Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Beating a dead horse just for the publicity of it.

It is unfortunate that Jerry Lewis didn’t think and used the term “illiterate fag” during his fund-raising marathon for Muscular Dystrophy. Lewis realized that and has apologized. In my view, without evidence that this is recurring problem, the apology should be accepted and the incident ended. Nonetheless his comments hurt the very cause he was promoting.

I have no sympathy for people who use that word. It was ugly when Anne Coulter did it and ugly when Lewis did it. It is not funny, cute or in any other way an acceptable term. And this blog has not taken second chair to anyone when it comes to arguing for the full legal equality of gay men and women.

But the people who really get my goat in this incident are the politicians at GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. President Neil Giuliano said it was an unacceptable term. I accept that. He said Lewis should apologize. I accept that. Lewis did apologize. Giuliano isn’t happy. He wants his 15 minutes of fame. He is now demanding that Lewis should meet him. Why?

Giuliano claims it is to “help him understand why those words are so hurtful and give him an opportunity to raise public awareness about the destructive impact of these kinds of antigay slurs, even more so in attempted humor.” If I were Lewis I would tell Giuliano to stick it where the sun don’t shine.

It doesn’t take a therapy sessions with some amateur politicians from GLAAD to understand why the use of hateful words inflicts pain on people. What these people want is to push Lewis into providing them with free publicity. They get off on the fame they can have when they whine publicly and act as if they are some anointed spokesmen for the gay and lesbian community. They are like the Wizard in Oz -- they have no real power, it’s all bluff and hot air.

I don’t mind when they go after people who make hateful statements. I do mind when they can’t let it drop when the person apologizes and then they try to milk it for all they can get out of it. At this point they are not promoting the well being of the gay community -- they are promoting themselves.

The purpose of the “meeting” is two fold. One is to puff themselves up. The second is to try and extort support out of Lewis. It is a form of blackmail. There are lots of people out there who use hateful words who are ignored by GLAAD.
And they go after the person who apologizes, not the person who doesn’t apologize , and then only if the person is a celebrity. They go after the apologizer because they figure they have them on the run and can use them.

My view is that if someone like Lewis says something stupid, and apologizes for it, that the matter should be dropped. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be vigilant and keep an eye on the guy. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t condemn him if he does it again. But the decent thing to do is give the person the shadow of the doubt and accept the apology until we have a second incident. If there is secodn case then go full throttle with boycotts, condemnations, picket lines, etc. It may well be the person is a bigot who apologized the first time just to make it all blow over. But the decent thing is to assume the first apology is sincere, accept it and let it drop.

The danger is that these politicians at GLAAD drag out the incident and make it worse, by trying to force their targets into meeting with them and then using them to raise funds and “awareness” for their group. So the individual who says something stupid or hateful first gets the immediate reaction for the remark. Then they get hounded by self-appointed guardians of the gay community who push them into a meeting, which drags the incident out a little further. They they try to extort the individual into giving them free publicity. That drags the incident out further.

What would happen if the person simply did nothing? The incident would be over a lot faster than if they admit they made a mistake. Ann Coulter said vicious things, and it basically blew over very quickly. She shrugged it off and was hardly hurt by the incident. Someone who might be truly sorry has the embarrassment dragged out longer than the unapologetic bigots. Greater embarrassment and pain is inflicted on those who apologize than those who don’t. That is hardly an incentive to apologize. By raising the cost of apologizing they discourage it. That is just stupid.

There are good things that groups like GLAAD can do. Their media awards are a positive thing. The proper thing to do, when Lewis apologized, was to issue a statement praising him for realizing that such words are inappropriate. To continue to push someone after they apologize appears petty. Incidents like this shouldn’t be milked for the aggrandizement of some organization and it’s leaders. They aren’t helping gay and lesbian people when they appear so petty as to keep hounding someone after an apology is issued. They are simply giving fuel to the real bigots out there who they most ignore because they aren’t prominent enough to warrant press conferences.

By the way it seems doubly stupid to harp too much about the man, after he already apologized, especially when you consider he was in the process of raising almost $64 million in funding for cripple children when he made the remark. Few people today remember Lewis from his film career but they do remember he has raised massive amounts of fund every year to battle a horrid disease. I hope GLAAD gets some focus.

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