Thursday, August 26, 2004
by Wayne Besen
It was a strange week.
I went shopping in the mall and a Brookstone customer was testing a display model of a high tech nose hair-grooming device. Why, I marveled, had the staff put in batteries knowing it was only a matter of time before some lout sampled it?
If that weren't repulsive enough, America had to endure another week of TV attack ads by Bitter and Disgruntled Slime Boat Veterans for Mistruths. It's amazing how Bush, a man who never fired a shot (Jack Daniels doesn't count), is now calling the shots, while Kerry, who honorably defended his country, is on the defensive.
How could it be that Kerry has to justify his medals, ribbons and Purple Hearts against a president with a yellow heart whose only ribbon during the war was probably a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon? The debate has surreally shifted from whether National Guardsman Bush was hiding on the Alabama/Texas border, to whether Kerry was fighting on the Vietnam/Cambodia border. You've got to hand it to Karl Rove for this classic Bait and Smear.
Even Bob Dole took a roll in the mud and leveled Viagra stiff criticism at Kerry.
"What I will always quarrel about are the Purple Hearts… he got two in one day, I think," said Dole, using innuendo to imply that Kerry fast tracked his Purple Hearts so he could earn three, the number he needed to get out of further combat in Vietnam.
Unfortunately for dour Dole, his criticism went limp under scrutiny. Kerry received his three Purple Hearts on Dec. 2, 1968, Feb. 20, 1969 and March 13, 1969. Kerry should respond to Dole with a line he'd understand: "Stop lying about my record."
Meanwhile, the New York Daily News reports Bush's twin daughters Jenna and Barbara plan to attend the gay wedding of their upscale eyebrow waxer Erwin Gomez. How ironic that the Bush twins may be getting dress alterations, while their father fights to alter the Constitution to forbid same-sex marriage. If Barbara and Jenna show up at the Republican Convention with unibrows, we'll know that Karl Rove stepped in and ended their relationship with Gomez.
Next, the Gov. James McGreevey affair only grew murkier this week after Dr. Michael David Miller said he also had an affair with Golan Cipel, who claims he is heterosexual. The New York Post ran a headline "I Was Golan's Gay Lover".
However, The Star-Ledger revealed that Miller falsely told police that he is a CIA operative, leading police to say Miller "has a serious problem with reality." So, it turns out, after all, that Golan might be straight, while maybe his new accuser should be hauled away in a straightjacket.
While we don't know if Golan is gay, it turns out that homosexuals are popping up in the strangest places. The highlight of the week was Mike Rogers of www.BlogAcitve.com outing Virginia Republican Congressman Edward Schrock, who has a 92% Christian Coalition voting record. Schrock is a co-Sponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment that would change the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. His office has so far refused to comment on the widespread report.
What would famous sex researcher Alfred Kinsey think of all of this sexual confusion if he were alive today? He might have had to rethink his famous six-point sex scale, with one being totally heterosexual, and six being totally gay. Here is how he might revise it:
1 - Extra Chromosome heterosexual: You womanize and call anyone who can't bench-press a Korean car Girlie-Men. You strut, squint and refer to your allies as Old Europe
2 - Normal heterosexual
3- Sort of gay: If a powerful governor offers you $110,000 to take a homeland security job you're not qualified for you'll consider switching teams
4- Confused: You're a homophobic Republican Congressman, an ambitious Democratic governor or work for a right wing hate group while having gay affairs - yet, you claim to be straight
5- Normal homosexual
6- Mega-Gay: So gay that you wear pink hot pants and roller blades and probably have your own sitcom on HBO or Showtime
We can only hope the coming week is saner, but it's probably wishful thinking with the Republican Convention on our doorstep. If you're gay and living in New York, you better get your names on the guest lists now, because with thousands of ultra-conservative Republicans coming to town, the gay bars ought to be packed.
Friday, August 20, 2004
by Wayne Besen
Has Bill O’Reilly become unhinged? It seems he can’t decide if he’s a pundit or a pugilist.
It was late at night, I was bored and flipping through the cable TV channels looking for an action flick. I finally found one, but to my surprise it was on C-NBC. Tim Russert was refereeing a political prizefight where Fox blowhard Bill O’Reilly almost came to blows with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.
Ironically, the name of Krugman’s new book is “The Great Unraveling”, while it was his opponent who had a great unraveling on the air. Meanwhile, O’Reilly’s new book is “Whose Looking Out for You”, and by the end of the show Krugman must have wondered if O’Reilly was looking out for him so he could smack him.
Watching the show I could envision a booming announcer in the center of the ring: “In the blue trunks, academic heavyweight and champion of fair economic policy Paul Krugman. In the red meat colored trunks, intellectual featherweight and champion of tax cuts for the rich, Bill O’Reilly.”
Round One began when a frustrated O’Reilly lied about Krugman’s writings on economic policy and Krugman replied, “That’s a lie.”
Clearly outwitted, the larger O’Reilly turned from brains to brawn and had an Incredible Hulk-like transformation into Big Bad Bully Bill.
“Don’t call me a liar, pal. That’s what you do all the time, and I’m not going to sit here and take it,” snarled a glowering O’Reilly, looking like he was going to bitch-slap the smaller economist.
In Round Two, an enraged Bully Bill refused to let Krugman speak, rudely talking over him. Finally, Krugman parried and said, “This is not your show, you can’t cut off my mic.
“Another cheap shot,” erupted a fuming Bully Bill.
The next few rounds got even testier as The Bully seemed on the verge of a Howard “Dean Scream”, but was saved by the bell as the network went to commercial break.
With O’Reilly losing the fight in the eighth round, things spiraled out of control. Painted into a corner, Bully Bill painted Krugman as a pinko, calling him a “quasi-socialist”.
“I’m not a socialist. You know, that’s slander,” said Krugman.
The punch-drunk Bully came out swinging for the rest of the show with bizarre fits of uncontrolled anger, character assassination and name-calling, accusing Krugman of having “paranoid delusions”.
Sure, Bully Bill stung like a bee, but viewers had to wonder whether he should float away in a butterfly net. After the show should he return to the studio’s greenroom or a padded room?
This threatening behavior, of course, is nothing new. On C-SPAN, Bully Bill once called author Al Franken an “idiot” and told him to “shut up”. But it was still scary watching him on CNBC with his menacing tone and intimidating body language.
Once upon a time I actually enjoyed The O’Reilly Factor. While I almost always disagreed with him, he was at least entertaining. Lately, however, he has morphed into just another Bush mouthpiece. The master of the No Spin Zone is suddenly spinning so hard he is in the Twilight Zone, dizzy in his own deception. He even had the audacity on CNBC to suggest that Fox isn’t a conservative news outlet. That’s beyond spin. If it were closer to Hanukah I’d think O’Reilly was a dreidel.
My other problem with his show is that it’s unnaturally obsessed with gay issues. More gay people appear on the O’Reilly Factor than on Showtime’s Queer as Folk. I know that sounds strange coming from a gay columnist who has twice appeared on his show. But it seems like he’s had on every gay person in America to use as his personal political piñata. When even gay activists are tired of watching gay segments, it’s time to find a new culture war issue.
Before O’Reilly debates on television again, he should call Rush Limbaugh for some Happy Pills to help calm him down. Or if he insists on playing on-air bouncer, he should at least pick on someone his own size. One wonders if O’Reilly would adopt the same tough guy pose if his opponent were Jesse Ventura or Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Thursday, August 19, 2004
by Wayne Besen
The TV blared in my Florida home as breathless weather windbags warned that Hurricane Charley and Tropical Storm Bonnie were rapidly approaching with the ferocity of Bonnie and Clyde.
Suddenly, the deadly Category 4 windstorm was upstaged by a Category 5 political storm known as Hurricane McGreevey. With his stoic wife and shell-shocked parents by his side, New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey announced that he was a "gay American" and that he would resign. The press conference quickly cut a bizarre swath of confession, confusion, possible corruption and destruction like no one had ever seen before.
McGreevey didn't leave office because he is gay. He resigned because Golan Cipel, a self-proclaimed heterosexual poet, threatened to sue him for sexual harassment. McGreevey - who says the affair was consensual - had previously given the unqualified Cipel a job for $110,000 a year as a homeland security advisor.
What on earth was McGreevey thinking? In a post 9-11 world you don't give your sexy boyfriend or girlfriend a job in homeland security! Maybe you offer Cipel a $200,000 a year job collecting change in New Jersey's ubiquitous tollbooths. Maybe you even pay him to be captain of the Hoboken ferry. But NOT homeland security!
Incredibly, McGreevey's political future rose from the dead on Monday when a Star-Ledger/Eagleton-Rutgers Poll found that his overall approval rating actually went up two points. Whoever thought coming out, admitting an affair and giving your joy boy a homeland security job would be a political boon?
The implications are frightening! If George W. Bush continues to plummet in swing state polls, might a desperate Karl Rove try to win back suburban Soccer Moms by having W. stage a coming out while announcing a fake affair with Colin Powell?
I'm guessing that McGreevey's popularity went up because the famously sterile politician was humanized. In an age of "Reality TV", it was shocking to see television that was so real. Although McGreevey was on center stage, the emotions weren't staged. Sure, he may have been blackmailed into telling the truth. But he still had to tell his family and stand in front of the cameras and own up to his mistakes, and that counts for something.
While this drama will one day make a great movie of the week, it wasn't necessarily a major step forward for the gay rights movement. A true advance is a gay governor giving an acceptance speech, not a resignation speech. But on a positive note for equality, the episode did show that New Jersey's gay politicians are just as corrupt as their heterosexual counterparts.
For this event to have lasting impact, Americans will have to look at the pain caused to McGreevey's family and ask: Will continuing to coerce a gay person to have sex with someone he is not attracted to or marrying a person he/she doesn't love produce anything but hell and heartbreak? Aren't healthy, stable gay marriages better for society than creating disastrous marriages between gay and straight spouses?
"A shattered marriage, the anguish inflicted on his parents, his wife, his daughters - are not just the result of his personal choices, but roadblocks society continues to place in the path of the complete acceptance of gay men and women," wrote columnist Arianna Huffington, whose ex-husband Michael Huffington also came out as gay.
Indeed, leading political analysts openly discuss these roadblocks.
"He wouldn't have been a viable nominee," Republican political consultant Ed Rollins told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Maybe for a state Senate seat, but not as governor."
Like all young people, gay and lesbian teenagers have hopes and dreams. As they reach adulthood, however, they are often told that these aspirations conflict with their sexuality. They are given the awful message that they must make a crushing choice: lie or give up their dreams. This process is psychologically devastating for countless gay Americans and leads many to drug abuse, sham marriages and even suicide.
Fortunately, things are getting better and more gay people are coming out and shattering glass ceilings every day. But there are still people who blindly insist that homosexuality is a choice. Sure, I suppose we can choose to marry heterosexually and recreate the tragedy of Hurricane McGreevey. But I have yet to hear gay rights opponents rationally explain how entering miserable, doomed marriages based on lies is consistent with their claim to be pro-family.