SMILE WHEN YOU SAY THAT
I do hope that Eric Alterman, after erroneously accusing George Will of plagiarism ["Full-Court Press," July 16], has the good sense to apologize publicly to Will, now that it's been revealed that Will used a version of the phrase in question ("half-Huck Finn, half-Machiavelli") ten months before Alterman. At the same time, perhaps Alterman could explain the uncanny similarity between his written words and those originally used by Will.
New York City
It was perhaps a mistake to use the word "plagiarism"--even in jest, as it was intended--given the number of humor-impaired readers The Nation apparently enjoys. I did not really imagine that anyone believed I'd accuse Will of holding on to a phrase of mine for thirteen years to deploy it at the perfect moment. As I have not been dead for hundreds of years, nor am I a powerful Republican politician, I cannot imagine my work showing up in the files of Will's "quote boys." But it is a strong word, and I should have been more careful. I'm sorry.
While I am embarrassed that Will apparently used the phrase before I did, it gives me a chance to tell a useful story. In 1989, when I wrote the Lee Atwater profile for the New York Times, I reviewed galleys and thought the phrase unfair to Machiavelli, who, after all, was a brilliant political philosopher and not a thuggish, albeit charming, political operative. I asked my editor to replace Machiavelli with Richard Nixon. He replied, "Sorry, Nixon's still alive and can sue us. Machiavelli stays."
As for Will's quote, the notion that anyone would compare Chris Matthews to a genuine political philosopher strikes me as even sillier than all the above, but I suppose now is not an appropriate time to get into that...
THE SIEGE CONTINUES...
Doug Ireland's "Same-Sexers Under Siege" [July 2] may mislead your readers. Window Communications was hired by United Airlines to help market itself to the lesbian and gay community long before there was a boycott, so we couldn't have been hired to break something that didn't exist. We did advise United following the announcement of the boycott, nudging it toward its ultimate decision to implement domestic partnership benefits for lesbian and gay employees.
I shut down Window Communications over a period of several months but long before I moved into a full-time role with Window Media LLC, a separate company that owned and operated gay papers in Atlanta, New Orleans and Houston, and that ultimately purchased the Washington Blade and New York Blade News. Ireland's comment that we shared the same phone number and some personnel is a bit out of context. It was also my home phone number, as we were out of one office and not yet in another. Only one staff member made the transition.
While Ireland seems intent on spooking people that conservatives are taking over the gay movement, Steve Herbits never worked on any aspect of the United account. Ireland also ignores that another senior counselor with Window Communications, one with more liberal and Democratic Party ties, was actively involved in our work with United--David Mixner. I am proud of my relationships with both these men, and many others who have worked with me over the past twenty years, including during the time when I started the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and later during my tenure at GLAAD.
As for those Blade employees organizing a union shop for fear of Window Media coddling corporations, that's news to us.
WILLIAM WAYBOURN, president
In Doug Ireland's useful article, he made one error. The pro-equal rights Maine referendum that narrowly failed at the ballot box did not lose because the "Yes on 6" campaign was outspent. Lesbian and gay supporters, plus several prominent religious organizations, tremendously outspent and outorganized the homophobes.
Just a few miles from the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, our home received several newspaper inserts and pamphlets in support of equal rights for lesbians and gays. Television ads were run only by the "Yes on 6" campaign. Indeed, I saw no manifestations of anti-gay rights politicking here: no bumper stickers, posters, commercials or fliers. From Kittery to Kennebunk to Portland to Bangor, public discourse was overwhelmingly progay.
So, why did 6 lose? Every one of Maine's referendums lost--but number 6 came closest to winning. Commentators indicated that the public may have gotten tired of referendums, a process that has become more riddled with controversy over the years here. Another reason: Most people don't want to deal with "gay stuff" in public settings. It's uncomfortable. Much of the work we have to do around queer equality has to do with demythologizing sex and family, plus promoting an appreciation of diversity. We're not always outspent or outmaneuvered. It's just a matter of hard work to open minds and hearts.
STEPHEN KENT JONES
Possibly because he wrote without the benefit of actually talking to me or any other Independent Gay Forum officer, Doug Ireland made some mistakes in characterizing the IGF. For the record: IGF is not a "front" for "BQ-Friends, a secret, exclusive, e-mail listserv network." BQ-Friends is a garden-variety private listserv in which members discuss current events; it has no relationship to IGF apart from some members in common, and it neither attempts nor manages to be "secret," as evinced by the fact that Ireland's is the second magazine article about it.
As for IGF, it has not received "seed money provided by the Gill Foundation" to become a full-service operation, although we'd certainly like to; IGF has received two small grants from Gill (totaling $4,000 to date) to help finance its website. That website does indeed feature some "conservative commentaries," but it also--as a look at www.independentgayforum.org will quickly confirm--features many libertarian and moderate commentaries, including quite a few that Nation readers might find stimulating or agreeable. Finally, grateful though David Boaz is to Ireland for promoting him to "head" of the Cato Institute, Boaz was the institute's executive vice president, last time he checked.
JONATHAN RAUCH, vice president
Independent Gay Forum
New York City
William Waybourn's letter is a lovely example of PR spin. As David Fraser reported in the March 30 Bay Area Reporter, "Besides Waybourn, the PR site's list of managers includes Eric May, [who] was a senior associate at Window Communications [and] is corporate marketing manager at Window Media. His background in public relations includes work for pharmaceutical firms." An article by Bruce Mirken in the August 1998 issue of The Guide, the excellent Boston-based gay magazine, headlined "A Gay PR Firm Helps Break a Gay Boycott of United Airlines," notes that "this is not the first controversy for the gay principals involved with Window Corporation. At GLAAD, Waybourn implemented a restructuring in which local chapters were dissolved and authority centralized, causing some to complain that what had been a grassroots movement was losing its soul. In 1995 and '96, GLAAD paid Window Corp. a total of $273,164 in consulting fees. And a few years ago, David Mixner worked for an insurance industry-funded campaign to quash a California health care reform proposal enthusiastically supported by AIDS activists." Mixner sent a letter to the gay community opposing the initiative--without revealing that he was being paid to do so. Mirken's article also quotes the Harvey Milk Democratic Club's Jeff Sheehy (the club initiated the United boycott) accusing Window of "selling out the gay community for profit." Nowhere did I say Steve Herbits had worked on the United matter while at Window.
Finally, within days of Waybourn's takeover, Blade workers began forming a union and asked him to recognize it voluntarily. He refused. The NLRB found that a clear majority of Blade workers had signed cards designating the Newspaper Guild as their union and scheduled a certification vote for July 20. The guild filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the NLRB contending that Waybourn threatened to fire two guild supporters if they engaged in union activities. All this was extensively reported in Washington's City Paper and Editor & Publisher--which also reported that a group of investors in Waybourn's company had issued a letter demanding that pro-union workers be treated "fairly." One of the investors, Gary Little, told E&P that Waybourn's attempt to squelch the union "indicates a pattern we've seen before.... Something is dramatically wrong at Window."
As to Jonathan Rauch, BQ-Friends was described in the September 2000 Brill's Content as "an invitation-only, top-secret network" run by an "elite, underground group of gay intellectuals," which "has finally come out of the closet" when, "inspired by the success of the right-leaning Independent Women's Forum, it organized [IGF] and launched [its website]." Sounds like a front to me. And the description of the Gill Foundation's grant to help IGF become a "full-service political operation" is contained in a June 4 column by one of IGF's more prominent members, Hastings Wyman, which was syndicated to the gay press, and which I quoted. I have yet to see any letters from Rauch correcting Wyman's column in gay papers. For the overwhelmingly conservative cast of the articles on IGF's website, I invite readers to check it out for themselves.
My apologies to David Boaz for getting his title wrong.
When I read David Corn's article about the impending return of Elliott Abrams ["Elliott Abrams: It's Back!" July 2], I thought amnesia had combined with déjà vu. Hadn't I forgotten that bad dream?
George Orwell's The Lion and the Unicorn (1941) comes vividly to mind: "All the old duds were back on the job, twenty years older, with the skull plainer in their faces.... It was like a tea party of ghosts."
PHILIP R. SUDDERTH