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October 05, 2006

Help Them Help Themselves?

Matt writes:

I've always found there to be something of a generation gap among liberals in this town on "outings" with younger people saying go for it, and our elders being more hesitant. Certainly, I'm all for disclosure....If liberals got to make up all the rules of the game, homosexuality wouldn't be an issue in American politics. But we don't get to make up the rules unilaterally, and the right has decreed that it is an issue -- a major issue -- and the left needs to play by the rules of the game as it exists.

Yikes. I've never noticed generation gap. I think outing is a generally unethical maneuver -- there's no reason folks can't keep perfectly legal portions of their life secret. And either refusing or being very selective as to when we do it isn't ignoring the rules of the game, it's refusing to let the right craft the rulebook.

When we play PI, we're playing the game as the right would like it to exist. If we accept and aid the elevation of homosexuality as a politically relevant dysfunction and then keep pushing that conversation into the forefront, we'll have exceeded the right's fondest hopes in recentering American politics onto sexual McCarthyism. And that's not a game we're going to win. We win when we make the rules and force the other side to play by them. We lose when allow and accept the opposite. As the game currently exists, the left keeps losing. Maybe it's time to stop accepting the game as it currently exists.

October 5, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

...there's no reason folks can't keep perfectly legal portions of their life secret.

This statement seem inconsistant with your desire to "out" anyone who feels differently than you do about race, the poor, etc. You wish to "out" them for political advantage. As Matt has correctly pointed out, homosexuality *IS* a major issue, and it seems just as fair to "out" anyone for being a homosexual for the same reason.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 5, 2006 12:03:21 PM

Re: Outing, journalist Doug Ireland follows what he calls the "Barney Frank Rule," who was the one who passed it onto him. Basically, you don't out someone unless they push legislation that is damaging to homosexuals. If they do, they're fair game.

(I'm not sure if general gay-bashing demagoguery counts, although it probably does.)

Posted by: Brian Cook | Oct 5, 2006 12:08:25 PM

Did you actually think of The West Wing as a fair representation of the way the world works, Ezra?

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Oct 5, 2006 12:08:43 PM

Ezra, you're absolutely, manifestly, unconstestably correct, and the fact that many other otherwise smart liberals, like Yglesias, disagree with you
leads me to wonder if we're on the edge of a very ugly stretch in American political history.

Posted by: david mizner | Oct 5, 2006 12:14:44 PM

Well . . .

Many of us Conservatives feel that it is nobody's business what someone's sexuality is either, unless they want to advertise it themselves.

Disagreeing with them on their public policy, even if in my opinion it is inconsistant with their private lifestyle is no reason to reveal the person's private life to the general public.

Qualifier for the above: given that the private habits are not damaging to others, like activities between consenting adults, etc.

Posted by: Guy Montag | Oct 5, 2006 12:20:15 PM

Disagreeing with them on their public policy, even if in my opinion it is inconsistant with their private lifestyle is no reason to reveal the person's private life to the general public.

Guy,
What they are saying is:
"It's their business unless they don't vote on the way I want them to".

*THEN* it's OK to out them.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 5, 2006 12:32:11 PM

Ezra, I hope you don't mean "politically relevant dysfunction" as opposed to "politically irrelevant dysfunction." It's not relevant, AND it's not a dysfunction. But that's what you meant, right?

Posted by: bobbo | Oct 5, 2006 1:10:36 PM

I had to reread Guy's comment, looking for hidden meanings, because to my disbelief I could find nothing in there I disagree with.

Posted by: mrgumby2u | Oct 5, 2006 1:24:52 PM

Well said Fred, but I disagree with that position (using private life to blackmail for voting habits) and that is what *I* was saying.

Posted by: Guy Montag | Oct 5, 2006 1:32:20 PM

Bobbo: Read the post -- that's the right's view of it, and one we shouldn't participate in.

Fred: I think that's my favorite comment of yours, ever. You've outdone yourself.

Posted by: Blargh | Oct 5, 2006 1:34:43 PM

Sorry - I always seem to be the skunk in the room on these things.

This notion that public people have some zone of privacy is a nice thought, but it's largely a fiction - once you are public, almost anything may be fair game. Taste and decency will keep most people from revealing certain things (and almost everyone can agree that going after the private citizen kids of public figures is beyond the pale), but sexuality? well, we don't have a clear agreement on anything there.

I think two things drive outing: hypocrisy and damage. Whether it's Tom Cruise and the parade of girlfriends, or the closeted gay Republicans who vote against gay issues, these things come down to hypocrisy, and to helping to facilitate a damaging status quo that says being gay is embarrassing and needs to be hidden perpetuates something gays are not really in favor of and in its hypocrisy is not something Americans generally care for either.

We urge people to come out because it is better to live a life that's open and honest. Being closeted is, at its base, a lie. A lie about who you are, what you do, and who you love. And, as Jim McGreevey has painfully and eloquently spelled out, that lie leads to other, damaging lies. Outing isn't pretty. It isn't always fair. It is going to keep happening. And sometimes it will be clearly right and sometimes it won't. But what it comes down to is that a lie and a hypocrisy will rarely hold up. Like it or not.

Posted by: weboy | Oct 5, 2006 1:57:16 PM

"It's their business unless they don't vote on the way I want them to".

No, you silly man. It's their business until they promote and endorse legislation that they have no intention of abiding by. If you feel that's politically skewed by the fact that Republicans love to legislate morality, then tough.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Oct 5, 2006 2:14:20 PM

Hey, if they want to be homosexuals in public life, then this is what they can expect. That's why they call it "PUBLIC LIFE".

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 5, 2006 2:20:40 PM

ummm.

per the ex-aide who warned congressional leadership about foley several years ago, foley's "crime" wasn't homosexuality nor was foley "outed" for the same.

foley was outed for predatory behavior towards minors entrusted to congressional care by their parents. foley may also be criminally liable for sexual solicitation (federal) depending on statutory consent (e.g. fl) and/or evidence of foley's intent to "consummate" a meeting (revealing his whereabouts, itinerary in contexts inappropriate or unrelated to congressional business).

foley's sexual orientation (whether hetero, homo or bi) is incidental to foley's alleged misconduct. the matter would require *urgent* attention were foley "straight" and/or the pages female.

Posted by: taheati | Oct 5, 2006 2:30:45 PM

Blargh: I know he's characterizing the right. He's characterizing them as believing that homosexuality is a "politically relevant dysfunction." I'm just saying I hope he don't believe that in contrast, the truth is that it is a politically irrelevant dysfunction. What I want him to mean is that the opposite of "politically relevant dysfunction" is "politically irrelevant personal trait." I'm not stupid, just highly pedantic.

Posted by: bobbo | Oct 5, 2006 2:37:36 PM

taheati,

I have been hearing (have not checked) that age of concent in DC is 16. If it is a blanket age, independant of the older person, then it probably was not a "crime", but it certainly was unethical.

Posted by: Guy Montag | Oct 5, 2006 2:41:10 PM

Sorry, "blargh" is me, it's the comment name I use to test if I've actually banned spamwords. And I think homoseuxality is both noatural and politically irrelevant. But that means, when we find out someone is gay, not making a big deal out of it.

Posted by: Ezra | Oct 5, 2006 2:51:57 PM

...foley was outed for predatory behavior towards minors...

Really? I thought the age of consent was 16 in D.C. How can this be characterized any way other than private conversations between two consenting adults?

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 5, 2006 3:03:21 PM

How can this be characterized any way other than private conversations between two consenting adults?

Chapter 117, 18 U.S.C. 2422(b), you silly man.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Oct 5, 2006 3:11:47 PM

Many of us Conservatives feel that it is nobody's business what someone's sexuality is either, unless they want to advertise it themselves.

What this typically means is that it's perfectly ok to let the world know who you date, who you live with, who you raise kids with, who you wish to declare your next of kin, etc., as long as you're straight. Otherwise it's disgusting and unnatural and a threat to society and you should be told in the strongest possible terms - enforced by law whenever possible - to shut the fsck up.

I think Ezra's got it right.

Posted by: jackd | Oct 5, 2006 3:11:56 PM

Many of us Conservatives feel that it is nobody's business what someone's sexuality is either, unless they want to advertise it themselves.

Quite. Because you look at Rick Santorum with his six children and think 'he's thrusting his penis in his wife's vagina on a semi-regular basis'? No?

For conservatives, the openly gay are 'advertising' that they have filthy dirty bum-sex, while the openly hetrosexual are discreet about having filthy dirty coochie-sex.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Oct 5, 2006 3:17:20 PM

It would appear that you cannot even agree with liberals without getting jackd.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 5, 2006 3:19:06 PM


Macacawitz
gets his revenge.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 5, 2006 3:22:06 PM

I don't really have anything to add here, but I thought this might be a good time to point out that Matt's link in the blogroll is outdated.

Posted by: Eric | Oct 5, 2006 3:58:33 PM

Ezra - It's a nice theory to say that we should "not make a big deal of it," but unfortunately it makes no sense. Many, if not most or all gay folks would tell you that, in fact, it's no big deal; doesn't stop family, friends, the press, the public from thinking that it is. Conservatives think being gay is embarrassing. If we use that as the way to say "well, it's okay if someone doesn't want to come out until they're ready," i.e. because someone will make a "big deal" of it, we're agreeing that, well, yes, it's embarrassing. It's not. It's honest. And the way to make it not a big deal, is to just do it, or when it's done, just roll with it. Foley's "outing," such as it has been, has really been quite tame compared to past exercises. People are actually getting the nuance between who he is (a gay man) and what he's done (inappropriately pressuring teen boys). That, in itself, is a sort of progress.

Ideally people should come out for themselves as they like, when they're comfortable. Not every person has that option or that choice (and I'm not just talking about celebrities and politicos), and some people get "outed" deliberately, inadvertently, accidentally. There just isn't good outing or bad outing. There's coming out, or trying to hide it. And, well, you hids it at your own peril. Especially if you're in the public eye.

Posted by: weboy | Oct 5, 2006 4:10:10 PM

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