Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Readers Response....

Some times it's worth the time and effort to read carefully, to think, and to respond to those whose lives are dedicated to journalism and reporting. We need to remember that there are people behind the words they write. That writing is a two way street between the writer and the reader. That no one operates in a vacuum. And that we need to be sure to read within context and with thought what is written.

On August 27 this article was published in the Washington Post by Monica Hesse.

Please go look it up and read it. Also, my partner, Dreamweaver blogged about it on her blog
"Grace DreamWeaver : Reflections of a Suburban Witch" -

"Opposing Gay Marriage"

In this article - clumsily titled by the editors at the Post - "Opposing Gay Unions With Sanity & a Smile", Ms. Hesse interviews and writes about Brian Brown - the Executive Director of NOM, the National Organisation for Marriage. ( )

Her article is styled as a basic feature interview, that deals solely with Brian Brown and his views. It is subtle. She does not attack him, nor does she bring in opposing views. She simply lets him speak for himself and thereby hang himself quite nicely. When I read it, it made perfect sense to me. I did not see her article as being "pro" - NOM or antigay marriage. It very clearly showed the dangers of this man and his very normalcy when contrasted against the hysteria and outlandishness of Dobson, Hodges and Phelps. Her article was an amazing piece.

Then the howling reaction started - she was seen as anti-gay marriage, her article was called bizarre, criticized harshly, and dissected for lack of journalistic reporting - where was the other side's views, etc. The point of the article was completely missed and missinterpreted by many. I was stunned.

The Washington Post issued an apology and an explanation of what Monica Hesse was trying to do and why she handled it the way she did.

In reading the article, I came to the conclusion that mine and Dreamweaver's take on it was correct...that it was a subtle piece done in "feature" style that let Brown hoist himself by his own petard. In fact, Hesse - who's ex is a woman - is very much pro-gay marriage, just the opposite of what the detractors of her article are claiming.
I couldn't stand it...I dug up the appropriate email address and wrote the following letter to Ms. Hesse :

Dear Ms. Hesse
I am sure as you open this, your heart is sinking...oh no, another person angry at me for the Brian Brown article "Opposing Gay Unions With Sanity & a Smile". I am writing you to tell you that my partner and I GOT it! It was a very good article, and we understand what you were trying to do.
I think maybe the only thing you were guilty of is being subtle, in a world where people expect to be spoon fed their controversy in small words, and big pictures!
I read your article very carefully several times - and Brown frightens me. You are dead on right - his very clean cut reasonableness makes him a hundred times more dangerous than the Dobsons, Hodges, and Phelps of the world! This was actually a cutting piece of journalism where you allowed the interviewee to hang himself with his own words. And the interview sections with his wife were beautifully done - you showed a woman who has been isolated and embarrassed by her husbands career, who does not personally share his vision, and struggles to get him to come home on time...she may say that she wants the person walking through the door to be a man for the sake of her kids, but then you show that she has trouble getting him to come home through that door at all...

"What time will you be home tonight?" Sue asks.
"Ahhhh . . . "
"Well... "
"Six. Just say it and do it. Six."

That is not a united happy marriage, when you say something like that in front of a journalist! Also, her moment of speculation was very revealing - She's pictured what it might be like to be on the other side of this debate. "I know many awesome women, and I've thought about what if I got together with one of them” Wow...I think that Brown had better pay more attention to his own home and marriage before he comes after me and mine! Including the slight dissonance between Brown and his wife was excellently done.
By showing his ties to the Catholic church and his extreme reliance on rationality, you portray a man who actually cannot think for himself but must have structure and framework...things must be rational, things must not change. That is someone who is still immature, and unable to deal with change and growth. Your question "Does he ever think that what he sees as an abrupt historical shift is, perhaps, progress?" and his response was "It’s irrational" was very telling! Lovely handling of the situation. His actual arguments are shallow, and his knowledge of history is non-existent. And you showed that beautifully!"He liked Catholicism’s traditions of social justice and work for the poor." One wonders then WHY he isn't bending his considerable organizational talents towards that social justice and caring for the poor...instead its condoms and anti-gay marriage.
Monica, thank you! It was a relief to read a piece of journalism that was not written as though I were on a grammar school reading level, that by quiet unrelenting contrasts unequivocally showed that this man is dangerous, and also off balance and heading for a fall. Please show this to your ombudsman, and let him know that not everyone missed the point out here!
If you ever get the courage to reopen this subject, I'd love to hear from the gay friends that Brown claims to have...what they say would be interesting. Or a riposte article from the GLBT side that is as measured and reasoning and subtle as this one that gives the opposite view in sanity without ranting.
Well done! It’s good to know there are still journalists capable of writing with clarity, subtlety and sophistication, even if it appears to be lost on the public.
Thank you for your work, and for this article! Your voice is important and should be heard - now go get 'em again! We need you, if we are ever going to stop the Browns of the world!

PS I have family members that I am not Out to as gay - if this is published in a readers response, I ask to remain anonymous. Call it an illustration of the dangers and sadness of the world we live in thanks to the Brian Browns!
I sent this off to her, with some hope that who ever scans her mail would catch it and maybe show it to her. I underestimated Monica Hesse's dedication. It seems that she deals with her own email. She replied to me personally a matter of hours later. This was her response...


You have no idea how much it means that you took the time to write this letter. I've received a few emails like yours, but I'm sad that more people didn't read the piece as you did. I think that once a few blogs got hold of it and posted selections from it without explanation, it grew very hard for new readers to read the piece as anything other than an endorsement. Anyhow -- thanks for being a very bright spot in a very terrible week.


I am very glad that I wrote to her!


  1. Oh, good job! That's great. I, too, am glad you wrote to her.

  2. You know, I'm practically a poster child for 'not subtle,' and yet I still read her article as more of a "here's a rather scary man in the anti-GLBT scene and what/how he thinks, watch out" piece, not as an "oh, goody, look at what wonderful values, family, and agenda this great man has, let's all play 'follow the leader'" piece.
    I can see how people might... possibly... maybe have thought it was an endorsement of Brown's stance on gay marriage et alia... but only if said people had been concussed first.
    Poor woman.
    Stupid people.
    I'm glad you wrote her.

  3. I'm glad you wrote her too, love. I read it and was alarmed at how "normal" and "non condemning" he appears to be ... like a viper before it strikes while it suns itself on a rock. I was struck, too, by the way he coaches folks to not be "anti-gay" but "promarriage" and then defined marriage so narrowly. That was a danger the Hesse made quite clear.

    The thing that struck me as quite clear is this viper's political ambitions. No one has written anywhere about it, but I believe his move to Washington to be a stepping stone to something far more bigger and much more prominant. He wants attention because he intends to be KNOWN. Not for his stance on marriage, but as a conservative and a friend of conservatives.

    Any man who refuses condoms to teens is dangerous. Any man who coaches on rhetoric to use against minories is even more dangerous. And the readers hung the wrong person. The author made these points quite clear!