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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 24, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 25
Gay activists' 'glittering' tactic comes under fire
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Gay activists' 'glittering' tactic comes under fire

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

'Glittering,' the act of dousing an anti-Gay GOP candidate in glitter, has come under fire as Gay activists debate whether or not the tactic should be called off.

The glitterati have struck three different times. The first incident occurred on May 17, as Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, were covered with glitter at a book signing in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Nick Espinosa, the activist behind the glitter stunt, yelled at the former House speaker, 'Stop the hate. Stop the anti-Gay politics.'

Espinosa was quickly whisked away by security.

On June 16, the glitter brigade struck again, this time zeroing in on former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty at a personal appearance in San Francisco, California. Like Gingrich, Pawlenty was glittered while at a book signing event. Two activists from CodePunk were the culprits, and as they were being led away, the pair berated Pawlenty for his conservative views on abortion and LGBT rights.

The most recent incident occurred on June 18, when Rachel Lang threw glitter at GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann in Minneapolis. Bachmann was glittered after she finished a speech at a conservative conference.

Lang later said she committed the act as a way to protest Bachmann's 'hateful and anti-Gay rhetoric.'

The knee-jerk reaction to news of GOP candidates being covered in glitter is to laugh. After all, to see someone like Newt Gingrich, who takes himself entirely too seriously, covered in glitter - which we all know takes hours to clean off - is a sight to see.

Still, after each incident, the targeted candidates had little to nothing to say in response to the tactic - rendering it, for the most part, ineffective. In fact, Gingrich, barely missing a beat, simply smiled as he brushed away the glitter and said, 'Nice to live in a free country,' and went on to sign - and sell - more books.

The glitter throwers have not yet had charges pressed against them. But among the public, a lively debate has begun about the incidents. Some say glittering could be classified as assault. Others say it is childish and rude - or even worse. The online debate has been vile (no surprise there), with some critics wanting the perpetrators Tasered and jailed.

Political theater is nothing new to the Gay community. In 1991, AIDS activists put a giant condom over the home of conservative Sen. Jesse Helms. In 1978, Anita Bryant received a pie to the face at a press conference.

'The Gay-rights movement has had a long and creative history of action in calling attention to something,' Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said. 'I see glittering as the new pie.'

Dr. Jillian T. Weiss, a contributing blogger for The Bilerico Project, reports that some conservatives are calling for violent responses to glitterers.

'The conservative response is going far beyond outrage about rainbow glitter, indignity, or off-messaging,' Dr. Weiss wrote in a June 20 post. 'Their calls include not only demands for jail, but extend to calls for assault, assault with a weapon, battery with intent to commit bodily harm, 'corrective' rape, shooting, and hanging. On at least one website, the workplace of the glitterer has been published online, along with oblique suggestions of retaliatory violence against her.'

Dr. Weiss points out that a vast majority of the calls for violence, as well as the recent actual violence, has come from the right. She cites the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the bomb planted along the MLK Day parade route in Spokane, Washington (among others) as examples.

Mike Huckabee and Glenn Beck have said that the glitterers should be jailed. That is a relatively rational solution compared to the response of Beck's followers on his website, The Blaze, which have Dr. Weiss concerned - comments such as, 'This is exactly what concealed carry is for: our self-defense against these democratic deviate criminals,' and 'Bust a few heads and they'll stop.'

Right-wing activist Andrew Breitbart posted the video of the glittering by Lang on his website, BreibartTV.com. Saying it's 'open season' on liberals, he published Lang's workplace address and suggested violence against her.

Some of the comments read, in part, 'start taking liberals down en masse,' 'The Congresswoman's protectors should have shot and killed this liberal bitch,' and 'I need to stock up on some of that hollow-point glitter&(nudge-nudge, wink-wink).'

Not exactly friendly stuff. The comments went on and on.

MichelleMalkin.com tells people to 'beat the shit out of [glitterers].' Although Malkin noted that the glitter never actually touched Rep. Bachmann, her site featured numerous comments advocating violence.

'Make no mistake, this is not simply a few disgruntled, angry, and violent people, this is the conservative zeitgeist, a worldview which revels in anger about a changing world, use of law to demonize those whom they view as different - African Americans, Latinos, immigrants, Gays, the poor - and when they think no one is looking or it is somehow justified, revels in violence,' Dr. Weiss concludes. 'The glitterers are exposing something much more nasty than simply anti-Gay rhetoric. This is anti-Gay rhetoric stretched paper-thin over anti-Gay, anti-immigrant, anti-liberal violence. It is just waiting and yearning to be brought out. And make no mistake - it will come out.'

This is the maelstrom into which we are all descending, regardless of how reasonable we may be. Sure, glittering is over-the-top, undignified, and even improper if it puts someone in reasonable fear of bodily harm (though that is unlikely), but violence it is not, she said.

There are no indications that glittering will cease; in fact, it might ramp up as the 2012 political year approaches. Let's just hope that both sides of the debate remain calm in their approach and that violence is not incited over something as silly as glitter.

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