Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Jo Becker's new book

Reporter Jo Becker was embedded in the Prop8 campaign and has written a book about it.

The problem some commenters have is that her book gives all the credit for marriage equality to Chad Griffin and Ted Olson, with decidedly short shrift to other activists like Andrew Sullivan, Evan Wolfson, and Mary Bonauto.

Several prominent LGBT writers have scolded Becker for apparent hagiography.  I have to say, comparing Chad Griffin with Rosa Parks (as apparently she does on the first page) seems a bit much.  

The fact remains that Prop8 was overturned on a technicality, and the $6m effort of Boies and Olson to ride to the rescue on nationwide marriage equality didn't work.

Nathaniel Frank:
Ultimately, Becker implies that the righteous impatience—and even impetuousness—of Griffin and Olson were responsible for driving a “tectonic shift on the issue of marriage equality” and “bring[ing] marriage equality to the nation.” Note: This hasn’t happened yet—fewer than half the states have marriage equality—so this suggestion is absurd on its face. Becker simply assumes that her protagonists caused, rather than reflected, a shift already well under way....  
In reality, the Griffin-Olson team joined the cause at the 10-yard line, did terrific work in moving the national conversation forward, and tried a risky strategy to win nationwide marriage equality at the Supreme Court—which failed. They added (back) exactly one state, California, furthering the successful state-by-state strategy that was already winning because of the lifelong work of Evan Wolfson, Mary Bonauto, and countless other gay advocates. That work will be responsible for national marriage equality when it finally happens.
Chris Geidner
Forcing the Spring just doesn’t get it right. 
Emblematic of the problems that plague the book is Becker’s treatment of the speech that screenwriter, and eventual AFER board member, Dustin Lance Black gave at the OutGiving conference for LGBT donors held by Tim Gill’s Gill Foundation in March 2009. 
“If there was applause, Black didn’t remember any,” Becker writes. “Instead, he recalled an ocean of pursed lips and crossed arms, and that he was literally trembling as he walked off stage. … Tim Gill … denounced Black outright, telling the crowd he was naive and misguided.” 
Video from the event provided to BuzzFeed, though, shows that the speech was interrupted with applause five times. At the end, at least some members of the audience gave Black a standing ovation, the video shows....
So, she actually lies about the speech.  And this is reporting?  Geidner concludes,
The small universe of people who constitute Becker’s sourcing for the book — and her apparent unwillingness to explore alternative reasons for or views of the developments those sources discuss — make the book a dangerous draft of history.


No comments: