Friday, December 04, 2009

Putin's 8th Russian Town Hall
vs Gay Inc's Lack of Forums

(On a dark blue stage, Prime Minister Putin conducted a Q&A, this week.)

The NY Times reported today on Vladimir Putin's eighth annual virtual town hall meeting with the Russian public, and as I read about another world leader using the format to engage with people and the media, I wondered when the rulers of the Gay Inc politburo will stage some of their own town halls.

Last month, I praised Barack Obama for his continuing series of public forums, and asked the leaders at HRC to follow his example. Of course, the idea that HRC use its media center to better inform and collaborate with the LGBT community through forums went nowhere.

The Times' recounting of Putin's forum makes me long for the day when I will read such accounts of Gay Inc leaders, not just from HRC but from across the non-profit spectrum of national and state orgs, and their virtual town halls:

He offered a virtuoso performance at his annual question-and-answer session, seeking to showcase his status as Russia’s dominant leader and his concern for the average Russian.

Mr. Putin, 57, recited statistics and other details from memory on many subjects. The nationally televised session was four hours and nearly 90 questions long, yet it seemed as if Mr. Putin would not have minded had it gone longer.

Can you honestly imagine Joe Solmonese or Geoff Kors or Jarrett Barrios or Rea Carey or Lorri Jean or Matt Foreman subjecting themselves to four hours of questioning from the community, and having it streamed on the web?

The only thing preventing them from using existing technology to hold real-time debate and forums with the rank and file gay is the fear of our leaders. They fear being held publicly accountable and having to explain themselves to us, but if they got over themselves and did like Putin, they might learn some lessons from his operatives:

The Kremlin lavishly produced and promoted the forum on Thursday, with officials appealing for questions by phone, e-mail or text message. More than two million were received, more than at last year’s session.

It seems as though the Q&A had some built-in positive spin for the Russian leader, but he also heard people talk of controversies:

The presentation at times took on the feel of a review of Mr. Putin’s 2009 achievements. State television sent correspondents to locations around Russia that Mr. Putin had visited to address crises [...]

From those sites, people were shown live thanking Mr. Putin for his help; but they then often followed up with sharply worded requests for more. Indeed, while Mr. Putin had his share of softball questions, many did not shy from contentious topics.

So, I can point to not just the American president using a time-honored tradition of public engagement, with adjustments for the electronic age, but also to the Russian prime minister holding a town hall, but there are no comparable open meetings to cite from the Gay Inc leadership.

Maybe 2010 will be the year we finally see HRC, GLAAD, NLGTF, Haas Jr Foundation, EQCA, LA Gay Center, et al, get hip to virtual town halls and begin holding them regularly. It do would do great things to more fully engage the base for upcoming legislative and electoral battles.


DavidEhrenstein said...

The HRC has nothing to do with the LGBT community -- only itself and select members of its (upper middle) class.

Until we face class issues we will have no political progress.

Michael Z. said...

Interesting news about Putin. I wonder if anybody brought up the treatment of gays in Russia.