Tuesday, October 28, 2008
by Wayne Besen
To fight her culture war, Sarah Palin needed a cultured wardrobe. The Main Street hockey mom wasted no time trading up to 5th Avenue and found the attire much nicer at Saks. Dressed in her Sunday best, Palin pried herself away from Bergdrof Goodman and ventured into the "real America," where she promptly announced her support for a U.S. constitutional amendment prohibiting gay people from marrying.
Cinderella then appeared on James Dobson's Focus on the Family radio show. Dressed in her exotic new duds, she explained that the McCain/Palin dud of a campaign was on track because she was "putting this in God's hands." Well, if the Lord doesn't come through, at least she has discovered the joys of Lord & Taylor.
While all politicians have skeletons in their closet, finding a walk-in closet stuffed with $150,000 in new GOP-financed clothing, was seen as obscene by voters already furious at Republican excess in a time of economic duress. Scrambling to excuse the inexcusable, the Palin campaign said the clothes would all be donated to charity after the election. So, if you see a bag lady with a Gucci bag in December, you can thank Sarah Palin.
The great irony of wardrobe-gate is that most of Palin's remaining fans are sexually repressed Evangelical men who are undressing the VP candidate with their eyes. The New York Times reports
that her rallies are overrun with "dudes" who wear buttons that read, "Proud to be voting for a hot chick."
As Palin brilliantly played the role of Imelda Marcos, her fellow Alaskan, Sen. Ted Stevens, stepped on stage as 2008's Jack Abramoff. At the very moment the McCain campaign was desperately trying to distance itself from corruption on Wall Street, Stevens was convicted of failing to report tens of thousands of dollars in gifts
, including extensive renovations on his house. Between Palin's self-improvement and Steven's home improvement, the image of the Republican Party has been solidified one week before Election Day.
On the cusp of a defeat, the GOP ticket has gone from avaricious to just plain vicious. McCain is using so many code words one might think he was running for director of the CIA. For example, he shamefully claimed that Obama would turn the Internal Revenue Service into "a giant welfare agency."
Palin, meanwhile, mocks Obama as a socialist who sees this nation differently from true Americans and pals around with terrorists. (It was actually McCain who was endorsed
by Al Qaeda this week) With such a frightening portrait of Obama, is it any surprise that two white supremacists were arrested this week in Tennessee for plotting
to assassinate the Senator? The McCain campaign obviously does not wish Obama harm. But, they have irresponsibly pandered to extremists and stoked the passions of violent, angry "patriots" to win their votes.
The specter of an Obama presidency has anti-gay forces in a swivet. Focus on the Family's Dobson sent out a paranoid "hypothetical" letter
from the year 2012
that said the election of Obama could lead to terrorist strikes on four American cities, Israel being hit by a nuclear bomb, Gay marriage in every state and hospitals refusing service to anyone over 80 years old.
Meanwhile, in California, a jowly Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, literally morphed into the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. In a video
that distorted history and stretched logic, the phony "moderate" strongly urged voters to pass Prop. 8
because, "we should not let two percent of the population determine the change of definition of marriage...that has been supported for 5,000 years."
Of course, this is roughly the same percentage of people who identify as Christian in China. Based on Warren's mob rules philosophy and respect for historical precedent, he should find China's persecution of Christians acceptable in the nation's efforts to uphold and protect thousands of years of Asian history.
No sooner did Warren dehumanize gay people and demean their relationships -- in the name of love - then new FBI statistics
were released showing that hate crimes against gays increased in 2007, up 6% from 2006 even though the overall numbers of hate crimes slightly dropped. We can only look forward to more of Warren's contrived compassion after his religion-based bigotry trickles down like a drop of blood into our lives.
With Republican losses likely, the Los Angeles Times reports
that ambitions social conservatives are already plotting to take over the Republican National Committee. Like vultures circling the walking dead, these rapacious and repugnant culture warriors are already poised to foist blame on McCain - if he loses - for not being conservative enough.
Palin, it seems, is already laying the groundwork for a presidential run in 2008. With a huge portion of the GOP base and talk radio already in her pocket, she will likely get the nomination. Clearly, Sarah is all dressed up, because conservatives think she has someplace to go. What amazes me about her is that she is a filthy campaigner who is most comfortable in the mud, yet her designer clothes always look fabulous.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
by Wayne Besen
Weekly Column(The Radio Hall of Shame's Bruce DuMont, Left)
I once had a revealing conversation with an A-list news reporter, when I was trying to convince him to cover the scientific distortions of Focus on the Family's James Dobson. He declined to do so because he felt that Dobson lies so frequently that it wasn't news.
With the media inured to Dobson's Fib Factory and its assembly line of lies, it is difficult for the truth to gain traction. I believe, however, that the press has it backwards. Each nugget of nonsense peddled by ideologues, such as Dobson, should be on the front page of every newspaper and lead daily newscasts. Allowing falsehoods to fester has created a cynical political climate where truth is whatever a press release says it is.
This lack of accountability has allowed Dobson, and others of his ilk, to portray themselves as spokespersons for morality, even though they are regularly engaged in glaring examples of moral turpitude. Occasionally, they are even honored for their sinister "success" and showered with undeserved adulation.
For example, on Nov. 8, the Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC) is scheduled to induct Dobson into its Radio Hall of Fame in celebration of his unquestionable broadcasting achievements. He regularly appears on 3,000 radio stations across the world and has built a $150 million anti-gay empire in Colorado Springs.
The MBC says that Dobson's longevity and success qualify him for honors, even though they will essentially be bronzing his bigotry. In my view, the Radio Hall of Fame devalues its worth when it blithely honors a broadcaster with an amoral indifference to content and good character. Dobson's self-righteous ranting about gay people overrides his ratings and the prejudice he perpetuates overshadows his popularity. If Major League Baseball can keep superstar Pete Rose out of its Hall of Fame because of integrity issues, its broadcasting counterpart can rescind its invitation to Dobson.
The MBC takes the antiseptic, hands-off view that Dobson's red meat is meaningless blather that affects no one. They seem to believe that gay people are not harmed when the millions of devout listeners hear Dobson bellow that gay marriage will, "destroy the earth." Or, that no one will seek revenge on gay people after Dobson shrieks, "For more than 40 years, the homosexual activist movement has sought to implement a master plan that has had as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family."
Thanks to such inflammatory rhetoric, hate crimes against gay people still occur daily. According to 2006 FBI statistics, hate crimes based on sexual orientation constituted the third highest category reported and made up 15.5 percent of all reported hate crimes. Only race-based and religion-based prejudice crimes were more prevalent than hate crimes based on sexual orientation.
While Dobson does not outright call for violence, he does use his "ex-gay" ministry, Love Won Out, to portray GLBT people, as immoral reprobates who could choose to change if they weren't too stubborn to accept God. By positioning homosexuality as a behavior that can be prayed away, he is offering people a way to justify discriminatory and even violent behavior -- all in the guise of loving the sinner.
What Dobson fails to tell his listeners is that efforts to alter sexual orientation are considered damaging by the American Psychiatric Association, The American Medical Association, The American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
One also wonders why the MBC would honor Dobson until it had fully investigated serious allegations
that he distorted scientific research. In the past two years, seven prominent scientists have demanded that he stop citing their work because he misrepresented their conclusions on homosexuality. New York University educational psychologist, Carol Gilligan, PhD., appeared in a video saying that Dobson "was not truthful" and that he should "refrain from ever quoting me again." Dr. Kyle Pruett, a professor of child psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine claimed Dobson "cherry picked" his conclusions. University of Minnesota's Gary Remafedi, M.D., M.P.H. wrote a letter to Dobson that clamed he engaged in "a gross misrepresentation of our research."
Finally, Andrew Colvin, 16, contacted me a week ago. He had recently come out to his mother who he says listens to James Dobson's radio show. Instead of accepting her son, she gave Andrew Focus on the Family's anti-gay books. Thanks to Dobson, things became so tense that Andrew moved out of his mother's home
in Colorado to live with his father in Arizona.
Sadly, America is littered with stories, such as Andrew's, where Dobson has taken his microphone and turned it into a club to bludgeon families. The pain is raw and the scars are real. Yet, this cruel reality will be supplanted by a Disneyfied version in the Radio Hall of Fame, where Dobson's viciousness will be euphemized as "virtues" and "values."
The MBC should stop pandering to the right wing and do the right thing by dumping Dobson
from its Radio Hall of Fame. And, the media should start doing its job by holding Dobson accountable. Let's focus on the facts and stop peddling the fiction that James Dobson's actions are worthy of anything but condemnation.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
by Wayne Besen
Who can blame John McCain and Sarah Palin for saying that Barack Obama is "palling around with terrorists?" The GOP ticket is bombing so badly that they must blow up the race to have a shot at winning. Palin, about as subtle as a moose in an igloo, telegraphed the pugnacious plan of smearing Obama by sneering that they will "take the gloves off."
But, even in their attacks, the McCain campaign is a mumble jumble of mixed messages. On one hand, they tried to portray Obama as a closeted Muslim by having Lee County Florida Sheriff, Mike Scott
, call the Democratic candidate "Barack Hussein Obama." However, Sarah Palin quickly reminded voters of Obamaâ€™s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. This might leave voters who are just tuning into the race wondering why this supposed Muslim spent so much time in church.
The truth is, the McCain/Palin experiment is a dud. He's looking too old and she's looking too new. McCain has gone from a man of stature to just plain stodgy, while Palin has been reduced from fresh to freshman. She needs more seasoning, while he's stayed at least one season too many. He appears long in the tooth, while she can't help baring her fangs.
Palin's nasty one-liners aren't resonating at a time when peoplesâ€™ bank accounts are flat lining. Cutthroat politics don't work as well when people are cutting back on gas and groceries. In a time of grave economic harm, one needs more than folksy charm. Sure, Palin can wink, but people want to know if she can think.
With Barrack Obama and Joe Biden emerging as the adults in the race, they are beginning to pull away. The McCain campaign suspended its operations in Michigan, and a Washington Post/ABC-News poll
has Obama/Biden up seven points in Ohio.
A month is forever in a campaign and things can go sour quickly. Still, unless, there is a game-changer, like a YouTube video of Obama having tea in a cave with Osama, it looks like the Democrats will take the White House. Leaders of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, have to begin thinking about what this will mean. What should our community's expectations be? Will this be a huge step forward or a series of disappointments?
What I fear is that the enormity of our nation's problems makes it easier for Congress and an Obama administration to put GLBT equality on the backburner. They can even complicate our efforts by portraying us as self-serving at a time of economic crisis and war.
Now, I'm not suggesting that the new president should make gay issues his top priority at the Inauguration. Of course, this would actually backfire and cause a great deal of resentment from people who are worried about feeding their families. However, shouldn't we expect Congress to pass a law prohibiting job discrimination in the first six months? Or, hate crime legislation to reach Obama's desk within the first year? Will Don't Ask/Don't Tell be overturned by Congress or will Democrats postpone action, afraid of consequences in the midterm elections?
As far as I'm concerned, the Democrats need to take action sooner, rather than later. Since Newt Gingrich came to power in 1994, the Democrats have credibly been able to blame the Republicans for thwarting pro-gay legislation. If they finally have a Congressional majority and the presidency, however, they can no longer hide behind the big, bad ogres of the GOP. If the Democratic leaders make excuses for ignoring our concerns for an extended period of time, widespread disillusionment of GLBT Democrats may occur.
I also worry that some of our best and brightest leaders are too close to the Obama campaign. On one hand, this may serve us well, as they will have voice in the administration. But, as we know, it is always more difficult to criticize friends. Those who end up serving Obama must not end up like democratic versions of the Log Cabin Republicans, essentially serving as party apologists. They should put the well being of the community ahead of their careers.
If the insiders do not have the willingness or the leverage to move the Democrats, I predict the growth of outsider political groups who will turn to direct action to push Congress and the Administration. Sometimes, it takes grassroots organizations that do not have conflicts of interest (such as friendships with the establishment) to propel the movement forward.
Even as we fight on towards Election Day, we should take a deep breath and imagine the possibilities, while managing our expectations. While Obama is not the Messiah and we should not count on miracles, we should expect at least a few campaign promises to come to fruition.