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Join the (Diminishing) Impact

| 8 Comments

Join The ImpactMomentum is a bitch. It’s probably the hardest thing to maintain in any activist movement. Join The Impact, the new web-based group that organized the remarkable nationwide anti-Prop 8 rallies on November 15th, is learning this hard truth pretty quickly. Their three actions since then – a postcard campaign, “Day Without A Gay”, and Saturday night’s nationwide “Light Up The Night” demos – failed to live up to this group’s early promise, or its justifiably glowing press coverage (see their New York Times profile).

This is not meant to be a dig. I’m in love with this group’s energy, youthfulness, and commitment. I haven’t felt this inspired by gay activism since the days of ACT UP. But I’m also a big believer in learning as you go, and doing honest postmortems. Any movement that only pats itself on the back after each action it takes is doomed to failure. So at the risk of having my head bitten off, I’d like to humbly offer the following advice.

Momentum matters. The best way to maintain it is to set and achieve attainable goals (or mini-victories that push the ball forward towards a larger victory). Thus far, Join The Impact only seems to be playing variations on a theme, attempting to recreate new versions of their clear victory on November 15th.

As amazing as that day was, it should be kept in perspective. It was a highly emotional response to a singular event, the passing of Prop 8. As a community, we were stunned, hurt and angry. As with most emotional responses, they will tend to diminish as you get further and further away from the initial event. November 15th was a singular moment, and attempting to recreate it will be as futile as attempting to recreate the Stonewall Riots.

Join The Impact doesn’t have ACT UP’s secret weapon – the monthly funerals that continually refueled our anger – so it needs to adjust to its post-November reality. They can’t keep banking on the initial emotions we all felt immediately after the Prop 8 vote. That probably means they should drop nationwide, broad-focus events for now, and start finding specific targets with potential mini-victories to push the ball forward.

One can think of dozens of targets. We could hit Rick Warren with various actions and specific demands, like an apology for comparing us to pedophiles and a commitment to stop the ex-gay ministry programs at his church. For a good action against him, try dozens of wedding-attired gay couples walking down his church’s aisle during one of his Sunday sermons. They could eventually crowd in front of the pews, quietly whispering their vows and exchanging rings and kisses, while never officially disturbing the sermon (one of ACT UP’s greatest mistakes).

The targets and potential mini-victories are as numbered as our enemies. Focus on the states where gay marriage is an attainable goal in the next few years: California, New York, and New Jersey. There are specific people and institutions in each that are standing in our way. If creatively targeted, any of them could become the focus of unwanted news coverage.

But here’s my worry. How will you do effective postmortems and strategize future actions? The Web is a great tool for getting out the word, but it’s a lousy place for brainstorming (sorry, discussion forums are useless for this). There’s simply no digital replacement for a room full of people hashing it out, where everyone’s eyes light up once someone hits on a good idea. Join The Impact doesn’t have ACT UP’s notorious Monday night meetings to debate future actions. Its next step should be picking a city, and finding a big room.



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Comments on Peter Staley's blog entry "Join the (Diminishing) Impact"

rather than attacking someone like Warren for his beliefs,he is a not an elected official,you should be attacking Obama. Warren is a private citizen chosen by the standard bearer of the party you support to speak for him. Think about that. Obama is going after the right wing religious wingnuts because there are more of them than there are gays. Gays are now a special interest group without a party. How can you expect to influence Warren and his followers if you cant influence Obama? You can continue like penguins to follow the corrupt democrat party but Obamas choice of Warren makes his position pretty clear.
Funny to hear Barney Frank,the person more responsible for destroying the US financial system than anyone else in Congress or Wall Street,bitch about Obamas choice of Warren. Where has Barney been on Gay Marriage? He has been invisible. Barney is more interested in having US banks loan money to people who cant pay it back than he is gay marriage. I would love to see where a social grifter like Barney hides all his money. If you are ever in a life boat with Barney,make sure you dont fall asleep,cause you will find yourself swimming by sunrise.

Yawn... Disturbing a church service, with or without loud, self-righteous pontification, will result in arrests for the demonstrators and more fodder for Warren and other homophobes. The gays are attacking again.

ACT UPs dubious accomplishments (e.g., the creation of several wacko spin-offs, like the California denialist sect) are ancient history to most readers of your blog (Stonewall? Is that a beer?). ACT UP comprised mostly white, middle class homos who would probably all be Log Cabin Republicans today if they hadn't become infected. When others affected and afflicted by HIV/AIDS demanded a seat at the table ACT UP quickly imploded.

Like a good Wall Street trader/traitor you determined how to profit from the pandemic, so AIDSmeds, the mouthpiece for big pharma "by people with AIDS", was born. Helping Smith-Kline-Beacham-Hallibuton-BushCo-WTF push lifelong chemotherapy helped narrow the focus on one piece of a much larger puzzle, to the detriment of other, less capitalistically attractive, areas of research.

If you have great ideas for maintaining momentum join the group or contact them directly. Opining HRC should place a full-page NYT ad or Join the Impact should decentralize and focus on specific areas may be great ideas but hidden in this cozy internet niche few people will see them. But that's fine by you, isn't it?

"I’m also a big believer in learning as you go, and doing honest postmortems. Any movement that only pats itself on the back after each action it takes is doomed to failure."

I almost spewed Ensure from my nostrils upon reading that...

I wish I'd saved one of your more nauseously self-congratulatory messages to me about the great public service the AIDSmeds forums provide, pointing to the number of members as proof. I challenge you to subtract forum members who haven't posted in 6 or more months from your roster of active members. You'll really need a post mortem then.

Maybe you're unable to brainstorm via the internet but don't assume it's not possible. Long experience as a censor on the AIDSmeds forums isn't comparable. Your goal is apparently to minimize real communication in favor of youtube link exchanges and other superficial but "civil" intercourse. After the sale of AIDSmeds to Smart&Strong maintaining a facade of pseudo-civility became priority number one. Hate speech like "Momentum is a bitch" might easily elicit the wrath of you or another moderator if someone not in the AM clique wrote it.

Spouting off from the sidelines at people actively working to achieve a goal doesn't accomplish much. Jump in and start swimming or shut up.

Thanks for writing about this. All great ideas. Although I don't think disrupting a church service was a mistake. No more different, in theory, than disrupting a Klan rally.

Where are you getting your facts from? Join The Impact didn't write a postmortem about Day Without a Gay largely because it was not truly their initiative. They sponsored it, led support to it, but it was a Facebook run and organized initiative by a man named David Craig. That is why his name is in all the interviews about it. The only postmortem that I read was his.

When it comes to light up the night, that was a huge success. It had one goal: to reach 1 million people... not to bring out 1 million people. They mentioned quite often that the numbers would be very slim because of the holidays and the college aged (my) generation on break. The goal was to "divide and conquer," which allowed them to pass out over 1 million flyers speaking to gay rights.

I agree that national events are very hard to do over and over again, but if we turn our focus back to one city, then something similar to prop 8 can happen in another while we aren't looking. If we keep a visible presence across the country, then the nation will begin to see how large and vast we really are.

You also forget the national food drive that they are doing, which has seen success in many local areas in need. The postcard campaign seems successful to me, considering Obama's office had to put out an announcement asking that postcards stop being sent because their office was over flooded. And, last I checked, join the impact didn't toot their horn about that success. I think you're a little too quick to judge in this case. They are a brand new org that has done more than orgs many years older. Give them a minute to learn a few things, see what works and what doesn't, but don't cut them off at the knees.

I think it needs to be pointed out that "Day Without A Gay" was NOT a Join The Impact event. JTI simply helped promote it, as did a lot of other groups, columnists and bloggers.

So, that leaves us with the extremely successful November 15th NATIONAL rallies that were put together in 5 days, and attended by tens of thousands of people, the postcard campaign and the Light Up the Night event.

Regarding November 15th, you can take the credit away from all of the "Facebook activists" if you feel so inclined, but those rallies would not have happened without them - community anger or no community anger. If bringing tens of thousands of people together to protest unfair laws isn't activism, PLEASE provide me with a new definition.

As for the postcard campaign, I don't see how that's any worse, or any less successful than any other "write your leaders" campaign. It's certainly better than online petitions that don't mean shit. And, it certainly can't be deemed a failure since it's still ongoing.

And the Light Up The Night events were very successful in lots of places. Here in Miami, we had an extraordinary event. It was inspiring, it brought a lot of new activists into the fold, and it did a lot to keep the conversation going in our community.

And, I think that the January 10th DOMA protest has the potential to be the one that makes history - but I also think that the potential likely won't be realized, because of the constant, constant criticism.

I just cannot understand why, instead of attending these events, and being a part of keeping the momentum going, so many of us are taking the time to deflate the excitement of a whole generation of young activists.

I can tell you that I, for one, am feeling overwhelmingly discouraged and disheartened those who think that it's better to stay indoors, write checks to big corporate "GLBTQ" organizations, and post blogs about how these young activists are wasting their time on bad ideas.

Of course, eveyone has a right to their opinion. And, everyone has a right to think that the people who have put their hearts and souls into designing, promoting and executing these JTI ideas, are dumb or naive.

It really feels like a lot of "us" are determined to kill the movement before it gets started, in favor of holding on to a security blanket of cynicism and negativity.

Keep telling us that it's all a waste of time, and we'll believe it.

But we will NOT keep writing checks to support the fancy cocktail parties that we'd never be invited to anyway.

I am not sure who is deciding these actions. November 15 was a great idea. Day without a Gay was an okay idea. I stood on some street corner with about 20 supporters in Glendale, AZ. It was rather pathetic I thought. Light up the Night I did not attend due to the bad weather in Chicago where I was visiting. I am not sure what the January 10th DOMA action is about. Here in Arizona the legislature is not even in session. Arizona does not even have any GLBT anti discrimination in jobs or housing laws yet so there is work to be done before gay marriage. They did not have an AIDS Walk for five years and the man of year for the local gay rag is being honored because his event group raised $50k.(that is not a lot of money, sorry.)We have some a new grassroots organization who are unfocused and have lots of social sufficient issues in their way along with their horrible graphics.

I don't even follow the JTI web site anymore. All these demos are supposed to be nicey nice, all very passive I think. There is no fire or righteous anger in the JTI generation. I think for the most part they are the over praised kids who went to school where , "everybody is a winner" and everything they did was wonderful.

So who are the gay leaders? Not the executive director of some GLBT organization but some grassroots leader. There aren't any.

Join The Impact seems to be playing games with members who join. I do not even follow the JTI web site anymore.(Why)(Easy) A certain Moderator's (jfermiller)heavy handedness in dealing with posts (She alone) dislikes! Example;[http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/thread/2112691/cowardice] (To be blunt about it the ONLY reason she seems to be there is to be the "LEADER" of posts and threads!) Obvious because that was her intent! 'Bumping to the TOP'of Posts and Threads in a private email sent to us 'LESBIANS' on Nov 25th on the wetpaint site she hosts!We promptly cancelled our account and haven't been back since, but friends say she is presently close to HER Goal!) Congratulations to her milestone!
We now rely on other more VALUABLE sites to monitor events and in no way look to Join The Impact for ANY information. The 'Creator' of Join the Impact should moderate the 1 moderator it depends on for "MODERATING" Miffed at Moderators!

The thread that you mention was me trying to get a handle on what people were thinking and what should be done when a member's post is "outing" someone.

I am not a leader of this cause, just another queer seeking fairness, I know we can't all agree on everything but to leave because I was there seems counter to your own purpose.

I had (and have) no influence on who joins JTI, I don't host the site, I don't send out messages to anyone.

The creator of the WetPaint site is a man, so not sure who you're talking about, me? Amy? Not sure. Guess you needed to vent SOMETHING, guess I did too.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Staley published on December 22, 2008 3:19 PM.

Please Show Up was the previous entry in this blog.

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