linked into a Washingtonian
article regarding Chris Johnson.
Mr. Johnson is a director of interactive communications for HRC. The HRC-sponsored blog that he oversees is called the HRC Back Story
. It is pretty much a diluted version of very established aggregator-type blogs with varying authors, Pam's House Blend is the most interesting in this style that I happen to visit. But there are many blogs of this style out there and they are great places to check out what is hot.
In any case, Chris Johnson was interviewed for the "Interesting" persons column in the Washingtonian magazine. Below is some excepts from the Q&A.
Q: The Los Angeles Times ran an editorial pointing out some of the weaknesses of the “No on Proposition 8” movement. How is HRC working to address some of these problems?
CJ: In all honesty, I wish that HRC had been allowed to take a greater role in the day-to-day operations of the “No on Prop 8” campaign. Without question, I think there should be a full accounting of the way that campaign was waged.
OK - this answer is really really really infuriating. HRC has to ask for permission or wait for an invitation? Am I actually to believe that this organization gave its money to No on 8 and DID NOT DEMAND A ROLE IN HOW THE MONEY WAS SPENT. You have got to be kidding me. You know HRC understands the fucking concept of how money can be used and controlled - hell they just published a buyer's guide for the holidays. If they can help gay consumers use their money to effect change - should we expect the same of HRC when they are deploying their cash????
This response is so passive (particularly for the interactive communications director) when you look at what Join the Impact managed to do in 10 days. Umm, Join the Impact had no money, no established network of donors, no friendly outlets to disperse their message - and they managed to get 1 million queers and allies out on the street. But Mr. Johnson's organization, the HRC, cannot seem to place demands on how their contributions were used in No on 8.
It is just insulting.
Q: How important do you think it is for the gay community to find a leader or spokesperson to whom people from both within and outside the movement can relate to?
CJ: I’ve never really thought about that question. I feel that people’s experiences and priorities within the LGBT community are so varied that it may be nearly impossible to find a single leader to corral such an unruly cast of characters. (Mary Poppins, where are you?).
You have got to be fucking joking. The director of interactive communications has never considered whether the gay community could possibly have a national leader/spokesperson? Do most queer people like being called unruly? So who is "ruly"? Straight people? Mr. Johnson is clearly being flip - but think about the underlying bias in his answer.
I, for one, do not appreciate being reduced to something that needs to be lassoed by an umbrella-toting ray of sunlight. Mary Poppins, I mean really. Seriously. You cannot say that you work for the HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN and spout this sort of gibberish. Gay rights are human rights. Trans right are human rights. etc etc etc.
I'd suggest that Chris talk with a professional about how to give a humorous answer. Jimbo
could probably offer some pearls of wisdom.
Q: Comparisons between the gay-rights movement and the civil-rights movement have been drawn, both at protests and in the press. Is gay really the new black, or just how worrisome is this comparison?
CJ: I’m not really into comparing battle scars to determine who has suffered the most in our country, but I can certainly identify with the sense of a despised minority using everything it has to fight for its place and respect in our society. I think that’s what makes talking about the LGBT equality movement using the 1960s civil-rights movement imagery so appealing. For many LGBT people who have perhaps always felt oppressed or struggled with feeling inferior, I think the civil-rights language speaks to that sense of unjustified loss deep within them. They want to convey their pain in the most powerful way possible.
I personally think the political danger lies in that for many black people, referring to the civil-rights movement conjures up centuries of brutal racial struggle stemming from their ancestors being brought from Africa in chains and enslaved, followed by years of Jim Crow laws and legal racial intimidation that restricted every aspect of one’s life, etc. It makes them immediately suspicious or even opposed to your argument—especially when they consider religious teachings against homosexuality. There are some black people who promote talking about the gay-rights movement in civil rights terms, but I suspect there are even more voters who are put off by the comparison.
And yes, I know some civil-rights leaders such as Congressman John Lewis, Julian Bond, the late Coretta Scott King, and Bayard Rustin endorsed the comparison, but I just don’t think their position on the issue resonates with the majority of black people today.
Oh now we get an answer with some sort of cerebral activity. How kind. Too bad the answer is saturated in identity politics bias.
CJ reminds all of you gay folks - you don't get to use identity politics like blacks do because you belong to a minority that is too "new" in terms of its recognition. And that Mr. Johnson has just informed you what many in Prop on 8 debate were wondering - what is the view in the black community about gay marriage. Now interestingly, it turns out that black voters in California were not in any way the deciding factor - and in fact is appears that a majority of blacks appeared to favor supporting the existing law to allow gay marriage based upon polling. So are black folks in California different from the ominous silent majority he mentions?? Just a question.
NOTE: This article appeared to be published in the Washingtonian on Dec. 4th so his answer is not due to a publication date.
It actually bothers me quite a bit to see the HRC playing slice and dice with identity politics. No one wins when we do this - I mean do blacks get the trump card or Jews? Or average Russians during the Stalin years? Or average Chinese under Mao? Aborigines in Australia? Native Americans? And so on.
CJ starts with the smart answer - there is no need to compare battle scars. But then he goes and does just that. The answer, if anyone at HRC was paying attention to the supposed message they are distributing, should be thus: All minorities need protection from the majority and we stand ready to assist in this fight so all are given the respect that a human life deserves.
No need for images of chains and brutality of slave holders. But Chris couldn't stomach the idea that gay rights and black rights are human rights. He has to remind all of us not to even try that "Gay is the new black" shit. And he'll remind us of the silent black majority of the voting block that goes to church. Its a ATL sort of answer. And you can tell that CJ clearly believes that gay rights sit on a lower stratum of the civil rights totem pole than black rights. Very very sad to see this coming from a director in the HRC. Bias is bias. When CJ supports the mentality that black rights trump gay rights - how can we have equality. I'd suggest the HRC vet this kid's communications and send him to Camp Equality for a refresher course about how to stay on message.
Q: How do you respond to Andrew Sullivan's criticism accusing HRC of not taking enough of a role during the Prop 8 campaign? Do you agree with the idea that the organization is in need of reform?
I honestly don’t read or pay much attention to that guy. The only time I think about him is when his name pops up in my “Human Rights Campaign” Google alert—and that usually means he’s in a tizzy about something. I’d agree that there are always things HRC could do better, but how a group can send staff, mobilize volunteers, and give millions of dollars to a campaign and be considered “passive” just really bakes my noodle. I guess there are a few folks out there who are entertained by him grinding his axe, but I don’t think he really speaks to, or for, people like me.
Now this is rich. Just two seconds ago CJ was complaining that the HRC did not get enough input to be effective in No on 8. Now CJ is protraying HRC in some sort of dramatic light of leaving no stone unturned in the fight for No on 8.
Now many folks, including myself, have at least one beef with Andrew Sullivan. But I would NEVER think of reducing him to "entertainment" - particularly from some 30 year old kid who clearly thinks very highly of his position. I'd just throw in a reality check here - how many hits does Andrew get and how many hits does CJ get. And let's look at the resume - Andrew has published how many books? He was editor of the New Republic for how long? How often is he quoted in the mainstream media?
And CJ, where are you books, editorships, links to the mainstream (crickets chirp).
I would also suspect that the interactive communications director for HRC to look past Andrew's presentation and think about the content of what he (and many like him) are saying. Andrew's comments on HRC have alot of resonance in the blogosphere (this is not to say that he speaks for the whole community - rather that his posts often are reflections or direct contributions of ideas ripping about the gay activist/political/information aggregator blogs). I would expect for Chris Johnson to think of Andrew (and he has a really big straight liberal audience) as a bellwether.
A bellwether is any entity in a given arena that serves to create or influence trends or to presage future happenings.
If I were Chris, I would stop thinking of Andrew as the problem and start thinking of Andrew as part of the solution. HRC is taking tons of licks right now in the blogosphere. The actual damage really comes from the protests re: No on 8. The popular response startled everyone - but it is clear that there is something of a Stonewall 2.0 brewing out there. HRC, always the target for being monolithic and money hungry, actually appears to have become irrelevant - the relevance of the organization ended on November 15,2008. Join the Impact better win the HRC visibility award for showing why HRC when from ineffective to irrelevant in the month of November. Wouldn't that be great!
The role of interactive communications should be something more than gathering content and reposting it - no, this person's role should be to see what and where HRC can improve its role and efficacy through the collective voices on the web. It does not mean that each and every comment should be acted upon or even considered - but this person should act as an editor of the web for the HRC and provide grass-roots input. HRC had a wonderful chance to help out Join the Impact. It could have boomeranged itself back into relevancy by collaborating with Join the Impact. Instead the HRC ignored it. It would rather provide seaweed wraps at spa nights to console its members about the No on 8 loss.
Many people in the blogosphere, including Andrew Sullivan, have gone from complaining about HRC as an organiztion to basically discussing as if it were already dead. If you think of Andrew as a potential bellwether - the repeated HRC obits that happened after Nov 15 protest should scare the shit out of HRC. But as the blogosphere continually has shown - the navel gazers and Congressional asskissers at the HRC hive on Rhode Island Ave only do top-down.
Hint to HRC: The hard right did bottom up in the 80s and they dominated the Congress in the 90s with the Contract with America starting in 1994 and cornering Clinton into his "triangulation" strategy. Obama did ground up in Iowa caucuses and won decisively - remember HIllary was actually THIRD in Iowa. Howard Dean started the 50 state strategy as head of the DNC using a bottom up approach to lay the groundwork for victory in 2008. And of course Join the Impact.
Grass roots is where it is at - in terms of money, viralcy of information distribution, and ability to reach those of us out in the hinterlands.
I'm also going to use a direct quote from CJ:
I can only hope that the setback in California will inspire real, sustained efforts to earnestly understand the complex ways that race, religion, and sexuality intersect in the struggle for equal rights. We need to go back to the drawing board on how we talk about these things. There’s a lot of mutual distrust to overcome.
Does this "mutual distrust" really exist? A million people went to the streets and proteste on November 15thd. We have a renewed sense of pride as a gay community that binds us together - this is the Stonewall 2.0. Did CJ read all the blogs on Nov 15, 16th and 17th showing all the marches and protests. Gay flags everywhere. Signs promoting equality carried by gays and straights. There is a path forward like there never has been before. The gays are taking on the hate of the Mormons and Catholics and showing their hypocrisy. We are turning the corner. Talk of mutual distrust misses the entire point of Stonewall 2.0.
Boycott HRC. Until their coffers run dry - they will not change.