Dude, be prepared. Be that Boy Scout they won't let you be anymore.
May 9, 2005 1:15 PM   Subscribe

The Uses of Canaries--and what canaries need to do --...Why go to all that trouble when we have reduced the homosexual, himself, to nothing more than a body part? Remove the homo -- he's just a diseased body part, after all -- and the problem is solved. Of course there will always be those so pathologically sex-panicked that they have to rely on their Think Pieces to get their pornography fix. Not worth worrying about, generally. But when United States Senators start in with the Depravity Fillip, and the DF starts showing up in the campaign literature of various groups... well, you want to keep your eye on that sort of thing. You maybe want to start thinking about that famous canary in the mine-shaft. ...
posted by amberglow (51 comments total)

 
That article was an example of a good point being buried under a mountain of snark and writing that's just way too cute for it's own good.
posted by jonmc at 1:21 PM on May 9, 2005


Well, "get ready to run" doesn't really explain, does it? And concentrating on the guy's style at the expense of the message is silly, no? Especially considering what the message is.
posted by amberglow at 1:26 PM on May 9, 2005


Eh. Not a particularly new or deep analysis. We have to keep an eye on dehumanizing rhetoric and the ways it might be used to drum up support from the masses for rounding up the gays. Got it.
posted by mediareport at 1:30 PM on May 9, 2005


And concentrating on the guy's style at the expense of the message is silly, no?

Not if you're hoping to reach as many people as possible with that message. Part of political speech is effective communication, and IMHO, this peice didn't do a very good job of it. YMMV.

That's been part and parcel of much of my criticism of a lot of activist speech: that if they want to preach to anyone besides the choir, they're going to have to adjust their style (not their policies). If some people think that's somehow intolerable, then perhaps they're more attached to style than substance.

Look, there's a lady outside the Astor Place subway stop, who holds up a sign saying "Animal Rights" and bellows "ANIMAL RIGHTS! SIGN THE PETITION!" over and over. There are other animal rights activists, who will offer you pamphlets and answer questions calmly and rationally. Which are working more effectively for their cause.

And truth be told, this guy isn't even the worst offender. He's not confrontational or obnoxious, just a little alarmist and overly smartass. And I say this as somebody who already knows where he stands on this issue. Imaginethe effect on someone undecided or looking to know more. That's all I'm asking people to consider.
posted by jonmc at 1:38 PM on May 9, 2005


Canary in a cage... That's a good analogy. I was still stuck on dominoes....
posted by Jon-o at 1:42 PM on May 9, 2005


It's a thought-provoking piece, though I disagree with the idea of stashing money overseas. I won't give up on America that easily.

As far as the stylishness and wit of the prose goes, bring it on. There's too much bland, generic writing out there these days.
posted by digaman at 1:45 PM on May 9, 2005


As far as the stylishness and wit of the prose goes, bring it on. There's too much bland, generic writing out there these days.

At the expense of effective persuasiveness?
posted by jonmc at 1:53 PM on May 9, 2005


That's been part and parcel of much of my criticism of a lot of activist speech: that if they want to preach to anyone besides the choir, they're going to have to adjust their style (not their policies). If some people think that's somehow intolerable, then perhaps they're more attached to style than substance.

Jon, how do you change your style without changing the message, or watering it down? At some point, the style is as much a part of the message.
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:04 PM on May 9, 2005


I, too am a bit put off by the snark, but think it is a good piece all the same.
posted by jmgorman at 2:09 PM on May 9, 2005


What digaman said.

I talk about this s--t all the time (although I'm more of a cardinal than a canary ;)) and what's effective is making people laugh, whether it's silly prose styles, gallows humor, or absurd similes.

Snark can actually get through to people these days. Consider the terrifying earnestness of the Christian Fascists. Let's do as much as possible to stand apart from that.
posted by By The Grace of God at 2:11 PM on May 9, 2005


Ideas like Corpuscle's are seeming increasingly plausible to me. Yeah, it's a continuum, and no, we're not living out The Handmaid's Tale yet. But my spidey senses are tingling, and not in a good way.
posted by everichon at 2:14 PM on May 9, 2005


Jon, how do you change your style without changing the message, or watering it down?

Call me crazy, but politics is at least partly a form of salesmanship. And a smart salesman dosen't change the product for every client just the pitch.

Yes, it would be nice if everyone chose their political position based on the cold hard facts, but the world dosen't work that way. And, yes I believe that the message of equal rights for gays & lesbians can be put across without being so confrontational or obnoxious as to alienate potential allies. To be more attached to fire-breathing rhetoric than to actually getting things across is egocentric and detrimental. That's all I'm saying.


Consider the terrifying earnestness of the Christian Fascists


Case in point: there's a large sum of people who will tune you out the minute they hear "Christian Fascists." The steretype of liberals and leftists that I encounter most often is not the namby-pampy one you'd imagine, but of the fire-breathing radical nut. And the true "christian fascists," arent going to be persuaded anyway, but they are merely a small, albeit loud, minority of the population. The rest of the population can be reached, if they are approached correctly, by appealing to their best selves.

Maybe, I'm too idealistic or something, but that's how I see this. And like I said, this guy wasn't a particularly egregious offender, he was just way too cute and arch to connect. He seemed to be showing off too much for my taste.

*sorry for the delay in replying but one of my favorite episodes of television ever was on.
posted by jonmc at 2:47 PM on May 9, 2005


That article was an example of a good point..

no, that article was an example of ridiculous hyperbole.

americans may not be rushing to embrace gay marriage, but the country is far closer to the acceptance of this than it is to "rounding up gays like German jews."

and why the parallel to german jews when the nazis were rounding up german homosexuals with the same fervor as german jews, gypsies, jehovah witnesses, the mentally and physically disabled, political dissidents, poles and other slavs?
posted by three blind mice at 2:59 PM on May 9, 2005


...and why the parallel to german jews when the nazis were rounding up german homosexuals with the same fervor as german jews, gypsies, ...
because most people still don't know about the gay people, and gypsies and disabled?

Case in point: there's a large sum of people who will tune you out the minute they hear "Christian Fascists."

This message isn't directed at them. This message is clearly directed at ... a gay person living in America at the beginning of the twenty-first century... and their friends, who we hope would not ignore the message for the style in which it's presented, which you persist in doing, sadly.
posted by amberglow at 3:31 PM on May 9, 2005


Consider the terrifying earnestness of the Christian Fascists.

Some gays just happen to be Christians too, and a little canary told me that they've had just about enough of people who claim to be on their side using their religion as a punching bag.
posted by kjh at 3:35 PM on May 9, 2005


I guess there must have been a few Jewish Nazis, as well.
posted by bashos_frog at 3:40 PM on May 9, 2005


amberglow : " because most people still don't know about the gay people, and gypsies and disabled?"

Most homosexuals don't know that? (Honest surprise)
posted by Bugbread at 3:49 PM on May 9, 2005


And this just in...all canaries take note:

Brain responses differ in gay, straight men
"The brains of homosexual men respond more like those of women when reacting to a chemical derived from the male sex hormone, new evidence of physical differences related to sexual orientation. The finding, published in Tuesday’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows differences in physiological reaction to sex hormones." [Associated Press | May 09, 2005]
posted by ericb at 3:52 PM on May 9, 2005


Sorry, I couldn't help it - Clarence the Gay Canary.
posted by ericb at 3:57 PM on May 9, 2005


From ericb's 2nd link:

In the Swedish study, when sniffing a chemical from testosterone, the male hormone, portions of the brains involved in sexual activity were activated in gay men and straight women, but not in straight men, the researchers found.

When they sniffed smells like cedar or lavender, all of the subjects brains reacted only in the olfactory regions that handles smells.


God, I just love studies like this. Wonder what the sample size was, and how large the differences in "activated" portions of the brains were. I've worked in labs where electrodes were inserted into brains to search for differences in activity, and the things that were considered significant by the primary researcher often struck me as, well, a bit of a stretch. And I love this bit from "an expert on brain anatomy and sexual orientation":

The result clearly shows a biological involvement in sexual orientation

Yeah, so does my hard dick. Jesus, this research is funny sometimes. And the news stories about it are even worse.
posted by mediareport at 4:03 PM on May 9, 2005


because most people still don't know about the gay people, and gypsies and disabled?

i'm curious, amberglow, why do you think that is so? it is hardly a secret. holocaust museums, like the one at dachau, or at the british imperial war museum here in london, faithfully and accurately explain this.
posted by three blind mice at 4:13 PM on May 9, 2005


I don't know--because most people don't think about the Holocaust that much? because many people see it as a "Jewish thing"? because rampant Godwinizing on the net does nothing to educate people? because even now people don't see it as as big a calamity than the attempted extinction of an entire race? The museum in DC certainly doesn't highlight it.
posted by amberglow at 4:16 PM on May 9, 2005


But, amberglow (and this is a straight, unladen, normal question), aren't homosexuals more aware of the homosexual aspects of the holocaust?
posted by Bugbread at 4:18 PM on May 9, 2005


Having just read the cover article in Harpers this month (article not available on site, unfortunately, but I think it's worth buying the magazine for), I think the appellation "Christian Fascists" is perfectly appropriate. From the article:

I can't help but recall the words of my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, Dr. James Luther Adams, who told us that when were were his age, and he was then close to eighty, we would all be fighting the "Christian Fascists".

He gave us that warning twenty-five years ago, when Pat Robertson and other prominent evangelists began speaking of a new political religion that would direct its efforts at taking control of all major American institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government, so as to transform the United States into a global Christian empire. At he time, it was hard to take such fantastic rhetoric seriously. But fascism, Adams warned, would not return wearing swastikas and brown shirts. Its ideological inheritors would cloak themselves in the language of the Bible; the would come carrying the cross and the Pledge of Allegiance. [...]

[In the 1930s] as now, Adams said, too many liberals failed to understand the power and allure of evil, and when the radical Christians came, these people would undoubtedly play by the old, polite rules of democracy long after those in power had begun to dismantle the democratic state. Adams had watched German academics fall silent or conform. He knew how desperately people want to believe the comfortable lies told by totalitarian movements, how easily those lies lull moderates into passivity.

Adams told us to watch closely the Christian right's persecution of homosexuals and lesbians. Hitler, he reminded us, promised to restore moral values not long after he took power in 1933, then imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations and publications. Then came raids on places where homosexuals gathered, culminating on May 6, 1933, with the ransacking of the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. Twelve thousand volumes from the institute's library were tossed into a public fire. Homosexuals and lesbians, Adams said, would be the first "deviants" singled out by the Christian right. We would be the next.

posted by jokeefe at 4:18 PM on May 9, 2005


But, amberglow (and this is a straight, unladen, normal question), aren't homosexuals more aware of the homosexual aspects of the holocaust?
Some of us are, but some not at all. It's not like we learn much about it in school.

And what jokeefe quoted. Most people don't know about how we were first then, and will be first now.
posted by amberglow at 4:26 PM on May 9, 2005


Thanks.
posted by Bugbread at 4:28 PM on May 9, 2005


We weren't taught anything about persecution of gay people or the disabled at all when discussing the Holocaust/WW2.
posted by amberglow at 4:32 PM on May 9, 2005


This message isn't directed at them. This message is clearly directed at ... a gay person living in America at the beginning of the twenty-first century... and their friends, who we hope would not ignore the message for the style in which it's presented, which you persist in doing, sadly.

The central problem with that idea is that we live in a media saturated age where the idea of an "intended audience," no longer exists. It's impossible to keep something "in the family," whether you like it or not. You don't get to dictate who hears what, so people should keep the effects of what they say in mind. People stumble across stuff that was not "meant," for them. And, I might add the opposition will stumble across it as well, and use it against you.

It may not be what you want to hear, but that's what I have to say.
posted by jonmc at 4:35 PM on May 9, 2005


amberglow : " We weren't taught anything about persecution of gay people or the disabled at all when discussing the Holocaust/WW2."

If I may, how old are you, and did you go to school in New York?

I always find things like this a bit surprising. We learned about the persecution of Jews, homosexuals, and gypsies when I went to school...in Texas. Didn't hear about the disabled until a bit later.
posted by Bugbread at 4:43 PM on May 9, 2005


A good article. It's not the best written piece in the world, and the canary analogy didn't start to kick in until my internet-speed concentration span had already started to diminish, but there are some good points well made.

I think the "be prepared" statement is good. If you're going on the good will of people and some preconcieved notion of fairness, then if they do decide to come for you it'll be too late. The conclusion is too near a survivalist extreme for my liking (You need to build a bunker, buy a gun and some baked beans before it's too late) but a small amount of sensible precaution is a good thing.

The currently anti-homosexual stance of American main stream politics would terrify me if I lived over there.

So yes. Move some of your American wealth into other countries and make links with people who live there.

Of course, if any of this does happen, I've every belief that amberglow is going to be the guy with the shopping bags stood out in front of the the tanks.

On a less serious note: Anyone wanting to store huge amounts of money are welcome to send that money to me. I promise I'll look after it.
posted by seanyboy at 4:58 PM on May 9, 2005


Of course, if any of this does happen, I've every belief that amberglow is going to be the guy with the shopping bags stood out in front of the the tanks.

And I'll be standing right next to him, holding a 40 in a paper bag, and he knows it, but I'm more concerned with what we can do to prevent that day from ever coming.
posted by jonmc at 5:04 PM on May 9, 2005


Hell, I'm not even gay, just a run of the mill agnostic liberal Canuck, and I remember thinking "If I lived in the states, I'd buy a gun" a couple years ago. Of course this was after reading David Neiwert's weblog for a long while.

He has a wonderful pair of articles on the extremist right, Rush, Newspeak and Fascism and The Rise of Pseudo Fascism. Now you can say he's being alarmist but I haven't seen anything that suggests to me that his analysis is incorrect.

It may all come to nothing sure. If it does though, I personally wouldn't want to deal with the Freeper Freikorps unarmed.
posted by Grimgrin at 5:17 PM on May 9, 2005


I always find things like this a bit surprising. We learned about the persecution of Jews, homosexuals, and gypsies when I went to school...in Texas. Didn't hear about the disabled until a bit later.

Didn't learn about gays until second year of college. Knew about the gypsies and mentally disabled in high school. Interesting what they decide to teach in high schools. I guess gays don't count.
posted by AlexReynolds at 5:18 PM on May 9, 2005


jonmc: I don't believe this article was anywhere near the radical left or the overtly anti-right/religious/straight of the more radical members of the pro-homosexuality movement. If it was though, I'd question your later points about being extremist.

One of the ways that the church and the right can successfully move people towards a more extreme position is by allowing extremely far-right people to be heard. Most people will take an centrist position within whatever culture they live in. If you manage to move the centre slowly enough, (by allowing extremists) you move the opinions of everyone towards them.

Of course, the trick to doing this is to (a) do it so slowly that people don't notice and (b) to dissasociate the centre from the more radical elements.

"Of course," they'll say, "we don't condone the people who murder abortionists, we only want to put them in prison"

I don't think it's proven either way as to what the effect of radical elements on majority opinion is, but my money's with the frog boiling slow move away from the current normality.
posted by seanyboy at 5:27 PM on May 9, 2005


bugbread: 40, and yes--NY (we didn't even learn about Vietnam when i was in school). College--nothing. I think they're better about it nowadays.

Of course, if any of this does happen, I've every belief that amberglow is going to be the guy with the shopping bags stood out in front of the the tanks.
You know what? I don't think i will be. It won't be tanks anyway--it'll just be the current chipping away multiplied. And i'm not convinced--at all--of any "I got your back" from most straight people. I do hope, tho, for an underground railroad or something for those of us without lots of money or resources. (and jon, it's not about us being non-offensive or having the wrong "style" or because we gave them something to use against us.)
posted by amberglow at 5:27 PM on May 9, 2005


seanyboy: the stuff about mainstreaming extreme people is already happening--a lot.
posted by amberglow at 5:30 PM on May 9, 2005


And i'm not convinced--at all--of any "I got your back" from most straight people.

Well, you'll have to wait till the time comes (and I hope it never does) but I can assure you that I've taken serious shit from other straight people for being queer-positive.

(and jon, it's not about us being non-offensive or having the wrong "style" or because we gave them something to use against us.)

I didn't say it was. All I'm saying is that the right approach can do a lot of good in this regard. One thing I've learned about most people I meet (and if you'll allow me a small vanity, I try to talk to, and listen to as wide a variety of people as possible) is that people have a limited tolerance for fanatics of any stripe, and that the gay community would be wise to capitalize on that to win hearts and minds. When I encounter a casual homophobe (as opposed to someone who makes it their calling, they're two different creatures, I think you'll agree), I usually respond with "what the hell do you care?" You'd be surprised how effective it is. Take it with however many grains of salt you wish.
posted by jonmc at 5:38 PM on May 9, 2005


And i'm not convinced--at all--of any "I got your back" from most straight people.
That's shudderingly and terrifyingly true. Unfortunately.
I don't know what I'd do. I know what I'd want to do. I can fantasise about what I'd do also. I can try and convince myself that I'd do the right thing for the right reasons and the consequences to myself would be less important than the greater good. But, I don't know what I would do.
Which sucks ass - bigtime.
posted by seanyboy at 5:40 PM on May 9, 2005


seanyboy, I don't know if this'll reassure you or not, but let me relate a personal anecdote here. When I was a 19-year-old college student, I had adopted a laiseez-faire attitude about sexuality in many ways, like most of my peers, but it hadn't really been tested.

My school had two campuses, one in Manhattan, one in the Bronx. I lived in Manhattan, my best freind at the time lived in the Bronx. He also had a flamboyantly gay roommate named Jimmy (who was also a really nice guy). One night I took the train uptown to see my freind and arrived early. When I got to his dorm, I was early and the door was locked, so I sat down on the hall floor next to it. Over the next 30 minutes, lots of people passed by. Some gave me quizzical looks, others glared. One guy leading apack of frat-ish looking types yelled "Hey, Jimmy, you fucking faggot!" and glared at me sitting there and kept walking. So, I've had my little taste of what it's like to be on the recieving end of that hatred. And that night I decided what side I was on.

Yeah, I'm a straight, white, middle-class male, so I can't feel it as viscerally as you might, but make no mistake about where I stand, and I think that can help you.
posted by jonmc at 5:48 PM on May 9, 2005


It won't be tanks anyway--it'll just be the current chipping away multiplied.

That's exactly it, amberglow.

When I heard about the "Real ID" today, my first thought was "When will they have us sew the yellow (pink) stars on our coats?" Perhaps this time, they will be virtual stars.
posted by tizzie at 6:33 PM on May 9, 2005


That's a downright scary thought, tizzie.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:11 PM on May 9, 2005


The Constitution Party of America: the next source for Rove's brownshirts.
posted by AlexReynolds at 7:35 PM on May 9, 2005


AlexReynolds writes "I guess gays don't count."

Apparently, they do in Houston. We must be more progressive than people think.

amberglow writes "we didn't even learn about Vietnam when i was in school"

Wow.
posted by Bugbread at 7:38 PM on May 9, 2005


I was in 5th grade when Vietnam ended, & graduated HS in 82. Most of these citations about teaching it in schools are from after that.
posted by amberglow at 7:47 PM on May 9, 2005


this explains that it's still not taught in a lot of schools, even today
posted by amberglow at 7:54 PM on May 9, 2005


Apparently, they do in Houston. We must be more progressive than people think.

I went to elementary and middle school outside Fort Worth. Your state's not that progressive, dear, sorry.
posted by AlexReynolds at 7:56 PM on May 9, 2005


Well, it does give a whole new meaning to the question "Is the rectum a grave?" doesn't it?

I don't think the advice is that over the top. His worries might be misplaced--they're probably are misplaced--but the advice is sound. Be prepared. That's all he's saying.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:35 PM on May 9, 2005


Along with gay and women's rights, so too shall go the rest.

We either stand for what is right, decent, humane and constitutionally legal or we get swept down the frozen slope with no hopes of climbing back up again. This is it, if you like where you are.
posted by crasspastor at 3:09 AM on May 10, 2005


AlexReynolds : " I went to elementary and middle school outside Fort Worth. Your state's not that progressive, dear, sorry."

Houston's a state?
posted by Bugbread at 5:51 AM on May 10, 2005


And, besides which, whoever mentioned elementary or middle school?
posted by Bugbread at 6:20 AM on May 10, 2005


The religious crusade against gays has been building for 30 years. Now the movement is reaching truly biblical proportions
posted by amberglow at 3:40 PM on May 10, 2005


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