Alex Blaze

A lesson in protest optics

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 12, 2010 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement

While reading the news this morning, I came across this picture in the Indianapolis Star from the rally yesterday opposing discrimination in the wake of cupcakegate:


I'd assume that the person on the left is either gay or pro-gay and is angry at the person on the right, who is standing with the "SODOMY IS NOT A FAMILY VALUE" guy and is probably homophobic and took time out of his day to actually go and protest sodomy (not in my backyard! Except when my wife is out of town!). The picture is uncaptioned, but that's my understanding of it.

And, of course, the message is supposed to be "Look at those awful homosexual activists! They say they're full human beings, and yet they're able to get angry when we come down here and provoke them!" It's a typical smug asshole move, and it didn't take much searching in the comments to find someone willing to explain the photo to everyone:

I hope people take time to look at the pics and see the hateful homosexual who is verballing and it appears physically attacking the peaceful Christian protesters.

I thought the gay lifestyle was all about peace, tolerance, love and understanding. So why do the gays feel the need to hate and threaten physical violence against peaceful protesters??

I'm smiling as I write this because this is just part of how the world works, what happens when people are more driven by tribal hatred than they are by advancing a specific agenda (and, yes, I think that the "Ban sodomy" folks are more concerned with hatred against people than with sodomy itself). Sometimes all you can do is laugh as there will always be smug assholes in the world and they're always going to do their thing.

And, in typical Hoosier rightwinger fashion, this smug asshole move that's popular all over the country is performed in the most half-assed way possible. Dude on the right, hide your camera! That makes it look like you're trying to provoke people into a reaction, giving you away as a smug homophobic asshole! Also, don't lean so much so that the other person has to lean too in order to have a conversation with you, because it almost seems like you're trying to get everyone to pose for a photograph, demonstrating the profound misrepresentation of reality that this picture is!

Still, these are optics that we should be aware of and LGBT people going to protests should know that folks who have the time on their hands to go protest sexual intercourse itself (seriously, no one's going to stop sodomy that way) generally know how to provoke reactions out of normal people.

And the media love it, since journalists either lean right or are bizarrely sympathetic to the right (shows their objectivity), and they practically orgasm at the opportunity to show "both sides are just as bad." Notice how the camera is tilted to exaggerate the way the subjects are leaning, making it seem like there's a bigger violation of personal space than what's actually occurring (you can tell by the building in the background and other protestors)? The photographer/journalist/editor at the Indianapolis Star is a willing accomplice in this misrepresentation of reality.

One PR person I remember listening to at a lecture a few years back said the best thing to do is to smile for the camera. All the time. Especially when you're debating people you don't like. It makes it seem like you're confident and having fun, and it cuts through both smug asshole moves and biased journalist moves to distort what's happening.

Because their goal is to take focus away from the actual issue at hand: does the Indianapolis Human Rights Ordinance actually ban homophobic discrimination or was the addition of "sexual orientation" just window-dressing.

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I was at this Rally -- the guy holding the Flip videocam had earlier entered the rally space with a hostile sign and started shouting pseudo-religious crap at the top of his voice. Yup, I had shouted back at him to let him know folk weren't intimidated by his bullshit. Others joined in and cops told him to take his disruption down to the sidewalk (away from the Rally)...

It would be really hard to prevent people at a protest from getting mad and yelling at bigots. :)

And if you tried? A protest is essentially an outpouring of emotion around an issue; asking people to dial it back just so you don't look bad on bigots' websites would make you seem like an inauthentic, appeasement-oriented organizer. And it would squelch the freedom people feel to show the sort of emotion that changes minds -- the pain and hurt and anger that result from discrimination and that, when shown to people who are at least a little open, can lead to empathy and rethinking. So, that'll make your protests sterile and make it hard to get people to help you organize or to come to your protest.

There is something to be said for not feeding the trolls, but there's also something to be said for not micromanaging your facial expressions for the benefit of the trolls. You're never getting the troll vote anyway. Trolltown is a lost cause.

Rarely is it a wise move to lose your cool in public --- short of some event that is truly horrendous, such as being in a burning or collapsing building during 9/11 or such. In a protest situation such as this one, when they goad you into losing control, they win.

So it's a balancing act --- show that you are not intimidated, but also keep your cool.

(And believe me, I know I have a temper problem! ... so I need to practice what I preach.)

Thanks for the media relations lesson, Alex, our community needs reminders like this from time to time.

Education beats confrontation.

When we become the enemy, our actions are counterproductive.

There hasn't been a successful protest anywhere in America during the last 20 years. Not one. Even PETA gave up on confrontation and instead creates sexy, humorous and educational videos.

This year we're the only ones heckling the President, barging into meetings, stopping traffic and staging mini hunger strikes.

We can't embarrass, shame, irritate or even inconvenience people into supporting us. That just pisses everyone off and makes us look juvenile.

When will we grow up?

I agree that education isn't just better than confrontation but among the best things we can do. I don't agree that PETA is an organization whose tactics are worth repeating.

I wasn't suggesting we copy PETA, I'm just saying they went from throwing blood on people wearing fur coats to informative videos. I think they just matured enough to realize their in-your-face direct actions were counterproductive.

* Full disclosure: I love animals, especially beef, chicken and pork.

I live five minutes from the City Market but did not attend the protest. All this whole mess has managed to do is 1) prove that the HRO in Indianapolis isn't worth the paper it's printed on, and 2) bring business to somebody who would never invite somebody like me into their household for fear of me spreading "t3h gay" or, dare i say it, "the trans."

And considering the makeup of Indianapolis and it's surronding townships, 2 people at a coming-out rally is actually a loss for the Indy right. Seriously; with all the dominionist and otherwise rule-your-ass churches in this area they could only amass two dudes with handpainted signs? That's just embarrassing.

Would it have killed IE to put a handler on this guy, if for nothing else than to go to folks and say "okay, see that dude with the camera over there? He's from the Star. Keep that in mind." Or even better, set up a photo booth by the bigots: "Snap a fun photo with friends: donate $1 to INTRAA." Turn their frown into money in the pockets of LGBT groups in Indy. _that_ would have been a treat!

Also: I heard that people were going into the market cash on-hand to buy cookies, came out to the dude at the register, and were then refused service. Rumor-mill material, or did it actually happen?

The guy in the background is obviously holding a sign saying "Sodomy is not a family value" --- and this right-wing tactic, too, deserves some attention.

Despite Lawrence v. Texas declaring sodomy laws unconstitutional, the religious right will use the word sodomy against LGBT folk as a dehumanizing, criminalizing, and shaming device. I must admit, this attack does press my buttons, and I wish we could make "sodomy" as verboten a word for gay and lesbian consensual sex as the n-word is when referring to African-Americans. For it is every bit as emotionally charged, every bit as historically loaded, and every bit as cheap a shot. To use a term coined by Cornel West, the word "sodomy" when used to refer to consensual gay sex is a niggerism, and every time we tolerate it, we allow ourselves to be niggerized, to be framed as less than human.

We have discussed the many problems with this word before --- I did [_here_] and Sean Kosofsky did [_here_] at considerable length only a few years ago.

If we can re-connote the word "queer" to be useful and acceptable, does the LGBT world have the power and resolve to make "sodomy" and its several forms as unacceptable as the n-word is for blacks?

Gay suicides, gay bashing,second class citizenship - we are entitled to our anger. And if a few of our opponents don't like it, fuck 'em.

Entitled? Definitely.

But the wisest choice is to figure out when it's appropriate and helpful to express that anger.

Last I checked, sexual intercourse does not include anal penetration.

I'm the man on the right and I'm proud to have been out there that day. When the homos are able to parade through the streets and no one stands up for Godly family values, I must. May more men of God join me next time.

The name of the man on the left is John Rusher, as reported by the IndyStar. He was so angry at me because I called a nearby homo a 'faggot'. I did so because he had 'faggot' tattooed on his arm. I called him what he wanted to be called.

By the way, since you're talking about good journalism, you might not want to steal next time. The image you show is owned by the IndyStar, did you ask them for permission to download it from their website and use it for your own?

Adam Briggs
Damascus Road Bible Fellowship
Indianapolis, IN

Et Voila!

Criticism of photography composition and reporting counts under Fair Use. Alex didn't steal the photograph; he reprinted it for purposes of criticism and commentary, QED.

As for the rest... nah. I don't feed trolls.

To say the Indy reporters lean to the right or are sympathetic to the right shows a great misunderstanding of what the right and left are. But no one could be surprised since the one saying it is either a homo or is sympathetic to homos. The homo lifestyle comes from a warped knowledge of right and wrong, and so if someone thinks homos are OK, or is a homo, then one knows that person cannot possibly understand right and wrong very well.

The person on the right is my pastor, and one of the few people to stand up for what's right because he knows what's right.

Also, Alex, it troubles me that you don't follow the same rules that you apply to the comments section. The rules state that "...personal attacks will not be tolerated." Yet, in paragraph two, you falsely insinuate that I practice sodomy when my wife is out of town. I consider that a personal attack and ask for a retraction and a public apology.

Apologize? In my book sodomy makes you three times cooler than the average person so you should be thanking me.

But I was just joking, and it was obvious to anyone reading that it was a joke. You're clearly 100% straight, just going to protest sodomy on the weekends, no guilty conscience about anything. Yup. It's what straight guys do between football games, visits to titty bars, and locker room antics. Nothing to see here, folks.

But thanks for stopping by and telling the rest of the story about how you went down there and provoked people by throwing around the word "faggot" and then had a camera ready for when someone got mad. Any plans on going to the Black Expo and calling people the N-word, then acting shocked when people are offended?

Alex, you have nothing but insults and false insinuations? I don't visit those establishments because women are not objects to be ogled but persons to be loved by real men who submit to the authority of God. Also, I don't watch football games nor do I spend time in locker rooms.

I do spend my time loving and serving my family, preaching the Word of God and working for a living.

You apparently spend your time "...bashing back at homophobes." as your profile states.

Obvious confusion on the part of Alex. You meant accusing Adam as a closet sodomite to be insulting to him. Then you say that was a compliment? You got it right the first time--it is insulting to be called a sodomite, or a faggot or a homo because it is a revolting lifestyle which leads to destruction and torturous death.
Also, Equating your plight and the use of derogatory terms for your abominable lifestyle to that of blacks and the n-word is both tragic and a mockery of the history of African American people. The only similarity between the two groups is this: It is immoral and criminal to own another person, just as it is immoral and SHOULD BE criminal to be a sodomite, homo or faggot (as it was until recent history).

Christians and Homosexuals can't coexist
Light and Darkness can't coexist
One side will win and the other side will lose.

If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. Lev 20:13

holy crap. The God Squad is cracking me up! Seriously making my day here.

Welcome to the other side of the mirror, folks. I'm afraid your weapons are useless here. :D

Interesting... We have three commentators now (one calling himself a pastor), all on the attack. Yet I see none of the "Not all Christians are against homosexuals" defenders here. Why is that? All conveniently missing when religious right-wing nuts show up. Typical.

The Church once ruled England, with fear, illiteracy, and ignorance. Remove those boundaries and dogmatic religion loses it's power. Sadly there are those that are happy to wallow in ignorance, and promote it to others (as we see here). To all of them I say simply: Your time is at an end.

If you want so much to be in your perfect utopia of heaven, don't let anything stand in your way. I'm sure that God has a few dozen virgins set aside for you just for being so devout. God's speed!

Scott Evans | January 4, 2011 7:20 PM

Everyone who has children disciplines them. When they do discipline their children, it's based on some sense of right and wrong. So what makes an action right and what makes an action wrong? Is it up to each individual? If so, how could anything be wrong? What's right to me may be wrong to you but if it's up to each individual, then you can not tell me I'm wrong. So if that's how you want to live your life, then you cannot condemn Adam Briggs for pointing out that homosexual behavior is wrong. For those of you who have tried to say he was wrong for what he did, what do you base it on?

Scott Evans | January 4, 2011 7:21 PM

Everyone who has children disciplines them. When they do discipline their children, it's based on some sense of right and wrong. So what makes an action right and what makes an action wrong? Is it up to each individual? If so, how could anything be wrong? What's right to me may be wrong to you but if it's up to each individual, then you can not tell me I'm wrong. So if that's how you want to live your life, then you cannot condemn Adam Briggs for pointing out that homosexual behavior is wrong. For those of you who have tried to say he was wrong for what he did, what do you base it on?