Sunday, August 23, 2009

Medal of Freedom

At the laundromat this morning I picked up a copy of San Francisco's most popular gay paper, the free weekly Bay Area Reporter. There I read some unappetizing facts concerning the news coverage of the Presidential Medal of Freedom recently awarded posthumously to Harvey Milk, the gay San Francisco Supervisor assassinated in 1978 after less than a year in office.

This federal gesture strikes many of my own friends as an inadequate substitute for the tangible legal protection gays are still consistently denied. But as the B.A.R. points out, there is no consensus in this country that gay rights qualify is a legitimate cause at all. Each episode of this endlessly disappointing scenario is covered on TV and in the press as part of the gay rights "controversy." Those on the opposition side in this "controversy" command a respectful hearing from reporters for whatever murderous, crack-brained slanders they can dream up.

Thus, a professional hatemonger representing the "Campaign for Children and Families" calls a news conference on the steps of San Francisco City Hall the same day that Milk's Medal of Freedom is awarded in Washington. A crowd of journalists shows up and the anti-Milk, anti-gay rhetoric is subsequently broadcast and reprinted as an integral part of the local Medal of Freedom coverage.

The B.A.R. story quotes an email sent by a reader: "It seems pretty rare for a reporter to feel compelled to offer balance on a significant honor to a martyred hero of our community. In looking into the awards I saw no balance given to racist hate groups for the awards given to Archbishop Tutu or Sidney Poitier. Would it be considered appropriate to balance a story about Holocaust martyrs with a statement from a Nazi?"