Monday, August 14, 2017

Pull Their Heads Out Of Their Digital Asses

One of my closest personal and professional friends sent me a text today asking a very innocent question about the state of the digital world in media. I gave him my opinion that most media still don't know how to use the digital universe properly, and that, in general, the audience doesn't care.

Then something happened, and I went off on a rant, that had very little to do with what he asked. Here's what I told him (with one or two edits).

Media organizations need to take their heads out of their digital asses and start doing things that will actually build loyalty. You know why the right wing media is so successful? Because they've taken a side and defend it. They are outspoken to an audience that is craving leadership.

Main stream media is too afraid to really take a side because history has told them to be impartial. So the right hates them because they are told to. The left hates them because they perceive silence as cowardice or acceptance of what is happening. And people in the middle are just lost, so they've stopped caring. People who hate the right have nobody to trust.

You know why Colbert is suddenly so popular? Because he's taken the gloves off. Taking sides is risky, and most main stream media are too afraid of failure to take the risk. That's a shame... because the first one to step up will certainly face the pain, but the rewards could be huge. Journalists have forgotten the Washington Post of 1973.

That's where I caught my breath and stopped. But here's more.

For decades, conservatives have called the media too liberal. Liberals have called the media too conservative. And for decades most journalists were fine with thinking that if both sides hated what they were saying, than they were indeed being neutral and they could sleep at night. Cable news and the internet have changed that, because that thinking was grounded in an assumption that real facts were the basis of news universally. Today we know that lies lead the way. And most of us understand that a lie told often enough will convince people it is true. 

Then there are the crusty old-timers who will recoil in horror, saying Cronkite or Murrow would never condone advocacy. I think that's wrong. First of all, this is 2017. Not 1960. Secondly, I think Cronkite and Murrow understood right from wrong much better than most journalists do today, and would understand the greater good of taking a stand to keep the world from crumbling into pieces.  

I spent most of my life in television news, and, for the most part, I believe what I did was honest, correct and had a purpose. But now I get to see things from the other side, in a new reality. I firmly believe the spread of ugly hatred and bigotry spreads unchecked because nobody is trying to stop it. The right wing media fans the flames because their roots are based in hatred and because it's profitable. Main stream media are too afraid of offending anybody to take a hard stand against the hatred, so they watch it burn, broadcast the tweets, and quote mindless drivel from mindless bureaucrats, without doing a thing to make things better.

My friends in the business might disagree, saying they send tweets decrying the violence, ask "probing" questions on the air, and wonder aloud why this is happening. They do those things on the day it happens. And maybe the day after. And then they go away. Silence about our world and the hatred that continues to spread until the next bloodshed claims a life or three. And then it's time to set the timer for righteousness.

The right wing media knows better. They sow their seeds of hatred and anger and division 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The message never waivers. Anybody who isn't a white male bible thumping heterosexual with an anglo name is the enemy. They're doing it non-stop, on the air, online and on your phones. They have the tacit support and approval of the administration and the administration's party. 

So, going back to the question that started all this. What new and interesting digital breakthroughs are out there to engage the audience and get them to "join the conversation"? None that I know of, but it really doesn't matter. The main stream media isn't leading a conversation that their viewers and readers want to be a continuing part of. The media want us to Like them, Retweet them and Follow them. But so far, the main stream media hasn't learned what the right wing media know all too well. You can't lead anybody if you don't have a destination in sight.

(As an aside, I started this blog about 12 years ago and have let it sit and gather dust for the last five or six. I've taken down most of the old dusty posts, which don't mean much anymore, but left a few, just because.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Straight Couples Are Killing Marriage

Ten years after Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to allow same-sex marriage, and with marriage equality now the law in 19 states, hate, mistrust and bigotry are still as alive and well now as they were a decade, generation and century ago. I used to think I would not see marriage equality in my lifetime. Now that it is here, I wonder if it is acceptance I might not see. Given the nation's record on continuing racial hatred, I'm not sure I should be optimistic.

As I read the stories of states continuing their fights to protect bigotry and justify intolerance and hatred, I search for some logic or reasoning. It eludes me. But here is one thing I do believe. If there is a threat to marriage, it is not same-sex matrimony. The real threat to the future of marriage would be heterosexual couples who have never had to fight for the right to get married.

I did a quick Google search and found that the rate of divorce among same sex couples is about 1% per year. That's half of the 2% rate for straight couples. That means, about 1% of all same-sex marriages and 2% of all straight marriages will end each year. And overall, we already know that about half of all straight marriages will eventually end in divorce.

Same-sex marriage is still too new for researchers to have a real handle on why gay couples are divorcing less than straight couples. But I have my own unscientific theory.

Gay couples have had to wait so long, work so hard and endure so much trauma to be able to get married, that they take it more seriously, appreciate it more, and are more sure of what they are doing by the time they get to do it.

Straight couples have had centuries of taking marriage for granted. What the hell. Go to the courthouse or Vegas, sober or drunk, maybe on a whim, and get married. If it works, great. If it doesn't, end it as quickly as possible and move on. Straight couples treat marriage like a Walgreen's ball point pen. It's cheap, easy, and if it breaks just throw it out and get a new one. No thought needed. Or respect.

Gay couples, on the other hand, have had to fight for generations for basic equal rights, acceptance and then the right to marry. Gays understand the importance of marriage, respect the commitment and understand the love it takes to make the fight worthwhile and necessary.

I wonder how many straight couples in America would take on the same struggle for the right to get married. I think it is worth asking each man and woman who are planning a wedding if their commitment to each other is strong enough to endure what gay couples endure, just for the simple right to be married.

I'm not sure that's a question most straight couples would know how to answer. Or would want to answer.

While there is no research to support my theory, there are new, very real statistics that show the majority of American women are now having at least one child before they get married. And a growing number of mothers never get married. So, while gay men and women are fighting every day for the right to marry, straight people don't seem to really care.

Conservative politicians, preachers and talk-show hosts spew hate-riddled rhetoric deriding same-sex marriage for no reason, other than bigotry and hatred. It has nothing to do with them, yet they can't seem to think about anything else. Church leaders spew venom from the pulpit in their fight against same-sex marriage, but ignore the decay of marriages in their own congregations.

Who is re-defining marriage? It is straight couples who have turned it into an opportunity to justify lavish spending, outrageous gift demands and drunken debacles that may or may not last a year or two. It is straight couples who have decided that marriage is just what they do because their families expect it. It is straight couples who don't really care whether they'll still be married in 10 or 20 years. 

So, back to the 1% and 2%. Will same-sex couples be better at making their marriages work? Will they succeed where straight couples failed? I would like to think so. I would like to believe that gays appreciate and understand the struggle, and respect the rights we are slowly winning. And will same-sex marriages eventually be the law in every state? Again, I hope so. But even when that happens, the fight for equality will continue. Small minded people will always find ways to hate people who look, think or love differently than they do. 

In the end, the fight will continue to make gay men and women stronger, because our fight is for survival and acceptance. I also believe the real concept of marriage and its survival lies with the same-sex couples who love each other enough to fight against all odds for the right to marry. They understand the love and hard work that it takes to make marriage succeed. But marriage as a tradition will not survive if "traditional" is the only kind allowed.



Sunday, January 05, 2014

Just Add Nuts

It's harder to be Liberal than to be Conservative. Liberals have to think. Conservatives just have to hate.

I've spent no small amount of time recently trying to figure out when America started going crazy. I think I'm beginning to realize that this is not a new phenomenon. I think the homophobes and tea partiers and hate mongers in the headlines are not necessarily new nutcases... they're just coming out of their shells, so to speak. I think, for a long time, I felt insulated from the crazies because I lived in a liberal city, worked in a progressive environment, and try not to surround myself with people who have aluminum hats in their wardrobe (to keep out the government's probing satellite rays, of course).

I have long believed that they are a loud-mouthed group of playground bullies who think volume equals being smart or right or even lucid. I still believe they are nothing more than that. But what is becoming increasingly worrisome is their ability to make smart people think stupid things.

They say you can't shout fire in a crowded theater, but the reality is that people can and will do it. And when they do, 500 people who know better will still run in panic, trampling all in their path.

The same with the political crazies. Now, I have no love of the Republican party. But I have believed that even the most vociferous Republican had a degree of common sense, practicality and respect for other people. That apparently is no longer the case in Texas, the Carolinas and other states and communities where Republican lawmakers have adopted platforms laced with paranoia, hatred, bigotry and plain old insanity. Where were the voices of reason? Drowned out by the screamers who envision an all-white, all straight, all protestant, all gun toting, non-tax paying nation, where nobody needs to responsible to or for anything. They forget that it's been tried before. In Germany, in 1939. It didn't work then either.

I listen to people I thought I knew, who are allowing the hate speak to creep into their conversations. I read letters to editors that are laced with paranoia and buzz words that suggest that anger, hatred and distrust will fix the economy, fund our schools and keep mass transit moving.

I don't for a moment believe that the crazies are in the majority. I don't for a moment believe that the loud-mouths who claim to speak for a majority of any community actually do or ever will. But I do believe there is a real danger that the crazies can and will force intelligent, well-meaning and thoughtful people into submission... that smart people will be rendered dumb... and that too many people who know better will keep quiet... giving tacit approval to the idiots.

We are seeing more and more of a gang mentality. Gangs are made up of small groups of cowards who believe they can take an entire community hostage, using fear to force them into submission. The right-wing crazies in tea-party rallies are no different than thugs roaming the streets. And unless we recognize that gang mentality and face them down, we're going to allow them to turn their insanity into our reality.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

HRC: LESS TALKIN'; MORE WALKIN'

I should make this clear right off the bat. I am not a fan of the HRC (Human Rights Campaign).

It isn't that I don't believe in their mission or what they claim they are here to do. Good God, I'm gay. Of course I believe in it. But, as I have said before, I don't believe the HRC knows how to get the job done. The HRC is all about writing letters and issuing press releases. And raising money. My God, do those people love to raise money. If there were a Nobel Prize for fund-raising, it would have to go to the HRC. (With GLAAD a close second, but they are for another time.).

Right now, American gays are uber-pissed at Target and Best Buy for their corporate political contributions to MN Forward, a Minnesota PAC established primarily to support Tom Emmer, a conservative candidate for governor who, among other things, doesn't support equal rights.

The HRC has decided to lead the charge of chagrin and has deployed as its primary weapon, an open letter to Target (the link is below) that has all the anger and disdain of a Fifth Avenue matron who has discovered a tea stain on her doily.

Among the more outraged passages:
  • "With these contributions, you have severely damaged those carefully cultivated reputations and violated the spirit of the gold standards bestowed on you."
  • "What may have sounded like a “good business decision” in the board room turns out to be a horribly short-sighted business decision when millions of consumers lose respect for your companies."
  • "Your foray into this uncharted water has proved choppy and should serve as a warning to other corporations mindful of the perceptions of LGBT and allied consumers."
I'm sure Target executives are quivering.

But the most telling line is the last one:
"We’re watching and we’re waiting."

Yes... that's what the HRC does best. They watch. They wait. They watch some more. They wait longer. They will watch any progress our community has made in the last 25 years slip away, waiting for somebody somewhere to do something. The HRC wants Target and best Buy and everyone else to do the right thing. I hope the HRC, and the rest of us, are prepared to wait a long time.

The HRC is content to play diplomats in an arena where human rights are a blood sport. Our opponents are not polite. They don't write neatly spaced letters posted on optimistic websites. Our opponents raise hell. They rally people into demonstrations, carrying signs, demanding press and swaying public opinion. Our opponents are loud and obnoxious and they are very good at getting their way. The fact that their campaigns are based on lies and hatred cannot hide the fact that they are effective.

Do I advocate lies and hate speech? No. Do I think it is time for the fight for equality to move into the streets? Hell yes! Equal rights in this country have never been won by the printed word alone. Whether it was civil rights in the 60's, women's rights in the 70's or ACT-UP in the 80's, the struggles that mattered were in the streets. Progress came through protests, demonstrations and, when necessary, non-violent civil disobedience.

The HRC has the strength and the reach to organize the community into meaningful public displays of anger. The HRC could find a way to take this beyond the equality question, and to show that Target & Best Buy are funding a candidate who doesn't just hate gays.
  • Tom Emmer believes federal laws don't apply to the individual states and supports a Minnesota constitutional amendment allowing the state to ignore federal laws;
  • Tom Emmer believes restaurant employees should be forced to take wage cuts because they receive tips;
  • Tom Emmer supports legislation that would allow pharmacists to deny contraception to anyone they believe is unfit. Just the insanity of this position alone is mind-boggling. A pharmacist could decide someone is unfit for contraception, therefore they should have children. Excuse me?
The HRC needs to understand that our cause alone is not necessarily enough to raise widespread public outrage over the Target and Best Buy contributions. But the HRC won't. It is a group where nearsightedness is epidemic. It is an organization mired in the same inside-the-beltway bureaucracy it once hoped to cut through. And even in the fight for equality, the HRC has no balls and no teeth. Local community groups such as Broadway Impact, Fight Back New York and Marriage Equality New York are fighting and winning battles that the HRC has either abandoned or ignored.

The clock is running out. If the HRC doesn't have the stomach for the fight, then it should fold up it's very pretty website, get the hell out of the way, and let people who really care about equality lead the fight.

(The HRC letter to Target & Best Buy)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

THE FIVE STAGES OF GAY

Gay men are a funny bunch. Gay men have been pioneers in changing the way modern America looks at fashion, travel, self-care, self-grooming and community revival. The more involved and evolved gay men have also taken leadership roles in the fight for human rights, equal rights and an end to medical discrimination.

Still, the core of the gay man rarely changes. For all the forward thinking that happens on the outside, deep inside, nothing has changed in decades. The Neanderthal is still as alive and well in Chelsea and the Castro and Asbury Park as it is in Bloomington, Wichita and Hialeah.

Bitter? Not me.

With that in mind, I thought it only fitting to actually quantify the FIVE STAGES OF GAY. Even though there are actually six separate life categories, one is optional and does not apply universally. It also is a life plateau that temporarily removes the gay man from the rest of the gay continuum.

It should also be mentioned that the STAGES OF GAY are not absolute. This is not a one-or-the-other situation. There are multiple transitions, phases and subtle nuances. One usually does not make a hard left turn out of one and into another. One moves through them, the way one uses an exit ramp on an expressway or walks into and out of the surf.

It is also possible to skip a stage completely. But while a person can skip one stage, it is highly unlikely to skip two. For instance, a person can certainly skip STAGE 2 OR 3, but it is most unlikely that anyone could skip more than one. The only instance I could even imagine where a person could or would skip two stages would be a Catholic priest, who might skip 2 & 3. But in even those cases, I think there are any number of instances where a man of cloth has taken a quick stop on number 3.

That said, I give you the FIVE STAGES OF GAY. Definitions follow the list.

1. CLOSETED
2. OUT
3. SLUT
3A. (optional plateau) >>> SOBERLY SEARCHING
4. COMFORTABLE
5. INVISIBLE

OK. So, what do they mean? Here goes.

CLOSETED – Everybody starts here. This is the one stage nobody can avoid. Even those gay men who insist they burst out of the womb belting out show tunes still had those few years of their lives before awareness, and before their parents learned the true definition of denial. Some people choose to remain closeted for their entire lives. These people tend to be Catholic clergy, Republican politicians, evangelists, Hollywood actors, and small town grade school teachers.

OUT – People have to choose their own times and own terms for coming out. Not everybody comes out at the same time. Not everybody comes out, period. Some people inch out of the closet gradually, first to selected friends and families, and then eventually to the world at large. Some come bursting out of the closet like a 4th of July firecracker bursting into the sky. For many others, it’s just a transition that begins the same day the denial ends.

SLUT - Is any definition really necessary? This stage can begin in the late teens or college years and extend into the late 20’s and perhaps even into the 30’s. At some point, as maturity occurs, SLUT has less to do with the number of partners and frequency and more to do with chasing youth as it becomes more and more fleeting for one’s self.

SOBERLY SEARCHING – Discussed later.

COMFORTABLE – This stage is slightly more abstract and means many different things to many different people. In general, COMFORTABLE is the stage that occurs when Slut is a semi-fond memory, whose details are now crisply edited for story-telling, unlike earlier years when those conquests were badges of honor. COMFORTABLE is the stage where people vote their conscience for gay-friendly causes and candidates, but no longer feel the need to go to the Pride Parade, because who really needs to stand on Fifth Avenue in the sun for four hours? COMFORTABLE means having monthly payments instead of nightly adventures, a bed instead of a futon, 401K is more important than 69 and Therapy is what you do once a week, and not where you go every weekend.

INVISIBLE – Nobody likes talking about this one. You never see INVISIBLE coming. But one day you find yourself surrounded by people of all the other stages, and nobody sees you, recognizes you or acknowledges you. It can come with a 50th birthday, a shirt that you bought at Bloomy’s instead of Barney’s or strands of grey that have drifted past your temple to the middle of your head. INVISIBLE is what happens when everyone says hello to you as you walk in the door, but nobody sits next to you once you’re there. INVISIBLE is what happens when the person you’re talking to is more interested in returning the text he just got, than hearing what you have to say. INVISIBLE is what happens when people realize the “classic” movie they just saw on AMC was the big summer movie the year you graduated from high school. INVISIBLE is taking a book to the beach, and actually reading it. INVISIBLE is absolute. The only way of avoiding it is death. But to people of the earlier stages, INVISIBLE and death are the same things.

SOBERLY SEARCHING – This is the optional life stage that is a plateau somewhat separate, but also hopelessly intertwined with the others. It can occur anywhere along the path, but is probably more likely to come between Stages 3 & 4. So that’s why it’s there on the list. SOBERLY SEARCHING applies only to those people who are active participants in a 12-Step program. AA, NA, CA, CMA, OA, SAA and others are included. People who are SOBERLY SEARCHING are making new discoveries about themselves, their behaviors, their relationships and the course of their lives. Inevitably, people who are SOBERLY SEARCHING are transitioning through one or more of the other stages, and trying to find their footing. Sometimes it can take years to figure out where they stand and where they go next. And while the people who are SOBERLY SEARCHING might not have the clearest picture of where they are going next, they are absolutely precise about where they have been, where they are, and what they plan to avoid. The hardest part of the SOBERLY SEARCHING plateau is that it is absolutely counter-intuitive of so much that is identified as being gay. The person who is SOBERLY SEARCHING must find the balance between living life gaily and living life joyfully. For them, it takes a great deal of work for them to be synonymous. In any case, success is brutally difficult to achieve, and enormously challenging to hold on to. Surviving it defines strength.

So, what does this all mean? It means little in the grand scheme of life. Knowing what it is doesn’t change what it is. Awareness is not necessarily enlightenment. But in any journey, no matter how familiar the path might be, seeing, recognizing and understanding the signposts can help a traveler keep their bearings, make better use of the time he has where he is right now, and allow him the luxury of choosing a path he might not have considered before.

The tricky part is to allow the Stages to explain where we are, without allowing them to define who we are.

Monday, October 01, 2007

My Bill Of Rights

I've been starting to share with people the details about some personal issues in my life. As part of the process, I spend a lot of time with other people wrestling with the same demons, and learning how to cope. Recently, we were given a personal manifesto that I think is worth sharing. I don't know the origin, but I find meaning in every line.

MY BILL OF RIGHTS

I have the right to be treated with respect.

I have the right to say No and not feel guilty.

I have the right to experience and express my feelings.

I have the right to take time for myself.

I have the right to change my mind.

I have the right to ask for what I want.

I have the right to ask for information.

I have the right to make mistakes.

I have the right to do less than I am humanly capable of.

I have the right to feel good about myself.

I have the right to act only in ways that promote my dignity and self-respect as long as others' are not violated in the process.