Okay, so I didn't watch "American Idol" this season -- or last -- okay I'm totally bored with it. But I just watched several performances on the show's website, and um ... you mean this guy didn't win???
On second thought ... Joe Lowry's not for gay marriage either
Don't call it a flip-flop, apparently the MSM got this one wrong. I also erred, reporting in this post, that unlike Pastor Rick Warren, the Rev. Joe Lowry, who will give the benediction at Barack Obama's swearing in, is a supporter of gay marriage. Well color me corrected. On MSNBC's "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue," Rev. Lowry went to great pains to disabuse David Shuster of the notion that he supports gay marriage. "I'm for civil unions," said Lowry, but he said his religious convictions would cause him to eschew the "marriage" thing. Watch:
When you talk about the law discriminating, the law granting a privilege here, and a right here and denying it there, that's a civil rights issue. And I can't take that away from anybody.
That statement is interesting, in that nowhere in it, does Lowry state that he favors gay marriage. I think perhaps the media, in this case USA Today's Faith and Reason blog, and ABC, were looking for ideological bookends where none existed. I fault myself for not being more skeptical. As someone who grew up Methodist myself, and knowing the religion to posess the mildest of manners, and a long tradition of tolerance, I can tell you that despite that, Methodists read Leviticus in exactly the same manner as other Christians...
By the way, did Rachel Maddow jump the shark tonight with her big build-up to a supposed "gotcha" on Rick Warren over this 20-minute self-defense video on the Saddleback Church website? Maddow portrayed the extemporaneous video as damning, in the Jeremiah Wright at the National Press Club sense, but the clips she played were, charitably, run of the mill. No bombshells. Nothing incendiary. And if the clips she played represented the "worst" of Warren's "screed," as Maddow called it, then it's a sleepy screed indeed. I'm starting to remember why I didn't enjoy Rachel's radio show when it was on down here. Sometimes, activist journalism can be interesting. Other times, not so much.
As the niche controversy over President-Elect Barack Obama's choice of megachurch pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his swearing in continues to fester, it strikes me that we may have another Elian Gonzales-style saga in the making.
Elian, you may recall, was the adorable 6-year-old boy who washed ashore in Miami during the Thanksgiving of 1999, after losing his mother in a deadly attempt to "float to freedom" from Cuba. Elian quickly became the center of an international custody battle between his father, who wanted to return him to the island nation, and his Miami relatives -- people he had never met before finding himself in their care -- who wanted him to remain in the United States, with them. In the course of several months, Miami's Cuban-American community erupted, surrounding the Miami relatives' house with protests and "human chains," their leaders daring the Clinton Justice Department to come and get him, making a spectacle of the bewildered little boy as he played with new toys and politician-issued puppies in full view of the crowds and cameras, causing a weary nation to scratch its collective head and ask, who are these people, and why won't they just let the boy go home?
Of course, at the heart of the Elian drama were real and deeply felt issues of communism versus freedom, the wrenching pain many Cuban-Americans continue to feel regarding their homeland, and international politics that most Americans find either too compliated, or too tedious, to contemplate. But those issues were subsumed by the high drama, and a seeming obsessiveness among a single, niche constituent group that most other Americans simply could not relate to.
Eventually, Elian went home. But the Cuban-American community had lost more than the boy. In fighting so loudly and so lavishly for him to remain, they lost credibility with the wider public.
The gay and lesbian community is facing its Elian moment. By screaming so loudly about Warren's inclusion in the inauguration, and making gay marriage a kind of litmus test for true progressiveness and humanity, they have embraced a fight that only a small sliver of the population can relate to, and put their credibility on the line by painting Barack Obama as an enemy, at a time when most Americans consider him their only hope.
The "Elianization" of the gay marriage issue is made worse by the fact that some of the arguments being made against Warren simply don't hold up. Examples:
Rick Warren is a fringe preacher not fit to occupy a place of such high honor on January 20th. Really? Warren's breakthough book, "The Purpose Driven Life," which TIME Magazine in 2005 called the best-selling paperback in history, has sold something like 56 million copies since its release in 2002. That's just 10 million fewer readers than Barack Obama had voters, and roughly 2 million fewer people than voted for John McCain. Far from a fringe player, Warren might be the most widely known and best-liked religious figure in the U.S. since Billy Graham. His 22,000 member church boasts a global network of 40,000 other churches, united in advancing an agenda focused not on opposing gay rights, but rather on fighting global poverty, AIDS and climate change. Warren may be a lot of things, but "fringe" is not one of them.
Warren's views on gays are out of the mainstream. Perhaps Rachel Maddow, the inimitable Barney Frank and those at the left-most end of the poitical spectrum wish it were so, but it is not (actually, Frank recognized as much when he criticized San Franciso Mayor Gavin Newsome for pushing the envelope on gay marriage in 2004.) Warren does not support the idea of gay marriage. Neither do a majority of Americans. Neither, by the way, does Barack Obama. Or Hillary Clinton. Or Joe Biden. Or any Democrat who ran for president this year with the exception of Dennis Kucinich. But most Americans do support equal access to such things as healthcare benefits through civil unions or domestic partnerships, a view with which Warren, despite the hype over his "incest" comments, concurs, as he stated during his recent, but rarely fully quoted, interivew with Beliefnet:
Q: Which do you think is a greater threat to the American family - divorce or gay marriage? A: [laughs] That's a no brainer. Divorce. There's no doubt about it. Q: So why do we hear so much more - especially from religious conservatives - about gay marriage than about divorce? A: Oh we always love to talk about other sins more than ours. Why do we hear more about drug use than about being overweight? [Note: Warren is quite overweight.] Q: Just to clarify, do you support civil unions or domestic partnerships? A: I don't know if I'd use the term there but I support full equal rights for everybody in America. I don't believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles so I fully support equal rights. Q: What about partnership benefits in terms of insurance or hospital visitation? A: You know, not a problem with me.
(Hat tip to Bob Ostertag.) By painting Warren's views as out of touch with those of most, or worse, of the "good" Americans, the gay movement risks marginalizing itself, not Warren, since most people agree with him. In fact, it would be difficult to find a mainline preacher in this country who didn't concur with his reading of the Bible's stance toward homosexuality or marriage, but Warren is unique among evangelical leaders in being openly supportive of equality via civil unions. Moreover, had Obama reached for a "fringier" minister, one who openly supported gay marriage, to give his invocation, he would have touched off yet another round of the tiresome culture war, and given himself needless hurdles to getting crucial things done. In fact, there are only two reasons Obama has NOT been attacked for having a preacher who supports gay marriage on the dais on January 20. One is that Rev. Joe Lowry is no ordinary preacher -- he is a dean of the Civil Rights Movement, and is expected to speak from the perspective of Dr. Martin Luther King. The other is that the hew and cry over Rich Warren has sucked up all the oxygen.
And then there is the final meme, which might be the most marginalizing of all:
Barack Obama has betrayed his base. Barack Obama was elected by 66,882,230 Americans, a figure that includes a majority of the roughly 6 million Americans who are either gay, lesbian, transgendered or bisexual. But it also includes strong majorities of the much larger cohorts of African-Amerians, Latinos, Catholics, women, and young voters, some of whom support gay marriage, most of whom do not. Obama's "base" this year included 9 percent of registered Republicans, and 20 percent of self-described conservatives. Anyone want to place a bet on whether they feel betrayed by Warren's inclusion? As Obama has said repeatedly, his base is the American people. Attempting to pigeon hole him into a base that consists entirely of those on the left, is suspiciously like the right's expectation (which unfortunately was met) that George W. Bush would govern only on behalf of evangelical Christians, wealthy individuals and multinational corporations.
It seems to me that many on the left actually bought, lock, stock and barrel, into the cartoon caricature of Barack Obama peddled by the likes of Fox News and right wing talk radio throughout the campaign, when he was painted as some wild-eyed leftie. Well surprise! He is not, nor has he ever been. The left will be very happy with the Obama agenda, which, since its aim is to save this country from the three-fold blight of economic ruin, needless war and a loss of global credibility, should make the center and the right happy, too.
The reality is that Barack Obama is coming into office with a tremendous weight on his shoulders, and gay marriage simply cannot be at the top of his agenda (the aforementioned economy and wars come first.) And he has decided to govern as he ran: as a man determined to bring Americans together, exclude no one from the conversation, and to declare no group to be "untouchable" -- not even evangelical Christians, of whom he, you wil recall, is one.
Obama is being true to that promise by inviting Warren, and the millions of people he reaches, to be a part of the inaugural. By bringing them into the tent, he is not saying that he subscribes to all of the Christian right's beliefs. But he is signaling that there is room for believers in the tent. Does the LGBT community really want to be the ones standing at the door saying they may not come in? If they do, they will find that it's a lot more crowded outside.
I've been struggling with writing an op-ed on the whole dust-up over Barack Obama inviting Pastor Rick Warren (the proverbial "chicken soup" for the soul-filled) to do the invocation at his swearing in. The trick: how to write that the gay (sorry, "GLBT") community has completely lost the plot, without incurring a torrent of emails calling me a fake progressive bigot (apparently, Obama is one of those bigots now.)
You see, what the Rachel Maddow/Keith Olbermann crowd has conveniently forgotten -- apparently having bought into the cartoon character version of Barack Obama sold to them by Fox News Channel, is that Barack Obama is now, and has been for a very long time, an evangelical Christian -- just like Rick Warren. As such, he, like Warren, opposes extending the term "marriage" to apply to gay or lesbian couples. Like many religious progressives, Obama supports equal rights -- namely, civil unions or domestic partnerships (which, by the way, also help straight, unmarried couples deal with such issues as health insurance and inheritance.) But he is not now, nor has he ever been, a proponent of gay marriage. By the way, neither is Hillary Clinton. Or Joe Biden. Or any Democrat who ran for president this year with the exception of Dennic Kucinich.
Apparently, the gay community missed the memo. And now they are shocked. SHOCKED! to discover that they can no longer support Obama because he does not support gay marriage. Well, okay. And apparently, the gay community has also discovered that black people are the enemy, because they, being a largely religious sort of people, also agree with the "purpose driven" preacher. Hm. Well count Latinos, Catholics, Methodists, Presbytarians, Asians and ... well... most everybody. The majority of Americans of all races, creeds and religions feel exactly the way Warren does about gay marriage. In fact, being pro gay marriage is a distinctly minority view. If you were to ban everyone who opposes gay marriage from the Inaugural, there would be nobody but Barney Frank and the aforementioned Mr. Kucinich on the National Mall. Even Obama wouldn't be able to show up.
Which brings me to a terrific post at the HuffPo by a guy named Bob Ostertag, a pretty out there gay man it seems, who makes a few really good points in this terrific post, which I could not have made better, since I lack his cultural perspective. And here are a few of them...
Brilliant point 1: is this any way to build a political coalition that's anything but marginal?
How is it that queers became the odd ones out at such a momentous turning point in history? By pushing an agenda of stupid issues like gay marriage.
"Gay marriage" turns the real issues of equal rights for sexual minorities upside down and paints us into a reactionary little corner of our own making. Yes, married people get special privileges denied to others. Denied not to just gays and lesbians, but to all others. Millions of straight people remain unmarried, and for a huge variety of reasons, from mothers whose support networks do not include their children's fathers, to hipsters who can't relate to religious institutions. We could be making common cause with them. We could be fighting for equal rights for everyone, not just gays and lesbians, but for all unmarried people. In the process we would leave religious institutions to define marriage however their members see fit.
That's how you win at politics, isn't it? You build principled coalitions that add up to a majority, and try not to hand potent mobilizing issues to your opposition in the process.
Brilliant point #2:is gay marriage really the most important issue on the table for gay people? Really?
Through years of queer demonstrations, meetings, readings and dinner table conversations, about gay bashing, police violence, job discrimination, housing discrimination, health care discrimination, immigration discrimination, family ostracism, teen suicide, AIDS profiteering, sodomy laws, and much more, I never once heard anyone identify the fact that they couldn't get married as being a major concern. And then, out of the blue, gay marriage suddenly became the litmus test by which we measure our allies. We have now come to the point that many unthinkingly equate opposition to gay marriage with homophobia.
Rick Warren is now the flash point, the one all our political allies, even Barack Obama, are supposed to denounce because he doesn't pass gay marriage the litmus test.
Brilliant point #3: Is Rick Warren really a smart enemy to choose?
Q: Which do you think is a greater threat to the American family - divorce or gay marriage? A: [laughs] That's a no brainer. Divorce. There's no doubt about it.
Q: So why do we hear so much more - especially from religious conservatives - about gay marriage than about divorce?
A: Oh we always love to talk about other sins more than ours. Why do we hear more about drug use than about being overweight? [Note: Warren is quite overweight.]
Q: Just to clarify, do you support civil unions or domestic partnerships?
A: I don't know if I'd use the term there but I support full equal rights for everybody in America. I don't believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles so I fully support equal rights.
Q: What about partnership benefits in terms of insurance or hospital visitation?
A: You know, not a problem with me.
I have an idea: let's accept equal rights for all. Equal rights are the issue when it comes to national politics. That's Obama's position, and I think he has it right.
By the way, that's the exact same position Barack Obama has ... and the same one that, well, I have. Does that make me a bigot?
Ostertag's closing is perfect:
Just a reminder to all those gays and lesbians who never look beyond their cultural ghetto: we've got some serious problems going on in the world today that need to be addressed now. Global warming in particular can't wait. For thirty years Evangelical Christians have been the anchor that has pulled this country to the right, giving us first Reaganism and then Bushism. Wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. And a decade of world-threatening climate change denialism.
At a minimum, 80 million Americans identify as evangelicals, and up to double that depending on how you define evangelical. They are the largest single religious group in the country, and the fastest growing. They are not going away. Somehow, some way, queers are going to have to share this country with all these people.
I am delighted that there is a new generation of evangelicals that thinks the biggest issue isn't homosexuality but global climate change, AIDS, and poverty. And who "don't believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles." I am so ready to make common cause with them. I couldn't care less about what they think of gay marriage.
I wish more people in the gay community would listen. Barack Obama has seized the opportunity to speak to those 80 million or so evangelicals, 72 percent of whom did not vote for him. By inviting Warren to the party, he has at least gotten their attention, and signaled to the country that he intends to do the opposite of what our current president did after being appointed in 2000. Then, George W. Bush decided to govern only his half of the country, and to screw the rest. Obama wants to be the president of an entire nation, not the "queer nation." And trying to force him to cotton to a narrow political agenda ... or else ... isn't exactly buying into the notion of a "new politics," which is more than just a cobbling together of the interest groups on your side. Obama isn't going to waste his time "paying back" constituency groups who got him elected. He's going to fix the country, starting with, as Joe Biden said today on "This Week," the most pressing issue of all: the economy. After that, he's got two wars, global warming, and major foreign policy challenges like Pakistan, India and the like, to tackle. Sorry, but gay marriage is not top of the list.
Sideber: And by the way, at the close of his quite downtrodden TIME Magazine article, John Cloud suggests that Barack Obama will now have to "do something very nice" for the gay community, like overturning "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" by fiat, or nominating an openly gay Secretary of the Navy. He says he's not holding his breath. He shouldn't. Obama is clearly a student of history, and will remember what happened when one William Jefferson Clinton made such an attempt at constituent payoff. The result, the aforementioned "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," wound up angering both the gay community, and the military, which remained alienated from Clinton until the end of his presidency. If Obama were to try to push the envelope, he too will lose a military whose rank and file remain majority Republican and often suspicious of "liberal" politicians, and in one fell swoop, he would undo the good will and currency he has carefully built up with his moderate appointments, and harm his ability to push his economic agenda through. Obama would do well to pass on this one.
People for the American Way issues a statement of displeasure regarding Rick Warren's participation in the inaugural. It reads in part:
Pastor Warren, while enjoying a reputation as a moderate based on his affable personality and his church's engagement on issues like AIDS in Africa, has said that the real difference between James Dobson and himself is one of tone rather than substance. He has recently compared marriage by loving and committed same-sex couples to incest and pedophilia. He has repeated the Religious Right's big lie that supporters of equality for gay Americans are out to silence pastors. He has called Christians who advance a social gospel Marxists. He is adamantly opposed to women having a legal right to choose an abortion.
I'm sure that Warren's supporters will portray his selection as an appeal to unity by a president who is committed to reaching across traditional divides. Others may explain it as a response to Warren inviting then-Senator Obama to speak on AIDS and candidate Obama to appear at a forum, both at his church. But the sad truth is that this decision further elevates someone who has in recent weeks actively promoted legalized discrimination and denigrated the lives and relationships of millions of Americans.
But as US News and World Report writer Dan Gilgoff points out, the Warren selection is just the latest move in the Obama charm offensive to the religious among us -- partially because, he IS one of the religious among us. I know the "he's a Muslim" crowd don't want to believe it, and neither do my friends on the left, but um ... Obama is himself, a Rick Warren-style Christian (conservative values, friendly demeanor, keen on moving beyond abortion.) Or pretty close to it. And as The Swamp puts it:
... for Obama, making a statement about his inclusiveness and willingness to reach across ideological lines is more important than satisfying liberals on every issue as he has shown with his cabinet choices.
In fact, PFAW's reaction may help Obama with some centrist and more conservative voters.
Also, many African American church goers tend to share Warren's views on social issues. So the issue is more complicated than simply right and left.
...life can be pure hell, and not just because deep down in your inner man you know that your party has f----d the country... Sayeth the Grey Lady:
WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 — Scott Reed, a Republican strategist, was at a dinner in Philadelphia on Monday night when his cellphone and Internet pager began beeping like crazy. Only later did he learn why. His party was buzzing with news of a sex scandal involving a Republican United States senator — again.
Just when Republicans thought things could not get any worse, Senator Larry E. Craig of Idaho confirmed that he had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct after an undercover police officer accused him of soliciting sex in June in a Minneapolis airport restroom. On Tuesday, Mr. Craig, 62, held a news conference to defend himself, calling the guilty plea “a mistake” and declaring, “I am not gay” — even as the Senate Republican leadership asked for an Ethics Committee review.
It was a bizarre spectacle, and only the latest in a string of accusations of sexual foibles and financial misdeeds that have landed Republicans in the political equivalent of purgatory, the realm of late-night comic television.
Forget Mark Foley of Florida, who quit the House last year after exchanging sexually explicit e-mail messages with under-age male pages, or Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist whose dealings with the old Republican Congress landed him in prison. They are old news, replaced by a fresh crop of scandal-plagued Republicans, men like Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, whose phone number turned up on the list of the so-called D.C. Madam, or Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska and Representative Rick Renzi of Arizona, both caught up in F.B.I. corruption investigations.
It is enough to make a self-respecting Republican want to tear his hair out in frustration, especially as the party is trying to defend an unpopular war, contain the power of the new Democratic majority on Capitol Hill and generate some enthusiasm among voters heading toward the presidential election in 2008.
“The real question for Republicans in Washington is how low can you go, because we are approaching a level of ridiculousness,” said Mr. Reed, sounding exasperated in an interview on Tuesday morning. “You can’t make this stuff up. And the impact this is having on the grass-roots around the country is devastating. Republicans think the governing class in Washington are a bunch of buffoons who have total disregard for the principles of the party, the law of the land and the future of the country.”
Then again, Washington does not have a monopoly on the latest trend among Republicans. Just ask Thomas Ravenel, the state treasurer of South Carolina, who had to step down as state chairman of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s presidential campaign after he was indicted on cocaine charges in June.
Or Bob Allen, a state representative in Florida who was jettisoned from the John McCain campaign last month after he was arrested on charges of soliciting sex in a public restroom.
Mr. Craig, for his part, has severed ties with the Mitt Romney campaign, despite his public declaration on Tuesday that “I did nothing wrong.”
In an interview Tuesday on “Kudlow and Company” on CNBC, Mr. Romney could not distance himself fast enough. “Once again, we’ve found people in Washington have not lived up to the level of respect and dignity that we would expect for somebody that gets elected to a position of high influence,” Mr. Romney said. “Very disappointing. He’s no longer associated with my campaign, as you can imagine.” ...
Yeesh. Good thing Craig isn't gay ... er ... that guilty plea to soliciting sex in the loo notwithstanding ... and those persistent rumors and claims by men that he had sexual encounters with them also notwithstanding ... Um, CUE THE ETHICS PROBE! And perhaps some nice, relaxing rehab!
Meanwhile, the Craig situation is playing havoc with the GOP's plans to dike it's Senate seat slippage. Okay, maybe "dike" was a poor choice of words...
Update: Mitt to Larry: "Under the bus you go!" ... Romney called his former campaign co-chair "disgusting," which should go over really well with the Log Cabin Republicans ... and he cancelled a trip to Idaho by one of his war campaign veteran sons ...
What a strange thing it is to have a day off in the middle of the week ... it's enough to make Thursday feel like a Monday. Oh well ... here's what-a-gwan:
Al Gore to Tipper: "Well, at least the boy was in a Prius..." (after his son gets pinched for possession of marijuana, Xanax, Adderol, Soma and more. And just days before daddy's 7-7-07 global warming concert? Duuuude...
A man is arrested outside Barack Obama's hotel in Iowa holding an eight-inch knife. Scary, with shades of Bobby Kennedy, or a security detail overacting? I hope for the latter but fear the former is more on the money.
The British government says the idea that the eight doctors and others who were arrested in the recent attempts at creating 'splosions at Glasgow and London airports were al-Qaida isn't quite accurate... now THIS is al-Qaida, if you still believe they are the boogeyman the administration wants you to believe they are...
Former Miami Heat star Tim Hardaway hates gay people ... no ... I mean he really, really hates gay people. And he's dumb enough to say so to a sports talk radio host ... who's also a freaking reporter...
The comments came as Hardaway appeared on Dan LeBatard's Miami talk show, as he was being asked about former NBA star Don Amaechi's revelation that he is gay. Hardaway said that not only is he homophobic, he wouldn't want a gay person on his team ... oh, read it for yourself:
``You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States.''
As for a gay player like Amaechi sharing the close confines of the locker room with Timmy:
''First of all, I wouldn't want him on my team,'' Hardaway replied. ``And second of all, if he was on my team, I would really distance myself from him because, uh, I don't think that is right. I don't think he should be in the locker room while we are in the locker room. But stuff like that is going on and there's a lot of other people I hear that are like that and still in the closet and don't want to come out of the closet, but you know I just leave that alone.''
Asked what he would do if he had a gay teammate, Hardaway said he would ask for the player to be traded or to be bought out of his contract.
''Something has to give,'' he said. ``And I think the majority of players would ask for him to be traded or they would want to be traded. Or buy him out of his contract and just let him go. Something has to give. If you have 12 other ballplayers in your locker room that are upset and can't concentrate and always worried about him in the locker room or on the court it's going to be hard for your teammates to win and accept him as a teammate.''
As for Amaechi, he says:
''We are much further behind than I'd like,'' Amaechi said. ``People in America and England [where Amaechi grew up] would like to think racism is over, sexism is over, and homophobia is over, but it's not. My coming out will show that gay people don't all look like Jack from Will and Grace. Some of us are big, athletic men, and that should be OK.''
Amaechi said he had not heard from a single former teammate or NBA player, that he had only heard from former coach Doc Rivers. He challenged straight athletes ''who feel able'' to stand up for gay rights.
''I would like professional male athletes to be active supporters, and that doesn't mean putting a rainbow decal on their car,'' he said. ``It means letting other guys in the locker room know that it's not OK to make gay jokes, that it's hurtful, and that it's not OK to be homophobic.
``But it's hard to get straight guys to step up. When men stood by women during the suffrage movement, they were called progressive and bold. When whites stood by blacks, they were heroes. But a straight guy standing up for a gay guy faces discrimination, and that's a big part of the battle we're fighting.''
After the interview, Hardaway expanded on the comments with CBS 4 reporter Jim Berry, telling him that if he found out a family member was gay, he would have nothing to do with them.
Writing about the exchange he instigated with Hardaway (one of only a handful of NBA stars who ignored their publicists' advice and answered questions about Amaeichi's coming out in a new book, "Man in the Middle," Lebatard describes the comments as hurtful and homophobic, but "honest." They were also stupid for a public figure.
But ... and this is the big "but..."
Keeping it real ... most straight men feel exactly the same way, and would have the exact same reaction to the idea of stripping naked in a sweaty locker room in close quarters with a gay teammate. Most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing. Most straight people cringed at the Snickers commercial. Most straight people had a hard time being convinced to watch "Broke Back Mountain." (I admit that I couldn't go see the movie either, despite my sister's ringing endorsement, because I didn't want to watch the two male characters having sex.)
Does that make me homophobic? Probably. And I'm not exactly proud of it. But part of the intrinsic nature of "straightness" is that the idea of homosexual sex is ... well... gross ... even if you think that gay people are perfectly lovely individuals. For the record, I'm sure gay people think straight sex is gross, too, it's just that the nature of political correctness is that gay people are allowed to say straight sex is gross, but the reverse is considered to be patently homophobic.
So was Tim Hardaway wrong to say what he said? Yes and no. On the one hand, in a free society, he has the right to feel and say exactly what he wants. On the other hand, he's a grown man and will have to suffer the consequences. He probably sunk his prospects of ever becoming an anchor on ESPN, and he has already begun to suffer career consequences, including being bounced from All Star Weekend. In the current age, you never, ever say blatantly bigoted things out loud, on the air, to a reporter (or if you're Isaiah Washington, you don't say them on the set...) ... unless of course, you're Rush Limbaugh... As one gay leader in South Florida put it:
"'It is a very simple process to say `no' or 'I'd rather not comment' than to go on the record and make malicious and bigoted statements,'' (president of the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Steve) Adkins said.
``. . . Let's just say I'm very disappointed that if someone in this day and age has these kinds of feelings, they're not intelligent enough to keep them to themselves. Beyond that, there is no place in our society for that kind of hatred and bigotry. End of story.''
Further, as an African-American, you're actually held to an even higher tolerance standard, which may or may not be fair. But as LeBatard himself noted, what Hardaway said probably met with quiet, embarrassed agreement on some level by many other players, who are now looking to their left and right, and perhaps quietly, and uneasily, wondering if the guy showering next to them is sneaking a peek at their naughty bits.
Like taking candy from a baby: how Snickers played everybody
It occurred to me during a marketing meeting for the station this morning that the Snickers ad that's caused so much consternation was a brilliant piece of advertising for two reasons. First, it was the most memorable ad on Super Bowl Sunday -- and it also has had the longest after-game shelf life, generating tens of millions of dollars worth of free media for the brand due to the news stories, blog drama, protests and angst that it generated. And second, it succeeded in stealth, achieving its marketing goals without anybody noticing what the advertiser was up to.
Here's what I mean.
When Masterfoods' ad agency first conceived the ad, I understand they originally approached some gay rights advocates to ask them to view the ads and comment, but at the eleventh hour, they pulled back, and never showed the groups the ads. The company probably knew how they would be received. They also knew that the masses of men and women of all ages who watch the Super Bowl aren't Snickers' target market. Who is the target market? Young, mostly male candy eaters.
... and where can you reach millions of young, male candy eaters who probably don't catch a lot of prime time television?
And once the ads hit, and caused the expected uproar, both from gay advocates (who objected to the reaction of the male smoochers to their accidental kiss, and the NFL players whose cringy reactions were uploaded on a Snickers web-site) and from Family Research Council types, who objected to the ads because of the man-on-man smooching itself, Masterfoods promptly pulled them, issued a statement, and then failed to take the next logical step: demanding that the ads also be pulled from Youtube and other viral video sites.
Because I would speculate, getting the ads the buzz they needed to burn up the blogs, as well as those viral video sites, was precisely the point. Once the viral video success was achieved, the company no longer needed to run the ads, on television, or online.
It's either that, or M&M Mars is just damned lucky.
There are times when I think the left reads way too much into things. This is one of those times. John Aravosis' rather overwrought reaction to the Snickers SuperBowl ad (one of the few funny ones on an otherwise dull ad night) is, to me, way over the top. Dude, it's just a stupid commercial. And sorry, but most straight guys (and women) do react with winces at the sight of two men kissing on the lips. As Shabba Ranks used to say, it's just reality. And more importantly, it's just a commercial...
Update: the New York Times picks up the story ... and Snickers backs down, pulling the ad. This is actually quite unbelievable to me. Watch the ad for yourself, below, and tell me you seriously, seriously see violent homophobia at work. Seriously:
And here's Snickers' statement:
“As with all of our Snickers advertising, our goal was to capture the attention of our core Snickers consumer, primarily 18-to-24-year-old adult males,” said a spokeswoman for Masterfoods, Alice Nathanson. “Feedback from our target consumers has been positive, and many media and Web site commentators on this year’s Super Bowl lineup ranked the commercial among this year’s best.”
“We know that humor is highly subjective and we understand that some consumers have found the commercial offensive,” Ms. Nathanson said, adding: “Clearly that was not our intent. We do not plan to continue the ad on television or on our Web site.”
That apparently, is not good enough for John Aravosis and his commenters, who want a major league apology and even new ads showing gay men in them. Try to follow me here ... Snickers bars are primarily eaten by children, and by young men -- as the company says, its target market is college aged men. And those two groups ... follow me now ... would definitely react with laughter or "gross-out" to the same situation. Right? Isn't that why the ad works?
Update: Just for reference here is the other Snickers ad, called "Wrench." Note how many commenters who themselves are gay say they found the ad funny. Go figure...
Here's the version called "Motor Oil":
And here's are the reaction spots, from the Colts:
...and from the Bears:
Now when you listen to the reactions, I can see where someone who is gay might have had their feelings hurt by hearing the reactions of rather typical straight men to seeing two men kiss. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those reactions, if disheartening to a gay person, are very, very typical. EVERYONE at the Super Bowl party I was at reacted the same way. We can't ALL be violent homophobes. It's human nature to expect romantic pairings to be male-female. The visceral reaction people have to this ad is, I hate to say it, rather normal. Maybe gays don't want it to remain that way, but for now, it is.
But more importantly, it's JUST A FREAKING CANDY COMMERCIAL.
Oh, okay, if you hated that one, check out this Snicker's ad from Australia: