Nathan Hitchen, an alunmus of the conservative Christian John Jay Institute, has collaborated with Brian Brown to create a neat, very cool "new primer for the marriage debate." (PDF).
Here's how the document describes Brian Brown:
This Brian Brown doesn't seem to be the same Brian Brown who's the President of the National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage (NOM)."With a background in political science and nonprofit management, Narrator principal and John Jay Institute alumnus Brian Brown has spent 10 years observing changes in the way people share information, approach social issues, and get involved. Brian founded Narrator in 2011 with other marketing and policy professionals to provide a communications consultancy that helps organizations take advantage of these changes."
Nonetheless, the purpose of this document seems to be give opponents of marriage equality (whom the document calls "marriage advocates"- see what they did there?) new ways to frame the national conversation so they can persuade more people to oppose marriage equality for same-sex couples. The primer also, for your reference, refers to same-sex marriage advocate as "marriage revisionists" (see what they did there, too?).
Key take-aways from this propaganda manual, er, "primer" include "elevat[ing] as spokesmen" gay people who oppose same-sex marriage, "telling bigger stories" that reverse who the victims and victimizers are, and subverting the "marriage equality" meme with "stickier" anti-equality memes.
I guess these tactics are..... new for them?
After reading through this "primer," I'm reminded of why this national conversation is so tiresome and so polarizing. Frankly, I'm a little surprised that this document is publicly-available, what with it's up front, creepy discussion of the "exploitable narrative vulnerabilities" of Americans and so forth. The document also includes a sample op-ed piece (see page 50) demonstrating how "one could implement some basic techniques" outlined in the document (funnily enough, it's largely illegible because of the giant brain graphic that's in the background, whooooops!).
It all seems like such an admission of the grave desperation of some anti-equality advocates. It seems they used to be more covert about these strategies.
These tactics it outlines, after all, are of course not new.
Even since Prop 8, in 2008, anti-gay groups have been promoting so-called "gays against gay marriage," like David Benkof, who eventually dropped out of publicly advocating against same-sex marriage roughly that same year, although he did submit a strange amicus brief with other purported gays against gay marriage, Robert Oscar Lopez and Doug Mainwaring, in the pending US Supreme Court Prop 8 case in January 2013 (PDF). And, recently, Jeremy Hooper of G-A-Y noted that NOM has been buying domain names around the theme of "gays against gay marriage."
And, when this new "primer" suggests finding gay people opposed to gay marriage to be elevated as "spokesmen," I'm reminded of NOM's revealed agenda to, their words, "drive a wedge between gays and blacks."
So, that's fun.
Then, on the theme of switching who the victims and victimizers are, after Prop 8 passed, all of these, ahem, allegedly "grassroots" blogs called the "Digital Network Army" (DNA) sprung up from the aether. After noticing that these bloggers often seemed to be posting articles that were incredibly similar to each other's articles, I got myself on the "DNA" email list and saw that these bloggers were largely being fed content from mysterious "Team Captains." #seemslegit
While these "DNA" bloggers were pretty active for a year or so after claiming to be totally outraged by how mean gay people were to them post-Prop 8, nearly all of these blogs petered out when these Totally Outraged Straight People seemed to get bored talking amongst themselves (while banning actual gay people from their conversations) once they realized marriage equality actually has no real effect on their lives. This scenario suggested to me that the "DNA" blog ring was likely actually coordinated by at least one anti-gay organization, and that the key narrative the organization was interested in pushing was, "OMG the Normal People are being oppressed by the gay mobs!"
The Heritage Foundation even put a Very Official Report out about how mean gay people are to people who oppose same-sex marriage. The whole narrative, of course, has nothing to do with the substantive merits of same-sex marriage, but getting people to think they are being persecuted by a minority group is a historically key strategy in helping a privileged majority feel justified about oppressing a minority group.
I'm also reminded of NOM defector Louis Marinelli's claim that NOM's Brian Brown sought "crazy pictures" of pro-equality advocates, pictures that would discredit the pro-equality movement and frame us as unhinged, angry, and totally mean.
So, that's all fun too.
Although, what I'm most struck by in this "primer" is its utter lack of concern for its effect on same-sex couples and lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. It's as though our lives, relationships, and aspirations for equal rights and dignity are little political footballs to be deflated and stomped upon. As though our lived experiences are stories that need to be reversed, and written over, to make heterosexuals feel okay about opposing our rights.
"Marriage revisionists also tell stories implying that mothers and fathers together offer nothing unique—marriages built on sexual difference are not special and homosexual parents are just as good as heterosexual parents (i.e. Creativity plots)—or that homosexuals couples are not as abnormal as people think (i.e., Connection plots)....
...The best response for advocates of conjugal marriage is to tell better, bigger stories that subvert who the “protagonist victim” is and reposition who the heroes are. Advocates could make children—and specific children—the protagonist victims of Challenge plot stories, mothers and fathers the heroes, and identify their villains as the mindsets and public policies that obstruct their path to important goals."Maybe someone needs to tell Nathan Hitchen that the whole "Save Our Children" gimmick isn't actually a new thing.
Anyway, I will likely post more on this new "primer" later, especially as I see anti-gay groups conitnue using the methods this document describes, but I wanted to give readers a heads up to be on the lookout for shifting tactics and narratives in the anti-marriage-equality movement.
Oh, and "kudos" to this Nathan Hitchen dude. What a great career move for him! Sounds like he learned some really neat things at that John Jay Institute.