Monday, June 28, 2010

SF Chron Pans Prop 8
Documentary as Propaganda

The senior film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle, is a throwback to the almost by-gone era of dailies employing serious reviewers to cover film, and he brings welcomed intelligence to his reviews.

On Friday, he panned a new documentary about the loss of gay marriage in California almost two years ago. Based on his review, the film sounds like it could have been produced by the gay leaders of Equality California/National Center for Lesbian Rights/Human Rights Campaign/Freedom to Marry/ No on 8, in that the problems of our side are omitted from the new movie.

"The Sorrow and the Pity," it ain't. LaSalle writes:

"8: The Mormon Proposition" contains some interesting information about the Mormon church's involvement in the campaign to pass Proposition 8 [...] But it's marred by loaded language and a propagandistic tone that undercuts rather than promotes its purposes.

Using words like "plot" and "conspiracy," the documentary uncovers internal memos that reveal how the Mormon church coordinated its efforts to influence the election in California. But instead of reading them as sinister, the documentary could study them to see how a committed, intelligent minority gets organized in a democracy.

A fatal flaw, or at least a crucial omission, of "The Mormon Proposition" is that no attention is given to the weakness of the anti-Prop. 8 campaign.

The pro-8 forces had infinite resources and volunteers. The anti-8 forces had George Takei (Mr. Sulu from the original "Star Trek") making a speech and a lot of distressed people holding handmade signs. [...]

Speaking of a committed, smart minority getting its act together to fight for equality in a democracy, anyone know when the same damn gay leaders who lost Prop 8, and are in charge of the 2012 repeal ballot prop in CA, will get around to a few town hall meetings and offering proof they are going to do the next battle differently and better than the last time?

Dustin Lance Black, Oscar winner for his "Milk" screenplay, narrates the documentary and is a former Mormon, and openly gay. Earlier this year he gave an interview to Randy Shulman of DC's Metro Weekly and had this to say regarding accountability efforts targeting Prop 8 leaders and Gay Inc orgs:

I want to support them. I want these other organizations to do well. I want HRC to succeed. I want Joe Solmonese to be the best leader we've got. I want Equality California to change and grow and do well. So I don't think it's wise to be attacking each other in any situation. We might get into some fights behind closed doors, but that's healthy. That's the way it should be.

Spoken like a true A-gay. Keep the rot that infects our movement behind closed doors, where the sunshine can't serve as a much-needed disinfectant. No, Dustin, we don't need a Kumbaya approach to the seriously inept gay leadership that is failing to produce passage of ENDA, repeal of DOMA and DADT, and wins at the ballot box.

Makes absolute sense to me that Black's attitude of not publicly criticizing Gay Inc executives carries over into the new movie. Reading his comment, I don't get the sense he'd lend his talents to a flick honestly assessing what went wrong from our side with Prop 8.

Our movement would be better served with documentaries that take cold, hard looks at our leadership lost gay marriage here, and by demanding transparency over our orgs and their decision-making processes.

And let us give thanks the politically-correct crew over at GLAAD hasn't cowed critics like LaSalle into serving as cheerleaders for weak documentaries.


AndrewW said...


I don't think our problem is primarily transparency, but rather accountability for tactics, methods and strategies. As a movement we repeatedly ignore honest, objective analysis of our methods. This is much more important than focusing on who are supposed "leaders" are or even "how they make decisions."

We continue to rely on "history" to prop up tactics that no longer accomplish anything. We continue to rely on tactics and strategies borrowed from "other" historical efforts. Because of this we waste an incredible amount of money, effort and time.

HRC has spent $550 million on "lobbying," yet they do not have a single example of a member of Congress "changing their mind or vote" about an LGBT issue. For 32 years they have been lobbying Congress and they haven't had any success. When do we acknowledge that lobbying doesn't work and STOP wasting those resources?

GLAAD had a very useful purpose in "policing the media and entertainment industry." The LGBT Media, including the bloggers, has assumed that role and does it very well. We no longer need GLAAD - unless they can create a new, valuable purpose. We are wasting millions on an organization that has outlived its purpose.

The NGLFT continues to waste resources "training activists." The task force has grown into an organization with little purpose and most would agree no results.

Finally, we get new organizations that do not represent the LGBT Community, but rather are hired guns for disgruntled Democrats. GetEQUAL is a business formed by Jonathan Lewis and Paul Yandura to "embarrass Democrats," (their words) and they pay self-defined "activists" $90,000 plus expenses to piss on our friends. Nobody questions whether their stunts are helpful and most have concluded they are in fact counterproductive.

All of this adds up to our biggest problem - we DO NOT have a unified strategy to achieve our full equality. We're not even willing to hold tactics and methods accountable. Instead, we have groups that fight for attention and contributions.

I agree with your calls for town hall meetings and "sunshine," but that must include the courage to hold not only people and organizations "fully accountable," but it must seek to determine how we should invest our collective resources - our time, our energy and our money.

None of the organizations I've mentioned above can answer the most important question for our community:

HOW and WHEN will we achieve our full equality?

Until we insist on answers to that question we will keep lobbying, marching, training, and heckling in circles. We won't make verifiable progress until we figure out how to WIN and we enroll our community in that strategy.

Anonymous said...

LaSalle is not a credible reviewer.

Throughout the 20+ years I lived in SF, reading both the Chronicle and the Examiner, when the Examiner still functioned, Mick consistently panned anything that did not support the heterosexist, pro-business, conservative dominationist worldview.

The general understanding in the City was that if Mick panned a movie, it was a must see, and if he liked it, stay home.

Mick's arguments that you quoted reveal his prejudice in the issue - for example taking exception to use of the word 'plot' - when that accurately describes what the leadership of the LDS did - plot to harm other people.

Keep in mind that when people try to take words and concepts off the table as LaSalle tries, they are admitting that those words communicate an accurate criticism that cannot be refuted, and so must be silenced instead.

Further, his argument re 'crucial omission' is fallacious, and a typical attempt by a bigot to redirect attention away from overt prejudice.

Don't let your appropriate frustration with gay inc blind you to LaSalle's long history of being a flag-waver for the conservative sexist worldview.