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  • « I'm no anti-dad bigot for backing Mary | Main | Another voice in the HRC chorus »

    February 28, 2007

    HRC vs. gay blogosphere

    Posted by: Chris

    At what point does scaterred criticism in the blogosphere become something of a movement? I'm not sure but the point of critical mass may well have been reached with gay bloggers and the current leadership of the Human Rights Campaign.

    LessthanIn the last couple of weeks, a growing number of gay bloggers from across the ideological spectrum have taken aim at the decision by HRC prez Joe Solmonese to position his organization in the same way labor unions have — as a special interest within the Democratic Party.

    I first blogged about Solmonese and the "Dem-jacking" of HRC a couple of times back in January, and again in support of gay philathropist Tim Gill's alternative outside-the-beltway approach a couple of weeks ago. For other bloggers, the issue has come up in the same and other contexts:

    • Andrew Sullivan picked up on the Tim Gill thread in a post he titled "The Antidote to HRC": "There is hope for the gay rights movement," he wrote, "just don't expect it from the failed Hillary cronies at the Human Rights Campaign." I'm unclear whether Andrew was referring to those at HRC already pining for posts in a Hillary Clinton White House or maybe Hillary Rosen, who's at the core of the so-called "Massachusetts Gay Mafia" that has long controlled the organization. Either way…
    • The catty young queerlings at Queerty, ever in need of a catfight, cast the conflict as a "faggot feud" between Solmonese and me. I have absolutely nothing against Joe personally and have had only positive interactions with him. But hopefully this puts the lie to some who grumbled that I was somehow mysoginist for critiquing Solmonese's two HRC predecessors, Cheryl Jacques and Elizabeth Birch.
    • Longtime gay and HIV activist-blogger Michael Petrelis, who is also a long-standing Solmonese critic, most recently questioned HRC's refusal to acknowledge the remarkable stand taken by several Republicans in the Wyoming state legislature, who blocked passage of a bill that would have refused recognition of gay marriage licenses issued by Massachusetts. One in particular, Republican Dan Zwonitzer, said, "If it costs me my seat, … I can say I stood up for basic rights, and history can be my judge." HRC not only stayed mum about these courageous Republicans, it stuck to the usual party line that the Wyoming legislature had more important, "real issues" to worry about — a bit of tired rhetoric that minimizes our own struggle and always acts to cover weak-kneed Democrats who want to stop anti-gay laws without coming off as (ick!) pro-gay.
    • Echoing Petrelis' criticism but from the left-wing of the gay blogosphere was Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend, who wrote on Monday, "It's sad that HRC still hasn't managed to release even a simple statement of support for Zwonitzer's stand — after all isn't the point of an advocacy organization to support and show public respect for all pols who put themselves on the political line for our civil rights, not only Democrats who 'support' our civil rights (only when it suits them)? … I guess I'm just naive because I believe that to win the battle and the war we need to encourage every ally working for equality, regardless of party affiliation."
    • Cue Robbie Matt over at The Malcontent, who sent HRC a note in response to one of the group's ubiquitous fund-raising mailers saying he couldn't support an organization that was no longer bipartisan. The response he got was full of outright lies and manipulations, as Robbie Matt  documented here. Most blatant was the claim that HRC "gives to candidates, not parties," when donation records show last year "$135,000 to national and state party organizations (every penny of it to Democrats), including the DSCC and DCCC." He also pointed out that barely 10 percent of HRC's PAC donations in the last election cycle went to Republican candidates, and the organization recently removed the word "bipartisan" from its mission statement, burying it on an inside page on the group's website.
    • The gay Republican blogger North Dallas Thirty not unexpectedly claims we are all unfashionably late to his anti-HRC tea party, and even claimed to be the Cassandra we all ignored on the issue. (Something about a cross and needing the wood, NDT…)
    • Then there was Solmonese's appearance recently at a town forum in Washington, D.C., on "the state of the movement." Local gay blogger "The Scientist" was unsparing in his critique of the HRC president in a post titled "The Devil Wears Gucci":

    "Joe Solmonese deigned to sit on the panel tonight. And he was pedantic. His whole spiel could be embodied in this summation: "You just don't understand how things work."

    Now having been in academics for ages, I have run across this sort a number of times. The professor, giving you some weary look as you describe your idea, shoots it down passively. They don't explain their disagreement with your idea because "it is just wrong". No further explanation given nor needed. The professor doesn't have time to go into explaining the basics of the err of your ways. Or, what is generally more accurate, they won't lower themselves to argue with an inferior. And why should they? You, the little peon, just don't understand but Joe does.

    Joe is a political animal. As the head of HRC, he doesn't have time to explain why grass-roots approaches are so slow, sloppy and ineffective. He can just tell you that it is, he'll then do a stage voice sigh, and pick at some imaginary lint on his Gucci sleeve. Condescension dripped from his every pronouncement.

    To Joe, low level politics are passe. Blogs are distracting (quote). Local efforts are notable, not as a means but soley as a humble example, but ultimately, small potatoes. The only thing that matters is the House and the Senate. 535 people are his audience. The rest of us, the unwashed gay masses, are just sheep and we ought to just write our checks and shut the fuck up. He will decide what we need and our job is to genuflect towards the onerous burden that he has in spending our contributions."

    Both Petrelis and Sullivan (who noted a growing anti-HRC "insurgency") sounded off in agreement with The Scientist's general view of Solmonese's smug dismissiveness, which for me is more a style issue than the substantive problem with the direction he has taken the "nation's largest gay and lesbian advocacy group." Another gay D.C. blogger, Jimbo, suggested gay contributions follow Gill down to politics at the local level.

    All this criticism of HRC isn't just sniping from bloggers with nothing better to do. It represents a growing sense, among some of those who pay closest attention to the gay rights movement and its "leading" organization, that a major strategic error has been made in how to achieve our equality. These critics are not, for the most part, yelling for more money for Republicans as much as they are asking that HRC not treat the interests of the movement as secondary to the interests of the Democratic Party.

    We are asking, ultimately, that HRC and Solmonese "keep their eyes on the prize."

    (Extra special credit to The Malcontent for the altered HRC logo above. He calls it "less than" but my take was the reverse button on a tape player…)

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    Comments

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Feb 28, 2007 1:56:17 PM:

      Point taken, Chris, and it was unfair of me to lump you in with sites from which I have been banned. That being said, I make no apologies for a rant expressing two years of frustration on not being heard over something which seemed patently obvious.

      Meanwhile, I suppose the question becomes: what are we going to do about it?

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Feb 28, 2007 1:57:35 PM:

      Oh, and by the way, while Robbie no doubt contributed greatly, it was Matt of the Malcontent who wrote the excellent post outlining HRC's numerous falsehoods and deceptive statements.

    1. Craig Ranapia on Feb 28, 2007 3:47:38 PM:

      Hey, I don't care if HRC are flat-out partisan shills - there's plenty of them out there to suit every point on the political spectrum. It's the blatant and so easily busted lies that annoy me, and watching Joe Solmonese behave like some mini-Me lovechild of Jack Abramoff and Karl Rove is just disgusting.

      Whatever criticisms you have of the Log Cabin Republicans and Stonewall Democrats - and there are many - you can hardly accuse them of hiding their party affiliation. HRC, on the other hand, seems to have a definition of 'non-partisan' that beggars belief, and has a disturbingly hostile attitude towards showing any accountability to the community it claims to serve for a strategic direction that just isn't working on any level.

    1. Andoni on Feb 28, 2007 6:16:13 PM:

      I think HRC is selling its soul to the devil at the worst possible moment in our history. It looks like we are on the verge of a meltdown in the Christian right leadership of the Republican Party with a better than even chance that the "Rockefeller" wing will get a chance to navigate for a while. This will most certainly happen if Rudy gets the nomination. And that would be a most crucial time to have a truly bipartisan HRC. It would be the absolute worst moment to have our entire dance ticket promised to the Democrats. Only when both parties endorse our issues (and we support them) will we truly make progress, and HRC is about to jeopardize that once in a lifetime opportunity by becoming partisan.

    1. Craig Ranapia on Feb 28, 2007 7:07:45 PM:

      It's not only the GOP. The Democrat majority in Congress seems rather dependent on 'Blue Dog' Democrats who won socially conservative districts with razor-thin majorities. In short: Not the people I expect to go balls to the wall on pro-gay legislation at the best of times, let alone if they're up for re-election in a tight Presidential race.

      Let me put it this way: If you're Arlen Specter, and you vote could decide a critical gay-friendly bill whose call are you going to return: Joe Solmonese (after HRC tried to cluster-f**k perhaps the most pro-gay Republican EVER), or the Log Cabin Republicans?

    1. Test Block on Jul 9, 2007 4:22:34 AM:

      In honor of you Crain, as well as Craig Ranapia, who clearly took the propaganda spewed from your former haunt to heart --


      A letter I sent off --

      Nice to see a pro-Democratic op-ed in your chain of papers. (http://www.washblade.com/2007/7-6/view/columns/10870.cfm?CFID=741490&CFTOKEN=50178295) Typically, though, it's of course from a Democratic operative rather than a rank-and-file gay voter that advocates voting for Democrats, since they would be seen as far more credible (can't let that happen). Maybe if the ghost of Chris Crain ever goes away, actual people who are writing letters will be allowed to have their pro-Democratic feedback printed in one of the Window Media publications as an editoral rather than a letter (those are reserved for Dems and the transgendered, naturally).

      And while we're at it, maybe the staff of Window Media will realize Arlen Specter didn't do a single thing to advance gay rights during the 12 years or so Republicans were in control of the Congress, and those who expect Democrats to spend every waking hour at gay pride parades to the detriment of every other single issue on earth, while deifying Republicans as heroes for handing gays one crumb once every 6 years or so, will quit it with that asinine nonsense. Last I checked, Arlen Specter voted to send the FMA forward in 2004, and then HRC endorsed his opponent, and the next time he voted NOT to send it forward. God forbid, the Blade actually has to find an actual paid employee of the Log Cabin Republicans operation to sing Specter's praises and stop crying over HRC's choice not to endorse him until what looks like the year 2050.

      Just a few wonderful examples of kissing the ground Specter walks on, and aside from Crain (I'm sure), none of them posted by a Log Cabin Republican (at least as far as I know):

      1) JOSHUA LYNSEN. (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22the+group+angered+some+activists%22+powerful+%E2%80%9Cno+regrets%E2%80%9D+%22+vote+in+July+2004+to+send+the+Federal+Marriage+Amendment+to+the+Senate+floor%22&btnG=Google+Search")

      No, the non-endorsement of Specter didn't anger "some activists" (notice, they didn't bother actually naming 'some' of these alleged "activists"?). The only ones angered were the Uncle Tom's Cabin Republicans and the kneejerk-group-think-engaging automatons that pass as editorial staff over at Windows Media. It made sense to just about everyone else, who happened to have some brains and didn't typically employ pro-GOP double standards

      2) You, Mr. Crain (http://216.239.51.104/search?q=cache:dZW4yf7MIgkJ:www.houstonvoice.com/blog/index.cfm%3Fstart%3D11/6/05%26end%3D11/13/05+%22he+will+once+again+vote+in+favor+of+the+marriage+amendment+in+committee%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us)
      Committee?!?!? How about the floor, where he ultimately voted opposite of the way he did in 2004? So how exactly did the "specter of endorsement haunt HRC", if it was the marriage amendment that you were using to say "I told you so" to them, anyway? Oh, and "blue in the keyboard", really? (http://216.239.51.104/search?q=cache:-J00ZL9xIWYJ:citizenchris.typepad.com/citizenchris/the_blog/index.html+%22blue+in+the+keyboard+that+of+course+Democrats+are+better+on+the+whole%22+site:http://citizenchris.typepad.com&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us) If you review your statements, Crain, one can clearly see the truth, that your "blue in the keyboard" moments only come in response to severe criticism that you know is affecting your standing and that of Window Media's. Oh, and BTW, anyone with the slightest bit of sanity has, by now, figured out that you aren't a Democrat (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22I%27m+not+a+Democrat+and+never+have+been.%22+site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fcitizenchris.typepad.com&btnG=Google+Search), so perhaps you should start ignoring those people and stop trying to placate them, and you might actually be able to do what you claim you are doing; read on, for what I'm referring to...


      3) Steve Weinstein -- Earth to Weinstein... by what standard were you claiming, now or especially back then, that Specter is/was "the greatest gay-rights GOP champion we have in the Senate"?(http://216.239.51.104/search?q=cache:We2Ku2moek0J:www.newyorkblade.com/2005/9-16/viewpoint/editorials/blues.cfm+%22the+greatest+gay-rights+GOP+champion+we+have+in+the+Senate%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us) Last I checked, there was a guy named Lincoln Chafee that was a far more reliable ally that was the only Republican Senator that supported marriage equality (something I'm sure Crain wouldn't hesitate to point out that most Democratic Senators didn't back then, and still don't, and for once, I'd back him up on that). And Craig Ranapia, take note -- you've clearly been reading too much Blade, and have followed Crain to his little blog like a bit of a sycophant. "most pro-gay Republican EVER"??? *WHATEVER*!! How exactly do you define "greatest" (or for you, Craig, "most pro-gay"), I wonder? Oh, and (back to Weinstein) then you compare him to Rick Santorum? Was it just you, Crain, or just about all of you (and by that, I mean the Blade "editorial" staff), that rip into Democrats for the slightest perceived slight, while making excuses for the tepid, wishy-washy Specter types? And then you, Crain, post on your blog about "let's at least hold both parties to the same standard" (http://216.239.51.104/search?q=cache:SsmUx-BHa8QJ:citizenchris.typepad.com/citizenchris/2007/05/house_oks_hate_.html+%22let%27s+at+least+hold+both+parties+to+the+same+standard%22+site:http://citizenchris.typepad.com&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us) *Every* Senate Democrat, including the now mercifully departed Zell Miller, was far better than the now also mercifully departed Santorum. I doubt you would have asked HRC or anyone else to endorse Miller, and often not even anyone left of him. So how is that holding "both parties to the same standard", exactly?


      4) Kevin Naff (at least he had the sense to fire that literal whore Gannon), who finally got it once he saw that it led to nothing good whatsoever (if only they hadn't wasted two pathetic years getting to that point; http://216.239.51.104/search?q=cache:qhKtXJDqqyYJ:washingtonblade.com/2007/3-23/view/editorial/10280.cfm+%22curry+favor%22+name-calling+%22It%E2%80%99s+hard+to+cultivate+relationships+with+Republicans+when+they+take+their+marching+orders%22+%22reality+is+that+no+significant+gay+rights+legislation+was+going+to+pass+the+Republican-controlled+Congress%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us), but if anything HRC's endorsement of his opponent, if anything, did. (http://www.straightacting.net/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=4806)

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