Is it a stereotype that gays care so little about current events and what is going on in the world, unless of course it affects us directly? You can’t shut us up about Marriage Equality. The common belief is that we are a bunch of sex-obsessed, promiscuous sluts, but in fact an awful lot of us want “happily ever after” as much as anyone else, a lot of us are willing to make the commitments and compromises necessary for a stable long term relationship, and we’re willing to work for it. In fact, a lot of us have gone for it, with (it can be done here) or without the legal sanction of the states or countries we live in. If you’re not so aware of this, it’s because stable couples who have their ups and downs, who bicker from time to time, even fight, then make up, but who live pretty ordinary lives are not the stuff of interesting entertainment, be they gay or straight.
But what about politics and social issues beyond marriage equality? How much do we care about that stuff?
Certainly some of us are obsessed with certain issues or with politics in general and tend to be heavily involved. Out politicians in office are still relatively few, but they’re growing in number. There are also gays and lesbians active at most levels of the structure of the political parties or their associated activist groups, even the Republicans. We sometimes forget the parties are big tents, and there are good old fashioned fiscal and social conservatives who resent the Bible-thumping intolerant leadership in the Republican Party now. I don’t get it, but if they feel they belong there, so be it.
I have little interest in political parties in any case, but I get quite involved in individual issues. For that reason I want to be able to support the candidate that supports my issues, regardless of his affiliation. My big obsession in recent months has been SOPA, PIPA, and the potentially devastating ability they would have had to inhibit online intellectual exchange as well as technological innovation, all with the expressed goal of stopping internet piracy. Stopping internet piracy is a worthy goal, but these bills were part of an ineffective solution to the problem that was way over the top. Not only was it doubtful that the measure would have had any impact, but it would almost certainly have had unintended consequences. That’s why so many of the companies that made the internet what it is today stood up against it. It was a strategy that I would equate with lighting a fire in your house, in the doorway between your kitchen and the rest of your house to keep the mice in the kitchen out of the house, only then realizing you’re really hungry and you want food from the kitchen. Then you also start to realize the fire itself is a problem because sparks are landing on the couch, the rug and other combustible materials. Finally you remember that your genius kid was doing research on the mice and had figure out a way to communicate with some of them. He thought maybe he could get them to talk most of the others into leaving. But now with the wall of fire, you can’t reach them at all. You’ve cut the line completely.
Fortunately those bills were defeated, but new threats still loom. That these bills were stopped in their tracks was an amazing accomplishment. In effect social media triumphed over Hollywood, big media, and the music industry, or at least the corporate side thereof. I felt proud for the part I’d played, minuscule though it was. On the other hand I noticed that once again gay social media was somewhat muted on the debate. It was not silent by any means. Towleroad posted videos and links about debate over these bills from time to time. Andrew Sullivan wrote often about the controversy. None of those sites went dark to protest SOPA on January 18th, however. The Bilerico Project did go dark and it also offered quite a bit of discussion of SOPA. On social media and in the chat rooms, these are not the topics that get traction from my gay friends, save the usual suspects. I have a few friends who will disagree with me on anything political, especially if it is an election season. There’s a larger handful who agree with me most of the time. We have kind of mutual support society, the people who like to talk politics and I. But those posts sometimes don’t get any replies, and if they do, never as many as I might see if I post a picture of my meal, an observation about a character on Glee, or a picture of a handsome man.
And yet internet censorship is an issue we should care very much about, as are Intellectual property issues more generally. I was just forwarded this post about gay blogs recently removed from Google’s Blogger service. I don’t know why they were removed, but it may be cause for concern. The maintainers of this site maintain that over 2500 have been removed. Were they removed because they depicted graphic sexual activity and if so, were the same standards applied to heterosexual blogs? If it was just gay blogs, then it is an issue of equality and discrimination. If the same standards where applied to all blogs, i.e. Google removed blogs that showed explicit sex, then we have a decency argument and we are back in the territory of obscenity. Personally I believe obscenity is a relative term and the real questions concern harm done to those who participated in making material, whether the activity depicted was consensual, and whether those who might be offended by it can avoid seeing it. But that’s a topic for another post.
The fact is that Google, as a private company, has the right to choose what it allows on its servers. There is also the matter of the public interest. Does the internet rely too heavily on private enterprise? The existence and functioning of the internet is clearly in the public interest, but is is too controlled by private enterprise? Is our very freedom of expression now at the mercy of multinational corporations.
I wonder if it’s true or just a stereotype that the percentage of the LGBT community involved in the arts is higher than in the general population, even if only as supporters, fans, or amateurs. If so, that is another reason to be concerned. Is that video the club in Paris posted of you winning a prize for singing the Lady Gaga song during with those sexy French backup singers going to get you discovered or is it just going to get that whole site blocked in the US because no one actually got the rights to that song. Lady Gaga would probably find the video brilliant and not protest at all, but she’ll never see it. It’s industry lawyers and executives who are behind this. Even Justin Bieber thinks it’s silly. These bills may be dead for now, but don’t think the entertainment industry is going to give up. They may push for some modified version to be tacked onto funding for the troops next year. I wonder if that adorable video of Dario Beck singing in the shower is copyright compliant? I sure hope so!
So what do you think? On the whole, is the gay community politically aware and involved? I’m asking specifically about issues that don’t obviously effect us directly, but that may have implications for us. The AIDS crisis mobilized the gay community in a way few people would have thought possible. Marriage Equality has been taken up, and even lots of people I know who have no intention of marrying are fighting for it on principle. But it seems like a smaller percentage of my gay friends and acquaintances than my friends in general seem informed about current events or bother to vote. That’s the impression I have now, not based on any kind of systematic analysis. Happy to be proven wrong. Eager for it, in fact. Thoughts?