Tuesday, August 09, 2005
by Wayne Besen
It is the 21st Century and the cover of Time Magazine has pictures of a chimpanzee and God under the bold headline, "Evolution Wars". I turn on the television and a non-descript talking head is promoting the bizarre idea that tax cuts for the rich lead to increased tax revenue. I flip the channel and an effeminate man is lisping about how he prayed away the gay.
How did such weird and scientifically bankrupt ideas find their way into mainstream culture?
The answer is at once simple and scary. GLBT and progressive organizations have long been outmatched, outworked and most importantly outfunded by the far right. For the past four decades, conservatives have plotted to remake America in their image by forming crackpot think tanks, biased media outlets and faux research groups designed to ape respectable mainstream institutions. They have largely been successful and as a result, dominate the national debate and control Capitol Hill.
Fortunately, this dominance may be ending, as progressives finally get angry enough to act, and serious enough to organize. The Washington Post reported on Sunday that 80 wealthy liberal donors have pledged to give at least $1 million each to a new group, the Democracy Alliance, which will fund an array of advocacy groups and think tanks to promote progressive ideas and combat conservative propaganda. The group has a goal of raising at least $200 million.
"To be effective in the 21st century in promoting your beliefs, it is necessary to have a financially secure institutional infrastructure that has the capacity to promote consistently and coherently a set of ideas, policies and messages," Rob Stein, a Democratic strategist who created the Alliance, told The Washington Post. "We understand that it is very hard to promote a belief system and to be operationally high performing if you don't have multi-year funding."
The new group certainly has a major challenge ahead of it. In 2003, Stein told The Post, 19 progressive organizations with budgets surpassing $1 million spent a total of $75 million. In contrast, the 24 national think tanks on the right had $170 million in spending, along with state-based policy centers' $50 million and campus-based conservative policy groups' $75 million to $100 million.
It is hard to believe, but there is a huge $295 million to $75 million funding imbalance favoring the right. This means that when we engage in political crossfire, to use the popular CNN metaphor, progressives are shooting with BB guns and conservatives are blasting us with bazookas. We are not poor people, so there is no excuse for this.
It is about time that good Americans stand up and combat the dangerous and kooky ideas of the far right. The reason we are now in a political pickle is that we have taken the dumbest route possible: The High Road.
For years, we have patted ourselves on the back, stuck our noses in the air and laughed off surreal right wing ideas.
"No one is going to actually believe that global warming isn't real," we scoff, as we wave a dismissive hand.
"The evolution battle was definitively settled at the Scopes trial in 1925," liberals confidently assert.
"No one really thinks homosexuality is a casual choice, like choosing between hair gel or mousse," we self-assuredly cackle, as out leaders glide past "fly-over" country.
If you haven't noticed, we are out of power. We can no longer afford to dismiss the right and refuse to debate by arrogantly saying that we "don't want to dignify" the idiocy of their ideas. In the effort not to dignify, we allow our opponents to glorify the inane. When we don't competitively offer a dialogue, it becomes a right wing monologue. Until Air America, for example, Rush Limbaugh freely spoke into the void created by our silence.
The high road is quaint, but it is not the road to victory. This, of course, does not mean we lower our ethical or moral standards, it simply implies that we vigorously engage and confront the right by knocking down each and every dirty lie and myth, while proudly putting forth coherent policies that make sense to the American people. It is time we meet the right on the low road they prefer to travel on and defeat them at their own gritty game.
Thanks to the Democracy Alliance, the gay movement is on the verge of getting a much-needed boost, albeit this assistance only deals peripherally with gay rights. But, the Alliance is crucial because at the heart of the anti-gay industry are phony think tanks that hoodwink people into believing that their prejudice is grounded in science. Just look at the names of our opponents and this will become self-evident: The Family Research Council, The Family Research Institute, The Culture and Family Institute.
The strategy of conservatives, particularly on gay rights, has been to create confusion and throw enough pseudo-scientific dung against the wall in hopes that some of it will stick. Well, without proper funding on our side, a lot of it has stuck, and now we live in a stinking political outhouse. This new effort to dismantle the Neo-Puritan propaganda machine is a godsend for the GLBT community and essential for winning a culture war where we have been badly outmaneuvered. It is finally time to put away our slingshots and bring out the big guns.
I was always told not to argue with idiots because they drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.
I don't think the idiots are playing fair though.
posted by Willie Hewes, at
Cranking-up the ideologically progressive perspectives is a good idea, but an insufficient one. If our fortunes remain tied to the Democratic party, money alone will not lift us out of the right-wing rut being dug for us by many Democrats.
The entire political spectrum has moved to the right to acommodate a rapacious profit system, and our rights along with those of workers, African-Americans, women, immigrants have been short-changed or abandoned by Democrats.
Only direct mass action like Stonewall will create the sea change needed to swing the pendulum of public perception back in support of equal rights.
posted by Bob Schwartz, at
I am in complete agreement with the author. And in addition to financial support to help change the minds of down-home America, we also need to bring in the support of the Bible experts in our community to disprove the negative ideas that the religious right bombard all of us with on a daily basis. Negative ideas that even many of us in our own community believe and cannot explain to be false. There is plenty of ammunition out there to show that the religious ramblings of the right wing are little more than hog wash. But where are our gay & lesbian clergy who are experts on these things when we need them? The far right doesn't miss a chance at throwing their chosen few passages of the Bible at us every chance they get. But where are those who are experts on our side of the fence? I'm not a Bible expert myself, but I know for a fact that there are numerous passages which show the inconsistencies of what is written and what they pick and choose to portray to cultivate our demise in the eyes of the God-fearing public. We need the support of those who have the information and answers to make these passages and shortcomings familiar to all of us in the LGBT community. I can't remember the last time I read an article about the fallacies of the Bible and religion that the right wing will distort in their favor. That needs to change. If for no other reason than so we can all support our own arguments when confronted.
Also, in addition to taking more financial and religious responsibility for our progress, we all need to take on more responsibility in bringing our social lives out of our gay and lesbian closets and into the open. This instead of claiming to be OUT, but still hiding in our protected havens far away from the world of the straight and those who might not care for our lifestyles. That’s their problem…not ours. This is a grass roots war. A grass roots war that we could well win with a little more effort from each of us. But when the far right claims that we are all a bunch of sex-crazed, drug-and-alcohol using, child-molesting bunch of lunatics, why should anyone think otherwise? Most of us don't make the first effort to help disprove such myths or to dispel such thinking where our social lives are concerned. We could all make a tremendous difference if we each make half an effort. So that when the right wing rants about our disgusting lifestyles, those who will be visiting the voting booths to ultimately determine our equal rights might know otherwise. By continuing to hide from straight America where our social lives are concerned, however, they will just continue to believe what they’re told. There are numerous ways in which each of us could help improve our present situation. And though it definitely seems to be getting better, we all need to be more responsible to help make sure that such progress continues and doesn't backfire once the religious right is cornered.
posted by Terry Chasteen, at
Well said Wayne. I've been saying (to my friends) since the 2000 election debacle that the Dems/progressives have to get as down and dirty as the republikkkans if they're ever going to really win again.
It reminds me of the British army (us) fighting like gentlemen (some down on one knee and some standing in neat red-coated rows with muskets in hand) while they're being mowed down by a guerilla army (the neo-cons).
But fear not, change IS in the air, it's time for the pendulum to swing left again before the clock is broken beyond repair.
ps...where did Time get a picture of God? And how did She have her hair done?
posted by , at
I had always hoped and prayed that the "High Road" would be enough...that dignity and common sense would win out over just plain ignorance and deliberate stupidity... but that is where I was wrong: that is where the far right glories: in ignorance and deliberate stupidity. Seems to me, it's more than time we woke up and smelled the cappucino, and began to work together to insure the survival and dignity of our own. We may be coming in late, but we have a definite advantage over the far-right. We already know the faces of the enemy: in all it's smug complacency. So,
off your duffs, boys and girls: write letters; get involved in local LGBT organizations; go to local Democratic party meetings;
contribute money to a LGBT cause that you believe in; DO SOMETHING!
posted by Miki, at
Hey Wayne, some of us gay Christians still don't believe in evolution. I still don't understand why acceptance of being gay is assumed to entail acceptance of a whole host of other supposedly "liberal" values such as evolution, pro-choice politics, etc. Entire books have been written to convince Christians (gay Christians included) that homosexuality isn't condemned by the Bible. The approach taken is always conservative or fundamentalist, demonstrating that a literal approach to Scripture does not demand belief that homosexuality is sinful. So why are we then beaten over the head for using that same approach to maintain our belief in special creation?
posted by , at
Wayne keep up the good work. You have the ability to reach more people and stir up the consciousness of the GLBT people. Go for it.
posted by , at
The "Right" is better organized than the progressives are. It's organized along the lines of a command/control structure.To find it's heart, follow the money; it will take one to several very large donors like Richard Mellon Scaifie (spelling?).
The organizations of the "Right" also do not let its its differences prevent it from working with other like-minded organizations.
These two organizational strategies, combined with staying on message, enable the "right" to get even more mileage for its money.
Progressives would do well to learn not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good and to emulate these successful organizational strategies to make our limited resources go further.
Joe in West Palm
posted by , at
Hooray for our side. This late arrival to the party is most definitely welcome.
When this money allows real science to replace junk science, exposed will be the narrow-minded Christian fundamentalist theocracy that is now the Republican Party.
posted by , at
It feels like we are starting to stand up and fight. Yeah, us!
My little piece of the fight is to try to reform our primaries. As Joe in West Palm said, we have to be able to work together.
I've lost the spirit to say much more than that. I went to try to comment here for the first time, and I ended up creating my own blog
(http://goodworks-pac.blogspot.com, I think). oy
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