Monthly Archives: September 2002

Doing a “Google” search on former Advocate editor Jeff Yarbrough I came across this rather startling document from 1996.

“The media–if it covers activism at all–interprets and re-writes visible protest to conform to conservative and homophobic considerations about which formats and soundbites sell, and about how to represent careers without discomfiting stereotypes. Yet protests and activist meetings provide important sites where people of all economic backgrounds can come together collectively to identify as queer, as people with AIDS, or as people in the queer struggle for meaningful recognition of the needs of people with AIDS. By contrast, identification through consumption is limited to those who can pay for it, does not involve political action, and is profoundly individualistic.”

Thus the “Consumer” becomes transformed into that greatest of all American social myths “The Individual” — negating social activism in the process.

Advocate editor Jeff Yarbrough recently explained to me that the demise of the grassroots organizations ACT UP and Queer Nation made gay markets far more attractive to non-gay businesses. The direct-action organizations of the late 1980s and early 1990s made the gay community a “loose cannon” in the eyes of many corporations and advertizing firms. Advertizers were fearful that social conservatives and the Christian right would boycott firms marketing to “militant homosexuals,” and that gay and lesbian direct-action groups themselves would bring unwanted visibility to the advertizing campaigns by claiming that firms marketing to queers were exploiting the community. This visibility, in turn, would make a right-wing boycott more likely. Therefore, the demise of ACT UP and similar organizations placated corporate fears and brought the possibility of much greater advertizing revenues for gay magazines and newspapers. Indeed, in 1996, the advertizing portfolio of the Advocate includes corporations like R.J. Reynolds, Ikea Furniture, Calvin Klein, Banana Republic, The Gap, Philip Morris, Absolut Vodka, Saab, Benetton, Levi-Strauss, AT&T, American Airlines, American Express, Hilton Hotels, and Apple Computers.”

And so Political “Death” becomes Commerical “Life.”

We could of course stop smoking, avoid Absolut, disdain (if we don’t already) The Gap, Banana Republic, IKEA, SAAB, Levi-Strauss and Hilton. AT&T, American Airline, American Express and Apple are a bit trickier. It’s very tricky, trying to function as a human being rather than fall in line as a “consumer” as politically required.

But then my mother never told me life was going to be easy.