Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gay Bloggers & Reporters Enabled
GLAAD's Dysfunction & Corruption

Even though a blogger based in DC helped launch the recent exposure of the tremendous incompetence and commercialization of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, it's my view that some gay bloggers and reporters have contributed to the lack of transparency and accountability at GLAAD.

For too many years, big bloggers such as Jeremy Hooper have studiously avoided even writing about the myriad problems at GLAAD, never mind calling for democratic engagement with the group. Jeremy wrote this week about the group's meltdown:

Around here, we try to avoid in-movement dramas as best we can. But honestly: This GLAAD thing has gotten so out of hand and potentially damaging to our movement, that it simply cannot be ignored anymore. ... This site takes no joy in covering this in-movement stuff. In fact, it makes me angry that I even have to write about this. ... Decisions not only for the GLAAD board rooms and executive offices, but rather for all of us who make up and foster the equality movement. The ones who own *all* of these organizations.

What he calls drama, I label decades of Gay Inc board isolation and alienation from the grassroots finally hitting the fan. What is damaging to our movement is how many bloggers refused to call GLAAD on the carpet and demand that they hold regular town hall forums. Unfortunately, Jeremy does not go beyond his hand-wringing to push for structural changes.

His distaste for serious accountability demands was strikingly similar to what former Advocate reporter Kerry Eleveld wrote in October, regarding her observations of Gay Inc:

I usually refrain from saying much about how the national LGBT groups acquit themselves because I generally find finger-pointing only serves as a counterproductive distraction from the most critical tasks at hand. But quite frankly, watching some of them at the federal level over the past two years has been a lesson in political malpractice that has left me ill and speechless more times than I care to count. [...]

Corruption and political malpractice are allowed to flourish when nice gays denigrate accountability efforts as finger-pointing. 

I think GLAAD leaders count on such relunctance to publicly criticize them or Gay Inc, and it was troubling to see GLAAD create an award for outstanding gay blog. None of the five bloggers nominated, as far as I know, and if I'm wrong about this lemme know and I'll amend, objected to the nominations or questioned how the whole award matter could jeopardize their independence and ability to watchdog the very group potentially giving them an award.

Showing a bit desperation for acknowledgement, Bil Browning of the nominated site gushed like a Hollywood starlet at being a nominee:

We've been honored to be nominated for a 2011 GLAAD Media Award in the Outstanding Blog category. You can check out the nominees for all the other categories to see a star-studded list of media personalities and properties. ...

Can you imagine other online news sites willing participating in a sham award effort from an advocacy group they should be covering with impartiality? I opined in March about being co-opted by GLAAD and cited the many instances of fawning coverage of the group's red carpet bull shit gala events.

The winner of GLAAD's dubious blogger award, Joe Jervis of the JoeMyGod site, is loathe to say the least critical thing about the group and uses, even after weeks of controversy, the GLAAD logo on his Twitter account and showcases an icon on his blog heralding being the recipient of the award. Ugh.

Over at Queerty, under the old regime, GLAAD regularly came in for much-needed constructive challenging, though I'm not recalling any instance of calls for open meetings. With Queerty now being run by a more GLAAD-friendly crew, the site is not pushing for democratic principles and transparency at the group. Queerty thinks the problem is isolated to just Troup Coronado, an AT&T lobbyist and now-former of the group's board:

Well Coronado just quit GLAAD and good riddance. But what about the other queer boards he’s on? ...

Well, the dearth of democracy at GLAAD and the other queers on staff and the board, and their still-stinking operation is of little concern to Queerty.

Want an example of a traditional print gay reporter and paper failing to serve as GLAAD watchdog? Check out what Ken Williams, editor of a publication in Southern California, said this week:

So far, there has been no official word from GLAAD on the matter. San Diego Gay & Lesbian News, which is a media partner with GLAAD, would like an explanation on this whole sorry mess. For a non-profit watchdog of the media, you would think transparency would be at the top of their list of things to do. ...

Sadly, media partner means SDGLN takes GLAAD material and runs it verbatim. Good luck trying to find a single word of criticism about their media partner at the paper's site.

Indirectly contributing to the overall lack of democracy and transparency are efforts like the invitation-only weekend organizing meeting in May 2009 that produced the Dallas Principles. The intent was to develop a list of inspiring reasons for everyone to get politically active, but a good number of folks instead questioned why the meeting was not open to all and said that such non-transparency was not inspiring because it followed the Gay Inc model of invitation-only elitism.

Among the attendees were Jarrett Barrios, who had not yet become head of GLAAD and Pam Spaulding, the influential lesbian of color based in North Carolina, who blogs at Pam's House Blend. The authors of the principles did not include a thing about democratizing Gay Inc.

Other recent examples of weekend organizing summits closed to public involvement or scrutiny include the launch meeting GETEqual held in Tennessee and the Haas Fund junket in San Francisco for select bloggers chosen by Bil Browning and Matt Foreman. Not a single public forum was held related to the October 2009 National Equality March in DC.

But I digress. Let's get back to GLAAD.  In December 2009, a few months after he was picked to lead the group, I wrote one of my usual skeptical pieces about his selection and the group and their political agenda, along with a post titled, "Who Owns GLAAD?" It didn't touch upon the corporatization of them and was about the gay foundations pouring millions into the GLAAD coffers. Someone has to broach the subject of accountability with them.

There were others who publicly challenged Barrios and GLAAD, including Matthew S. Bajko in his April 2010 Bay Area Reporter article about Barrios refusing to disclose his pay level, and former board co-chair Laurie Perper taking Barrios and GLAAD to task for many transgressions. Nothing would please me more then to say lots of bloggers and reporters picked up on the critical thinking by Bajko and Perper, but the words of Bajko and Perper didn't echo around the gay blogosphere.

GLAAD's dysfunction and incompetence flourished so long and to such a damaging degree, because of its board and executives over the years, and it's highly unlikely the group's devastating problems would have been solved even if large numbers of gay bloggers and reporters had performed consistent watchdogging.

But that lack of watchdogging can change, and at least Pam Spaulding has told me how she embraces calls for town halls and other methods of democratic engagement at Gay Inc. Check out part 2 of this essay for her comments.

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