Yesterday it was announced by the LGBT Pride Celebration Committee, that Wikileaks whistleblower/political prisoner Bradley Manning was selected as one of the Grand Marshals of the yearly San Francisco gay pride parade, considered a high honor in the gay community.
Almost immediately, Lisa L Williams, president of the Board of SF Pride, wrote a statement retracting his nomination:
Bradley Manning is facing the military justice system of this country. We all await the decision of that system. However, until that time, even the hint of support for actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform — and countless others, military and civilian alike — will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride. It is, and would be, an insult to every one, gay and straight, who has ever served in the military of this country.Yes, you read that right. Blowing the whistle on war crimes is an insult to the military.
Glenn Greenwald (who is also gay, for the record) wasted no time in blasting Williams, calling her statement a "substance-free falsehood originally spread by top US military officials, which has since been decisively and extensively debunked, even by some government officials." Greenwald correctly reminds us:
Indeed, it's the US government itself, not Manning, that is guilty of "actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform."And then Greenwald underscores the incipient fascism (my label, not his) of Williams warning the organization's members that EVEN THE HINT of support for Manning, WILL NOT BE TOLERATED. WILL. NOT. BE. TOLERATED.
This certainly is a long, long way from the San Francisco Gay Pride parade I once attended, decades ago, which tolerated (celebrated!) every bizarre, crazy activity and wayward political belief in the world. This had the wonderful result of making everyone feel welcome and giving off a warm, beneficent glow. This event was where I saw the revolutionary Tom Robinson Band, in 1981. (Robinson was an influential, radical gay punk rocker from the UK, who founded Rock Against Racism, a cause I was once allied with myself.) I suddenly realized that me and Tom Robinson probably do not belong in today's gay rights movement, which is now officially aligning itself with the government and trashing a courageous gay man who dares to speak out (and has had his civil rights violated as a result). Tom Robinson and Bradley Manning and Glenn Greenwald (and me) are OUT... apologists for right-wing warmongering like Lisa Williams are IN... it is the wholesale Lady Gagaization of gay rights; the defanging and neutralizing of a once-radical movement that asked the tough questions. Its all razzle-dazzle and the Bravo Network and Will and Grace reruns... nothing that asks participants to seriously question the status quo. (As it was for me, when I was young.)
Further, it isn't just the Lady Gagaization of gay rights, but the corporate sponsorship of gay rights... Glenn Greenwald ticks off the list of glitzy parade sponsors (HERE is the official list) which include AT&T, Verizon, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Clear Channel, Kaiser Permanente... basically the same list of corporate shysters presented by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Greenwald carefully catalogs their sins against the people, and then sputters:
So apparently, the very high-minded ethical standards of Lisa L Williams and the SF Pride Board apply only to young and powerless Army Privates who engage in an act of conscience against the US war machine, but instantly disappear for large corporations and banks that hand over cash. What we really see here is how the largest and most corrupt corporations own not just the government but also the culture. Even at the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, once an iconic symbol of cultural dissent and disregard for stifling pieties, nothing can happen that might offend AT&T and the Bank of America. The minute something even a bit deviant takes place (as defined by standards imposed by America's political and corporate class), even the SF Gay Pride Parade must scamper, capitulate, apologize, and take an oath of fealty to their orthodoxies (we adore the military, the state, and your laws). And, as usual, the largest corporate factions are completely exempt from the strictures and standards applied to the marginalized and powerless. Thus, while Bradley Manning is persona non grata at SF Pride, illegal eavesdropping telecoms, scheming banks, and hedge-fund purveyors of the nation's worst right-wing agitprop are more than welcome.And then, Greenwald starts making some interesting connections. Lisa Williams once worked for the political campaign of ... guess who?! President Hopey-Changey himself!* Greenwald reminds us:
It was President Obama, of course, who so notoriously decreed Bradley Manning guilty in public before his trial by military officers serving under Obama even began, and whose administration was found by the UN's top torture investigator to have abused him and is now so harshly prosecuting him. It's anything but surprising that a person who was a loyal Obama campaign aide finds Bradley Manning anathema while adoring big corporations and banks (which funded the Obama campaign and who, in the case of telecoms, Obama voted to immunize).And finally, Greenwald voices the worries and concerns I have had for years... which it seems are finally coming to pass:
When I wrote several weeks ago about the remarkable shift in public opinion on gay equality, I noted that this development is less significant than it seems because the cause of gay equality poses no real threat to elite factions or to how political and economic power in the US are distributed. If anything, it bolsters those power structures because it completely and harmlessly assimilates a previously excluded group into existing institutions and thus incentivizes them to accommodate those institutions and adopt their mindset. This event illustrates exactly what I meant.Yeah. And I remember ancient arguments I engaged in, with wacky old reds like the RCP, who warned me that gay rights was cosmetic and would NOT upend the status quo the way I was convinced it would. Were they right, after all?
From Greenwald's piece last month, mentioned above, titled The gay marriage snowball and political change:
If anything, one could say that the shift on this issue has been more institution-affirming than institution-subverting: the campaign to overturn "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" continually glorified and even fetishized military service, while gay marriage revitalizes a traditional institution - marriage - that heterosexuals have been in the process of killing with whimsical weddings, impetuous divorces, and serial new spouses (as Rush Limbaugh might put it: I'd like you to meet my fourth wife). And these changes are taking a once marginalized and culturally independent community and fully integrating it into mainstream society, thus making that community invested in conventional societal institutions.Notably, Malcolm X also worried about the "buying off" of the black community, in just this same fashion. Some of us have probably forgotten that this was one of the tenets of Black Nationalism, that integration was also a form of neutralization ... and in the process of integration and assimilation, much intrinsic radicalism and core identity can be compromised.
Is the gay community being bought off and neutralized?
Unfortunately, I think so. Faster than you can say LADY GAGA. Or Bradley Manning.
*This perfect term for President Obama comes from Mister LarryE, aka Lotus, who has a cool blog you should all check out.