Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Everyone Is Gay: Notes on the Rumor Mill

Posted By on Tue, Apr 20, 2010 at 10:13 AM

One of the strangest things about writing for Pith is that it's given me a little (a very little) cachet I really don't deserve or would otherwise have. When I was writing just for myself, political hangers-on didn't really care to talk to me.

Now, occasionally, they will. I want to reiterate, I am way out of the loop. Way, way out of the loop.

And yet I hear rumors all the time about who in our state legislature is gay.

Don't get excited. If the rumors are to be believed, it's one gay orgy after another up there, because just about everyone, it seems, is supposedly secretly gay. And obviously, since folks still have time to pass stupid legislation AND time to get blackmailed by their opposite-sex lover's other lover or whathaveyou, you'd have trouble scheduling an interesting small gay group-sex session, let alone some kind of full-blown orgy.

I share the above because it illustrates two things:

1. People will gossip with whomever they think might spread a salacious rumor just a little further, because it gives that rumor credence. If you suspect so-and-so is gay and you tell me that it's obvious that so-and-so is gay and I say that everyone knows so-and-so is gay, even if you're the only person I've talked to, I'm giving you the impression that there's some group larger than you that agrees with you. But it's just that you have unwittingly confirmed your own suspicion. You get to push something you hope is true a little farther into the "everyone knows its true" category, which, in many cases, is as good as true.

2. People love the "oh, he's totally gay" rumor because it's nearly impossible to kill. People who aren't homophobic will spread the rumor thinking that it's harmless gossip and since there's nothing wrong with being gay, basically we're just commenting on a person's hypocrisy. If the subject of the gossip is publicly homophobic, we're trying to ding them a little about something we know bothers them. People who are homophobic will spread the gay rumor because they consider it a dealbreaker.

And how, in our society, where it's still not often easy for people to be openly gay, can you prove that you're not? People married to opposite sex partners do have same sex affairs that are often kept very, very secret. So an opposite-sex spouse proves nothing. If you're unmarried at an advanced age ... well, you know that makes you suspect. The gay rumor is a great way to just muddy the water about a person, to suggest that there's something a little disingenuous about him or her.

So my personal rule of thumb is that unless the person himself tells me he is gay — or unless I see with my own eyes the person involved in same-sex canoodling — I ignore it, which is why you've never read a post by me dishing about which politicians are secretly gay.

It's not that I'm some ethical saint, it's just that this is one area in which the people who are spreading the rumors have huge agendas they usually aren't telling you about.

They want you to spread the "that person is gay" rumor for a reason. And that reason is almost never "because it's in the public's interest to know."

That's why I find it really strange that CBS would let blogger Ben Domenech further gossip about rumored Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's sexuality. Why someone would slip him the rumor is clear — to suggest there's something a little "not like us" about her, enough so to possibly derail her nomination before it starts; to, in effect, fuel a whisper campaign against her. Why Domenech would spread the rumor is clear — to make himself look like a guy in the know.

But why would CBS seem paralyzed for so long before doing anything about it?

I get that the mainstream media is still struggling with how to understand and incorporate the more rough-and-tumble immediacy of the internet. But surely they've been dealing with gossips forever, right?

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