Saturday, April 27, 2013

Glenn Greenwald verbalizes my worries about gay rights

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.


Conseglieri said...

I think Occupy Greenville should sponsor another gay rights event and focus on Manning. Being gay is certainly no guarantee that you don't have your head up your ass.

lurker said...

came from Feministe.

once you *become* the elite you have to keep out anyone who might challenge that status, as Manning does. in LA, SF and NY, the media bizness, colleges, fashion and fitness industries, other place$ like that, they are now the ppl in charge. but they wont acknowledge that & still play oppression olympics and whine about being 'on the outside'--while they get all the cool media/fitness/fashion jobs and internships.

Manning is the wake up call that some gays are still in need of support. rather than see his actions as that of someone who saw himself as an outsider in the American system, bonding with other outsiders (as you said, the *best* part of the old gay rights movement like tom Robinson), they just ignore him and cut him off. He is ruining their brand new mainstreaming-narrative.

they want IN, and they want NO reminders of the existence of any outsiders... here or abroad.

Maruja de lujo said...

I really appreciated the Greenwald article in The Guardian, and it's great to see your take on it, Daisy.
I don't usually like to say so in public, but I don't really understand the push for the right to marry. I gather that it's important in the US partly because it gives you access to cheaper health insurance. Imagine if health insurance reform got all the column inches and positive comments that gay marriage has got in the last two years.
It strikes me as similar to the pinkification of breast cancer in that it's a way for people to show how cool and inclusive and just plain nice they are without actually rocking any boats or questioning any cruel, vicious status quos.

Sevesteen said...

Should Pride be about LGBT rights, or about progressive causes in general? That matters, and it is a problem with single issue groups that are normally aligned with a particular larger movement. I don't see a significant link between Manning and gay rights

DaisyDeadhead said...

Sevesteen: Should Pride be about LGBT rights, or about progressive causes in general?

My point was that it used to be... gays once appealed to other progressives with the usual, "I'll work on your causes if you work on mine," which is how politics historically have operated in the USA. And now it seems, all bets are off. There was a time in which it was ONLY the Left that took LGBT rights seriously, and it seems that an ideological connection should be made: these people were my friends when no one else was, there must be something about their ideology that is uniquely concerned with human rights (which of course is true). It is the same reason African Americans are beholden to the Democratic party; this is the party that took up the civil rights banner when it was unpopular to do so.

I don't do 'single-issue politics' since I don't believe there is such a thing. I believe everything is inter-connected and symbiotic.

Manning is gay, and it used to be that THAT would have been enough. I liked lurker's comment: his sensibility as an oppressed person caused him to sympathize with other oppressed people. I don't think there is any doubt about that... but I think that IS precisely what scares the 'establishment gays' about him.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Sevesteen, also, Greenwald's point is also concerned with all that high-minded moralizing about who/what is the 'enemy of the people'--we certainly can make the case that Bank of America, et. al. is.

And to say "we'd like to wait until the court rules on Manning" is one thing, but to forbid EVEN A HINT of support for Manning anywhere in the parade? Is something else again.

Keep in mind, *I* remember when NAMBLA was allowed to march in pride parades. In their zeal to keep out the perverts and wackos, I think they have turned into pseudo-puritans, sucking after respectability.

Sevesteen said...

Re-reading, a lot of this sounds like a March of Dimes problem. Assimilation as a problem? For the leaders, for radicals looking for things to demonstrate against maybe but for most of the people directly involved it is great. Yes, I know that we haven't eliminated homophobia or racism, but we've reduced them so far that other rights abuses are taking over the top spots. When the status quo is Pride being mostly another wacky excuse for an inoffensive parade and a party, not much different than Oktoberfest or St Patty's day...that's a substantial battle won, even if the war isn't quite over yet.

LarryE said...

Hey, Ms. Daisy, thanks for the linky-love!

And so we keep on keepin' on. Like the man said, "What a long, strange trip it's been."

And will be. :-)

Maruja de lujo said...

Yesterday Gawker published an irreverent piece by Stephen W Thrasher with lots of terrible jokes and interesting insidery details on the mainstreaming/selling out of SF Pride in the lead-up to this latest incident. It's good to see the mainstream media taking notice.