Double-edged Blade

I first learnt in the lefty American magazine The Nation that one-time gay hooker and former right-wing White House press corps wannabe Jeff Gannon has become a marquee columnist for the once mighty proud gay American newspaper of record, The Washington Blade. In its August 7 story “Witnesses to an execution” which debated claims of Western gay activists that two male Iranian teens this past summer were in fact hanged for raping another male teen rathen than just for being gay, The Nation inadvertently noted, “In his debut as a columnist for the Blade, discredited former White House press corps member Jeff Gannon (a k a James Guckert) mentioned the executions, puzzlingly claiming that gay bloggers and media were not paying enough attention to the case.” Never mind the Iranian story (though it increasingly appears the two teens were persecuted just for being gay).
Rather, I was blindsided by the astounding news that Gannon – a gay man who essentially betrayed the gay community by being a Bush Administration apologist – was actually writing for a GAY newspaper, the Blade no less. What Gannon gets out of this arrangement is a stab at media respectability and a national profile, and what the Blade gets is lots of publicity. So I began to ask who was the bigger whore – Gannon or the Blade? Well, I apparently was not alone in asking that question. Tons of Blade readers complained – complaints derided as impetuous and prejudiced by Blade executive editor Chris Crain who is no stranger to stirring up publicity himself.
In his September 23 editorial, Crain wrote, “To read the letters and e-mails to this newspaper in response to a few opinion columns by Jeff Gannon, you would think he represents a grave threat to the achievement of equality for gay Americans. In fact, many of his loudest critics represent a much more serious obstacle to the success of the gay rights movement…Gannon has become a target celébre for liberal bloggers, one of a handful of shorthand symbols they use for all they see wrong with George W. Bush’s America.”
You can see where this is going, can’t you?
“The growing polarization of American politics has taken root within gay America as well,” Crain continues. “The explosion of liberal gay bloggers, many of whom spend about as much time on the “gray” of most issues as Rush Limbaugh and his
’dittoheads’ has only exacerbated the proud queer tradition of disdain for gay Republicans (‘Nazi Jews’) and the caricature of conservative Christians (‘religious right,’ ‘religious political extremists’).”
Crain later notes, “Critics will undoubtedly claim that the issue is Jeff Gannon and not his conservative views or his support for George W. Surely there are better gay conservative spokespersons, they will argue. Except ‘they,’ to date, has not included a single gay conservative; only gay liberals have written in to demand more credible and upstanding right-wingers. And what’s more, the vitriol that followed Gannon’s columns rings all too familiar to be just about him. In fact, almost a decade in gay media has taught me that Shakespeare had it wrong. Hell hath no fury like a gay liberal crossed.”
Then Crain goes in for the kill: “If we can’t hear [right-wing gay pundits] out, and others like them, then we are woefully unprepared to make the case for our equality. For that reason, the intolerance of the loudest voices on the gay left is a greater threat to our movement than a few lonely voices on the gay right.”
Well, Washington, DC’s competing gay newspaper MetroWeekly took issue with Crain’s defense of Gannon.
MetroWeekly Editor-in-Chief Sean Bugg opined, “There’s just so much wrong here, it’s hard to know where to start. First off, I have to call bullshit on the allegation that only wacky liberals have a problem with running Gannon’s columns. I don’t consider myself a far-left liberal by any stretch (neither do I consider myself a gay right winger), but speaking as an editor of a gay publication, I would not have chosen to run any piece by Gannon.”
Bugg then rhetorically asks, “Why? Not because he’s a conservative. I’ve proudly run a column by a gay conservative – Dale Carpenter’s ‘OutRight’ – for more years than Crain has been running his newspaper chain. It’s because Gannon’s a conservative who’s been aggressively hostile to GLBT concerns, while at the same time being hypocritically coy about his own sexual orientation. I don’t care that Gannon was, apparently, an escort – and members of a liberal and progressive gay community who constantly dismiss him as a ‘man-whore’ are treading on offensive and hypocritical ground – but I do care that he’s so willing to score cheap shots off of gays to further his ‘career.’”
Bugg also notes, “Even more important to me, as an editor, is the fact that he’s simply not a good writer, of opinion or journalism… There’s a wealth of smart and admirable gay conservative writers out there – Carpenter, Andrew Sullivan, Bruce Bawer, and a whole rash of others you can find at the Independent Gay Forum – so the idea that Gannon must be published for gay readers to know there’s another side is simply laughable.”
Bugg then goes for the jugular: “Gannon is really a secondary issue here – what’s more important is Crain’s apparent philosophy (at least, this week’s philosophy) about the roles and responsibilities of gay and lesbian media. Crain claims that this whole issue is one of tolerance. Perhaps, he’s right. It’s an issue of how much a reader should be asked to tolerate from editors who are more concerned with ginning up controversy than actually challenging their readers.”

That, to my eye, seems to be the best assessment of what’s happening over at The Blade. Which is sad, really, because the Blade used to be such an important newspaper. How the mighty have fallen. If the Blade was really on the ball, instead of hiring of hack like Jeff Gannon, they’d hire a conservative pundit like Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan – whose positions and stances on various issues frustrate me to no end sometimes – is a terrific writer.

For instance, in the October 24 issue of the right-wing rag The New Republic, in a fab piece titled “Assimilation and its meaning,” Sullivan writes, “Slowly but unmistakably, gay culture is ending. You see it beyond the poignant transformation of P-town: on the streets of the big cities, on university campuses, in the suburbs where gay couples have settled, and in the entrails of the Internet. In fact, it is beginning to dawn on many that the very concept of gay culture may one day disappear altogether. By that, I do not mean that homosexual men and lesbians will not exist – or that they won’t create a community of sorts and a culture that sets them in some ways apart. I mean simply that what encompasses gay culture itself will expand into such a diverse set of subcultures that ‘gayness’ alone will cease to tell you very much about any individual. The distinction between gay and straight culture will become so blurred, so fractured, and so intermingled that it may become more helpful not to examine them separately at all.”

Sullivan later winds down, “Who can rescue a uniform gay culture? No one, it would seem. The generation most psychologically wedded to the separatist past is either dead from HIV or sidelined. But there are still enclaves of gay distinctiveness out there. Paradoxically, gay culture in its old form may have its most fertile ground in those states where homosexuality is still unmentionable and where openly gay men and women are more
beleaguered: the red states…

“The next generation may well be as free of [prejudice] as any minority ever can be; and they will redefine gayness on its own terms and not on the terms of hostile outsiders. Nothing will stop this, since it is occurring in the psyches and souls of a new generation: a new consciousness that is immune to any law and propelled by the momentum of human freedom itself. While we should treasure the past, there is no recovering it. The futures – and they will be multiple – are just beginning.”

That future, sadly, includes Jeff Gannon writing for The Washington Blade.

What Gannon should do is read Sullivan’s excellent essay and learn something about gay life before trashing the culture that enabled him to become a gay pundit in the first place.

Richard Burnett’s national queer-issues column Three Dollar Bill can be read locally in Montreal’s Hour magazine as well as on the web at