Guest Blogger

Intimidation is not an effective tactic

Filed By Guest Blogger | June 04, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Dorian Davis, Gallup Poll, gay issues, intimidation, social movement tactics

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Dorian Davis starred on MTV's morning show, MTV Hits, before switching to the other side of the camera to research and develop Iraq coverage for MTV News. Now a freelance writer, Davis is published in Architectural Record, Brainwash Magazine, Business Week Online, Doublethink Online, New York Daily News, New York Republican Record and XY.

Dorian Davis 8.jpgI'm not surprised at the recent Gallup poll showing that interaction with gay people affects public perceptions of a whole spectrum of issues from gay marriage to gays in the military. But I'm surprised at how oblivious people are to what it means.

Up to now, LGBT activists have used intimidation as their main tactic. When the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8 last month, for example, liberal columnists went into overtime attacking the one thing Democrats never do: the government. LA Times' Tim Rutten called the decision "social and moral nonsense," and Andrew Sullivan decried Obama's non-committal Prop 8 position in "The Fierce Urgency of Whenever." Others blamed Prop 8 supporters. 5,000 people showed up in New York City and 15,000 more in Los Angeles - a lot of them wearing No on Prop 8 campaign's "No to H8" logo.

Impressive? Yes. Effective? No.

As one Twitter friend put it, outreach - not condemnation - is the secret to winning over social conservatives, Republican and Democrat. I'm a perfect example. Since I first "reached out" to a Hispanic kid in the back seat of a Mercedes Benz to the Titanic soundtrack in March '98, I've reached out to actors, dancers, entrepreneurs and some of the biggest names in Washington. I even reached out to a stripper I met at Posh last night.

Enough about me.

The point is, outreach is important. Gallup's poll proves that. The more time spent blaming people for Prop 8 and other undesirable measures, the less time spent reaching out in schools, sports leagues and neighborhood programs. I've done it with hundreds of people! If each of us were that proactive...

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They say we shouldn't be so mean about our oppression?'s my response:

I think I'll keep doing what seems to be working (state #6 = NH)

One-note, expected post from patrick aside, this contribution could have used a bit more exploration.

So far, it's a rehash of previously stated critiques, with some added personal anecdote.

Cool story, bro.

Don't see what it added but it was something.

Anyone who pays attention to politics knows that it's the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, particularly when you're talking about LGBT issues and Congress.

We've tried playing nice. It doesn't work. All it does is embolden our enemies to become more aggressive in fighting against us and our equality.

I call bullshit.

Amen Dorian! Gay marriage bans were approved in every state that put the issue on the ballot, 30 states total. As a supporter of gay marriage, a PR tune up is necessary if it is to ever become a reality. Dismissing the majority of Americans as bigots, even if true, will get you nowhere.

Marja Erwin | June 4, 2009 12:53 PM

The majority of Americans are bigots. They aren't going to change their bigotry if we don't call them on it.

And I, for one, refuse to participate in lobbying, legislation, or any other strategy that legitimizes violence. Ultimately, we will do better with direct action than political action - we need to support each other and our allies, work with those who may help us, and boycott those who would harm us.

I think Democrats can be prone to attacking the government as well. I know some who do, for realz!

I think we need both outreach and civil disobedience (I refuse to call demanding our rights "intimidation"), personally. If nothing else, this helps us with our own morale.

I thought this was a poorly argued piece. You accuse the gay rights movement of using "intimidation," but when the time comes to list examples, you just talk about "liberal columnists" and then mention Andrew Sullivan, who's a conservative/libertarian. You don't mention any actual examples of intimidation.

But to address your actual argument, I have to call bullshit here, too. The passive approach of playing nice has gotten us nowhere in the last several years. In all of those 30 states where the amendments have passed, our approach has been the same: Mass "discrimination is wrong!" emails and abstract pleas for "fairness" and "equality," all the while using the "g-word" as sparingly as possible.

The angry protests that followed Proposition 8's passage showed the country that these amendments cause real harm to real people. You can call that "intimidation" all you want, but making a lot of noise is what has consistently won victories for civil rights movements in this country.

I've gotta agree - this piece seems to just be falling in line with the right's rhetoric that queer people protesting at all is "intimidation." Their entire goal, and not just in relation to LGBT issues, is to make protest and speaking out and caring about stuff so uncool that no one will do it anymore.

I don't see how Andrew Sullivan article is "intimidation." I don't really agree with him, but he just wrote an article, he didn't say he was going to beat anyone up. Plus he's not a liberal, the man wrote The Conservative Soul.

People should be speaking out. We shouldn't shut up. And we should be reaching out too, but that doesn't mean we can't speak out as well.

I just looked at this guy's Facebook profile... He describes himself as "Very Conservative," and his "Pages" header lists some libertarian groups, Sean Hannity, the Heritage Foundation and -- I kid you not -- KEN BLACKWELL.

I can read an article or blog entry by Andrew Sullivan and respectfully disagree, but how in the name of fuck can a gay person declare himself a fan of Ken Blackwell? Oh, and then he belongs to pro-gay marriage groups. Can someone say "cognitive dissonance?"

I prefer the term "eclectic."


First of all, you can call Andrew Sullivan whatever you please, but he self identifies as a conservative and is generally regarded as such. If you think he's liberal, then state that it's your opinion. Labeling him a "liberal columnist" makes it look as though you didn't do your research and/or that you value opinions over facts.

As for Ken Blackwell, you do know that he's one of the most vehemently anti-gay politicians in this country and that he regards homosexuality as a "compulsion," right? Even if you agree with all his other views, the very fact that he fundamentally opposes you as a person is reason enough not to align yourself with him.

I'm not sure that most people on the right would agree Sullivan is a conservative, whether he calls himself one or not.

Al Housman | June 4, 2009 3:39 PM

I absolutely agree with you.

Radicalization only decreases the political space in which moderate policy makers can maneuver. I think that the attention should be focused on the 18000 marriages that were saved, rather than demonizing those who supported Prop. 8.

Denying Prop. 8 a retroactive capacity creates a common ground from which future victories can be created. However, to do that, we need to focus on constructively engaging the moderate and right flanks. If we continue to lash out, we only make it easier for conservatives to characterize gay-rights activists as extremists who should be marginalized and ignored.

I feel that we need a multi pronged approach which includes education and outreach along with demonstration and activism.
I don't feel that the argument that we have used intimidation if justified and frankly you failed to support it through examples.
I'm really interested in reading your support for this position. Could you perhaps start with how you define "intimidation" as used above and differentiate that from demonstration?

Al Housman | June 6, 2009 3:34 AM


I don't mean to speak for the author of the original post by any means, but I would like to share what I took "intimidation" to mean.

I certainly do not think that a reasonable person could make the case that GLBT activists are violent - or anything even close to on par with the anti-abortion extremists. However, I think that the word "intimidation" was a good choice on Dorian's part. While I agree with several of the other comments that activism and social disobedience properly characterize what's happening; it would be silly not to recognize that demonstrations are meant to convey a political intimidation: we have all these voters who feel strongly on this issue, vote our way or you'll have trouble come election season.

I think the spirit of the post was meant to convey the thought that since we are making progress on the issue of gay marriage, easing up on the volume and intensity of demonstrations could induce a little conciliation among policy makers. Whenever politicians feel threatened, they run to their bases - social conservatives in the case of republicans. The fact that so much progress has occurred in recent months indicates that gay marriage is gaining broader popular support. But that fact has not translated into strong federal protections for gay marriage (the ultimate goal, in my mind). I think the polarizing effects of huge demonstrations are partly to blame; decreasing the use of tactics meant to convey political intimidation will allow for the marginalization of social conservatives and create the possibility for real, national progress on the gay marriage issue.

Rick Sours | June 5, 2009 8:50 PM

Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. That being said, we should NOT allow bigots to treat us as second class citizens.