty.
Historically when observing revolutionary groups in practice, they sometimes seem to be more concerned with having something to be AGAINST and have no clue when it comes to mounting a campaign to take over the show.
To make my point, witness the student group who took over the administration Bldg of a school. Authorities cut off utilities, water and supplies and waited for them to exit with their tails between their legs.
If you want to really get serious, plan boycotts of the newspaper and their major advertisers. Involve the straight liberals. If you remember the grape boycott for Cesar Chavez, people can make a difference.
I was working community organization in Houston. One major chain had stores in the ghetto as well as the poshest neighborhoods. The tore was taking produce after several days in the posh neighborhoods. Then they'd bring the second grade produce to the ghetto and hike up the price because they had no competition. We organized a considerable group of women from the rich neighborhoods who'd come down the the church we were working out of. They took the poorer women to their nice store to shop. The business at the ghetto store dried up to almost nothing. The manager didn't know what was happening so he came to out leader who laid out the simple boycott plan. On the spot he promised equal pricing and equal product. When he slipped a little of the volunteer drivers was sent to his office.
Gay Money is BIG money for even a place as large as New York, use your most effective weapons, rather than just deriding the cartoonist. Put him out of business or see that the paper is economically put to their knees if they continue.

Satire can go both ways

Did you see GLAAD's Call To Action they put out shortly after your post went live? It looks like they took all of your suggestions to heart!

actually, they didn't take my advice at all - no advertisers and nothing beyond "write to the NY Post"


the NAACP is now calling for a boycott of the Post, this is an excellent opportunity to build bridges and coalitions with communities of color - I wonder if GLAAD will join them

I agree, Cathy, the ny post is a homophobic rag that enjoys the letters and calls they get. A few more won't change them.

We should be prepping now for the next homophobic cartoon.