Monday, May 12, 2014

'Rainbow-Washing' Larry Kramer's Ire at the NY Times by Frank Bruni

We need a new term to describe the act of ignoring or omitting crucial queer history, so I'm coining the term 'rainbow-washing' for this purpose. The impetus for this stems from the April 27 column by out gay New York Times writer Frank Bruni, about legendary author and activist Larry Kramer and the approaching debut of HBO's version of "The Normal Heart".

(The March 25, 1987, photo and caption that ran in the Gray Lady about the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power's first action, when the paper only referred to gays as homosexuals.)

Bruni discusses gay marriage advances, the founding of ACT UP, the AIDS epidemic and other issues before writing this:

But any serious discussion of credit has to travel back many decades, to scores of pioneers who fought for the baseline recognition of gay and lesbian people that was a prerequisite for “I do.” It has to encompass Milk, Urvashi Vaid and, yes, Kramer, whose association chiefly with AIDS activism — with getting doctors, drug companies, politicians and gay men to wake the hell up — shortchanges his broader cause and full effect. 

He understood as well as anybody else did that for Americans in the 1980s to care about AIDS, they had to care about homosexuals, and to care about homosexuals, they had to realize how many they knew and loved. He appreciated the need for visibility, from which so much subsequent progress on so many other fronts flowed.

No mention of Larry's tireless and ceaseless attacks on the New York Times for various crimes against LGBT people and failure to accurately report on AIDS by Bruni. If all you knew about Larry's gay and AIDS activism was what Bruni says, you'd have a gaping hole in your knowledge. That visibility Bruni writes about? We sure as hell didn't get from the Times.

Maybe he should reread what former Times theater critic Frank Rich wrote when "The Normal Heart" premiered at the Public Theater, and be reminded of how pervasive Larry's anger was at the paper:

Mr. Kramer has few good words to say about Mayor Koch, various prominent medical organizations, The New York Times or, for that matter, most of the leadership of an unnamed organization apparently patterned after the Gay Men's Health Crisis.

Let's also recall what Douglas Crimp and Adam Rolston wrote in their 1990 book "AIDS Demo Graphics":

A book will one day be written about the New York Times's continuous failure to report the AIDS crisis accurately -- if at all. It will no doubt begin with the infamous comparison noticed by Larry Kramer:

• During the first 19 months of the AIDS epidemic (by the end of which time there had been 891 reported cases), the Times carried seven articles about it, none of them on the front page.

• During the three months of the Tylenol scare in 1982 (seven cases), the Times carried fifty-four articles about it, four of them on the front pag

To ignore all this and so much more about the decades of neglect and harm from either no coverage or biased reporting, Bruni does a disservice to the man he praises and the historical record which cannot be erased through rainbow-washing.

1 comment:

Artistic Empowerment said...

the American journalism culture and new reality in the LGBT community is about writing stuff, they are just as corrupted as the GMHC's of the world. Thank you Michael for staying on top of those writers and bringing it to our attention. Many blessings Wolf