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11/05/2011

Days and Slights: This Week in NOM (Oct. 30 - Nov. 5)

by Jeremy Hooper

Nomexposed-12

Dear NOM Watcher,

I've never seen one episode of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians." The only reason why I know anything about the family is because the "Today" show's current incarnation has some sort of obsession with the E! Network mainstays.  While Ann Curry was Meredith Vieria's announced replacement, I seriously question if this one reality family didn't get the show's top billing instead. But I digress.

This week it was announced that the most famous of the crew, Kim, was divorcing after seventy-two days. Which is sad, anecdotally. I'm a romantic through and through, and I have nothing but love for love. So even if I did hold some wishes of Schadenfreude towards the Kardashians (which I don't), it wouldn't be directed at any member's relationship breakdown. On the contrary, in fact.

But that being said: Kim's reality, in life, is that she has sold her personal story for fame and profit. That's not a criticism, just an observation. She makes money for existing, with any offshoot brands coming by way of little more than good genes and determination.

Likewise, Kim's reality on TV is that of a person who tells her personal story for the same fame, profit, and red carpet invites. And most recently, hers is story that included a splashy, two-part wedding that was sold to viewers as a fairy tale. Literally: That was the name of the TV special pertaining to the nuptials, "Kim's Fairytale Wedding."

But now, after only seventy-two days, the fairytale is over.  With our culture being what it is, this means that Kim, someone who has millions upon millions more eyeballs than any politico could ever hope to have, is now part of a national conversation about marriage and what it means to this generation. And as someone who has aired it all as a job, the unbelievably quick divorce is also now the story.  The biggest part, in fact.

I'm not going to suggest that Kim (apparently a marriage equality supporter, btw) needs to answer to any of it in any one, expected way. It's her life, her love, her marriage, and now her divorce. She and her husband are human beings, first and foremost, and their private dealings should come before the public commodity.  Well before, in fact.

However, when it comes to that public commodity that the Kardashians have chosen, on their own volition, to sell to us?  Well that's a different issue entirely.  That aspect will surely play out for weeks and months to come on TV and in the entertainment press (or as it's quickly becoming here in America: the press).  And for that reason, I do think it should now become the "sanctity of marriage" crowd's number one source of public debate. Maggie Gallagher should be duty-bound to explain to us why, exactly, imagery of happy gay couples getting married is more of threat to children's views of this institution than is something like this current media obsession. And I don't mean in the contrived, offensive, gay-marriage-knocking way that Maggie has chosen to address it: I mean in a real way that makes sense to anyone outside of her own choir. I want to know -- in a frank, conversational way -- how, if there is a culture that contains within it a spectrum of "traditional marriage sanctity," this worldwide phenomenon known as Kardashian doesn't logically rank as a 10 on the far-right's chart of concern?  And if doesn't, then why not?

Personally, I don't see *ANY* of it is a "threat," as I would hope kids are learning love and commitment values based more on their own insightful life experiences, informed guidance, and nurturing hearts than on anyone else's public displays. But Maggie and her fellows do think ours is a world with a fragile marriage culture, where threats are all around us. So since this week, I saw one celebrity blog run a portrait of David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris and their adorable family but saw a gagillion more than that run photos of Kim and her marital strife, I want to know how any of the self-appointed "marriage protectors" can, in good conscience, say that the gays are the ones who are currently futzing with the social conservatives agreed-upon paradigm (as contrived as it may be).


And with that out of the way, now onto this week's episode of "Keeping up with the Wedding-Dashers"...


Trick or treat, move your feet, give me someone's equality to beat

NOM started off the week on a thematic note. Tied in with Monday's costumed vibe, the organization that so regularly disguises its own Screen Shot 2011-11-04 At 11.57.03 Amdished harms behind various kinds of masks launched a Halloween fundraising drive built around its work to oust the New York Senate Republicans who voted for marriage equality. Calling 'Turncoat Republican Senator" the "scariest costume I've ever seen," president Brian Brown asked folks to "give candy to NOM" in the form of cash donations.

No word on whether their campaign managed to collect more Paydays than Snickers.  But either way, I personally can't wait for NOM's inevitable Thanksgiving effort, where I predict the pro-equality lawmakers will be shunned for declaring that all present at their table deserve an equal slice of the apple pie.


As a gay man taught us: "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word"

The far and away funniest NOM development this week came in reaction to the big focus of last week. Namely: The controversy over NOM's choice to Photoshop a Barack Obama campaign rally pic into one of their own collages, in obvious hope of fooling people into believingNOM-fake-obama NOM crowds are historically large. Brian Brown diminished/responded in the most disingenuous way one can imagine.

In normal world, the person who was caught redhanded would apologize for the obviously unethical tactic, vow to engage in better practices in the future, and move on to other things. But in NOM's world of consistent responsibility shirking, it was only the last part. President Brian Brown did in fact ask us all to move on from what he called a "distraction," but there wasn't one iota of remorse or credible explanation. He simply said the Obama photos were a "symbol" and that NOM merely utilized a "common use photo" as a shorthand way to represent their own supporters.  In a word: He added great insult to the prior injury!

Bottom line: President Barack Obama is someone who stands against NOM's agenda in most every way, something that has made him the focus of much NOM scrutiny. There is absolutely no excuse for NOM's choice to take the President's legendary crowds and use them to represent the NOM cause -- a cause that he and a majority of his supporters resist!

NOM's practice would've been unethical even if they had noted the source, and is especially so in light of the sneaky way they did it.  But whatever, Brian doesn't have to admit it.  The Internet has a very good memory.


NOM: The Next Generation

I also learned this week that NOM is in the planning stages of something called "NOM NextGen for Marriage," which will focus on rallying younger voters over to the "protect marriage" cause. At this point, little is known beyond Catholic blogger and NOM Culture Director Thomas Peters' leadership in making the project happen. But I will be sure to bring you developments as they Tweet forth.


'Defame': It's gonna live forever

Screen Shot 2011-11-04 At 1.33.36 PmNOM's so-called "Marriage Anti-Defamation Project" launched yet another video this week. A few interesting things about the latest: (1) It has nothing to do with marriage, instead focusing on Illinois' civil unions system; (2) It features a mom who Focus on the Family previously used to lash out against inclusive teaching in schools, with the mom admitting in the past that her problem is with the "normalization" of homosexuality itself(3) The whole thing is focused on evangelical adoption agencies' desire to simultaneously maintain public subsidization and anti-LGBT discrimination, and resistance to that same idea -- court-tested resistance that may be any number of things, but is certainly not "defamation."

Humorously, the video, as of this writing, has 133 YouTube "dislikes" and only 9 "likes." So you know that means: YouTube's rating system will likely be NOM's next targeted "defamer."


Iowa's 18th district: You did invite a D.C. special interest to reduce your local race to one (non-)issue -- right?

Keeping focus on the special election for an Iowa state senate seat: NOM tossed in even more cash to elect Republican Cindy Golding over Democrat Liza Mathis, in hopes that Golding will be able to tip the balance and put the state's marriage equality before a public vote.

The election is Tuesday. So by Wednesday morning, look for NOM's carefully spun press release, which will be equally defiant regardless of outcome.


Past Maggie, ongoing concerns

One last thing before I move into my weekend of enjoying my marriage rather than fighting for the same: On Thursday, I came across a piece of video that I'd never seen before. It was filmed just days after Prop 8's ignoble passing in California, and features a highly boastful Screen Shot 2011-11-03 At 1.43.27 PmMaggie Gallagher touting the ways and means of taking away a court-backed Californian right.

Two things really stood out to me about the video: (1) Maggie admits that she aims to get equality activists to admit that they see people like her as "bigots," an obvious way for her to spin her side as the one being victimized; (2) She detailed NOM's founding role in getting Prop 8 on the ballot more fully than I've ever heard before, even revealing that the plan was fully set in motion of Christmas Eve 2007 (So much for gay apparel!!)

The first revelation is important because it shows just how strategic NOM is with their whole "we're the victims" schtick. We must let schtick that fully sink in so that we know how to challenge it. It's not enough for us to just talk about their self-victimization and hope others will catch on. We need to detail, in full and often, just how much the organized anti-equality movement is trying to cast equality activists as a mean, stop-at-nothing monolith that's out to endanger the well-being of those who oppose. That is their game now. Nipping it in the bud must be ours.

The second revelation is important because we need folks in the equality movement (and media) to understand how instrumental NOM is to the anti-equality side. That's why projects like NOM Exposed exist: Because NOM is, in essence, *the* marriage inequality movement in this country. All of the other "pro-family" groups have basically taken a backseat to NOM, letting Maggie and Brian and Co. take the lead (with a reliable assist from the local Catholic church) in every state where rights come up for public debate.

We can't afford to look at NOM as just one of many players in the anti-equality fight. Their role is much more. Diminishing that role (or at least its power) must be one of our top concerns!


Until next week, my sillies,

-Jeremy

Jeremy Hooper
Good As You/NOM Exposed

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