Category: LGBT

Durkan Seizes on Graffitied “Homophobic Slurs” as Another Reason to Close CHOP

During a press conference earlier this week, Mayor Jenny Durkan, who is gay, said that small businesses within the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) zone had been vandalized with anti-LGBTQ graffiti by people inside the protest area. “I have talked to many small business owners that literally have just been holding on. It was their week to reopen, and their businesses are sanctuaries for many people, including the LGBT community,” Durkan said.

“They’re not only closed, but there’s graffiti with homophobic slurs written on their buildings. That’s not who we are in Seattle and we’re going to do everything we can to change that dynamic.”

Two days after Durkan’s comments, I spent a couple of hours in the CHOP searching for homophobic graffiti on buildings in the area. I didn’t see any (on this or any prior walk through the CHOP), although I could have missed it or it might have been scrubbed away. There were, however, many signs and spray-painted messages supporting the black trans community, which one of the groups most targeted by hate crimes and police violence in the United States.

In fact, the only “slurs” I could find were the spray-painted message “Fags against cops,” painted on a rainbow crosswalk across from Cal Anderson Park, two that read “Dykes 4 BLM,” and one that read “Dykes 4 Anarchy.”

When I sent a couple of photos of these messages to the mayor’s office to find out if this was what Durkan was referring to, a spokeswoman said, “She met with [business] owners including some LGBTQ biz owners who had mentioned the tag of the f-word on/near their business. Not sure the specific location of the photos referenced below. But that specific word in graffiti is what she was referencing.”

Louise Chernin, the head of the Greater Seattle Business Association (the city’s LGBTQ+ business group), said she had not seen any homophobic graffiti herself, but added that “more than one person told me they saw homophobic graffiti around the neighborhood.”

Reclaiming words meant as slurs, of course, is a long and proud tradition among oppressed groups of all kinds. (“Queer,” the Q in LGBTQ+, is a great example of a term for identity that began its life as a slur.) Bottom line: Calling the “f-word” homophobic in every context is like saying it’s misogynistic for women to start a magazine called Bitch.

Durkan has repeatedly implied that the ongoing presence of protesters, barricades and graffiti in the six-block CHOP area is harming the LGBTQ+ community on Capitol Hill, a “historic sanctuary” for LGBTQ+ people. What is clear from even a brief walk through the neighborhood, however, is that the majority of the signs, graffiti, and even pro-protest posters hung up by businesses themselves, are overwhelmingly pro-queer—and that a lot of it is explicitly anti-Durkan.

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Homelessness Agency Director Suspended, Investigation Launched After Racy Drag Show at Annual Conference

 

This post has been updated (Monday, December 16, 2:20 pm) to include this update:

Kira Zylstra, the acting director of All Home, has resigned her position as a result of the events described in this post. According to King County Department of Community and Human Services spokeswoman Sherry Hamilton, DCHS chief of staff Denise Rothleutner “has stepped in to provide oversight and supervision to the All Home staff.” The investigation into the event and the leadership of All Home is ongoing, according to Hamilton.

This post has been updated (Saturday, December 14, at 10:45 am) to include video from the event.

Kira Zylstra, the acting director of the agency that coordinates King County’s response to homelessness, All Home, has been put on administrative leave pending an investigation involving a solo drag show at the group’s annual conference by Spokane-based performer Beyonce St. James, who reportedly danced on tables, gave lap dances, and stripped down to a pair of silver pasties as people threw dollar bills.

Although some who saw the performance called it fun, “fabulous” and a rare opportunity for queer people of color—St James is black— to be represented in the sort of space usually dominated by straight white people, others disagreed, complaining that the show was too “sexual” and forced people to participate in a sexualized performance without prior consent.

UPDATE: Here’s the video (possibly NSFW):

The theme of the conference was “decolonizing our collective work.”

In emails, representatives of King County declined to comment about the investigation.

“We have placed the director of All Home on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation into the event and the leadership of All Home.”

Denise Rothleutner, deputy director of King County’s Department of Community and Human Services, said in an email: “The department is aware of an event that occurred during the All Home annual conference on December 9, 2019.  We have placed the director of All Home on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation into the event and the leadership of All Home.  Because there is an active investigation underway, I am unable to respond to specific questions about the event.”

Besides funders and city and county employees, the crowd included representatives from groups like Mary’s Place, Neighborhood House, Catholic Community Services, and other religiously affiliated organizations.

The controversy comes at a critical time for homelessness agencies, as the city and county prepare to merge their homelessness agencies into a single regional authority. As part of that process, All Home would be replaced by a new advisory board that would make recommendations to the new authority.

I’ve reached out to St. James to learn more about her work as a performer and activist and will update this post with additional information.

Morning Crank: “Why Is the Mayor Allowed To Dictate the Law?”

1. On Tuesday, May 15, the Consumer Protection Division of Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s found itself suddenly inundated with Consumer Protection Act complaints against the Seattle City Council, claiming that the council had violated citizens’ consumer rights by, among other things, allowing the city’s “public areas, streets, sidewalks, parks and cemeteries” to be “destroyed by unsanctioned homeless people and drug addicts.”  The written complaints—more than a dozen in one day—had a couple things in common. They all came from residents of Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood. And they all used strikingly similar language, replicated here from one of the complaints, which I obtained through a public records request:

Dear Attorney General: I am writing to you because our public areas, streets, sidewalks, parks and cemeteries and currently being destroyed by unsanctioned homeless people and drug addicts. You cannot drive anywhere in Seattle and surrounding neighborhoods without seeing a homeless tent, evidence of where a homeless tent once was, trash and drug needles, bottles of urine, human feces, etc. in any open space around the city. The homeless are destroying public property by cutting down trees and shrubs to make their encampments. They are littering, urinating and depositing used needles around their encampments. They are harassing pedestrians for money. Often these camps are elaborate, built of shipping pallets, plywood, and other building materials stolen from neighbors or construction sites. Some are built using Yellow Bikes with tarps draped over them. RV’s equipped with generators and BBQ grills are being setup alongside public roads as if it were a camp ground! On occasion, they have stolen power from neighboring houses or businesses. This has gotten way out of control. These camps are dangerous to both the homeless and residents using the public spaces, as they are often setup right next to a busy road with trash and debris spilling into the road and sidewalk areas. Needles can be picked up by children or accidently stepped on by children or pets. The trash attracts rodents. The urine and human feces is a health concern. We report these encampments when they spring up, but we are told by the police that there is nothing that they can do ??? that they have been instructed by the Chief of Police and Mayor to not do anything unless a felony crime has taken place. Currently there are laws against camping along side public roadways and on sidewalks. There are laws against littering. There are laws against camping out of your vehicle along a public road. There are laws against public urination. There are laws against illegal drug use. There are laws against loitering. There are laws against illegal parking. There are laws against vagrancy. Why are the laws not being enforced? Why is the Mayor allowed to dictate the law? I see this no differently than if the Mayor asked the Chief of Police not to arrest her brother for drunk driving and felony hit and run. She should not be able to dictate which laws are enforced and which laws are overlooked. As Attorney General, I would like to know what you can do to ensure that these laws are enforced? Laws were created for the protection and safety of everyone in the community. The homeless is not a protective class. They should not be exempt from following the laws that we all must follow simply because of their income status. Please advise as to what can to be done to enforce our laws! Thank you.
Curious how so many people in Magnolia came to file essentially the same complaint (sometimes shortened or dolled up with a few personal details) at the exact same time, I checked out what seemed to me the most likely suspect: The Magnolia NextDoor page. (NextDoor is a semi-private social network for people who live in the same area of the city.) Sure enough, a little over a week ago, there it was: A post from a Magnolia resident, titled “Homeless Encampments – Letter to the Attorney General,” that encouraged people concerned about the issue of “tents that are springing up all over the city” to “file a complaint with the Attorney General” using his letter as a template.
The complaints are all listed as “closed” in the state’s consumer complaint database, and the division referred all the complaints back to the Seattle City Council “to process in accordance with your agency’s procedures.” The consumer protection division deals only with complaints against businesses, not government agencies or officials, and according to its website, “is authorized to bring legal action only in the name of the State of Washington, and is prohibited from serving as an attorney for individual consumers.”  You can almost hear the deep, bureaucratic sigh as another pile of frivolous complaints land on the AG’s virtual desk.

2. Tonight at 6, the Seattle LGBTQ Commission will host a screening of “Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back!,” a film that argues Israel has enlisted unwitting LGBTQ people in service to so-called “Israeli apartheid” by “promoting [Israel] as ‘gay friendly’ to divert attention from terrible human rights violations.” The term “Israeli apartheid,” which likens Israel’s control of the West Bank and its policies toward Palestinians to the racist policies of the former South African government, is common in far-left circles but is considered anti-Semitic by many Jews. On Wednesday, the Jewish Federation Seattle created a petition to stop the event, which the group says “promotes lies about Israel, alienates and discriminates against the tens of thousands of Jews and Israelis living here, and is likely at the very least to stir up increased anti-Semitism.” In 2006, a gunman went on an anti-Israel tirade while he shot six people, killing one, at the Jewish Federation’s headquarters in downtown Seattle.

According to the event page for the screening, which is being co-hosted by the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities and socialist city council member Kshama Sawant the 10-member, city council-appointed commission is “standing in solidarity with Palestinians who face daily persecution from the occupying forces of the Israeli government. We are critiquing the Israeli governmental use of force, not individual Jewish people nor or we suggesting limiting human rights of Jewish people.”

But individual Jewish people in Seattle, and groups that work to combat anti-Semitism in the city, see the event differently. Maxima Patashnik, a spokeswoman for the Jewish Federation, says the documentary “presents a really one-sided view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and is really a detriment to the LGBTQ activists in Israel who have worked hard to gain equality and human rights and lumps them in with this Israeli propaganda campaign.” She says that while the film (like the event itself) does include the perspectives of a handful of Jewish people, “The events in the film as they are presented are extremely exclusionary, unwelcoming, and alienating to the vast majority Jews and Israelis here in Seattle.”

Patashnik also questions whether a city-funded commission whose mission does not include weighing in on international affairs should be sponsoring an event at City Hall that promotes the idea that (according to the website for the film) “Israel is the country most famous for” pretending to be LGBTQ-friendly to cover up human rights violations. “If this film was just being sponsored by Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, they would be well within their rights to do that. Where it crosses the line is that this is city-sponsored,” she says.

In a statement, the Seattle LGBTQ Commission said it was “hosting the film screening as an opportunity to encourage learning and civil discourse” and notes that the film was “made by a Jewish filmmaker and features Jewish and Palestinian activists working together.” The panel discussing the film will also include a Jewish member, the commission says. (LGBTQ Commission co-chair Julia Ricciardi did not respond to a followup question about whether any of the commission members who signed off on the event are themselves Jewish.)

“The Seattle LGBTQ Commission is committed to highlighting and centering experiences of individuals who are often marginalized, underrepresented or erased from public discourse,” the statement continues. “This film screening is an opportunity to invite all individuals from the Seattle community to engage in learning and discussion around information that may not be widely known, as well as provide valuable space for people to engage in dialogue about governmental practices, whether those practices be local, federal, or international.”

Patashnik says the Jewish Federation does not have any plans to formally protest the event.

 

3. Earlier this month, a woman was the victim of a brutal rape by a stranger in the restroom of a car dealership in Ballard. (Most rapes occur in people’s homes and are committed by men who are known to their victims.) Much of the media, and certainly many members of the public, have fixated on the fact that the man was homeless, suggesting that women are at particular risk of being raped by homeless strangers in Seattle due to policies the city council has adopted. And over the last few weeks, they have expressed their feelings
Many of the emails were directed at District 6 council member Mike O’Brien, whose district includes Ballard, where the rape occurred. Some, by the standards of anti-homeless social media screeds, are fairly mundane—a woman claims that she and her children are now “forced to stay in our homes and no longer feel safe to interact in the community we once loved”—but others are darker.
You probably know where this is going.

“Hey Mike,” one man writes. “Heard one of you Ballard BUMS raped someone today? Care to comment? The blame for this is COMPLETELY on your head due to your coddling of the BUM herds in Ballard.

“I sincerely, SINCERELY, hope that your wife is the next rape victim. Please do the world in general a favor and kill yourself.”

Another letter, from a woman, says that if council members like the “unsafe dump” Seattle has turned into, they should invite “these people” into their homes, where “They can rape your friends and do drugs in your backyard.”

A letter from a couple suggests that council members may “wake up” once  “your mother, wife, daughter, son [is] the next victim brutally raped by some mentally deranged homeless person from God knows where!!! … It takes city workers days to clean up after these PIGS!!,” the letter continues. “That’s appreciation isn’t it??  Wake up!!!  Who is in charge here??  Seems like the homeless are.  If they don’t want help, screw them, lock them up.”

A real estate broker, who helpfully includes the name of her employer, her personal website, and the signature line, “Realtor since 1990. Real Property. Real Expertise,” suggests that council members should “make every square foot of the floor space in Your yard, Your home Your children’s rooms available for the outlaws you seem to care for so much. Between Yourselves and all Your staffers You can get a true taste of what the policies you have wrought mean.

The vagrants have No rules

They could …Rape and assault, immolate, stab, kidnap you and your neighbors.

And don’t call the police they shouldn’t respond, you have instructed them not to.

You have already given the vagrants all the permission they need to do all of the above.”

Finally, to end on a (slightly) lighter note, there is this slightly deranged email, with the subject line “Rape of Seattle,” from a man who believes that city council members are accompanied at all times by security details and never “openly walk on the street.”

“If indeed you were running a safe city, then why do you require personal security?,” the writer asks. “Seattle’s political women like you Jenny, Sally, Kshama, Lisa, Debora, Lorena, Teresa, should be able to walk or bike the streets you are responsible for. At least bring your vehicle in for work without security.”

City council members do not have security details, and can regularly be seen on buses, walking on city sidewalks, riding their bikes along Fourth Avenue, and even at the downtown YMCA.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site or making a one-time contribution! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the time I put into reporting and writing for this blog and on social media, as well as reporting-related and office expenses. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

Best of Crank 2017: Hate Speech and Violence at the University of Washington

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be hard at work meeting a big deadline (finishing up my book—eek!), so I’m re-running some posts that represent the best of The C Is for Crank in 2017. The posts I’ve chosen include breaking news, longer features, endorsements, and editorial pieces that capture the year in local news.

The 12th and final post in my “Best of Crank 2017” series focuses on professional troll Milo Yiannopolous, who ended up in the news several times over the course of the year. (Here’s a story from October, about how Yiannopolous coordinated his work at Breitbart with neo-Nazis). In December, documents from a lawsuit he filed against Simon & Schuster after the publisher rescinded his book deal in response to widespread protests revealed to a wider audience the extent of Yiannopolous’ virulent misogyny, racism, and self-hating homophobia. (Yiannopolous is gay).

In January, the UW College Republicans invited Yiannopolous to speak on campus, inciting protests that kept most would-be audience members outside the building. However, I got in (as did several neighborhood activists, who later insisted they were merely “there to learn”) and I wrote this post about his “speech”—a PowerPoint presentation of alt-right memes punctuated by “fat dyke” jokes, which also summarizes his book.

This post ran on January 23.

UW Creates Safe Space for Notorious Troll While Violence Breaks Out in Red Square

 

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“I am considered, today, so dangerous that today I’m the second most dangerous man in America—after, of course, Daddy.”

“Daddy,” of course, is Donald Trump, and the person speaking was Milo Yiannopoulos—the professional outrage purveyor best known for promoting Gamergate, getting kicked off Twitter for his racist rants against actor Leslie Jones, and signing a $250,000 book deal. Yiannopoulos spoke Friday night at the University of Washington to a crowd of about 200—students and paying “VIPs” who made it inside Kane Hall before protesters outside blocked the entrance.

For those who made it inside the hall, Yiannopoulos’ talk was a rare opportunity to enjoy jokes about “hairy dykes,” “trannies,” and “Sasquatch lesbians” while police in riot gear protected them from the diverse community outside.

It was, in other words, a safe space.

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While Yiannapoulos cracked jokes about delicate liberal “snowflakes” who can’t deal with the rough and tumble of the real world, protesters outside were getting pepper-sprayed and even shot. When word came down of the shooting, Yiannopoulos immediately pivoted to blame “the progressive left” for the violence, telling the crowd that it was under assault by “left-wing protesters with sharpened protest signs, with baseball bats, with flammable liquids, and, it sounds like, with firearms.”

That wild speculation turned out not to be true; the man who was shot was a medic for the protesters, not a Milo supporter. (Earlier today, the Seattle Times reported that the victim’s condition has been upgraded from critical to serious, and that the alleged shooter, who remained at large for several hours while the event continued, has been released .) Meanwhile, Yiannopoulos continued with his talk—because, he said, “if we don’t continue, they have won.”

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For someone whose “Daddy” just won the White House, Yiannapoulos certainly loves to play the victim. Like many on the far right, he at least claims to long for a halcyon past where men were men and women were “happier in the kitchen,” neatly eliding the fact that men like him—pretty, vulgar, flamboyantly gay—were even more hated in that supposedly superior past than women who worked.

Yiannopoulos’ own sense of put-upon entitlement and victimization plays well with fans who feel their right to dictate the terms of the world has been stolen from underneath them. He flirts with the deep-seated homophobia of the right by joking about volunteering for electroshock conversion therapy now that Mike Pence is vice president, but he’s a cartoon character, both fundamentally unthreatening and, in the actions he provokes with his hate speech online, deeply dangerous.

In person, he comes off as an insecure narcissist. Onstage, he’s a kind of gay minstrel, applying lipstick and cracking jokes about sucking cock before crowds that would, likely as not, be more than happy to bash his head in if he wasn’t mouthing the words they wanted to hear. His flippant misogyny and racism come across as opportunistic and insincere. His thirst for the spotlight is palpable, and he seems like he might blink out of existence if people stopped paying attention to him.

So should we? It’s a classic question: Is it better to refuse to print noxious speech, on the grounds that reporting it only gives a platform to hate? Or better to expose it to sunlight, so that people outside the alt-right bubble can hear what its hero is saying and judge for themselves?

Well, I listened to the guy for an hour, and I think it’s worth knowing what he said—if only so readers can get some sense of how the alt-right thinks. (Yiannopoulos deniesthat he’s part of the alt-right, because, he says, he isn’t a “white nationalist”—his mother is Jewish—but the former Breitbart editor exists firmly within the alt-right milieu, and he is closely associated with white nationalists and their fans even if, as he claims, he is not one himself.)

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The crowd—overwhelmingly young, male, and white—laughed uproariously at jokes that would have been right at home in an Andrew Dice Clay set circa 1988. (Google it, kids.) A woman protesting Trump: “Sexually ambiguous super retard turbo lez.” Rachel Maddow: “That nice young man.” The fake roses on his podium: “Lena Dunham’s seen more action. Well, actually, that’s not fair, because she did rape her sister.” Saturday’s Women’s March in DC: “Can you imagine 50,000 lesbians lost in Washington, D.C.? You’d be finding them in creases for weeks.” The women attending the Seattle Womxn’s March: “armpit-hair-braiding West Coast Femsquatches.” On the spelling “Womxn”: “The ‘X’ is silent, just like their own ex-boyfriends are silent. Because they ate them.”

You get the drift. Milo Yiannopoulos’s juvenile act, conducted with a heavy assist from PowerPoint and a script on his iPad, consists almost entirely of tired, faux-“outrageous” jokes about women, particularly lesbians and “trannies,” Muslims, and “cucks.” For someone who’s widely vilified as a white supremacist and neo-Nazi, Yiannopoulos has always targeted women with far more zest than racial or religious minorities.

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“Fat retard who wants to rape herself.”

Interspersed with the fat jokes, though, were a few genuinely frightening statements about specific women Yiannopoulos believe have wronged him, including Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian, one of the main targets of Gamergate. (Yiannopoulos relentlessly promoted Gamergate, the online and real-life harassment campaign aimed at silencing women who spoke out against sexism in games and gaming culture). Of Sarkeesian, Yiannopoulos said last night, “People don’t hate you because you’re a woman. They hate you because you’re a cunt.”

So what about Yiannopoulos’s outrage performance art shtick appeals to College Republicans? It isn’t funny, it isn’t well-executed (a lot of the jokes failed to stick, in part, because Yiannopoulos drifted off on tangents, at one point literally getting distracted by a fly), and it isn’t, strictly speaking, new. What it is, I think, is what has always passed for rebellion among young conformists—speaking “truth” to “P.C. culture,” which is to say, parroting the racism and sexism of their fathers and grandfathers, even when they don’t really mean it.

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But there are real-world consequences to Yiannapoulos’s seemingly harmless antics. Milo tells women to kill themselves, encourages his followers to harass women who cross him, and drives women off Twitter by inciting threats that make them fear for their lives. He loves to say that there is “no such thing as cyberbullying,” but his online bullying has led to real-life threats against people—like game developer Brianna Wu, who had to leave her home after a Twitter user sent her “a string of threats including a pledge to choke her to death with her husband’s penis,” according to Mother Jones. (Wu, according to Yiannopoulos: “Another straight white male.”)

The UW probably learned its lesson about interpreting “free speech” to mean “the right of anyone to use university facilities to say anything, at any time.” (Then again, maybe not: A student told me UW President Ana Mari Cauce responded to her letter asking the school to cancel or move the event by saying that, hopefully, Yiannopoulos would decide to cancel himself.) But there’s a lesson for progressives tempted to show up in numbers, too. Sometimes, even in the face of a loudmouth shouting insults, it’s more effective to ignore the bully.

Notes: If you’d like to see an archive of my tweets from the event, including more details about the protests outside, I’ve collected those tweets on Storify.

Also, readers who follow news related to neighborhoods and homelessness may be interested to know that the four primary members of the Neighborhood Safety Alliance—the ones who show up to council meetings, write letters to council members, and serve as the public faces of one of the most vocal groups opposed to the city’s proposals for addressing homelessness and the heroin epidemic—came to see Yiannopoulos together. The four were in the “VIP” line that made it into Kane Hall before protesters blocked entrances to the building, and they held Trump signs and stood up during standing ovations for Yiannopoulos. I note their presence not to castigate them for supporting Trump or attending this particular event (for which VIP tickets cost $250), but because it’s newsworthy that a group this active and influential at City Hall attended a talk by a man who is widely viewed as a purveyor of hate speech. Last year, Yiannopoulos was kicked off Twitter for leading sexist and racist harassment campaigns, and his online actions have led to real-world death and rape threats against many of the feminist women who are his favorite targets.

If you enjoy the work I do here at The C Is for Crank, please consider becoming a sustaining supporter of the site! For just $5, $10, or $20 a month (or whatever you can give), you can help keep this site going, and help me continue to dedicate the many hours it takes to bring you stories like this one every week. This site is funded entirely by contributions from readers, which pay for the substantial time I put into it as well as costs like transportation, equipment, travel costs, website maintenance, and other expenses associated with my reporting. Thank you for reading, and I’m truly grateful for your support.

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Attorney: Accuser Should Drop Case Against Murray in Light of “False Information”

It was the press conference everybody wished wasn’t happening.

Members of the press groaned and rolled their eyes in anticipation of a statement today by Mayor Ed Murray’s attorney, Robert Sulkin, confirming that Murray submitted to a medical examination by his personal doctor, Craig Pepin, to prove that he does not have a mole on his scrotum. The reason I had to write that last sentence, and the reason you’re reading it, is because Murray has been accused of sexually assaulting a man, known in his complaint as “D.H.,” when the accuser was a teenager in the 1980s. Sulkin, who prefaced his remarks by saying, “unfortunately, the level of discourse in the lawsuit has been very low,”  argued that the medical report lets “the air out of the balloon” and takes “the feathers out of the pillow” on D.H.’s case. Translation: The description of a mole on the mayor’s scrotum is the linchpin of D.H.’s whole case; without it, it’s just his word against Murray’s.

Sulkin wasn’t done yet. After saying that D.H. had “absolutely no credibility,” Sulkin accused the man of “provid[ing] false information to his attorney” and demanded that his attorneys drop the complaint. (The Seattle Times reports that D.H.’s attorney, Lincoln Beauregard, said the medical exam by Murray’s personal doctor had not been independently verified.) When I asked him why he believed the absence of the purported mole was so important, when the lawsuit also included other details about Murray’s address, phone number, and apartment, Sulkin responded, “What does he have left? That this accuser knows his phone number? Would you say that if someone knows your phone number from 20 years ago, would you agree that you committed [a sex crime] with that person?”

It’s clear that Murray’s camp feels emboldened by yesterday’s announcement. The question that remains is whether they should have made it. The mayor has a reputation for being thin-skinned and taking things personally, and the impulse to fight back by submitting himself to a genital examination—and then subjecting the rest of the city to the results—is certainly in keeping with his tendency to choose fight over flight. This can be admirable when it comes to matters of principle—when fighting a decades-long battle for marriage equality, say, as Murray did in the legislature—but becomes more questionable when the result is that hundreds of thousands of voters are thinking about your junk, rather than your accomplishments.

The filing deadline for the mayoral race is May 15. So far, apart from poet and Black Lives Matter activist Nikkita Oliver, no high-profile or viable challenger has emerged to take Murray on. The mayor’s campaign has reported no contributions since the allegations emerged last week.

 

UW Creates Safe Space for Notorious Troll While Violence Breaks Out in Red Square

This piece original ran at the South Seattle Emerald.

img_0597

“I am considered, today, so dangerous that today I’m the second most dangerous man in America—after, of course, Daddy.”

“Daddy,” of course, is Donald Trump, and the person speaking was Milo Yiannopoulos—the professional outrage purveyor best known for promoting Gamergate, getting kicked off Twitter for his racist rants against actor Leslie Jones, and signing a $250,000 book deal. Yiannopoulos spoke Friday night at the University of Washington to a crowd of about 200—students and paying “VIPs” who made it inside Kane Hall before protesters outside blocked the entrance.

For those who made it inside the hall, Yiannopoulos’ talk was a rare opportunity to enjoy jokes about “hairy dykes,” “trannies,” and “Sasquatch lesbians” while police in riot gear protected them from the diverse community outside.

It was, in other words, a safe space.

img_0565

While Yiannapoulos cracked jokes about delicate liberal “snowflakes” who can’t deal with the rough and tumble of the real world, protesters outside were getting pepper-sprayed and even shot. When word came down of the shooting, Yiannopoulos immediately pivoted to blame “the progressive left” for the violence, telling the crowd that it was under assault by “left-wing protesters with sharpened protest signs, with baseball bats, with flammable liquids, and, it sounds like, with firearms.”

That wild speculation turned out not to be true; the man who was shot was a medic for the protesters, not a Milo supporter. (Earlier today, the Seattle Times reported that the victim’s condition has been upgraded from critical to serious, and that the alleged shooter, who remained at large for several hours while the event continued, has been released .) Meanwhile, Yiannopoulos continued with his talk—because, he said, “if we don’t continue, they have won.”

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For someone whose “Daddy” just won the White House, Yiannapoulos certainly loves to play the victim. Like many on the far right, he at least claims to long for a halcyon past where men were men and women were “happier in the kitchen,” neatly eliding the fact that men like him—pretty, vulgar, flamboyantly gay—were even more hated in that supposedly superior past than women who worked.

Yiannopoulos’ own sense of put-upon entitlement and victimization plays well with fans who feel their right to dictate the terms of the world has been stolen from underneath them. He flirts with the deep-seated homophobia of the right by joking about volunteering for electroshock conversion therapy now that Mike Pence is vice president, but he’s a cartoon character, both fundamentally unthreatening and, in the actions he provokes with his hate speech online, deeply dangerous.

In person, he comes off as an insecure narcissist. Onstage, he’s a kind of gay minstrel, applying lipstick and cracking jokes about sucking cock before crowds that would, likely as not, be more than happy to bash his head in if he wasn’t mouthing the words they wanted to hear. His flippant misogyny and racism come across as opportunistic and insincere. His thirst for the spotlight is palpable, and he seems like he might blink out of existence if people stopped paying attention to him.

So should we? It’s a classic question: Is it better to refuse to print noxious speech, on the grounds that reporting it only gives a platform to hate? Or better to expose it to sunlight, so that people outside the alt-right bubble can hear what its hero is saying and judge for themselves?

Well, I listened to the guy for an hour, and I think it’s worth knowing what he said—if only so readers can get some sense of how the alt-right thinks. (Yiannopoulos denies that he’s part of the alt-right, because, he says, he isn’t a “white nationalist”—his mother is Jewish—but the former Breitbart editor exists firmly within the alt-right milieu, and he is closely associated with white nationalists and their fans even if, as he claims, he is not one himself.)

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The crowd—overwhelmingly young, male, and white—laughed uproariously at jokes that would have been right at home in an Andrew Dice Clay set circa 1988. (Google it, kids.) A woman protesting Trump: “Sexually ambiguous super retard turbo lez.” Rachel Maddow: “That nice young man.” The fake roses on his podium: “Lena Dunham’s seen more action. Well, actually, that’s not fair, because she did rape her sister.” Saturday’s Women’s March in DC: “Can you imagine 50,000 lesbians lost in Washington, D.C.? You’d be finding them in creases for weeks.” The women attending the Seattle Womxn’s March: “armpit-hair-braiding West Coast Femsquatches.” On the spelling “Womxn”: “The ‘X’ is silent, just like their own ex-boyfriends are silent. Because they ate them.”

You get the drift. Milo Yiannopoulos’s juvenile act, conducted with a heavy assist from PowerPoint and a script on his iPad, consists almost entirely of tired, faux-“outrageous” jokes about women, particularly lesbians and “trannies,” Muslims, and “cucks.” For someone who’s widely vilified as a white supremacist and neo-Nazi, Yiannopoulos has always targeted women with far more zest than racial or religious minorities.

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“Fat retard who wants to rape herself.”

Interspersed with the fat jokes, though, were a few genuinely frightening statements about specific women Yiannopoulos believe have wronged him, including Feminist Frequency’s Anita Sarkeesian, one of the main targets of Gamergate. (Yiannopoulos relentlessly promoted Gamergate, the online and real-life harassment campaign aimed at silencing women who spoke out against sexism in games and gaming culture). Of Sarkeesian, Yiannopoulos said last night, “People don’t hate you because you’re a woman. They hate you because you’re a cunt.”

So what about Yiannopoulos’s outrage performance art shtick appeals to College Republicans? It isn’t funny, it isn’t well-executed (a lot of the jokes failed to stick, in part, because Yiannopoulos drifted off on tangents, at one point literally getting distracted by a fly), and it isn’t, strictly speaking, new. What it is, I think, is what has always passed for rebellion among young conformists—speaking “truth” to “P.C. culture,” which is to say, parroting the racism and sexism of their fathers and grandfathers, even when they don’t really mean it.

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But there are real-world consequences to Yiannapoulos’s seemingly harmless antics. Milo tells women to kill themselves, encourages his followers to harass women who cross him, and drives women off Twitter by inciting threats that make them fear for their lives. He loves to say that there is “no such thing as cyberbullying,” but his online bullying has led to real-life threats against people—like game developer Brianna Wu, who had to leave her home after a Twitter user sent her “a string of threats including a pledge to choke her to death with her husband’s penis,” according to Mother Jones. (Wu, according to Yiannopoulos: “Another straight white male.”)

The UW probably learned its lesson about interpreting “free speech” to mean “the right of anyone to use university facilities to say anything, at any time.” (Then again, maybe not: A student told me UW President Ana Mari Cauce responded to her letter asking the school to cancel or move the event by saying that, hopefully, Yiannopoulos would decide to cancel himself.) But there’s a lesson for progressives tempted to show up in numbers, too. Sometimes, even in the face of a loudmouth shouting insults, it’s more effective to ignore the bully.

Notes: If you’d like to see an archive of my tweets from the event, including more details about the protests outside, I’ve collected those tweets on Storify.

Also, readers who follow news related to neighborhoods and homelessness may be interested to know that the four primary members of the Neighborhood Safety Alliance—the ones who show up to council meetings, write letters to council members, and serve as the public faces of one of the most vocal groups opposed to the city’s proposals for addressing homelessness and the heroin epidemic—came to see Yiannopoulos together. The four were in the “VIP” line that made it into Kane Hall before protesters blocked entrances to the building, and they held Trump signs and stood up during standing ovations for Yiannopoulos. I note their presence not to castigate them for supporting Trump or attending this particular event (for which VIP tickets cost $250), but because it’s newsworthy that a group this active and influential at City Hall attended a talk by a man who is widely viewed as a purveyor of hate speech. Last year, Yiannopoulos was kicked off Twitter for leading sexist and racist harassment campaigns, and his online actions have led to real-world death and rape threats against many of the feminist women who are his favorite targets.

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Hey, Mayor Murray: There Are Progressives in Indiana, Too

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This morning, Mayor Ed Murray announcd an executive order barring city employees from traveling to Indiana on city business or with city funds.

Murray said the travel ban would ensure that “none of our taxpayer dollars [will] go toward supporting this discriminatory law.”

In the same breath, he said that by participating in #boycattindiana, the city was showing its solidarity with progressive Hoosiers as they “continue [their] efforts to end discrimination and protect civil rights for everyone.”

Murray is also directing city staff to make sure the city doesn’t have any contracts with companies based in Indiana.

This sort of thing, more than lofty declarations like the council’s resolution last week to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, makes my blood curdle. It’s one thing to say that Indiana’s anti-LGBT law (which explicitly allows businesses to discriminate against gays, lesbians, and transgender people); it’s quite another to say entire cities should “boycott Indiana” by withholding their business from Indiana companies—companies that, incidentally, employ gay, lesbian and transgender individuals.

What the “boycott Indiana” movement is really arguing for is action that would do the most harm to the people with the least, including struggling LGBT-owned businesses. It’s stereotyping an entire state (a phenomenon with which I, as a Mississippi and Texas native, am all too familiar) as a bunch of illiterate corn-pone bigots. Yet there are plenty of progressives in Indiana, and plenty of people fighting against discrimination and the very law Murray and others claim to be standing up against by opposing investment in their state.

As my pal Melissa McEwan noted pungently at Shakesville:

And if you understand that this “religious freedom” bill was a reactionary act by people who were angry that the federal government did something they didn’t like (force them to legalize same-sex marriage), then you should understand that a reactionary act by people angry at our state government because they did something you didn’t like (codify bigotry) is just part of the same damn problem.

It’s not thoughtful and it’s not compassionate and it’s not helpful.

And let’s be honest here: It isn’t like the vast majority of people who are cheering “Boycott Indiana!” had any plans to visit Indiana and spend money in this state, anyway. It’s just a slogan to shout at a state they perceive to be full of fat, poor, lazy, conservative, straight, cis, white people.

Which underlines what’s really the worst thing about this idea: It’s reflective of a vicious stereotype that disappears the existence of the very people for whom the sloganeers purport to care.

Melissa’s Twitter feed is blowing up now over the #boycottindiana meme right now, and I strongly suggest you check out her perspective and positive suggestions for what progressives can actually do to help LGBT people and their allies in Indiana.
Hint: It isn’t withdrawing money from their already crippled economy. Mayor Murray would do more for LGBT people in Indiana by donating money to progressive groups in the state than he is by supporting a misguided boycott that will only hurt the state’s most vulnerable citizens.