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10/30/2013

If I focus on you, it's because I think your advocacy is a liability to your movement

by Jeremy Hooper

Bryan Fischer once called me a "stalker." Peter LaBarbera has called me "obsessed." Jennifer Roback Morse called me "her minder," in an attempt to undercut my public pushback against her public role. Other social conservative assume that I and other opposition researchers focus on them because their work has touched a nerve.

None of them get it.

One guiding truth that informs all of my work is that if I focus on you in some sort of heightened way, it's most likely because I think your work is really damaging to your own cause and political movement. Most always that's the case. It's rarely personal, it's almost never inspired by my own consternation over something you've said, I'm almost never talking directly to you in hopes that I might change your mind, and I'm not doing any of it because I have the extra hours to expend (I have a husband, newborn baby, and very full life, thank you very much). No, no—I focus on your public dealings because I, a proud advocate on the other side of your coin, see your work as being much more helpful to my side than it is yours, and I think that highlighting your "wow, really?!" thoughts could possibly connect some dots with those who might be eavesdropping on our public exchange.

If you're someone like Fischer, I focus on your because I think your hyperbole has reached a level that would make even other ardent social conservatives cringe and that makes your employer, the American Family Association, look outside the limits of rational debate. In the case of Roback Morse, it's because I pinpointed you as the one National Organization For Marriage staffer so ready and willing to go off-message and admit the ingrained animus that buoys (if not sustains) the NOM machine, and I think that things like admitting you want gay people to stop being gay severely undermines NOM's supposed focus on "protecting marriage." With Tony Perkins, it's because he still gets way too many mainstream media passes and I'm determined to make any anchor or politician who courts the FRC prez truly acknowledge the harsh words off which he has built his national profile. And so on and so forth. The reasons are individualized, but they are all bound by the same through-line.

This topic is on my mind because I just read a post where NOM president Brian Brown did that thing where he pretended people like me are "driven batty" by people like rabidly anti-gay Virginia LT. Governor candidate E.W. Jackson. What Brian, like so many of his fellows, simply does not understand is that people like me actually thank our lucky stars that someone as open and honest about his animus stepped up into public prominence! If these kinds of harsh voices didn't exist, we might have to invent them. But since they do exist, all we have to do is sit back and note what they themselves are choosing to put on the record. We do so because we know that this over-the-top rhetoric is one reason why we, the peace movement dedicated to freedom, are triumphing over the pro-discrimination forces.

I can tell you that I'm not alone in this feeling. Most of us who do opposition research for the LGBT movement know each other pretty well. From regular emails to semi-regular beers, virtually all of us talk and swap "culture war" stories. I promise you that no one who does this work, whether at Right Wing Watch or Equality Matters or Think Progress or wherever, is honing in on this stuff because they have some sort of undue obsession with the pundits involved or are personally wounded by the verbal slings and arrows (at least any more than anti-LGBT animus wounds all of society). We do this work because we like to gain ground. We do this work because we like to win elections. We do this work because we want to someday not do this work.

And if this work focuses like a laser on your own work against us? Know it's because we think you are unwittingly helping us gain, win, and ultimately render ourselves obsolete.

Hopefully this clarifies.

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