I don’t care about Reagan

On the 6th of February 1911 there was delivered a bouncy baby boy by the name of Ronald. This was a man who was set to change the world in ways that few could imagine. To some he was a hero like to another, to me and many who know what he did, he was a villain.

When I wanted to write about this, I wanted to do a slight rant about how his record was filled with bigotry and hatred towards everybody who wasn’t a straight white male. But all of you know about his opposition to the civil rights movement, his blanket opposition to Gay rights, and his almost genocidal avoidance of acting on the AIDS crisis for 6 years. You know all of this, and me showing him for what he was wont change a thing.

This article was going to be full of righteous bile, but I was re-watching an episode of Smallville while writing, where Oliver Queen talked about “Armchair Bloggers” who just complain about the world and do not fix it. Its true, I’m no David Kato, I’m no Stonewall Rioter, I’m not even a member of the Queer Liberation Front. I don’t know how to save the world, I still find it difficult to save myself at times.

But, I’m me, I’m still here, and I’m looking for ways to fight and I’m speaking. Maybe its a fool’s errand, maybe the pessimists are right, nothing ever changes for the better.  Sometimes in my dark moments I believe them, but then I remember something extraordinary.

In 1945 US troops marched into concentration camps across europe, releasing all the groups of prisoners, but one. Those who wore the pink triangle,  they were dragged out of Nazi prisions, and thrown right into American ones, to suffer for being true to who they were.

A few weeks ago, a law was finally passed that said the revolutionary idea that if you are gay or lesbian you have a right to serve your country in the military. Now yes I know its utterly incomplete, and unimplemented, but things change. Next time that the US military marches into a tyrannical situation, it will contain out and proud members of a caste of formerly repressed people. That same military’s predecessors would have been the ones arresting and brutalizing.

So don’t think you can sit there in a cloud of pessimism and woe, smug and self satisfied that the world never change, because the history of the world is one of improvement and hope.

Rainbow and US Flags fly together

I often see the American flag hung next to the rainbow flag, and slowly but surely that sullied flag of false dreams is earning the right to be hung next to the rainbow.

There is an American phrase about giving our children a better life than our own. Our forebears stood up for us to make it possible for us to be out and proud in a way that they could not in youth. Just by living we honor their example, but we can do more, we can give our children a more open freer better world than the one in we live in.

Of course it will not be plain sailing, and Reagan’s stepchildren are still looking for ways to change the world back to his way of thinking. Palin, Huckabee, and others will always appear, evil never goes away, but we can keep fighting and keep pushing it back.

Who among you will listen to the mad dreams of a foolish, idealistic woman… I believe in you… please believe in yourselves and make a difference.

Google surpasses itself in the evil stakes

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Google fails in its "Don't be evil" motto when it comes to LGBT people

Apparently, being the new Microsoft is not good enough for Google. For all of Microsoft’s ills, it never stooped to the new low which google has recently reached.

It’s no secret that Google is a behemoth of a corporation. In fact, it’s now so big that it has a measurable affect on internet traffic flows like a “giant gravity bending star”. Consider the size of the internet and it becomes obvious just how huge that really is. It’s the biggest search engine on the web, and derives 99% of its revenue through advertising, making it an incredibly powerful force (if not the most powerful) in advertising on the web, and a significant voice in the shaping of trends and opinions.

The thing is, with great power comes great responsibility. This great responsibility could easily be modeled on Wil Wheaton’s excellent motto, “Don’t be a dick”. Unfortunately, the memo doesn’t appear to have gotten through to Google. Or at least, it got through but they used it for cheap PR instead. Google’s infamous unofficial corporate motto is of course, “Don’t be evil”, but they don’t appear to be abiding by this fine ideal. Embarrassingly, they’re doing just the opposite.

Yes, Google has set a new record for evil, both for censorship, and for its treatment of LGBT history.

Queers in History is a nearly 600 page encyclopedia of famous gay, lesbian and bisexual people — over 900 prominent people from 2450BC to today. First published on diskette in 1993, later published on CD-ROM in 1994, having been distributed by 600 independent bookstores worldwide and a number of major book chains, it’s been around for a while. It’s a respectable academic work on what is often referred to as the academic subject “Queer history” or “Queer studies”. In fact, it’s been advertised through Google for a number of years.

In the last few days, its author has suddenly received a (first, and) “Final Warning” from google for contravention of Google’s terms and conventions for its advertising service. The breach was suggested as being “adult content”, making the advertisement not “FamilySafe”. Naturally, the surprised author wrote in some detail to Google, who failed to offer a more specific explanation. In fact, the only clarification of their assertion is the following…

“FamilySafe’ is considered to be language, images and products in ad text and/or site content that is appropriate for all audiences. ‘Non-FamilySafe’ is considered to be language, images and products in ad text and/or site content intended and appropriate for adult users. ‘Adult Content’ is considered to be any site, regardless of language, images and products in ad text and/or site content, that includes graphic language and/or nudity. ‘Nudity’ – We consider nudity to be any picture where the model is not clothed. This includes sites where images have been blurred or are strategically covered with graphics such as stars, bars, words etc. Google takes into consideration the language in your ad text as well as the overall focus, purpose and content of you site. Graphic language in ad text as well as graphic language or images on the website will influence the status of the ad.”

Essentially, it all comes down to the original charge that the ad for the book breached one or more of these four red lines, namely than an ad must not contain

  • Any material intended for persons over 18.
  • Mature sexual themes, nudity, and/or sexual activity.
  • Crude or indecent language.
  • Offensive or inappropriate content.

It’s been an awfully long time since the word “queer” could be considered to be “crude or indecent language”. In fact, as previously mentioned it’s now even used as the title of an entire field of study by academia. There are queer writers on this very site.

What Google are essentially saying by this objection to the ad is that queer people and their history – a history we can all be proud of – are not family safe. Google is saying that our lives and our history constitute “adult content” – a phrase synonymous with pornography. This, is an outrage, without a doubt. This is censorship of the worst kind. This, from a company that supposedly prides itself on a motto of “don’t be evil” is absolutely shameful!

What sort of message is google sending out by this? What sort of bigoted, evil, intolerant and antisocial attitudes is google reinforcing by classing a factual history book as “adult content” and not “familysafe” just because it happens to be the history of queer people?

Do the upper echelons of Google even know about this? Do they agree with it? If not, it’s about time they did, because what is being done in Google’s name is absolutely inexcusable. There can be no circumstances in which this is a just and reasonable statement for Google to be making. None at all!

Shame on you Google. Shame on you.

… and shame on your employees for endorsing this. This shows your true colours, and they’re truly ugly.

Update: As of the day of posting, “Thanks to an overwhelming public response, Google has apologized and appears to be setting things right.” Google sent the following email to Queers In History;

Hello Keith, It has come to our attention that your ad disapproved on 30th November 2010 was in error. I have made the change and your ad is now approved, Family Safe and running on Google. Please accept my apology for an inconvenience caused.

Though as one commenter has stated; “That’s good! But of course it doesn’t resolve the issue of why the ad caused any problem in the first place — This reminds me of when celebrities or news pundits use anti-gay slurs and then apologize afterwards. THINK before you act! Read the ad before you reject it, Google!”