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07/22/2010

The National Organization For [Marring 'culture war' reality]

by Jeremy Hooper

As the National Organization For Marriage's tour continues to pack in tens and tens of peeps at locales across this great land of the [::ahem::] free, a second narrative is starting to unfold among those who pay attention to NOM's antics. It's not a conversation about marriage or rights or equality. Not a discussion about what Maggie or Brian or Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse have or have not said about us. Not even a dialogue about the real families that they hurt ever more with every passing mile. Nor are we still talking most about the stock-photo-collection-on-wheels that they use to represent the heart of American families (as fantastically funny/sad as that might be).

Among observers, the more intriguing tale involves victimization. And not the LGBT community's own, which should be easy to see and perceive through even quasi-attentive eyes. Instead, the back-and-forth we in the movement are having at an increasing clip is all about the way NOM has, as a a decided strategy, become the number one purveyor of self-woe, turning their tour and their cause in general into the most pride-less "poor, pitiful me" parade in American politics.

It goes like this: NOM, in an unprovoked stroke of summer boredom, decides to rev up the RV for the sole purpose -- THE SOLE PURPOSE! -- of telling America that same-sex couples are a threat to all that is right and loving about relationships and their recognition. Americans, being ever-more-clued-in to how out-of-line NOM's mission truly is (even within conservative circles), largely stay away from the tour stops, despite NOM's considerable national press and online outreach efforts. So after a few stops, NOM leaders realize that sometimes FAIL, rather than pride, comes before the fall, and that they need a plan B if they are going to salvage this pre-autumn sideshow. Never having been strangers to the victimization game, it doesn't take the onetime storm-gatherers long to find their "Eureka!" moment: Instead of packing 'em in, they'll instead stack their usual deck of false sacrifices with an even longer list of false fatalities:

"The gays brought rainbow-colored umbrellas and stood silently -- can you believe how mean they are?"

"One person brought his dogs -- aren't those gay activists animals?!?"

"The other side outnumbered us! On public grounds! They wouldn't just let us stand there in an unchallenged fashion and condemn their lives and loves! The nerve!"

"Those mean bloggers had the audacity to show photos and videos and post audio, then commentate on all. Can you believe how cruelly they treat us?"

Then they take these messages wherever they can. Twitter. Facebook. The mainstream press. And they get folks from inside their own movement -- like Leslie Wolfgang, wife of Peter Wolfgang from the CT Family Institute, NOM prez Brian Brown's former employer -- to post horror stories that are only about 1/16th based in anything resembling reality. Or they create fake "breaking news" casts. Or they highlight what should be minor footnotes (at best) and turn them into national tragedies. Etc., etc. All to change the actuality of this homo-hostile tour, the same way they tried to make the pro-fairness side look like the "bigots" in the days post-Prop 8.

And this is not all coming from rhetorical, activist observation. This site has it on good authority that NOM, when approaching public strategy firms in a particular area, went in with one driving messaging request: (A) Make the pro-equality side look "radical" and out-of-touch with values. (B) Make their cause seem like the maligned, shut-out voice. We are told that this was the maine focus of their pitch to the potential contractors. So yea, it would seem that self-victimization *IS* their guiding strategy.

Because it's so wrong-headed, it should come across to you as aggravating. But because it's so damn clever, it should also come across as concerning!

So what do we do about it?

The easy reality that cannot be overstated enough: We need to get in front on this NOW! From any rooftop we can find, we must pronounce the reality: "The National Organization For Marriage wants you to think they are the victim. Don't believe it." We shouldn't just refer to them as anti-equality. We can't just take on the obvious rights slights. We must take on this, their parallel goal to change hearts and minds through a chain of false/overblown affronts. We have to connect the dots for the public. Paint the sympathy card as exactly what it is: A clever-but-devious act of political game playing. "Culture war" politicking at its most cynical.

And we must show videos like this fantastic one, shot by the NOM Tour Trackers at the Courage Campaign:


[NOM Tour Tracker]

NOM wants to silence us and to control the messaging so that they can alter reality. They seek an alternate reality where they are the preyed upon, despite being the ones who declared this "culture war."

We need not get overheated to push back. We don't have to scream back at their ridiculous claims, no matter how unrealistic they get. The response here is more like: "Uhm, sorry -- but no."

-When they accuse of us of being mean, we use an amalgamation of both facts and humanity (as opposed to pure emotion and rage) to destroy that talking point.

-When they say that we misrepresent their numbers, we point out that they are the only ones living inside their well-attended fantasy world.

-When they say that people in the future might see their cause as unjust, we ask them not whether or not that might be, but instead focus on the more compelling question of WHY they think that might happen.

-When Brian Brown tweets something silly, we get a simple "Uhm, sorry -- but no" retweet going around to our far more vast network of 140 character poets.

-When Dr. Morse spins a story on her own blog, we give a simple "you're incorrect and here's why"

If we do the work here, reclaiming the conversation and refusing -- REFUSING! -- to allow them to run away with it, we not only win this one battle: We also highlight just how deceptive the National Organization For Marriage is at the root. This is how we win.

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