When can gays speak for themselves? (5×8 – 9/27/12)

The messaging in the same-sex marriage campaign, when people do good… and bad, an ungrateful nation, the Boogaard’s lawsuit, and dead or dormant.


The Associated Press’ story about the lack of gay people in ads urging a “no” vote on the proposed same-sex marriage ban in Minnesota reveals a private debate: Is burying gays in order to win support for gays sending the wrong message?

”If we don’t show ourselves, people aren’t going to get comfortable with who we are,” said Wayne Besen, director of Vermont-based gay rights group ”Truth Wins Out,” one of many that presses gays to live openly with pride in who they are.

But others counsel deference for the complexities of public messaging, pointing out that the ads are designed to speak to the fears and values of the heterosexual majority, whose vote will decide the issue.

”The moderate tough guys we need to flip to win a couple of these races are still the ones who say that gays are gross,” said Andy Szekeres, a Denver-based fundraising consultant who has worked on several state campaigns and had access to focus group data. ”Pushing people to an uncomfortable place, it’s something you can’t do in a TV ad,” said Szekeres, who is gay.

In six of seven ads in states where same-sex marriage is being debated, gays were absent.

This is the one exception

At least on TV and on this issue, gay people can’t speak for themselves.

Like in Britain, for example…



We admit we don’t know exactly how to react to this story in the Hastings Star Gazette.

Last week, a man lost an envelope with $1,100 in cash in it. He retraced his steps from the bank but came up empty. This week, Hastings police got an anonymous letter from the person who found the envelope. “the person returned $900 of the $1,100 and in the letter the person wrote that they ‘really needed’ the $200 and that they were sorry they had to take some of the money,” the paper says.


“Support Our Troops,” makes for a nifty bumper sticker, but it doesn’t include giving the generation that helped save the world a proper send-off.

The Star Tribune reports today that because of budget cuts, the number of military funerals will be cut in half. The one bugler in the state has been dumped and “taps” will be played by a digital gizmo inserted into a bugle, instead.

The government will save about $445,000 by saying “no,” and providing the funerals it provides on the cheap.

“We were extremely disheartened to hear that the playing of Taps is being viewed more as an expense item than a necessary tribute to a fallen American patriot,” the VFW told FoxNews earlier this month when the cuts were announced in New York and elsewhere. “It’s disrespectful to the families because our military and veterans ask for so little in return compared to what is risked and often given.”

In Oregon this month, a Pearl Harbor veteran was buried with full honors, including a bagpiper. His son paid for it after the government backed out…

“If it hadn’t been for them, their perseverance and their sacrifice, we wouldn’t have a country,” his son said. “That’s me thanking my father, not the country thanking my father.”


The family of former Minnesota Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard may shake up the NHL, the New York Times reports. Boogaard died while in the league’s substance abuse program.

The lawsuit, at its emotional heart, alleges that the Minnesota Wild and the Rangers, the two teams for which Boogaard served as a designated fighter, contributed to Boogaard’s death. The lawsuit says doctors for the Wild and the Rangers repeatedly prescribed painkillers and other drugs to Boogaard, even after his addiction to those very kinds of drugs was known.

It’s an allegation first publicized in a series of articles in the Times last year, ignored by the Wild, and not pursued by the local hockey media.

The paper says the lawsuit could force the league and team to do something it hasn’t wanted to do since Boogaard’s death in 2011: talk.

Related: Former Bears (and Vikings) quarterback Jim McMahon says he has early onset dementia. “Had I known about that stuff early on in my career, I probably would have chosen a different career. I always wanted to be a baseball player anyway.”

You don’t read many stories of baseball destroying the brains of the people who play it. Maybe that’s why its popularity is in decline.

Or not: A Chicago Cubs player whose dream of playing Major League Baseball ended when he was beaned in the head, will get the at bat he was denied.


Up until this morning, I was feeling pretty superior while walking the Blog Dog [tm] past the neighbors’ lawns. They’re pouring hundreds of dollars of water on their lawn to keep it green. I’m not. I know that the grass is only dormant and if it ever rains again, mine, too, will bounce back at a fraction of the cost.

Except, apparently, it won’t, the Associated Press says. It may actually be dead.

Bonus I: The national nightmare is over. So, nevermind.

Bonus II: A public campaign is underway to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities. One solution: Stop walking drunk. (streets.mn)

Bonus III: Does being shamed about your weight encourage you to lose some of it? This new ad campaign, hatched in Minnesota, has sparked a debate.

“What our research shows is that people feel much more motivated and empowered to make healthy lifestyle changes when campaign messages are supportive and encourage specific health behaviors,” a Yale researcher tells NPR. “But when campaign messages communicate shame or blame or stigma, people report much less motivation, and lower intentions to improve their health behaviors.”


During a campaign season, neighbors, friends and family members discover political differences they didn’t know they had. Today’s Question: Are political differences putting a strain on your personal relationships?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: A new study published this week in Nature is reshaping the scientific understanding of breast cancer. The findings divide breast cancer into four distinct types and researchers expect the study will lead to treatment innovations.

Second hour: The record drought is affecting more than crops – it’s also projected to make water levels in Lake Superior soon reach an all-time low. How is this affecting the economies of the cities and people who depend on the shipping industry?

Third hour: Talking Volumes: Junot Diaz

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A live broadcast from the Westminster Town Hall Forum, featuring Michael Duffy and Nancy Gibbs, authors of “The Presidents Club.”

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – A look at China in transition. Plus, the parent trigger. What really happened when parents mobilized to take over a failing school?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Anishinaabe/Finnish-American and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa member Lyz Jaakola had a dream years ago about singing and playing a hand drum. She knew it was the beginning of a journey. She did not, however, foresee how far the journey would take her and the women’s Native American music group she founded, the Oshkii Giizhik Singers. MPR’s Dan Olson will have the profile.

Rep. Tim Walz and Republican challenger Allan Quist debate at Somerby Golf Community in Byron today. MPR’s Elizabeth Baier will be there.

  • I find it very unfortunate and upsetting that the government would back out on veteran’s funerals to try and save money. It’s just one of those things that seems like the right thing to do. My dad had the honor guard and trumpeter at his service and it really is nice to see.

    It reminds me of the holiday episode from the first season of “The West Wing” where one character pulls strings to get a homeless vet a funeral. He’s asked “If we start doing things like this, won’t more veterans comes out of the wood work” He replied “I can only hope so”

  • Tricia

    “When can gays speak for themselves?” Now. All the time. No problem.

    But political ads aren’t about who’s speaking, they’re about who you’re speaking to. And these ads are speaking to undecided voters — relatively progressive Catholics, older folks who feel like the world is changing faster than they’d like, etc.

    That’s why that’s who you see on the screen. It’s not about closets and ghettos and embarrassment.

  • Bob Collins

    // That’s why that’s who you see on the screen.

    I get that. But let’s take the Maine ad as an example. What EXACTLY makes that sort of ad a liability in Minnesota?

  • jon

    1) it is sad that gays can’t speak out for them selves in commercials because of fear of causing people who are already uncomfortable with the idea of them switching to a defensive mental posture and not being open to new ideas. But if that weren’t the case, then we’d not be having these votes any how.

    #5 I found a silver lining in the article “Dead areas of the lawn that are not repaired this fall will likely be invaded by weeds next summer” and Weeds are green!

  • Robert Moffitt

    Most of the gay people I know are not shy about speaking for themselves, on this or any other issue.

    Personally, I think the ads are well-done and are targeting the right audience. I see no reason to “display the gay” to get out the message.

    Re the BCBS obesity ads, the earlier ad that featured the “Tommorow” song from “Annie” also drew the ire of “fat & healthy” advocates, plus-sized folk who say that heavier humans can be just as healthy as their skinny kin.

    My organization (and me personally) are sometimes acussed of “shaming” or “demonizing” people who smoke. We don’t and we won’t. It’s the smoke we hate, not the smoker.

  • Bob Collins

    Well done, MattB

  • John P.

    Re: Bonus III.

    I personally struggle with my weight. I have managed to lose just over 60 lbs, with about 20 more to to go to hit my goal.

    These ads make me angry, just like the “I’ll take the stairs tomorrow” ads. They make me want to rebel against the messgae of the ads, not join in making fun of the fat people. When someone makes fun of you (and that’s how it feels) your natural reaction is to fight back.

    These ads do not help anyone.

  • Bob Collins

    // It’s the smoke we hate, not the smoker.

    Love the sinner, hate the sin, you might say. Who else uses that rationale?

  • BJ

    “What EXACTLY makes that sort of ad a liability in Minnesota?”

    Because we aren’t voting for marriage for gay people, we are voting to (NOT) add the definition of marriage to our state constitution. Voting for something takes a personal touch. You see the politicians use this all the time, vote for the lessor of two evils. Voting against something you just need to not like the alternative. Not sure I made that clear but strategy and tactics both matter in both cases. And the strategy for passage and defeat are different.

  • Tricia

    “What EXACTLY makes that sort of ad a liability in Minnesota?”

    Not a liability, just ineffective. On-the-fence voters need to see that people like them can vote no. It gives them permission to do the same.

    These voters know there are gay firefighters. They figure guys like him are pretty decent folks. They’re reaction to the Maine ad wouldn’t be negative, but they’d still be left saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. But Pastor Lindquist says…”

    (I’m not actually a political strategist, I just play one on TV.)

  • Bob Collins

    // vote for the lessor of two evils.

    So, are you saying the target audience here is the audience that is against same-sex marriage but is MORE against amending the constitution? But there’s very little in the “no” campaign that is about the constitution (i.e. “Who am i to deny someone the right to marry someone they love?”)

    It’s an interesting assertion — the ad, I mean — but theoretically, that’s not what’s the question is about, as you point out.

    Maybe that awful “suburban couple” spot (“We had a gay couple that taught us ALL in our little suburban world”) should be reshot and include “we had constitutional law expert in our neighborhood….” :*)

  • Brian

    Wow – nice find on Bonus #3. Shame or not, it gets the point across.

  • BJ

    //So, are you saying the target audience here…

    I might be injecting to much of how I would have run the campaign strategy (if they had just interviewed me when I put in my application to manage the campaign).

    They have done a good job. I think it is going to be to close to call in the end though.

    Appealing to those whom might not want gay marriage with the logic that if it fails that nothing changes, gays still can not marry, is a valid strategy. (tactic for those might be to say something like – IF you don’t want to ‘support’ gay marriage you don’t have to vote yes or no, just leave it blank.)

  • Bob Collins

    // s a valid strategy.

    This is a really complicated strategy, actually. On the one hand, many of the commercial stress the “rightness” of allowing same-sex couples to marry, but on the other hand, the sponsors point out that same-sex marriage will still be illegal, so it won’t kill you to vote “no.”

    But I should think by creating the impression that it is about the rightness of same-sex marriage, some people might think that’s what the question is and vote “yes.”

  • Paul

    Imagine that, a vocal faction of liberals would rather be “right” than win.

  • BJ

    Strategy can be complicated, the tactics used to move the strategy MUST be simple.

  • essjayok

    The voice of the straight ally is a powerful one in this issue.

    I think that voice is necessary, as Tricia pointed out, for the undecided voter. Even though I cringed a bit at the exact words of the suburban couple, I could see many people relating to their story.

    Relating is essential.

    I’ll also add that the Maine ad isn’t entirely clear about which “brother” is gay. It seems implied but never explicit. This ad still seems to be more about the “others” (the others in this case being the straight allies) accepting gay people.

    It seems most campaigns have decided this is the angle to focus on…Yet I do think the point at the end of the article is worth noting: in all 32 states with this on the ballet, same-sex marriage advocates have lost. Though I am arguing the power of the ally voice, I – like the activist in the article – have to wonder if maybe it is time to reevaluate the strategy.

  • Bob Collins

    Doesn’t that betray the notion that attitudes toward same-sex marriage are changing?

    Is it more reflective of a changing strategy of hiding the gays to eliminate the so-called “eeww factor”?

  • BJ

    Complicated, or hard to pull off.

    I believe they have tried the Fireball strategy.

    From “Campaigns and Elections” December 1997 / January 1998 – by Faucheux, Ron – Title “STRATEGIES THAT WIN!”

    Really long quote –


    Build solid pockets of political support that cannot be penetrated by the opposition under any circumstances.

    This strategy was used by Lee Atwater on behalf of George Bush’s bid for the ’88 Republican presidential nomination. By building a firewall of impenetrable political support throughout the South, Atwater surmised correctly that regardless of the trouble Bush would have in Iowa and New Hampshire and other places, that he would have the South to sustain him. Atwater, in effect, constructed a regional “firewall” for Bush.

    In 84, Walter Mondale’s candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination was based on an organizational “firewall” — regardless of what troubles he met along the primary route, he could always count on organized labor as the organizational mainstay of his campaign in enough states to secure a large delegate base. Labor provided Mondale with a “firewall” constituency that Gary Hart could not penetrate regardless of how well he did in national polls or how much media momentum he gained.”

  • Mark

    BJ- but then how does one achieve a mandate to govern? This “firewall” strategy seems to incent governing to campaign, rather than the reverse. Am I missing something?

  • Bob Collins

    You know, i get the political strategists thinking this thing through, but then I see this picture on the front page of the Star Tribune, yesterday and I think, “why don’t the ‘no’ people think they can’t make a case that gay people are just like the people whose minds they’re trying to change?”

    I mean, these are professional advertising people involved in this who go to work every day with the express purpose — and results — to get us to buy stuff we don’t need. I find it impossible to believe they’re powerless, and opt for a “some of my best friends are gay” approach.

    (that’s on my Facebook page, apologies if you can’t see it)

  • // Doesn’t that betray the notion that attitudes toward same-sex marriage are changing?

    I’m not sure if it betrays that notion as much as it acknowledges the reality of who votes. If 18-30 year olds turned out at the same rate as 55+ or 65+, I think you would see a different tactic in the campaign.

    However, given the reality that my generation ignores the ballot box, you may have to advertise and target a generation of people where the idea that same-sex marriage is wrong hasn’t moved as much.

  • Mary

    #2 Family discussion between brother-in-law/ prosecutor and sister. Prosector BiL was working case w/single sort-of employed mom forging checks for groceries for her kids. He was prosecuting and believed he should. There were discussions (we have discussions – sometimes heated – not arguments) about whether a plea deal for a lesser sentence should be offered. Does the prosecutor follow the law (valid perspective), when is wrong really not that wrong (also valid), is it okay to steal to feed your kids (what does that teach the kids)?

    Before others demonize Prosectur BiL, he is a good, caring person. He felt he needed to follow the law in his job, and felt others in society (legislators, citizens) should address the basic problem.

    Right and wrong, good and bad.

    They are frequently fuzzy grey.

  • David Poretti

    RE: Veterans – Considering that there are an estimated 75,000 or so homeless veterans in the U.S., perhaps we need to do a lot of rethinking regarding how we, as a nation, take care of our military veterans.

    RE: Gays in ads – the point of advertising is to persuade. It is human nature to be resistant to information or change that is endorsed by someone that “is different” than you. The point of having the current demographics of the speakers is clear – to convince those that need convincing, using presenter that the target audience can identify with.

  • Bob Collins

    // those that need convincing, using presenter that the target audience can identify with.

    I say again: isn’t that what the ad in Maine did? It seems to me that if that ad is ineffective here, it isn’t because people “like them” aren’t doing the talking — they are — it’s that there was a gay person among the “them.” So we really are talking about hiding them; not having the people “like them” doing the talking, right?

  • BJ

    * ‘soap’ = some generic everyday product

    Equating advertising for ‘soap’ with elections is a mistake. I’m pretty sure there was a dust up on these pages when P&G did a thing on moms (I like the last comment). With a fixed date and only one shot (P&G can try again in a few months to get the Dad’s to buy their products) you can see why pissing off 1% is a big deal. If no one could buy ‘soap’ except one day every few years and could only pick one they would market it a lot different.

    Also goal is getting ‘yes’ to have less than the ‘no’ (and unfilled out ballots). The goal is only that, NOTHING else.

  • John P.

    One more thought on Bouns III.

    Those ads feel to me like they are trying to shame people into better behavior. I call that bullying and it’s cruel, unnecessary, and probably ineffective.

  • David Poretti

    I haven’t seen the Maine ad you refer to. I can tell you that one of the core tenets of marketing is to use presenters that the target demographics identify with as being like them or that they aspire to associate with. The target audience is in this campaign hetero-sexual, middle-class, suburban Christians. Having a gay spokesperson is not someone that the audience will necessarily identify with nor aspire to associate with. For the most part, people are much more likely to change their minds/attitudes/behaviors when those they know/identify with/trust the advocate for change. No matter how sympathetic the audience is to a stranger’s plea, with only 30 seconds to build the relationship with the audience, it is not as likely to change the behavior as the same plea from someone the audience already “knows”. You can also see this logic in celebrity endorsements/spokespersons – we may not know them, but because of their celebrity status, we “know” them, and maybe aspire to be associated with them in some way.

  • Bob Collins

    // I haven’t seen the Maine ad you refer to.

    It’s right there in the post.

  • Joanna

    Bob, I think these ads show a a very astute understanding of whose vote will be decisive in this particular campaign at this particular historical moment.They are an excellent example of the rhetorical appeal to Ethos, rather than Pathos or Logos. All acts of persuasion involve choices, and at this time, ads about our pride in our families are not going to be persuasive to the target audience, already well-describe in previous comments. It’s not the fear and shame of the campaigners that are at issue; it’s the culture of fear and shame in which we have been raised, and with which all of us have had to wrestle if we wanted to choose the affirmation of the dignity of all and not just some.

    I’m not sure yet how the members of our extended family are going to vote even though our unconventional family is welcome in their homes on holidays and treated with kindness. They have seen our faces, but to vote No, they will have to actively reject what their pastors and neighbors have taught them all their lives. I just don’t know yet what they will choose to do.