Economist: Is Outing Of Closeted Political Figures A Useful Tactic?
Posted on May 14, 2009
Filed Under Uncategorized
KIRBY DICK’S documentary “Outrage“, which opened nationally last week, has turned gay activists’ controversial tactic of exposing closeted public figures—in this case, closeted Republicans perceived as advancing anti-gay policies in their public lives—into a feature-length film. The movie targets an array of elected officials and prominent GOP operators, but of particular interest is its focus on Charlie Crist (pictured with wife), the governor of Florida, who has thrown his hat into the 2010 race for the US Senate, with the support of much of the party establishment.
As if to confirm the film’s thesis that the press go out of their way to help preserve this sort of charade, National Public Radio opted to edit their reviewer’s piece on the movie to remove the names of politicos identified as closeted. At this point, as several others note, this seems rather quaint—and indeed, like an endorsement of the notion that there’s something especially awful about being accused of being gay. Nor do the network’s protestations that they simply avoid traffic in gossip and rumour hold up: They are only too happy to pass along unconfirmed reports about the sex lives of entertainers.
Which is odd, when you think about it, since while the public is clearly interested in the romances of musicians and movie stars, it’s hard to claim there’s a genuine public interest served by poking into their private lives. When it comes to public servants, however, we generally accept that it’s perfectly legitimate to scrutinise their private conduct to the extent it’s relevant to assessing the sincerity of their professed beliefs or the veracity of their public personas. Usually the controversy over “outing” has to do not with elected officials, but with high-level staffers, who have not volunteered themselves for scrutiny in the same way as political candidates. In practice legislative directors and analysts too yield significant public power—legislators are important people, and can’t be bothered with writing and reading bills themselves—but “Outrage” limits itself to indisputable public figures. If the claims about them are so poorly sourced as to constitute plain slander, the film shouldn’t be rewarded with any kind of attention; if they’re at least credible, one may as well save the listeners a Google search and say what they are.
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