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Put your #glaadcap on, join me hon': GLAAD announces Commentator Accountability Project

by Jeremy Hooper

Last night, I toasted the hardworking digital activists who've been so diligently tracking those who fight against the basic civil liberties (and oftentimes basic worth) of LGBT people. Today, a next step of sorts. Today, we strive to heighten awareness of this work and expand the sphere so that we can bring even greater awareness of what these folks have said about us on their way to the cable newsroom, statehouse, or anywhere else they present themselves as mere "values voices."

The problem: Whereas with most political matters, media outlets invite bona fide experts in their field to speak on the subject at hand, with LGBT issues, merely holding discriminatory feelings toward certain kinds of humans is often enough. Discriminatory views are reliably masked behind a "conservative" label, with the full breadth of the commentator's anti-LGBT work never disclosed to the public.

The answer: Ensuring that the people who make the media decisions are fully aware of what is so commonplace to those of us who keep a close eye on this stuff. Also, making sure that these bookers understand -- and I mean really understand -- that merely having a strong opinion against something doesn't necessarily make one an informed expert on a topic.

The problem with the answer: It's sometimes difficult to get this crucial information in front of the right eyes. While so many of these names and groups are on the tips of our tongues, they are obscure to many more of our needed allies. So many times, a "values" conservative will get booked at face value, in the name of balance, with the actual views on which he or she built a profile getting a complete pass. Frustratingly, those of us who say, "Hey wait a minute" get characterized as trying to silence debate, when in fact we're just trying to make the debate more honest.

The answer to the problem with the answer: Increasing our alliances so that those who are already taking the big meetings and already focusing on media responsibility in a number of areas will direct some of their resources to this overdue problem. It's time to take an even more focused stand, using the infrastructure that can truly help broaden the reach.

Today, I'm pleased to announce a new project that aims to do just that. GLAAD calls it's the Commentator Accountability Project. I call it promising.

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Basically, this project is designed to foster healthier debate on LGBT matters. The most direct feature is a collection of one-sheet dossiers on some of the most commonly booked anti-LGBT pundits. Each of these pages -- thirty at launch, but growing all the time -- provide a brief bio sketch of the individual, followed by a roundup of four or five of his or her harshest statements/efforts. It's not meant to be an in-depth encyclopedia of anyone's views, but rather a digestible taste of what he or she offers. The hope is that some of these documented, unimpeachable quips and quotes that are common to you or to me might start getting out to those who don't care as much about this whole "culture war." And, ultimately, the hope is that a growing number of reporters and anchors will actually hold these folks accountable for the nasty stuff they say about us when they're not speaking to the MSM, rather than letting them play the split roles that are so common now (i.e. firebrand on AFA Radio; buttoned up conservative when on "Morning Joe").

GLAAD will not be telling anyone who to book, so there shouldn't be any "censorship" claims (even though there likely will be). The basic message is, "Okay fine, go ahead and book this person -- but when you do, here's what you need to know." This is the message that GLAAD will carry in a number of ways, online and in-person. The hope is for more substantive, more transparent appearances and debates, and then to let the conversation play out from there. That should be welcomed by everyone, on both "sides" of this debate.

There will also be living content on the site in the form of commentaries and general rainmaking around forthcoming or recently-transpired bookings, which will hopefully provide more and more opportunities for intra-movement connectivity. And the project will be growing and expanding daily, with more and greater alliances between both organizations and bloggers hopefully creating a sort of "Super Team" against a punditry problem that has clearly reached its nadir. I can tell you firsthand that GLAAD is really focused on new media and reaching out to the strong voices who have been doing this work for long. As a person who has long cared about such things, I couldn't be happier to see this shift!

Here's GLAAD's release:

GLAAD Launches Commentator Accountability Project
New online tool will expose anti-LGBT rhetoric of so-called ‘pundits’

New York, NY, March 14, 2012 - GLAAD, the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, today announced the launch of its Commentator Accountability Project. The project aims to educate the media about the extreme rhetoric of over three dozen activists who are often given a platform to speak in opposition to LGBT people and the issues that affect their lives.

To view online resources detailing anti-LGBT rhetoric that these activists have used visit: http://www.glaad.org/cap and follow #glaadcap.

“Hate is not an expert opinion,” said GLAAD spokesperson Herndon Graddick. “In most cases, news outlets invite reputable experts to speak on the subject at hand, but when talking about LGBT issues, open hostility and anti-LGBT bias seems to be all the credibility required. This project holds these so-called ‘pundits’ accountable for the extreme anti-LGBT rhetoric they continue to spread.”

The Commentator Accountability Project launches with a comprehensive set of online resources detailing the anti-LGBT, racist, and anti-woman sentiments of nearly three dozen anti-LGBT commentators who have appeared in local and national news. As more commentators engage in anti-LGBT rhetoric, new profiles will be added.

"These activists have the right to recite their anti-LGBT talking points, but it is important to expose the questionable and often hostile rhetoric that passes as punditry when so-called 'experts' speak out against the lives of LGBT people on the air or in print," explained Graddick. "If networks are going to continue to invite those with incendiary anti-LGBT views on their programs, show runners should know the full picture of who these individuals really are so that critical context can be relayed to the audience."

GLAAD will utilize the resources of the Commentator Accountability Project in future meetings with editors, writers, network executives, producers, and guest bookers -- providing the mainstream media with a tool by which to hold commentators accountable.

GLAAD encourages individuals to alert the organization when these virulently anti-LGBT activists appear on local or national news. To report an incident visit: http://www.glaad.org/cap

View the Commentator Accountability Project here: www.glaad.org/cap
Follow the conversation on Twitter: #glaadcap
Talk with GLAAD about the project here: www.facebook.com/glaad

About GLAAD: The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively. By ensuring that the stories of LGBT people are heard through the media, GLAAD promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality. For more information, please visit www.glaad.org or connect with GLAAD on Facebook and Twitter

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