Tuesday, 9 March 2010

"Patriots for a Moral Utah"

Yesterday, I caught the following off of my Twitter feed:

fruhwirth: BREAKING: Download a proposed ballot initiative that seeks forced relocation--"final solution"--of homosexual Utahns http://bit.ly/awx8Iv

What followed was a day of bizarre accusations and counter-accusations in the Salt Lake LGTB/activist community. To clear things up in advance: the group proposing this “initiative,” Patriots for a Moral Utah, is a Yes-Men-esque send up of, in the words of one of their leaders, “Chris Buttars, Gayle Ruzika, [the] Sutherland Institute and of course the Mormon Church.”

PMU’s modest proposal is as follows: under their “initiative,” gay Utahns would be required by law to either 1.) voluntarily leave the state, 2.) leave the state via public transit free of charge, or 3.) report to a rehabilitation center where their homosexuality will be “cured.” It was an intentionally *way* over the top exercise in button-mashing (they actually used the phrase “final solution” in the draft, for God’s sake).

Now, I’m of two minds on this. One, it literally boggles my mind that as usually astute a journalist/blogger as Jesse Fruwith got suckered by this stuff, and had to spend the rest of the day dealing with it. The second I read his tweet (via a retweet by my sister) I hit the brakes and thought “WAAAAIIT a second…” Of course, given some of the legislation that has passed here recently, it’s extremely hard to tell satire from reality in Utah on the best of days, so I’m more or less giving Fruwith a pass on this one. Once the hoax was uncovered during a “press conference,” Fruwith responded in a post at the City Weekly:

The phony press conference is a play out of the Yes Men play book. For example, The Yes Men once punked the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by announcing a press conference, then posing as representatives of that group while calling for climate change legisation. It was funny, you see, because the Chamber opposes such legislation. Ha. Zinger. Got 'em.

I'm not sure what Ha-Ha we were supposed to get from today's action, but I think the point they must have been trying to make is that it is somewhat believable that Utah could foster such a movement of concerned citizens that would openly and publicly call for Nazi-like solutions to the "homosexual problem?" Ha?

So on the other hand, generally speaking, I’m with Fruwith on this one*. I engaged in a lengthy e-mail exchange with my sister earlier today about this. She expressed regret that the participation of Ashley Anderson and some other activists made it seem like Patriots for a Moral Utah was somehow a project of Peaceful Uprising, which it wasn’t – at least one of the guys behind the antics has stepped forward to take credit/blame. Despite emphasizing that PeaceUp had nothing to do with the PMU thing, Flora said that “[the fake press event] was a neat piece of political theater intended to call into question the ‘mutual hiatus’ of the Equality Utah et al folks vs. the conservative legislature.” I replied that

I'm familiar with the mutual hiatus thing, but I still fail to see why it was a "neat piece of political theater" OR why it calls mutual hiatus into question. Wasn't this the media equivalent of throwing the first punch (one below the belt, at that) and then pretending that your opponent started the fight?

Flora replied (fairly enough) that:

I see your point, but really (I gather) a lot of the Utah LGBT community feels the first punch was thrown when the left agreed to the hiatus…There was a coalition of different groups behind it keeping things on the DL because they didn’t want anyone to know [PMU] was a hoax.

At the end of the day, one thing’s for certain: Patriots for a Moral Utah wins my nomination for “Best Integration of Buddy Christ Into a Logo, 2010:”

* - A caveat here: I think that Fruhwith took this stunt way more personally than he should have. After implying that PeaceUp was somehow connected to this, he did issue a partial retraction. Also, Fruhwith’s initial post – later amended – implied that some if not all of the protestors present at the event weren’t in on the joke. Ashley Anderson claims they were. Fruhwith has confirmed that at least some of them were.

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