Monday, November 17, 2008

The day the music died for the gay leadership

Was it really just six days ago that I wrote here: "Maybe Stonewall was Activism 1.0, ACT UP was Activism 2.0, the failed corporate activism of HRC and No On Prop 8 was Activism 3.0, and now we are witnessing Activism 4.0 being born."?
Saturday's 25,000-strong anti-Prop 8 grassroots protest in San Diego. Click inside the picture to see it really big.
Was it really just six days ago that I wrote here: "I sense the power could be shifting, from the suit-and-tie professional activists with their offices, their access, their press releases and their catered receptions, to the grassroots."?

Was it really just six days ago that I was apparently the first person to utter the phrase "Stonewall 2.0"?

It was. But I am not alone now. Let's have a look at what influential people are saying six days later.

Andrew Sullivan: "The ads that ran in No On 8 were the usual fearful, focus-group driven, conviction-free pap. ... How many struggles do we have to wage with these people (HRC and its ilk) always, always failing to lead -- before we demand accountability and reform? Losing a battle this important should mean, at least, the rolling of some heads."

Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zúñiga: "The Human Rights Campaign ... is being rendered irrelevant by current events, and with irrelevance, it will shrivel up and die on its own. ... The anti-Prop 8 campaign was an exercise in frustration. What we're seeing now ... is brilliant. ... These nationwide protests are a watershed moment of sorts -- the moment when the gay community realized that it had the power to fight for change on its own, and didn't require any of its so-called, self-appointed 'leaders' to give them permission to engage. ... There is nothing more dangerous for the status quo (the 'system') than people suddenly feeling empowered. ... I suspect history will show that the defeat of Prop 8, rather than halt momentum toward marriage equality (as I once feared), will prove the spark that launches the movement nationwide. And none of that will be thanks to the so-called leaders at the establishment gay rights groups."

Syndicated columnist Wayne Besen: "There has been a paradigm shift in the movement following marriage defeats in California, Florida and Arizona. ... The leaders of what is being billed as Stonewall 2.0 are not coming from large, established organizations. ... That this huge outpouring of organic outrage is not being channeled through official organizational channels has enormous implications. ... We are not the same movement we were prior to Nov. 4. ... Organizations that do not adjust to this new reality will wither and die. ... Anti-gay forces unleashed a ferocious storm with powerful winds of change that will only end with the sound of wedding bells."

Bay Area Reporter: "Underestimating their opponent's resources, an LGBT community lulled into complacency by an inaccurate Field Poll, a 'pathetic' Web site that at times was not fully functioning, an under-funded initial media buy, and a campaign lacking statewide cohesion are just some of the reasons for Proposition 8's passage, a senior official with the No on 8 campaign told Sacramento LGBT Democrats Monday, November 10."

I could go on, because the blogosphere is full of this stuff and, as soon as they make it to the streets, the gay newspapers likely will be, too.

The organization No On 8 failed us. Before the TV ad war started, we were up 14-17 points in the polls. Then No On 8 spent some $37 million of your money to spam the California airwaves with really lousy ads, while the other side spent a similar amount to spam the California airwaves with ads that were, whatever else they may have been, effective. While the bad TV ads were not the only component of our loss (last-minute preaching from the pulpits was a factor), had our ads been good ads, we would have held onto our lead. And producing those mindnumbingly expensive ads (which I and many others publicly criticized as they were airing) was one piece of the war that No On 8 had 100% control over.

Although the HRC-like Equality California group is not solely to blame, it's likely fair to say EQCA was the biggest component of the No On 8 coalition, along with such entities as the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, The San Diego LGBT Community Center and others.

But, as Wayne, Andrew and Markos (combined, they have a massive readership) essentially say: That was then, this is now. We have now indeed entered Activism 4.0 or whatever the hell you want to call it. Our "leaders" let us down and you -- you, the average gay or lesbian citizen who just wants to have equal rights and maybe even get married -- you have seized power by using Facebook and your blogs, e-mail and Twitter, MySpace and text-messages to launch a new gay movement -- one that can get 25,000 gays and lesbians into the streets of sleepy San Diego on a Saturday morning, one that got 12,000 people into the streets of New York to protest something that happened in California.

A movement that got gay and lesbian Americans to stage simultaneous protests two days ago in hundreds of American cities and towns -- including in Allentown, Fargo, Fayetteville, La Crosse, Macon, Shreveport and Missoula -- and, in California alone, in Alameda, Bakersfield, Berkeley, Big Bear Lake, Chico, Claremont, Colton, Costa Mesa, Delano, Escondido, Eureka, Fairfield, Fresno, Hemet, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Marysville, Merced, Modesto, Monterey, Moorpark, Moreno Valley, Mountain View, Napa, Oakland, Palm Springs, Pasadena, Pomona, Porterville, Rancho Cucamonga, Redding, Redlands, Riverside, Sacramento, Salinas, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, San Rafael, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, South Lake Tahoe, Stockton, Temecula, Tracy, Turlock, Ukiah, Vacaville, Ventura, Victorville, Walnut Creek and Yucca Valley.

Wow.

You don't have to listen to the gay "leaders" who failed you anymore, you don't have to give them any more money, you just have to figure out what you want to do next with the power that now is yours -- to get what you want: Full equality. I am intensely eager to see your next steps. It is an exciting time indeed.

(That said, I feel a need to insert a caveat: Not every big gay group had a hand in this massive disaster and even one that did, NCLR, still deserves support. NCLR, the ACLU and Lambda Legal are now fighting in the California Supreme Court to annul Prop 8 -- a very important effort. NCLR's Shannon Minter was the lead legal dude among those who won the marriage case in the first place. My heart went out to Shannon in the last couple of weeks before Nov. 4 when I started to sense that No On 8's endless bumbling was going to shatter his world and return California gays to being second-class citizens. The purely legal groups in our movement do heroic work every day, so my diatribe tonight is not an across-the-board assault on every non-grassroots gay entity. My diatribe is aimed at No On 8, the forces in our movement that shaped No On 8/EQCA's mindset on this campaign, and the entities in our movement that persuaded or cajoled No On 8 to proceed as it did -- even as so many other voices were telling them over and over, "You're screwing this up.")

Finally (this is, like, my longest blog post ever, I should get paid for these), the moment has arrived to extend a gigantic thank you to the Yes on Prop 8 folks, to the Roman Catholic bishops, to the Knights of Columbus, to politicized fundamentalist Christians and, most especially, to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka The Mormons, since they funded half of the Yes on Prop 8 campaign. I could tell you why in my own words, but let's let comedian Wanda Sykes do it for us instead. This is Wanda, speaking at Las Vegas' anti-Prop-8 rally Saturday:

"When California passed Prop 8 ... I felt like I was being attacked, personally attacked, our community was attacked. I got married Oct. 25. You know, I don't really talk about my sexual orientation, I didn't feel like I had to, I was just living my life and, not necessarily in the closet, but I was just living my life. Everybody that knows me personally, they know I'm gay. And that's the way people should be able to live their lives. We shouldn't have to be standing out here demanding something that we automatically should have as citizens of this country. And I got pissed off. They pissed me off. I said, You know what, now I gotta get in your face. And that's what we all have to do now. They pissed off the wrong group of people. They have galvanized a community. We are so together now and we all want the same thing and we are not going to settle for less."
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