Thursday, April 12, 2007


I’ve been thinking about how the uproar over Don Imus’s racist remarks underscores the appalling ineffectiveness of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, something quite a few listeners to my radio program have pointed out as well.

Black leaders – heads of organizations, journalists and pundits alike -- elevated the Imus story by calling on MSNBC and CBS Radio to fire the Neanderthal radio host, whether they believed that ever could or would become a reality. Watching the news coverage, I was impressed by the uniformity of the message. From Al Sharpton and the NAACP to conservative black pundits like Amy Holmes and Armstrong Williams, everyone agreed: Imus, who'd made such remarks for the umpteenth time, had to go. It was a quite a display of solidarity and confidence, the kind that obviously gets results.

GLAAD, on the other hand -- in oppositions to many gay pundits, bloggers and many in the GLBT public -- aided ABC in making the Isaiah Washington “faggot” story go away earlier this year by refusing to call for the Grey’s Anatomy star to be canned and ridiculously accepting his going into some sort of rehab program while he kept his job.

Let’s also not forget that during Ann Coulter’s own “faggot” controversy GLAAD was largely irrelevant. It was the Human Rights Campaign that spearheaded an effort to get newspapers to drop her column, which had a degree of success but, most of all, kept the story alive for a while. Ann Coulter got more than she bargained for on that one, no thanks to GLAAD.

And where in fact has GLAAD been on the Imus controversy? Not until Wednesday night – after MSNBC dropped Imus – did GLAAD send out a press release supporting the critics of the radio host, and even that release didn’t mention Imus’s continual, vicious antigay commentary. Why isn’t GLAAD out there making connections between the Imus story and the hatred spewed by Coulter and Washington, something no one in the press is doing? GLAAD’s release also begged the question: Why is GLAAD supporting, after the fact, Imus’s firing but didn’t call for Washington to be fired?

GLAAD’s sole purpose these days seems to be to help Hollywood and media figures get through their various homophobic p.r. meltdowns while cooing with praise at the slightest bit of good they do. That is no more evident than in the GLAAD Media Awards, star-studded, lavish events that now take place in four cities – New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami – over a period of almost two months and attended by more than 5000 people at a cost of several hundred dollars each for a dinner among the stars.

Recently some gay media figures, including executives at Here! TV and Logo, as well as editors at publications like The Advocate, have called on GLAAD to stop excluding them from being considered for awards -- ghettoizing them as “gay media” while heralding what GLAAD describes as the “mainstream media.” Many gay commentators have weighed in on this as well.

I agree with the critique of GLAAD’s elitism, but the critics seem to be sidestepping an unavoidable conclusion: The GLAAD Media Awards need to be halted, or at the very least, radically pared down, immediately, while the gay movement still has some integrity left. A group that began in the 80s as a fiery organization committed to direct action against media bias has turned into a high-priced masseuse for Hollywood and media titans alike, offering full ejaculatory release. The last thing that my gay media colleagues should be demanding is some of that masturbatory pleasure for themselves. What we really need to do is get GLAAD out of the hand-job business entirely.

Make no mistake: GLAAD does not just give out a few coveted awards, like other groups fighting discrimination. It rather is absolutely, ravenously consumed by awards and almost completely funded by them. Go to GLAAD’s website and you will see the orgy on full display. The main item on their page right now is their 18th annual Los Angeles Media Awards, at which Jennifer Aniston and a slew of other Hollywood figures are being honored. You’ll find the press release from the recent New York event – and you’ll see how fabulous Julianne Moore, Jennifer Hudson and Patti LaBelle really are, in case you didn’t know – and you’ll get information on the events in the other cities, in all of their A-list glory.

Here and there you may read about some actual defamation against gays, though you won’t be asked to take too much action, lest you get diverted from the celebrity worship.

GLAAD appears to have little choice at this point but to highly promote its Media Awards because they are now the group’s main source of funding, according to Here! TV's Stephen Macias, who was once GLAAD’s entertainment director and who appeared on my radio program recently. The awards dinners, at which film and media companies buy up tables, are a huge cash cow, bringing in almost 4 million dollars a year.

GLAAD doesn’t seem to be giving out so many awards – 183 nominees this year by their count, including one for, yes, Grey’s Anatomy – because so many people actually deserve them. Rather, they need the money that doling out awards brings in. Why else are they holding the awards in four cities at four events spanning two months? Is it not in fact that those cities happen to be places inhabited by a lot of gay people with money who can fork over cash to hobnob with celebrities?

This is all a far cry from an organization that began in 1985, when activists led by the groundbreaking film critic and activist Vito Russo, the author of The Celluloid Closet who died from AIDS in 1990, protested outside the New York Post to end the paper’s hateful coverage of AIDS and distortion of gay lives. It seems that GLAAD’s only homage to Russo’s firebrand activism today is a glitzy award named after him, handed out at their annual sycophantic lovefest.

And then people wonder why we are still so abused and mistreated in the American media.