hradzka: (commies)
[personal profile] hradzka
A few days back, I discussed "getting Zumboed", which is the term gun geeks use for "so outraging the community of one's customers that the backlash jeopardizes one's livelihood." The term, if you missed that post, is for Jim Zumbo, an outdoor columnist who took such umbrage to the AR-15 that he described it as a "terrorist rifle" in a blog post. That rather upset a demographic that advertisers find desirable: an AR-15 is not an inexpensive piece of hardware; it's not unusual for people to have fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars invested in their ARs. People who shoot in competition, with ARs they've built to be highly accurate match rifles, can have considerably more than that. It's a sizable investment, and people who own sizable investments take them seriously. And Jim Zumbo told everybody in the United States who owns an AR-15 that they could go fuck themselves. This did not turn out well for him. More recently, we've seen people get Zumboed in the gun industry and in the gay community; the founder of the cruising site Manhunt came in for some trouble after it came out that he'd donated to McCain/Palin 2008. This strikes me as an interesting and noteworthy political development, and so I made a post about it.

Well, it's not a grass-roots reaction any more. It's officially a political tactic now.



My post turned out to be timelier than I'd thought, because the convulsive anger following California's passage of Proposition 8, which amended the state's constitution to ban gay marriage, has seen getting Zumboed going to new heights. The early reports that black voters went 70% for Prop 8 caused some extraordinarily ugly rhetoric and some nasty incidents, to the point that several prominent people published essays urging against this division, in part because conservatives would take advantage of such a split in the progressive coalition. Now the gay community has turned on the churches, particularly the Mormons -- and anyone who supported the measure financially. Public record donor lists are being used to whip up torches-and-pitchforks mobs on demand.

Check out the case of Scott Eckern, the California Musical Theater's artistic director. He gave a thousand bucks to support Prop. 8.

...a guy who works in musical theater. WHAT WAS HE THINKING? Well, it doesn't matter; he doesn't work in musical theater anymore. Composer Marc Shaiman (HAIRSPRAY) led the charge against him. Eckern had worked for the theater for 25 years. He put an ad in Playbill apologizing, and quit.

And Eckern's not alone. Check out the case of Marjorie Christofferson, a restaurant owner who gave money to support Prop. 8.

In a dramatic, closed door lunch meeting, the owner of a renowned Mexican eatery in Hollywood expressed regret in her decision to donate $100 to the “Yes on Prop 8″ campaign, but her remarks before a group of about 60 members of Los Angeles’ LGBT community fell short of an outright personal apology.

“I’m sick of heart that I’ve offended anyone in the gay community,” said Marjorie Christofferson, co-owner of El Coyote Mexican Cafe for 17 years. “I have had, and do have family, friends, and people I work with of course who are gay…and you are treasured people to me.”

The tall, frail Christofferson stood in the center of the group. She appeared to be shaking during her prepared remarks which lasted about 3 minutes. Her daughters flanked her to prevent her from fainting, according to a restaurant employee. At several points during her speech, Christofferson simply became too emotional to continue.


Here's an account from someone who was there. The most amazing thing to me in that story: the activists were targeting somebody whose donation to support Prop. 8. was *a whopping one hundred dollars.*

I'm getting more and more weirded out by this whole thing. I didn't mind when Zumbo got his, because I own an AR-15 (and an SKS and a Sig 556 and I CAN STOP ANY TIME I WANT), and I didn't care for some blowhard casting aspersions against me and my rifle(s). Plus, he was a public figure, and he'd done something our political enemies would find highly useful. I feel less comfortable with what happened to Dan Cooper, and even less so with what happened to the co-founder of MANHUNT. The Prop. 8 backlash takes this to another level entirely, and it's officially weirding me out. I oppose the reimposition of the "assault weapons ban," for example, but while I'd support coming down hard on, say, a gun manufacturer who backs it because he feels that magazine capacity limitations will remove one of his competitors' chief selling points (yeah, there's precedent), I am *deeply* revolted by the idea of going through political donations and harassing people who give to the Brady Campaign.

It's a little amazing to see how fast this tactic has evolved, though.

Date: 2008-11-16 03:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aiglet.livejournal.com
I think a large part of the problem is that there is no way to repeal Prop 8 immediately. It's not a *law*, it's a constitutional amendment, and there's a process (that takes time) that has to be followed.

The other part is that while people may identify as "gun owners," I don't think "AR-15 owners" are an identity the way "gay" is. There's a huge identity politics thing here, where people are taking Prop 8 (which is a pretty explict denial of civil rights to a fairly vocal chunk of the population out here) as a condemnation of the existence of gay people at all. (Which, it must be admitted, is how it's being spun by the "Yes on 8" people, when they talk about it at all -- "God's will," "protecting the children" and all the rest.)

I don't think what's happening is right, by any stretch of the imagination, but if I knew anyone who had voted for Prop 8, we'd have to have some serious discussions about their reasoning while I figured out if I still wanted to be friends with them. (Denying people civil rights is a slippery, slippery slope, and I find some of the pro-8 positions utterly idiotic, and most of the rest just... mean spirited; neither trait is one I particularly care to include in my social circle.)

Date: 2008-11-16 10:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hradzka.livejournal.com
The other part is that while people may identify as "gun owners," I don't think "AR-15 owners" are an identity the way "gay" is.

This is quite true.

1911 owners, OTOH...

Date: 2008-11-16 03:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marag.livejournal.com
::wince:: I'd like many of these folks to get off my side, because they're making my side look bad.

This is an evolution of the old "don't buy from people who support things you abhor" technique, and not a good evolution, I think. It's one thing to say "Hey, let's not buy from companies that hire small children to make their products" and it's another to terrify a local restaurant owner. Or to force out an employee just because you disagree with him.

(Although I might argue that the artistic director giving to Prop 8 shows that he's FRICKING INSANE, but that's another matter. He *does* have that right, even if it shows that he has no sense of self-preservation.)

Date: 2008-11-16 03:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vvalkyri.livejournal.com
Oof. One of the people posting these donor lists deliberately stripped individuals from them, leaving only company/org donations. Since a company donation implies a company standpoint I find that somewhat less oogy. But your examples above are indeed sad.

Date: 2008-11-16 05:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thefourthvine.livejournal.com
You said you didn't mind when Zumbo got his, because you own an AR-15 and don't want someone casting aspersions against you. Essentially, he said that AR-15 owners are lesser human beings, if you think terrorists are that, and I do. And presumably, arising from that, there's a suggestion that AR-15 owners shouldn't have the rights that other people have - perhaps the right to lawfully assemble, or move around freely, or whatever other rights people might consider should be denied to terrorists. So I can understand why you didn't mind. Having someone say that about you is upsetting.

But supposing he'd actually helped make that happen - so now you, say, can't own property or, hey, can't get married - how would you feel then? I mean, you were upset because he said something negative about you, but he didn't actually do anything to you. The people who voted for Prop 8 - the people who donated to Prop 8 - didn't just say I was a lesser human being; they made sure I would be treated like one. I'm angry, and so is everyone else in this situation.

Does that mean I agree with any of this? No, actually. But I don't think Zumbo should have lost his job, either. And I just don't see the distinction. If you're okay with Zumbo losing his job because of something he said, surely you should be okay with people losing their jobs or being forced to apologize for something they did. And donating to Prop 8 was doing something - and doing it in the public eye.

Date: 2008-11-16 06:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hradzka.livejournal.com
These are some very good points, and some of the issues you raise are a big part of why I posted my earlier comments: I'm still trying to work out why I feel the way I do about the issue, and what precisely makes me comfortable versus uncomfortable with the tactic, and in what circumstances.

I think crusading against a public figure for a public stance is one thing. That's pretty clearly fair game, they knew what they were getting into, and expect a higher level of scrutiny. But a private citizen giving money... that's different to me. It infringes on individual privacy to a degree that I find deeply disturbing; to me, it's the next closest thing to identifying people who voted for the measure and targeting them for harassment. It hits the same buttons that were pushed when, during the campaign, Seattle's alt paper THE STRANGER published pictures and addresses of houses with McCain/Palin signs. I think that, for me, the dividing line comes when I start wondering what the activists in question would do if we didn't have the secret ballot and they knew how people actually voted.

(Now that I think about it, this actually is remarkably similar to another issue that's seen a lot of play in the gun community. Several newspapers have obtained and published lists of people who hold concealed weapons permits, complete with names and addresses -- public records, natch. Gun owners responded by lobbying for legislation against such release of information, as it's basically telling any crook who buys a newspaper, "Look, guys, there are guns here that you can steal.")

Date: 2008-11-16 10:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thefourthvine.livejournal.com
But voting is different than giving money. Giving money is public - anyone can find out. So someone will. I mean, never mind this kind of pressure - when you apply for a job and your potential employers check out your google trail, your donation history is going to come up, and it will probably be part of the hiring decision. I'm not saying it's fair or right, just that it's pretty much inevitable. (And note that the cases you've mentioned, these are all people whose employment or success relies on the community, and in the musical theater guy's case especially, on the generosity of the specific community he hurt. Before I was a SAHM, I was a fundraiser, and I'd have been SCREAMING to get him out of that organization if I'd worked there. Not because I would think it was fair, but because it would make my job impossible. You can't piss off donors and expect to keep your job.)

And that's why we have a secret ballot - it's because all people act this way. The voting booth is the place you get privacy, though. Additional involvement is, for the most part, not private. (See all the fuss over donations to the Communist Party during the McCarthy era, for example.)

It doesn't make me comfortable, though, or very happy. I think newspapers like The Stranger and whichever ones publish concealed weapons permits lists should use some editorial sense and, you know, not do that. (I think newspapers have an ethical obligation not to draw a target on a private citizen, but you notice I am not in the newspaper business. I'd probably think otherwise if I was.) (And I say, this full disclosure, as a person who would like to know if her neighbors had concealed weapons permits, and who would probably treat anyone who did differently. I'm pretty much exactly the voter and citizen the gun community fears. But even though I'd like to know, I don't think newspapers should tell me.) I was also a little shocked that the news channel that ran that "meanest woman in America" story at Halloween disclosed her full name and the area where she lived and showed the front of her house.

But that's a digression. I guess my point is: I wish newspapers would not do that. I wish individuals would not do that. But they will. And there is no real expectation or possibility of privacy when it comes to donating money. (Or giving an interview saying how you'll vote, for that one Montana gun guy.) And either you're okay with that - with Zumbo and all the affiliated activity - or you're not. I just can't see a major distinction anywhere along that line.

Date: 2008-11-16 11:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hradzka.livejournal.com
Well, we're not neighbors or anything, but you know I have a concealed weapons permit, and you've always been perfectly nice to me!

I think there certainly was an expectation of reasonable privacy when it came to donating money. Why? *Because individuals weren't able to readily look this up before.* Newspapers did it, from time to time, but now the net makes it possible for me to see how my neighbors donated. And now it's been demonstrated that this information can be used politically.

Until now, the most use I've seen donor records put to by citizens has been blogs of various ideological stripes looking at various organizations and describing their donor pattern -- conservative blogs merrily pointing out that newspapers and university departments donate heavily Democratic, for example. But now that information is serving as a targeting tool for activists. That's a new game, and I think the Prop 8 backlash is the first to involve that step being taken. Going back to the gun issue, for example, I don't think Dan Cooper would have had any trouble if he hadn't done the USA Today article -- because nobody was looking to see if people working at gun companies were giving money to Obama. The Prop 8 backlash, by contrast, has partisans actively looking up donor information for *anyone* who gave money to support Prop 8. That's innovative, and a little scary. Because if giving money to something you support makes you a valid target, we're all Jim Zumbo.

I actually see two depressing possibilities coming out of this technique. One is legislation to prohibit or severely limit public disclosure of political donations. If enough people come in for harassment based on their political donations, look for them to start writing their congresscritters, just as gun owners started writing their state legislators about newspapers listing concealed weapons permit holders.

The other depressing possibility: right now, this tactic has been used and expanded by highly focused communities with strong grass roots -- the gun enthusiasts and the gay rights movement. It's not going to stay that way, especially with the attention the Prop 8 boycotts are getting. And if it works, *who else will start doing this, and with what ends in mind?* If progressive activists are looking into donor records to find out which inhabitants of progressive enclaves are offending their neighbors, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Fred Phelps set will do the same thing in more hidebound regions.

And as this gets more widespread, it's going to get real ugly, real fast.

Date: 2008-11-17 12:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thefourthvine.livejournal.com
Well, yeah, David, but I trust you not to be an idiot with your guns. (Also, if you are an idiot with your guns, you're unlikely to hurt me or my family or my dogs, but if you lived next door, I still wouldn't worry about it.) I don't trust the average gun-owner or concealed-weapons-permit-holder at all. (Our pediatrician, at every well baby visit, goes down a checklist of safety questions. Firearms in the home comes just after smoke alarms. She always reminds us that even if we don't have guns, we have to worry about the guns our son's friends' parents own - when he has friends, of course, because five month olds don't. I admit it; I'd be uncomfortable letting my kid play in a house where there were guns. Because I really do not trust the average gun owner to be careful or safe.)

Because if giving money to something you support makes you a valid target, we're all Jim Zumbo.

But we all are Jim Zumbo. (Which is part of why I was surprised that you were okay with what happened to him.) That ship has sailed. I knew as soon as donor records became publicly available that it would end up this way - I mean, my best friend can look up my history of political donations. (And she did, for fun.) I have long assumed that any potential employer or whatever would also know how I donated, and judge me accordingly. If my neighbors were not mostly old people who have unsecured wireless connections named Linksys, I'd assume they knew, too. Which would be a problem with the virulent Yes on 8 supporter down the road, but, well. Again. I expect it.

I guess I'm not reeling from this, or even surprised, because I knew it was inevitable; it's happened before, after all. I wasn't kidding - look up the hysteria about Communist Party donations in the McCarthy era. This is not a new tactic. It's just that access to the information is easier now. We can all be McCarthy if we want to be!

I don't want to be. But I don't doubt that many people would like to be.

And as this gets more widespread, it's going to get real ugly, real fast.

Or people will simply stop donating, which should have the effect of changing policy on this subject real fast. Nothing like hitting the policy-makers in their campaign budgets to bring about change.

Date: 2008-11-17 12:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hradzka.livejournal.com
I would say two things:

1. I think there's a heck of a difference between donating to democratically-enforced douchebaggery and donating to an organization funded by and endorsing a foreign totalitarian power.

2. Wasn't the idea that McCarthyism, y'know, *wasn't so hot?*

Nothing like hitting the policy-makers in their campaign budgets to bring about change.

...yeah. But whose change?

Because there are people on the other side who would *loooooooooove* to give this stuff a whack. And they're likely to be very, very good at it.

This is the kind of political war I'm really not anxious to see get going.

Date: 2008-11-17 02:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thefourthvine.livejournal.com
I think there's a heck of a difference between donating to democratically-enforced douchebaggery and donating to an organization funded by and endorsing a foreign totalitarian power.

I think it's a slippery slope, frankly. Again, I don't think you can say that it's okay in certain instances to use people's campaign contributions against them, but not okay in all other cases.

Wasn't the idea that McCarthyism, y'know, *wasn't so hot?*

Indeed, and that's my point - to me, this all seems like McCarthyism. (I said I could see it coming and even understand it, not that I approved or wanted it. I really, really don't.) I mean, I'm sure I'd find another analogy if I did like it.

Because there are people on the other side who would *loooooooooove* to give this stuff a whack. And they're likely to be very, very good at it.

True. It can easily get ugly. But I do think that if people stop donating altogether - well, hmmm. Actually, what would happen is that we'd end up back with a Congress made up of white male millionaires again. Or rather, even more so. Arg.

But, yeah, ugly it is and can and will be. My point, though, is that I don't see any difference between what happened to Zumbo and what's happening in response to Prop 8 - or what will happen, very unpleasantly, when this kind of campaign is more widespread. And I still don't see one.

Date: 2008-11-17 06:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unix-jedi.livejournal.com
Our pediatrician, at every well baby visit, goes down a checklist of safety questions. Firearms in the home comes just after smoke alarms.

Time for a new pediatrician. Well, if it was my kid. But then, I've got a problem with doctors following fads and ignoring science. (Don't get me started on cholesterol hysteria.)

This isn't a new issue. In 2001, Dr. Richard Corlin announced the campaign against "gun violence" in his inaugural speech as president of the AMA. (http://www.saf.org/viewpr-new.asp?id=33)

I'm trying to find the release form as to experience about guns that one parent who faced this politically motivated and scientifically ignorant campaign handed to the doctor. Asking for their qualifications to make such a claim. Others have reported that the form will not be filled out, for some reason... Not a single one, so far.

She always reminds us that even if we don't have guns, we have to worry about the guns our son's friends' parents own - when he has friends, of course, because five month olds don't.

She reminds you.. with a 5 month old. Yeah, no hysteria there.

I admit it; I'd be uncomfortable letting my kid play in a house where there were guns. Because I really do not trust the average gun owner to be careful or safe.

Oh, we know you don't. Luckily for you, and probably to the detriment of our society, we don't reciprocate your lack of trust.

But you have removed the bathtubs from your house, right? And gotten rid of the buckets? Since (as I'm sure you know and your safety-conscious (and boundary violating) (http://www.jpands.org/hacienda/wheeler1.html) doctor has reiterated repeatedly) those are far more deadly to children than even poorly controlled guns?

Right?

Date: 2008-11-16 06:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unix-jedi.livejournal.com
A large part of the difference between Zumbo and the Prop 8 outrage was that Zumbo was considered an expert in the field.

And he didn't do the first bit of research into what he was blathering on about - even contradicting himself. He wasn't talking about his dislike of semi-auto weapons, he was advocating banning guns. That he admitted in his initial remarks that he knew almost nothing about. (For the record: I use a Romanian SAR-1 that "looks like an AK-47" for deer hunting. If I had a AR, I'd get a 6.8 and be very happy using it for deer hunting.)

And his remarks were immediately seized upon - "See? This gun guy wants them outlawed too!". The anti-gunners have had divide and conquer on their playbook for a long time, and Zumbo should have known it. For him to be a senior voice in the "community", yet not know what the single best selling rifle was, what the almost-sole rifle used in NRA High Power competitions was inexcusable.
When the last "Assault Weapon" Ban was in effect, the anti-gunners hadn't stopped, they were still progressing, trying to build upon it, outlaw home defense, private sales, "Sniper rifles" that were "too accurate"...
In other words, Zumbo needed to not be a "gun columnist", because he was either willfully ignorant, or a Leninist "Useful Idiot".

Also note that when Zumbo apologized and went out with Nugent shooting AR-15s, the vitriol *stopped*.

Date: 2008-11-16 08:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] harriet-spy.livejournal.com
Gosh, that poor lady. Imagine how she would have taken it if someone had come along and told her she couldn't be legally married to her husband because his idea of God was against it. She might have actually swooned!

If you're going to take a public stance that some of your fellow-citizens are unworthy of basic human rights, then you had better be prepared to own that hate in the face of the people you are hating. Now, I actually do share some of your concerns that this kind of response is one that (a) can get out of hand and (b) is somewhat difficult to restrain/channel properly. But I wouldn't expect a gay person to patronize a store owned by someone who had actively worked to deprive them of basic rights, and if I were that gay person, I'd laugh in the face of anyone who told me that she "cherished me" after doing so.

Date: 2008-11-16 08:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sara-lakali.livejournal.com
Yeah, I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with this either. I do agree that donating money, time or other support to a cause or organization that seeks to deny a subset of the population basic human rights should be socially unacceptable. (And I consider the right of consenting adults to marry a basic human right.)

It's a slippery slope, though. If its okay to boycott or picket a business that supports denying individuals' human rights, is it okay to boycott or picket a business that seeks to curtail an individual's civil rights? And it gets even slipperier from there. Is it okay to boycott or picket a business that supports a candidate one doesn't?

I also recognize that tactics used to make such support socially unacceptable can go too far. Boycotting the restaurant because the owner or co-owner donated money in support of Prop. 8 (or similar issues) is acceptable in my eyes. Verbally attacking the owner is not. Asking not to be seated in the section of a waiter or waitress that supported Prop. 8 is acceptable. Boycotting the restaurant because one of the wait staff donated time or money is not.

The articles you linked to didn't say if anyone asked Marjorie if she had known the results of her actions if she's still have donated that money. That's the question I'd have liked to have seen put to her.

Date: 2008-11-19 05:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leftarrow.livejournal.com
ok, this is a really late addition, but I've been thinking about it since the first post, and can't resist chiming in.

I don't have much of a problem with campaign donations being public. I can't imaging donating a large amount of money to a campaign or political cause that I wouldn't acknowledge publicly. Because . . . if I wouldn't stand up for it, I would have to seriously reconsider my reasons for supporting it, and I don't think it's a bad idea for *everyone* to take a good hard look at their own politics and what those politics mean to friends and relatives and society at large. (note that I don't think this type of self-analysis is the same thing as being intimidated over *voting*, which shall remain unassailably private, for hosts and hosts of reasons.)

That being said, I don't think the campaign contributions are the bothersome thing, exactly. A more important problem than people being "outed" over campaign contributions is the fact that campaigns of such personal sensitivity and societal volatility exist in the first place. When campaign contributions start having negative impacts on the way people love and build families, there's something deeply wrong going on. It's important to remember that the perceived singling out of contributors is defense, not offense. The very act of supporting that amendment *brought* things to the personal level. The fact that this didn't occur to anyone beforehand is a serious problem. The response isn't ideal, but I have a hard time calling it unfair.

I think that in the case of *appropriate* campaigns and other political shenanigans, publicity is not a problem, because no one should care about said shenanigans in a context that would inspire personal attacks, loss of jobs, etc. You're drawing comparisons between legally mandated homophobia and gun control, which isn't an entirely accurate analogy. A more apt comparison might be an amendment prohibiting and denying the existence of all items that could conceivably be used as weapons. Which is ridiculous, but to me, is sort of on an even plane of preposterous ideas with the thought that a state constitution should be fucking around with *love.*

But . . . it's tricky. And it's also late at night. Hope some of this makes a little sense? ( I don't think I entirely disagree with you. I'm just trying to find the right context in which TO agree.)

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