07 October 2010

Half-Assed Journalism

The Dumb Dora Award for
Half-Assed Journalism Goes to
The Advocate and The Huffington Post


For their 1935 folk opera Porgy and Bess, composers George and Ira Gershwin wrote a famous song called "It Ain't Necessarily So". The chorus of the song goes as follows: The things that you're liable/To read in the Bible/It ain't necessarily so. The same can be said about things you're liable to read in The Advocate! Recently, Advocate editors spotlighted a man once known as Luke Sissyf*g and portrayed him as a credible solicitor for charity. They let their readers believe he could be trusted with their money. They also wanted readers to take his foul-mouthed, child-exploiting concept of a fundraiser seriously. You needn't take my word for it, though. Here's how they laid out the dubious premise, in a posting dated 27 July:

If a four-letter word comes to mind when assessing BP’s efforts in the Deepwater Horizon Spill that has ravaged the Gulf of Mexico, chances are it’s not going to be "fine". Luke Montgomery opts for "f*ck"! The founder of Good Ideas for Good Causes and a longtime Gay rights activist (one who, at 19, ruffled President Bill Clinton’s feathers by interrupting his 1993 World AIDS Day speech under the moniker “Luke Sissyf*g”), Montgomery recently launched his latest charity campaign, this time focused on the largest environmental disaster in US history. The name of his mission? Appropriately: “Unf*ck the Gulf.” “The inception of it was, my boyfriend Nate (Guidas) and I were sitting in front of the television screaming 'f*ck!' every 20 seconds about something that BP was doing, about seeing birds covered in oil,” Montgomery says. “And we knew there were other people screaming 'f*ck!' at the television 24/7. So let’s take all of this anger and harness it and do something good with it.”

You got all that? Wait, the plot thickens:

Montgomery and Guidas, who currently live in Redondo Beach, California, have had a busy year on the charity front. In February they traveled to Haiti to deliver supplies and to work at the AIDS orphanage Montgomery had previously founded in the coastal town of Jacmel. Unf*ck the Gulf's fundraising efforts center on T-shirt sales . . . for every $13.00 shirt sold, the charity donates $5.00 to environmental organizations, most of them now actively working in the Gulf (donors can vote on who gets the money; remaining revenue covers the cost of production for the shirts and the campaign, Montgomery says).

Sure it does! Barack Obama is a Muslim, too.

The abundance of expletives in the duo’s viral video, and particularly the use of children to deliver some of them . . . caught the ire of (Fox TV pundit) Bill O’Reilly, who (condemns) Montgomery for using kids in a F-bomb-laden ad. Montgomery’s response? “It’s patriotic to use the F-word in defense of our shorelines.”

"Patriotic" isn't exactly the word that pops into my mind . . . but "pathetic" does happen to begin with "P", end with "C" and have two "Ts" in the middle! At Luke Montgomery's website (which I will not link you to), you can also buy a $1.00 lapel pin and a $2.00 bumper sticker. I see no indication that the money he collects from selling these additional items will go to charity, so nobody should assume that it will. It'll no doubt end up in the same place that 61% profit from his T-shirt sales is going! Is anybody tracking the donations, I wonder?

If you're feeling a bit skittish about Miss Sissyf*g, I mean, Mr. Montgomery's sincerity, here's some information from his past that might quiet your fears (or not). It comes from a May 1999 press release put out by Fur Commission USA. At that time, he was making the scene as a fierce animal rights advocate. Now, you may not approve of people wearing fur clothing, but how do you feel about clandestine videotaping and selective tape edits reminiscent of the trumped-up ACORN scandal?

The Wall Street Journal (May 7, "Under Palm Trees, Sunny Skies, The Fur Flies") uses the term "misleading" to describe . . . an "animal rights publicity stunt" masquerading as a "consumer rights" campaign in Beverly Hills. On May 11, Beverly Hills will vote on a proposed ordinance that would require local furriers to label their wares with a credit card-sized tag that lists a variety of ways the animals may (or may not) have been killed. The city is fired up, with the city clerk receiving "an unusual number of requests" for absentee ballots, writes Journal columnist Elizabeth Bukowski . . . (she) raises an eyebrow at the way in which Beverly Hills Consumers for Informed Choices has used video of local salespeople taken with hidden cameras and edited to present them as being, at best, uninformed about how furs are produced, and at worst, guilty of deceit and consumer fraud . . . Bukowski points her finger at the man behind the whole campaign, Luke Montgomery (formerly Luke Sissyf*g). "Speaking of fraud, what about California's laws against audio recording someone without his knowledge?" she writes. "And why were the offers by the salespeople to get consumers in touch with the Fur Information Council of America edited out of the secret video, copies of which were sent to news outlets and 5,000 voters?"

Beverly Hills' proposed labeling ordinance was ultimately defeated at the polls. Before his high-profile foray into fur activism, Luke Montgomery was an ACT-UP member. In fact, he was one of the group's most aggressive firebrands; blogger and ex-partner-in-protest Michael Petrelis once jokingly called him a "terrorist"! Fur Commission USA made an issue out of him taking up the animal rights cause when scientific research on animals might lead to a cure for AIDS. The Commission also called attention to some quotes that cast more doubt on Montgomery's integrity. Elizabeth Bukowski located an interview in which he claimed that "he and his (ACT-UP) colleagues routinely manipulated AIDS statistics to persuade people that '(the disease) was everybody's problem.'" He had also expressed the opinion that "statistics are malleable to a certain extent . . . it depends on how you spin it." Statistics are malleable, and what else? An accounting record, maybe?

The interview Ms. Bukowski found was probably this one, published by The Sydney Morning Herald on 23 March 1996:


Not to cast aspersions on ACT-UP, an organization whose guerrilla tactics no doubt saved millions of lives; but Luke Montgomery has gone on record saying its membership spread lies about HIV infection! There are even more incendiary quotes attributed to him, and more inappropriate behavior. Here are a few revelations from conservative Gay pundit Dale Carpenter, writing for the Bay Area Reporter on 4 May 2000:

"You may remember Luke Sissyf*g, the former ACT-UP activist who once distributed graphically illustrated condom packages to school children, regularly pranced before cameras in lipstick, eyeliner, and pink plastic hair barrettes, and championed the idea of a natural Gay "queerness." He now calls himself Luke Montgomery, and appears on Fundamentalist radio programs to decry the "Gay lifestyle" as "totally devoid of any moral character" and consisting of nothing but rampant sex and continual drug use. He says anti-discrimination laws are "fascistic," promoted by a Gay community that doesn't feel good about itself."

Wouldn't you expect a news organization to think twice about throwing editorial support behind someone with such an erratic background? The Advocate didn't. Neither did The Huffington Post, which heartily endorsed Luke Montgomery's "hilariously vulgar charity" effort on 22 July. "Instead of just sitting around p*ssed off at BP, turn that anger into something positive and help 'Unf*ck The Gulf!", urged HuffPost Green contributor Travis Walter Donovan. Hopefully, Arianna Huffington's regulars didn't stop reading at that point! They really needed to scan down the page and heed the cautionary advice of a commenter who signed himself "Smartypants":

"Sorry, but as a longtime resident of Seattle who remembers him from the days of Luke Sissyf*g, I have to seriously question anything Mr. Montgomery is involved in. He is a relentless self-promoter who will do anything to claim the spotlight. Luke started out as a self-proclaimed AIDS activist, best known for attacking openly Gay and supportive officials who disagreed with him about AIDS policies. When we stopped paying attention to him in Seattle, he suddenly rejected the Gay lifestyle (sic) and began appearing on Fundamentalist radio and TV, decrying Gay people . . . now he's Gay again, and jumping on whatever cause of the moment gets him on camera for a minute or two. Before this, he was collecting money for Haiti and flying himself and his boyfriend there to distribute medicine without any medical training . . . I really can't encourage GLBT people to give this media whore a penny of our money. . . part of me feels sorry for the guy because he's a mess, but generally, I find his actions to be somewhere between counter-productive and unforgiveable."

I'd say the same thing about The Advocate's and The Huffington Post's decision to give Luke Montgomery such uncritical coverage. In less than fifteen minutes, my Google searches set off enough alarm bells to justify a thorough exposé on him, not to mention an audit of his fundraising activities! Yet if his wacky former moniker, questionable interaction with children and ditzy statements equating profanity with patriotism didn't give them pause, why on Earth would the air of financial impropriety disturb them? Clearly, I'm expecting too much.

This is a typical example of how Left Wing media falls head-over-heels for every radical fringe initiative that comes along. Just let it be silly, snarky, sexually provocative, or attached to the word "queer" . . . it's sure to win their seal of approval! I'm not surprised that Advocate staff would get suckered into this Sissyf*g dude's crazed bottom-feeding schemes. Birds of a feather flock together, and that applies to cuckoo birds as much as any other kind! The last Dumb Dora Award won by The Advocate was for Sleazy-Ass Journalism. Now they've graduated to Half-Assed Journalism, and they're sharing honors with the (hardly) venerable Huffington Post. I think a round of applause is in order, don't you? Any degree of improvement, no matter how slight, deserves commendation!

Will The Advocate's representatives remain on stage, please? They are to receive a special honor at the close of tonight's ceremony.

Next: The Dumb Dora Award for Repackaging Prejudice