Alex Blaze

Lady Gaga Saves the World from Target

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 23, 2011 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Politics
Tags: campaign contributions, donation plea, lady gaga, LGBT, los angeles times, Minnesota, MN Forward, MoveOn, Target, tom emmer


Lady-GaGa-Born-This-Way.jpg"That discussion was one of the most intense conversations I've ever had in a business meeting," Lady Gaga said. "Part of my deal with Target is that they have to start affiliating themselves with LGBT charity groups and begin to reform and make amends for the mistakes they've made in the past ... our relationship is hinged upon their reform in the company to support the gay community and to redeem the mistakes they've made supporting those [antigay] groups."

If one accepts the premise that she's a business-person who's wary of even the slightest criticism that might sour people to her brand or a synergistic opportunity that might muddle the message and ethos of that brand, then that statement makes sense. Taken in context, there's nothing wrong with someone trying to make money off the false premise that she's progressive/intellectual/LGBT-activist/whatever; she doesn't want to break the contract she has with Target while finessing a business decision she assumed would go unnoticed.

If she really does care about Target's donation, why didn't she have this business meeting back when she was in negotiation with Target for exclusive distribution rights instead of now after people noticed? If she really does care about Target's actions, why does she describe them almost as if she didn't even read up on what the problem was before that interview?

But something tells me that that business meeting was only "intense" in terms of how much champagne was going around.

Here's the substance of the new policy Lady Gaga's claiming to have pushed Target to. It may seem very, very familiar:

[...]our financial support is provided in a nonpartisan manner based strictly on issues that directly affect our business priorities.

If it sounds like you've heard that before, it's because it was Target's initial response to criticism last year: political contributions are business, not personal. In fact, that was the exact problem people had, but leave it to The LA Times to pretend like this is a poor, defenseless corporation giving up its lunch money to the Gay Bully:

Nevertheless, the company was subjected to threats of a boycott and a heavy-handed demand that it contribute $150,000 to pro-gay rights candidates.

Fair or not, the offensive against Target has resulted in a policy that satisfies its critics (though some campaign reformers claim the company still is not disclosing the amounts it contributes to trade associations). Beyond Target, however, the new policy suggests that when political spending is made public, shareholders, customers and activists can force a company to alter its priorities in political expenditures.

Who are these critics who are "satisfied"? Don't expect the LA Times to tell you, although, further down in a smug move, they get close to highlighting the real problem people had with this donation only to tell people that it's the real problem and only they noticed it.

That can be a positive development, though it raises the possibility of backlash. Also, those who celebrate the lobbying that caused Target to change its policy should remember that turnabout is fair play: Similar public pressure might be brought to bear on corporations that support pro-gay rights candidates. The boycott is a weapon that can be wielded by all sides of a political controversy.

Isn't that a great way to make LGBT activists look like a bunch of vapid faggots? Make up a fake issue to pretend that we were mad about (that we thought Target was actually making donations only to promote homophobia), dismiss that issue as having been solved by the gracious and magnanimous corporation, and then cite the real issue as unsolved and forgotten by LGBT activists even though it's the exact thing that many of us were complaining about.

Target also mentioned the creation of some sort of board to oversee these donations, but considering how they continued to make similar contributions even after the outcry last year, getting a bunch of people on their payroll to OK the contributions seems fairly unsatisfying. I don't want a group of Target execs to decide election outcomes - I want democracy to go back to the people., who led the non-gay part of the outcry last year and produced ads for a boycott, isn't satisfied:

"Not much has changed," said Robin Beck, campaign director for Moveon.Org. "As far as we can tell, they've expanded the number of people who will be making decisions about the political giving they do. There's no apology for the giving they've done, there's no commitment to equality. There's no commitment to stop funding 527s. There's no commitment to not use corporate funds."

It's only one of the biggest progressive orgs out there. It's not like the LA Times would have heard of them by now.

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Yeah, as I said last week, this changes nothing. They'll still be donating to influence elections - they'll just do it now with the cover of a "committee" who has "input." In other words, they can't even make a decision on their own.

The lack of equivalent criticism for Ricky Martin forces me to conclude that the endless outrage against Lady Gaga is primarily driven by biphobia and femmephobia. If people were sincere, they'd be lambasting Martin even more than Gaga since he was the first to sign an exclusive deal with Target and didn't negotiate any pro-LGBT deal with the corporation.

Instead, the gay media has effectively given Martin a free pass while dogpiling on Gaga in ways that are blatantly biphobic, especially yet another round of claiming that she's bi "only because it's hip and trendy". They don't even give her due credit for being open about her sexuality pretty much throughout her career, as compared to Martin who cowered in the closet for years and years.

Can you link on Ricky Martin signing an exclusive deal with Target?

I don't think he's tried 1% as much as Gaga has to base a brand off social consciousness. He's always been party and good feelings; she's been making herself out to be a lot more with stunts like reading a script from SLDN for 9 minutes on YouTube and releasing a song that she's been touting as a gay anthem for months before the song was even released (exclusively through Target).

Ricky Martin's vomit-inducing feel-good video from a month ago that some people were calling gay-friendly didn't get a fraction of the hype Gaga, The Advocate, and others have given her single. And, again, he didn't claim to march down into Target's office and make them change their policy, which she did, and that item is the main topic of this post.

I forgot to add: any criticism of Ricky Martin is clearly a sign of homophobia, anti-latino racism, and xenophobia.

Sarcasm-laced strawmen should be beneath your dignity, Alex.

The specific accusations made against Lady Gaga -- particularly "she's only bi because it's trendy" -- are very explicitly based in biphobia and bi erasure within the gay/lesbian community. It's not a knee jerk claim that any criticism whatsoever of her is biphobic.

Martin has pretty much exactly the same deal as Gaga, Target exclusive for the deluxe version of his new album.

Or there could be two other, more obvious reasons.
1: Compare the two in terms of cultural influence right now. To say Gaga has significantly more would be something of a huge understatement. She has more of an effect, and therefore she needs to be called out all the more.
2: Does Martin identify himself as an advocate? Not that I'm aware of. Gaga does. Frequently. It's bad for a gay individual to align with anti-gay forces. That's a given. It's a whole lot worse when an advocate for the community (specifically gay in this case cuz, let's face it, Gaga could give a shit about trans*) sides with those forces.

There's also the matter that Gaga gets coverage and the last I heard about Ricky Martin was that he'd come out, and that he had a new album coming out (and a book). Up until today, I'd heard nothing about his Target deal. News travels, primarily, through word of mouth. Who gets talked about more?

I won't deny that people are responding with the phobias you've mentioned. That doesn't shock me a bit, and it pisses me off all the more, but I don't think they're the root of the issue at all.

Two new phobias in my universe this morning: Bi and femme. Interesting.

Alex, here's a thought, from a friend in the music industry who filled me in yesterday: record releases often lag initial decisions, by months, even a year. The Target execs could've had the Gaga meeting last fall, or before...we don't know.
Here's somethign we know: without gaga shoving her points at them, they wouldn't have changed a thing.

And here's another concept to ponder: I don't want to discourage any company's execs from gathering together to donate to whatever cause they choose. Remember: those right-wing fanatics are often trying to tell US with whom we can associate and similar things.

But Target, or any consumer-goods company, cannot and should not act surprised, when that contribution information leaks out. We can make choices, and lots of folks have.

It looks as if Gaga didn't know about the Target execs' past PAC donations. Fine. She does now, and it appears that as soon as she did know, she tried to push them toward more tolerant views.

Some of her music is great, some of it garbage, by my view. I've never spent one dime on her, and don't plan to, with or without her Targeted indignation. She moved the ball down the field because she had the power to do so, and she got as much as she could. Bully for her.

Why all the haters? Do we truly want to sacrifice good at the altar of perfect? Because if that's the case, you might as well dig a hole and jump in. In case you haven't noticed, government is effing us right-and-left lately.

Her attitude seems to be: poush for as much as possible, take what's possible, and make the enxt record decision based on sales and the profiteers' motives.

Sounds fine with me.

Personally, I feel that companies *shouldn't* be allowed to participate in the political process. If the execs want to get together and spend their own money on some cause, I feel they should be free to do that, as long as the cause is not outright sedition or something. But not companies.

Oh, and not churches, either. Yes, I know, supposedly they can't and still be tax-exempt, but they do, esp when it comes to anti-gay and anti-women policies and laws.

Again, all those ppl who go to the churches, the Bishops, whoever, should have the right to weigh in, but not as representatives of The Church as an entity.

Allowing the rich and powerful (well, usually the same--the Mormon Church and the Catholic Church are prolly worth more than Target) to drive politics, is in my opinion, anti-democratic. Large corporations and churches have far too much ability to promote their interests against society.

Do we truly want to sacrifice good at the altar of perfect?

I love it when people say that. As income inequality spirals out of control, more people live in poverty today than a few decades ago, unions get broken up, class sizes increase, pensions get cut... all because corporations like Target control our culture, our media, and our government.

Why is "good" in that expression always really bad and "perfect" is just wanting things to be less bad?

We need a "like" feature for such comments! (regardless of how you respond to me below, Alex!)

Ya know, I was thinking the same thing....on the liking bit I mean.

"that we thought Target was actually making donations only to promote homophobia"

Yes, I agree - but I do think most of teh gayz who support the boycott are in fact doing so only on those narrow grounds. You have been the notable exception in that. The larger issue is the one highlighted by Moveon (surprising for an otherwise vapid and do-nothing online entity) but one ignored by HRC when that org insisted that the only way Target could right matters would be to make similar donations to pro-gay (i.e. gay marriage) organisations.

And while I recognise that the LA Times is not coming from the best place when it writes this:
"The boycott is a weapon that can be wielded by all sides of a political controversy," there is some truth to that, I think. I have no doubt, for instance, that gay businesses are routinely boycotted in much less obvious ways - that's one of the reasons why even large cities still have gay business enclaves, and gay business councils, and why we feel compelled to make sure we support them (even as they often demonstrate some clear problems, like the gay businesses in Chicago's Boystown which have been blatantly racist towards queer youth;we're trying to work on that here).

Talking to most people about the boycott of Target, it becomes painfully clear that most of them neither know about nor care about the bigger issue of campaign financing or, on a smaller scale, the issue of businesses engaging in politics at any level (and can and should we legislate that a business owner can never make their politics evident?).

And what's a "pro-gay" agenda, anyway? Pro-queers in the military? Hate crimes legislation? Marriage? Every single one of these issues fights against the interests of queers who don't fit the exceptionalist model of Good Gays set up by Gay Inc.

Ugh. You're right, there were some gays (HRC specifically) that acted like it was just about that one issue. Maybe it was just that I surround myself with a group of people who think a little more outside the box that I said that the gays, generally, were aware that the issue was bigger than marriage.

But I don't think that the Times gets to pretend like they were the ones who thought that the possible backlash against gay-friendly businesses (like the AFA has been organizing for decades) is a reason that limited goals are bad and that the idea of corporate control of democracy is what's at fault here. Moreover, they were against anyone speaking out against the contribution a while back, arguing that the poor corporation was just doing its business, as if Target looking out for its bottom line is something that people aren't allowed to question.

Lady Gaga is a work in progress. She is young and evolving in a hugely public way. From what I have witnessed she is a champion for all human rights which is not to say that she is in any way perfect in how she has addressed those issues.

What do any of you think unnerved the political establishment more. Was it a small band of narcissistic ex-military demonstrators chaining themselves to a fence or a popular icon raising the consciousness of millions of teenage fans? In my opinion Senator Reid should have sent Lt Dan's ring to Gaga so she could have used it in her next off the wall costume.

I've been dismayed by certain people's attempts to repaint history as "Gays got mad over the DOMA brief, then Dan Choi et al got arrested, then DADT was repealed." There has been a lot of simplism there and I actually think that Rachel Maddow deserves a lot of the credit when it comes to DADT repeal as well. (Of course, these are all high profile people and a lot of people doing the ground work will probably never get credit and deserve it more.)

But Gaga isn't much younger than I am so I can't let her off the hook because of her age.

Alex the success of a movement is based on making enemies into friends, not the reverse.

Or perhaps the real success is being able to distinguish between one's "enemies" and one's "friends." I don't know that Alex is even proclaiming LG an enemy. But why is it wrong or futile to point out that there are real problematics with her rhetoric and politics?

Why not keep hammering at and for a sound political framework instead of assuming that a celebrity who stands to make millions off her albums and by selling her work as revolutionary to millions of people who are only there to gawk at her fame? Not that there's anything wrong with that: I'm a fan of a lot of celebrities. But why not put the pressure of LG to actually think about her politics instead of thinking that her incredibly simplistic plan for making the world a better place can somehow be improved upon? Shouldn't we have higher standards for ourselves?

Supporting celebrities cuts both ways: give them the benefit of the doubt, fine, but also keep their feet to the fire. If LG wants political credibility, she has to do more than this. Otherwise, she should just cop to the fact that this is yet one more marketing tool for her empire.

That should read: "...instead of assuming that a celebrity who stands to make millions off her albums by selling her work as revolutionary to millions of people who are only there to gawk at her fame actually gives a damn about anything or has actually put any thought into any of this?"

And by the way: what movement? Whose movement? I don't recall signing on to the Gay Trifecta of marriage, hate crimes legislation, and inclusion in the military.

Encouraging LG's meaningless blather is just encouraging more people to assume that this supposed agenda of hers and that of Gay Inc. has any real support amongst the vast majority of queers.

Kevin Fuhrmann | February 25, 2011 12:47 PM

"If she really does care about Target's donation, why didn't she have this business meeting back when she was in negotiation with Target for exclusive distribution rights instead of now after people noticed? "
There is LITERALLY no way for you to know this. NONE. You are assuming things based not on fact, but your own preconceived notions. Just because Lady Gaga didn't publicize that aspect of the meeting until she was asked about it doesn't mean your timeline holds any merit whatsoever.
Please don't see this as a personal attack but I simply cannot sit here and watch someone write an article in which a major part of the logic is based on fabrication. This is an especially disheartening article to say, especially considering it is written about a woman who does things such as donating to homeless shelters for LGBTQ youth every night of her tour, as well as creating an alternate version of her new single in order to donate to anti-bullying organizations. If she so clearly puts her money where her mouth is, I think it is only fair for you guys to put factual evidence where yours are.