UPDATE: I just found the email dated 3 days ago in which Malcolm Lazin, the executive director of the Equality Forum, says he agrees with Pam and me about our concerns regarding the panel. So how is it that I'm the bad guy when the conference's own executive director shares my concerns? Oh the tangled Web we weave...
I just received a statement issued by the organizers of next week's Philadelphia gay conference. The release is a response to my announcement that I will not be sitting on a panel with Jeff Gannon (nor will top lesbian blogger Pam Spaulding). The press release shows that the organization running the event, the Equality Forum, is now outright lying about the entire debacle.
Too bad I have our email correspondence and will be publishing excerpts below.
But before we get into that, why is it that gay organizations always find themselves attacking the people who try to help the community, and defending the homophobic plagiarizing whores? Just food for thought...
Here is the statement just issued by one of the conference organizers:
Statement from Equality Forum re: John AravosisThat's an outright lie, more later.
Equality Forum annually presents the largest annual national and international symposium on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights, among other national projects.
For Equality Forum 2006, our Board of Directors unanimously chose to focus on the growing influence of GLBT blogs on mainstream news media at the 9th annual National Media Panel.
One of the biggest stories last year related to this topic was the online investigation of a White House correspondent named Jeff Gannon. GLBT bloggers led by John Aravosis questioned his journalistic experience, identity and personal history. Subsequent mainstream media attention led to Gannon’s eviction from the White House.
This was not the only related story from the past year. GLBT bloggers rallied around a Tennessee teenager sent to an ex-gay camp by his parents; pressured Microsoft and Ford not to give in to threats of boycotts by religious conservatives; exposed the executions of two gay Iranian teenagers; and more. These stories were covered by mainstream journalists only after GLBT bloggers publicized these stories.
Equality Forum’s goal is to have balanced programming which explores unique opinions and engages its participants. Equality Forum invited both Jeff Gannon and John Aravosis to participate on the panel. Both knew that the other was invited.
The 9th annual National Media Panel was not intended to solely be a debate between Aravosis and Gannon. To broaden the scope of the panel, Equality Forum invited Pam Spaulding, an African-American lesbian blogger, and Anne Gordon, Managing Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, who could represent the mainstream media’s view of GLBT blogs. As in the prior eight National Media Panels, each panelist is given time at the beginning of the panel to discuss issues of their choosing. The panel concludes with audience questions to either a specific panelist, several panelists or the entire panel. The questions are not pre-screened.
Professor Katherine Sender was selected to moderate the panel. Professor Sender is a respected faculty member at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and has been a well-regarded past moderator of the National Media Panel.
After Professor Sender contacted the panelists about the program structure, Mr. Aravosis objected to the inclusion of other topics besides Jeff Gannon.
Equality Forum does not dictate the content of programming nor censor any panelist’s opinion. It is the responsibility of a moderator to remain objective and give each panelist the opportunity to express his or her views, and to include a range of important issues. Mr. Aravosis wanted to control the content of the overall panel. When no compromise could be achieved, Mr. Aravosis elected not to participate.Okay, let's get into this.
The annual Equality Forum presents programming with a diversity of opinions and viewpoints. The panels are designed to facilitate open and informative communication.
1. What happened to Pam Spaulding? Or don't the views of African-American lesbians matter to the Equality Forum? How did this suddenly become me versus Gannon when Pam, another invited panelist, who just happens to be the number one lesbian political blogger in the country, voiced the same concerns as me and has also pulled off the panel? Or is Pam just a girl, and a black one at that, so she doesn't count?
Or is it easier for Equality Forum to lie to the public and paint this as "Aravosis wanted to control the overall content of the panel," when in fact another prominent panelist raised the same concerns and has now backed out, proving this wasn't about "Aravosis" at all?
2. Did you notice how Equality Forum admits Jeff Gannon was added to the panel to "balance" me? How is Jeff Gannon, plagiarizing homophobic man-whore the conservative counterpart to me? If that isn't the Equality Forum trying to legitimate and give credibility to Gannon, I don't know what is. Not to mention, sane gay conservatives should be outraged that the Equality Forum thinks Jeff Gannon is your mascot.
3. The crux of the Equality Forum's argument is the following:
"Mr. Aravosis objected to the inclusion of other topics besides Jeff Gannon."Powerful stuff, if it were true.
In fact, the issue wasn't the inclusion of other topics besides Jeff Gannon, the issue was that the panel was ONLY going to focus on other non-GannonGate related topics. I'd have been happy to have other non-Gannon topics along with a GannonGate topic, and said so - see my emails below.
Here is what the Annenberg professor wanted us to discuss:
I would like us to focus on such overarching questions as: in what ways has blogging changed how we think about GLBT media? What does blogging add to public discussion of sexuality? What rights and responsibilities do bloggers have in writing about GLBT issues? How should we encourage the audience to think about blogging? In order to focus the conversation, please come prepared to talk for about five minutes about an example of blogging (yours or others) as it relates to GLBT civil rights/identity/media. The more concrete illustration of these relationships the better.Note what I wrote her back in response:
I have a serious problem with [Gannon] on the panel if his issue isn't one of the main points of discussion.I then again reiterated that "Gannon's story [needs to be] one of the major points of discussion on this panel."
And in yet another email I wrote to the conference organizer, I made clear that GannonGate should be ONE OF SEVERAL issues discussed at the panel, including non-GannonGate issue (though, honestly, it's not clear what Gannon's gay expertise is at all beyond his own scandal - the man doesn't even claim to be gay!):
I said I had no problem [Gannon] being added [to the panel] because it seemed rather obvious that his issue would be one of the major points we'd be discussing.Again, the issue here is whether GannonGate would be included at all as one of the main issues the panel would be discussing. No one ever said it had to be the ONLY issue discussed, and for the Equality Forum to suggest otherwise is an outright, and quite troubling, lie.
4. How am I the bad guy here if the Equality Forum's own executive director told me by email that he embraced Pam's and my concerns about the moderator refusing to add GannonGate as a topic?
(Katherine is the Annenberg school moderator.) So much for Aravosis trying to control the panel. The conference's own executive director said I was right.
The real question is why the Equality Forum believes that Jeff Gannon (aka James Guckert) is an expert on blogging when he's been running a blog of zero influence for only a year? What does Jeff Gannon even know of the gay community, when Gannon himself says he's not even gay? And how is Gannon, someone whose own writings (and I use the term "own writings" loosely) are terribly homophobic, in any way a valid voice on any panel at a gay conference? Had the Equality Forum wanted a gay conservative blogger, there are many - and even a few who aren't themselves homophobes. So why exactly did the Equality Forum pick Jeff Gannon for this panel, since his sexual exploits aren't the expertise they were looking for?
For a little more on Jeff Gannon's credentials for speaking at the conference as a real journalist, read this from Vanity Fair:
Among the prime offenders, he says, have been "radical gay activists," whom he accuses of "hyper-hysterical homosexual hypocrisy." Frustrated over the success of the amendments banning same-sex marriage, which has been blamed for John Kerry's loss, they were directing their rage at Gannon, he believes. "People like me are a threat to them because there are things that are more important to me than sexual issues," he says. "That's their whole world. It isn't my whole world. The people who flew those planes on 9/11 couldn't have cared less about the sexuality of any of the people they killed." Gannon refuses to discuss his own sexual orientation, though he quotes approvingly from a column by Ann Coulter, who wrote, "Unlike [former New York Times executive editor Howell] Raines, Rather and Jordan, Gannon has appeared on television and given a series of creditable interviews in his own defense, proving our gays are more macho than their straights."Yes, this is the guy the Equality Forum is busy defending as a real journalist, a real savant on gay issues, a real gay American.
"I fit no stereotype of what a conservative is," he says. "I'm sure that someone somewhere out there thinks I'm a self-loathing racist homophobe, but I'm none of these things." Some of his fiercest gay detractors had even come on to him, he claims, shedding their convictions "like a sweater on a hot day." He says he'd put the issue of gay marriage to a vote and that he would go with whatever the majority decided....
Aravosis insists that by aligning himself with homophobes, by giving anti-gay crusaders disproportionate space in his stories (in a piece on the legality of gay marriage, he devoted 3 paragraphs to proponents and 20 to those opposed) and by filling those stories with code (calling gays "homosexual," appending a "radical" or "practicing" before the term and an "agenda" or "activist" after) Gannon had ceded any right to his privacy. That Gannon went back and forth in his stories, Aravosis says, sometimes writing a bit more evenhandedly on gays, may show how conflicted he is about his sexuality, a point with which one of Gannon's friends agrees. "If I talk to Jeff about a lot of gay issues, he freaks—he can't go there," says the man. "Jeff never stood in front of the mirror, he doesn't think he's part of the gay community, and he doesn't think what he's done affects the gay community. The guy at the end of American Beauty—that's Jeff. He can't come to terms with who he is."