Disclaimer: There’s no real disclaimer. This is just an opinion bit and I’m fine if you don’t agree with it. We cool? Awesome. Hop in.
The antics of LGBTIQ journalists and journalism are so weird these days.
Be real: Some of us will go from ho-hum lethargy to wake-the-dead apoplexy on a dime, and it takes little more than an erroneous (though often inadvertent) misuse of the latest community terminology or, as is the case this week, profiling a less-than-savory cis, white, gay male who supports Donald Trump (and pretty much anything that takes the piss out of liberals, of which I am one).
Without going too far into detail (because you can Google it), Out Magazine’s Chadwick Moore profiled a self-styled, alt-right “supervillain provocateur” by the name of Milo Yiannopoulos. The guy’s a brassy English lad whose troll level is off the charts. If sexism, racism, anti-feminism, and the likes grind your gears, you’d do yourself a favor to stay away from his work.
At any rate, Moore spent some time with Yiannopoulos and delivered a feature that was easily accessible, well-written, and (in my opinion) unavoidably unflattering by liberal standards. Moore wasted no time in getting to the business of Milo’s unpalatable character and performed his artistic duties as a writer by painting a sort of “day in the life” of this wildly popular, completely incendiary, gay conservative. Thing is, instead of covering Yiannopoulos with the same hateful tone as our community covers, say, Kim Davis, Mike Pence, and other anti-LGBTIQ conservatives, he chose to examine Yiannopoulos as a member of our community who harbors some often twisted and downright despicable opinions of his own kind and beyond.
Now, it’s my opinion that if Moore’s feature were an unabashed, derisive hit piece that cast a biased, partisan contempt for the man, the community might be celebrating Out’s work as “fierce.” But instead of trashing his countenance and clothing (as we did with Kim D.), Moore gave us his blunt portrayal of a man whose boorish opinions run counter to what the community tends to agree on — in spite of his subject being (per our alphabet soup) technically “one of us.” The interview was properly handled with concern for features journalism that isn’t completely yellow, but in its wake spurred a widespread rebuke for the magazine and a condemnation from the immensely talented Zack Ford (of ThinkProgress.com). While the subject matter touches on the interviewee’s dreadful denunciations for many in our community, it appears to me that we’re shooting the messenger.
The truth is, it’s often our job to report on bad news and offensive people — both are items of which we need to be aware. As LGBTIQ media, it’s our duty to inform the public of offensive movements and policies that are gaining ground, if for nothing more than to see what we’re up against. To me, it’s just good strategy to try and understand (in order to better counter) uncovered angles we may have never considered, and if we happen to counter these beliefs in a way that isn’t utterly disrespectful, we may bring more people into our fold. I’m no saint, of course, but I find that a much better approach than immediately exiling naysayers from the debate table with confirmed suspicions that we’re a people who, ironically, refuse to listen to differing viewpoints.
Before I continue, though, please be mindful that I’m writing in defense of Out Magazine and its decision to cover a controversial figure. I’m not defending the antics of Milo Yiannopoulos who, I’ll be frank, I’d never heard of until the blowback of his coverage got underway. The rhetoric he employs is indeed cruel, but I feel Moore’s piece highlighted — not celebrated — yet another anti-hero who rightfully deserves the tut-tutting he appears to love.
Trolling is just what trolls do, and if we go about covering them the right way, which should never mean we shirk respect for our art and integrity as journalists, we can use that adversity to strengthen our arguments as members of this community. Why we should stoop to their levels of tactlessness in order to be taken seriously by our peers in this profession is lost on me. Further, it’s rather unbecoming to finger-wag a fellow journalist for trying to report without too heavy a bias, I feel, and I’m perfectly fine being the lone voice on the matter. And to the argument that Out has given Yiannopoulos free press, I say no matter again. As a community, we’ve been giving free press to our foes since we set foot into the world of media, and there’s damn good reason for it. So why is this any different? Some cite Yiannopoulos’ influence on the election as ‘toxic’ — is that not the same reason we counterpunch Trump incessantly in our media? Out just let the world know there’s another “bad guy” in our midst. Is that so horrid?
But enough about trolls. What I really want to know is: How did it become so commonplace for our community to gather torches in the dead of night and cannibalize each other when we disagree on something? It’s getting so out of hand lately and I hope you don’t take the observation personally. I am, by no means, perfect in my life and work, but as a creaky lesbian of 36, I remember a time when banding together was our default setting. Now? Now we’ve got a cartoonishly enormous brush with which we paint LGBTIQ people who happen to do things differently as traitors to be publicly shamed and professionally admonished. We storm the digital gates of people and outlets we decide, seemingly out of nowhere, are reversing course on progress. We embattle years-long leaders and faithful members of our coalition with controversy and declare them our new enemies because something they’ve published can be made offensive if we can get enough people to try.
And look: I really don’t intend to upset anyone with this post. Y’all do things your way and I’ve always respected that. Thing is, there’s a real “divided” feel going on these days and I can’t tell if it’s just me feeling it. I know full well I’m taking a big risk with this write-up — I can already feel my neck on the chopping block, trust — but I feel like we’re going deeper into dangerous territory every single time we take a swing at one another.
But like I said, this is totally opinion and it might just be me.
I’ll just close like so: We’ve long been asking for people to show, at the very least, tolerance of our kind. Can we practice what we preach and employ some tolerance with one another? We gotta get back to our roots and stop stabbing each other in the back every other week, y’all. Remember when we used to talk out our differences? (Or am I just a dusty-ass old-schooler? I never know anymore.)
Nothin’ but love for all involved,
Berlin Sylvestre, Editor // Out Front Magazine