“I’m here to do the bidding of the people.” Luke Rudkowski
I enjoy watching Luke Rudkowski (the k is silent, apparently). He’s a young brash politicized man who puts a great deal of energy into his very personal version of reporting. Yes, he takes his role a bit too seriously–he calls himself “the true voice of the people”–and for that reason teeters precariously toward being a True Believer as warningly described by Erik Hofer so many years ago. He also tends to end his interviews with a heartfelt “God bless you, brother!”, which I find to be unnerving and something of a red flag.
For the most part his earnest energy balances out his youthful urge to deem whatever he happens across as the Truth. But greenhorns will occasionally blunder badly, and recently Mr. Rudkowski posted a video he seemed quite proud of, and this video annoyed me. Here’s why.
It was his edit of an ad hoc micro-conversation with Newt Gingrich (see it HERE) regarding Gingrich’s affiliation with San Francisco’s Bohemian Club retreat, the Bohemian Grove. As everyone knows, the Bohemian Grove is a conclave of wealthy and powerful men who party and make business and political deals. The owners of Google attend; lots of uber-rich, uber-conservative men attend. Not my idea of a good time.
Luke starts by mentioning the Grove’s universally lampooned annual “care-burning” ritual. He refers to it as “worshipping Moloch” (this he takes seriously: there are those who believe Moloch or some version of Satan is worshipped at the Grove). Gingrich is caught off-guard, which is fun to watch. But then Luke mentions a rumor of “male prostitutes” being brought into the Grove and cuts to a photo of a New York Post article with the headline “Gay Porn Star at Bohemian Grove”. The audio for this portion of the clip is apparently supposed to be gay dance music.
My first question here is, why should it be more interesting or scandalous if the prostitute is male or female? It’s a simple thing to find news references to elite get-togethers (including the Bohemian Grove) involving prostitutes, booze and sex. Yet Rudkowski goes with the NY Post–a scurrilous Murdoch-owned tabloid that has been called by the Columbia Journalism Review “a force for evil”. Further, Luke, rather than citing the headline accurately, refers to “male prostitutes”. He’s obviously trying to incite Gingrich’s famous homophobia by intimating that the Grove enclave is a gay event.
And surely this is good reporting, yes? There can’t be anything wrong with cornering a bad guy like this. What harm could there be in intimating that this enclave of wealthy politicos and CEOs is rife with homosexual Moloch/Satan-worshipping sycophants?
You cannot claim to be “the true voice of the people” if you uncritically use homophobic references as a prop for your arguments, your politics or your humor, no matter how righteous you may believe yourself to be.
He follows this with a close-up of a clipping from the Post article that lists men who’ve gone to the Bohemian Grove, with the tacit implication that this means they also bought “male prostitutes”. The list includes Gingrich, Colin Powell, Walter Cronkite (!) and William F. Buckley. Now, whether or not any of these men have had sex with boys I neither know nor care. But the implication isn’t just from the scurrilous Post article, it’s more pointedly from Rudkowski himself. He’s using “gay” as an easy shock, a tried and true way of identifying a man or an event as “decadent”.
Sleazy reporting, yes. Homophobic? Absolutely. Rudkowski buys into the ages-old notion that power, wealth, gay and decadent are all cards in the same argument-winning conservative hand. This convenient bundling of gay/evil/rich/decadent has served Rupert Murdoch well, and now the young reporter is gleefully using it.
Here is a young man who styles himself “the true voice of the people” (no, I’m serious—listen to the rest of the tape), yet he takes a story that comes from the NY Post via the Post’s putative source, a “gay porn star”(and I can personally speak with massive authority on the value of information gleaned from “gay porn stars”. I can also speak to the “gayness” of many “gay porn stars”) and, generalizing it through his editing, says that the Bohemian Grove event is a gay event. That is, these Moloch-worshipping wealthy Republicans are inter alia homosexual and their homosexuality is an integral element of their evil.
But the worst is yet to come. In Rudkowski’s edit of the tape, he says to Gingrich, “I won’t even mention what Nixon said about the Bohemian Grove”, intimating that whatever Nixon said was too horrible to say aloud.
And what did Nixon say? Rudkowski cuts to a segment of the Nixon tapes and we hear Nixon describing the Bohemian Club as “faggy” and saying that he wouldn’t even shake hands with any man who came from San Francisco.
To Rudkowski, “Moloch-worshipping” is bad, but “faggy” is unmentionable.
But it works for the young reporter. The entire clip was broadcast by the website wearechange.org with the following headline:
“Republican Chicken Hawk Confronted About Trips to Gay Resort”
I’m a little astonished that I have to point out that this is an offensive and homophobic headline, but Rudkowski, in repeated defensive tweets to me, insists that I’m the one being offensive and that he’s “insulted” at being called out on this.
Yet he not only didn’t protest the headline, he linked to it and sent it out to his readers via Twitter and Facebook. He could have had the wording of the headline changed: Rudkowski is named as having a direct connection to the site (he’s written 182 posts for them). This means he’s not only okay with it, he may have come up with this clever gay-slamming headline himself.
I’m not okay with any of this.
“Chicken-hawk” is a term that in the gay lexicon means an older man who has sex with younger men or boys. It’s often used as a synonym for pedophile. Now, “chicken-hawk” also has the political meaning of a man who advocates war but refuses to fight. But given the gay focus of the headline, the intended meaning is clear.
To make things even more insulting, the broadcaster who is commenting on Rudkowski’s tape states “For radio and tv listeners, we had to fade down the whole Nixon thing…Sorry that went out. There was no FCC stuff, it was just, you know, GDs [“goddamns”] and this and that.” Yes, we still clearly hear what the commentator refers to as “this and that”. It’s a gay slur–“faggy”. We hear it and we clearly read it in the subtitles; we still hear the entirety of Nixon’s “untouchable fags of San Francisco” drivel.
I wonder how differently all of this would have been handled by both Rudkowski and the broadcaster had the word been not “fag” but “nigger” or “kike” or—well, you get the point. The cause is true and just if we’re talking race or economics. But gay men are still fair game for use by the righteously indignant reporter when attacking power. And as for wearechange.org, the broadcaster is clearly more concerned with offending the FCC than with broadcasting Nixon’s homophobic slur.
So here’s ace reporter Luke Rudkowski using the NY Post, a “male pornstar” and Richard Nixon as his sources to come up with a scandalous image of the Bohemian Grove as a “gay retreat” rife with “unmentionable” pedophiliac gay sex.
I’m all for skewering politicians–particularly retrogressive monsters like Gingrich–and I’m all for guerrilla reporting. But I’m not for the unthinking use of homophobic exaggerations and caricatures in getting it done. You cannot claim to be “the true voice of the people” if you uncritically use homophobic references as a prop for your arguments, your politics or your humor, no matter how righteous you may believe yourself to be.
What sort of reaction would Rudkowski have received had he intimated that there are members of the Bohemian Grove who are rumored to have had sex with black prostitutes? With Jewish prostitutes?
I can easily remember when racial jokes were as common–and socially forgivable–as Rudkowski’s gay slurs are now. Jokes told by white folk about black folk were so common they went unnoticed and were simply a part of the cultural landscape. The few who objected to them were thought to be too sensitive, absurdly liberal–in Luke’s term, “boobs”. It was all innocent good fun, the spirited high-jinx of a thoroughly racist culture that believed in what it did as completely and self-righteously as “the true voice of the people” seems to believe in himself.
But this is not acceptable. Unconsidered off-handed racist comments and jokes are seen now for what they are: socially damaging violence. The same is true of the use of “easy” homophobia to bolster your position. Not even the smallest homophobic joke is acceptable to me when it’s palmed off as “harmless” yet sets gay men up as evidence of depravity or cultural decadence.
We are not jokes, Mr. Rudkowski. For thousands of years we have been ostracized, tortured, murdered (check the etymology of “faggot”), forced to live in hiding and in secret. For thousands of years we have had to repress and hide ourselves and our identities in order that we might be relatively safe from people like Nixon, Murdoch and (unexpectedly) you. Our entire history has been an epoch-long inquisition and struggle. We were slaughtered during the Holocaust and we continue to be hunted, tormented and imprisoned even in the US. Around the world we are dragged from our homes and either put in prison or executed. We have suffered and struggled and died for the (still only secondary) rights and recognition we now have.
By refusing to see the homophobic undercurrent in your video, in celebrating its broadcast with a headline that is a pathetic homophobic joke, you are doing your part to keep us down, to deny us our complete humanity.
And that puts you hand-in-hand with Newt Gingrich. In this sense you have become one with Gingrich and with Nixon and Murdoch and with the never-ending line of politicians and political activists who refuse to see that they are indulging in an expedient but horribly damaging brand of self-righteous blindness.
– Paul Morris