Last month Karma Chavez of WORT FM in Wisconsin did an hour-long interview with me about various things LGBT and global: Iraq, Iran, homonationalism, neocolonialism, ethical activism, Peter Tatchell, and other usual and less-usual subjects all came up. Here’s the whole thing. You have to skip over the scree-scraw noises at the beginning where a failed attempt to Skype me — I was in a remote foreign land — led to an explosively resounding reverb effect. Thunder on the left, the Romans thought, was a sign that Jupiter was pleased.
Blogger Paul Canning calls me a “b*tch,” undoubtedly meaning “butch,” and all too sadly that is true. Thirty years of wearing this macho mustache, half Marlboro Man and half John Bolton, have made my inner fem dwindle to a shrunken Munchkin, curtseying to Dorothy over the witch’s corpse while pathetically throwing myself at the he-men in the Lollipop Guild.
Still, I’m not nearly as much of a he-man as Paul is. In fact, Paul’s affirmations of his own manhood have gone over the top lately – judging from his comments here, on my own little blog. I take a holiday vacation from things, and what do I find when I return? Paul positively daring me to test-drive my testes, and prove I’m not “chicken”:
Am hard noting your ignoring Gay Kenya’s statement and use of *150*, say it agin,*150* activists as a battering ram. Let’s see you fisk the Kenyan statement. Or are you chicken? I think we can guess.
I’ll try to explain what Paul means in a little bit, but just note how noting things makes him hard. Also, observe the elegant phallic metaphor – the “battering ram”! Apparently it takes 150 activists to make one phallus. Then there’s this gem, a few days later:
But I wonder why you have not responded to my chicken call to respond to the Kenyan activist David Kuria on aid conditionality? I search in vain for such a response. Is it here? No! Is it there? No! Where could it be? Could it be, perchance, be that, for once, an African activist has shut you the fuck up? Has the wisdom fount dried up? It CANNOT BE!?!
Not publishing my comment on my previous mention eh Scott? Why would that be I wonder. Legal reasons? Defamation? Something else?
One of the things you notice about the guys in the Peter Tatchell crowd, who have been cheerfully harassing me for years, is not just that they’re all guys, but they’re terribly, terribly macho. Of course, as you would expect from such a diverse crew of highly white people, their testosterone infestations take different forms. For Tatchell himself, a Dickens character if there ever was one, the display of male authority means a transit from his usual Uriah Heep sanctimony – notifying you over and over again ‘ow ‘umble he is, truly ‘umble, very ‘umble– to a loud, Mr. Chadband style of oratory undoubtedly influenced by his Evangelical origins, a booming and all-silencing sermonizing that tells you he is about to tell the Terewth. (The Terewth, alas, never gets told.) For Doug Ireland, the literate one of the crew, it takes the shape of a terrible onslaught of intimidating adjectives whenever his competence is called into question, on the apparent assumption that mere feminine types like his opponents, however deep their throats, cannot possibly wrap their mouths around the assemblage of misused polysyllables at his disposal. For Michael Petrelis, Tatchell intimate and convicted stalker, it takes the form of yelling, which he can do as well on e-mail as in person. (I once compared Petrelis’ communication style to Divine starring in La Voix Humaine, and he took umbrage, thinking this a reference to his weight. However, I meant vocal, not physical, volume.) But ¿Quien es mas macho? Surely Canning outdoes the whole gang. I haven’t been faced by anyone calling me “chicken” since the fourth grade. Arguing with Paul brings one back in memory to those halcyon days of boys comparing organ length in the school bathroom, innocently ignorant of what puberty had in store for those peculiar appendages, or what exactly, besides urination, they were meant to do. Paul is similarly unaware what the notions he hawks will lead to, or what causes they further in the real world. But he knows they’re bigger than mine, and that’s all that counts.
So you’re wondering, what the hell is this all about? Well, if you’ll remember, back in October David Cameron, boy prime minister of Britain, created a furor by declaring the UK would tie overseas aid to LGBT rights. This made aid conditionality a subject of vigorous debate. 86 African social justice activists and 53 organizations (hence the figure 150 in Paul’s battering ram, above) signed an open letter opposing aid conditionality. It struck me that Paul’s
slanted all-embracing blog, which claims to give you all the international queer news you need to know, overlooked the letter completely. And I realized speculated that Paul’s own opinions were again might possibly be affecting his definition of news. Paul indeed ignored the letter — but he doesn’t ignore me. While I spent my December prone under Neil Patrick Harris in a drugged, drunken stupor, Paul busily honed his demand that I deal with what he obviously regarded as a conclusive refutation: statements on aid confidentiality by Gay Kenya and my friend the Kenyan activist and politician David Kuria.
Believe me, I would shave my mustache before I let anyone call me “chicken” three times! More to the point: I have no problem with arguments that run counter to my own, especially when they come from activists who are on the front lines. My issue with Paul himself has never been that he thinks aid conditionality is a Good Idea, which is perfectly legitimate. It’s that, running a news source with a fairly wide readership in the US and UK, he treats the opposing opinions of a whole
phallus phalanx of African activists as unworthily irrelevant to his own agenda.
So let me address a few key points in David Kuria’s column.
First: Kuria points out that there’s no unanimity among Africans on the subject of conditioning aid. He’s right, obviously. A recent Canadian news article interviewed Malawian LGBT leaders who favor such ties (as well as a Jamaican who’s generally against them). I do disagree with the way David frames the divisions:
On the one hand, an elite group of African activists feel insulted by the presumed neo-colonial undertones of Western powers using aid to set priorities for the African movement without as much as consulting the activists. These activists are vocal, well connected or have lived in Western countries. Their animus may as much be about the desire to show they are in are in charge as it may also be about a genuine fear of backlash.
On the other hand are the ordinary gay or lesbian on the street – for some reason gay/lesbian on the street does not translate well from “man on the street.” For him or her, a threat of aid withdrawal was received with great jubilation – finally the ray of hope they had for so long waited! These are unsophisticated, have either been victims of homophobic violence or live with an ever present threat of attack, and the only thing keeping them alive are the ever thinning walls of their closets.
Looking at the signatories to the African activists’ statement, I’m not persuaded that they’re more “elite” or cosmopolitan than those who didn’t sign. Nor do I think that the fear of backlash can be reduced completely to a strategy of control. The fact is that, since the early 1990s, almost every first glint of public visibility for LGBT people, or for sexual orientation and gender identity issues, in any country between the Limpopo and the Atlas Mountains has produced an intense and menacing public backlash. In Zimbabwe, a gay and lesbian group rents a stall at a book fair; the President condemns them, and years of political incitements to homophobic violence ensue. In Zambia, one gay man, tired of the closet, walks into the country’s largest newspaper and offers an interview; after the article appears, all of public life from university professors to the President is consumed by a wildfire of condemnation, and for the next three months hardly a Zambian can talk of anything else. In Nigeria, a few men stage an LGBT-rights protest at an international AIDS conference; two months later, the President’s office cites the affront in justifying a draconian bill to silence virtually any mention of homosexuality. One could go on and on, but the point is that a generation of African politicians, starting in the crisis years of structural adjustment,have learned very clearly how to link popular anxieties around sexuality to other, more immediate or salient fears — xenophobia among them — and drum up support in the process. You can argue about whether, or how, such a backlash could be avoided — and Kuria proceeds to do that. But the record of its recurrences makes considering it not only inevitable but, I should think, necessary in debating decriminalization strategies and the uses of aid.
Second, David observes:
Instead of assuming that we can have a “pan-africanist” approach, we should instead query what challenges and opportunities it presents to us as a country. Gay Kenya’s statement on aid, noted that each country has had a different aid narrative, and could thus not talk of an “African” but a contextualized Kenyan response. In Kenya’s case aid conditionality had proved effective in compelling reforms to an unwilling government. …
I see a group of villagers who once visited my dad, a Central banker asking him if [authoritarian former President Daniel Arap] Moi’s government would collapse at the back of donor conditions compelling political reform. As I recall it, they were very disappointed, and even thought of my dad as a Moi sympathiser when he told them government collects billions in taxes, and the only people who would be affected would be the poor.
The aim of withdrawing aid was to make the masses so angry that they would force Moi out of power he told them. It took time, but change did finally come, and the poor sung for Moi “yote yawezekana bila Moi” [Everything is possible without Moi] at Uhuru Park as a parting shot.
With the bulk of what David says here, I altogether agree. Any approach that elides national borders and differences in political history and culture is going to cause disaster. The more African activists speak up to assert the divergent narratives that demand disparate strategies, the better — the less likely some foreign government will take the whole continent as the convenient product of a cookie-cutter, and start to incinerate it accordingly. A history of aid conditionality producing democratic change may well make a population more disposed to suffer it in the name of something they can regard as progress. The one distinction I would point out is that back in the 90′s, when (some) Western governments were pushing for democratization in Africa, privations attending aid cuts could be justified as promoting a general good, something everybody — or nearly everybody –wanted. Joy Mdivo, in a recent blog post, remembers:
it is difficult to miss the happiness, the euphoria, the joy at common folk finally bringing down the Tyrant and winning Freedom. We had our own “jubilation” in 2003 when Kibaki came into power and we saw the back of Moi. People were literally drunk with happiness and giddy with anticipation of a better Kenya without Moi.
The queers may dance in the streets if Kenya’s sodomy law goes, but I doubt the general population will gather round the disco ball. Instead, if the aid conditions — or cuts — have aimed at broad development initiatives, people are likely to feel the public welfare has been risked or sacrificed to get a particular group its rights. Or, as the churches are likely to say, its perverted privileges.
Now, this kind of antinomization of rights protections – their rights, not ours — is made possible by the minoritization of sexuality: the prevailing idea that homosexual desire is the property of a small minority, not the potential of a larger number, and that only that bounded group will be affected by its liberation or persecution. Such thinking clearly is one import from the West that the present structure of “assistance” to ensure rights promotes and confirms. It dominates the help promised by foreign governments (Clinton’s and Cameron’s bruited initiatives exclusively talk the language of LGBT, not that of sexual rights for all), as well as the intrusions of NGOs (from Human Rights Watch on down, all the major human rights players have “LGBT Rights Programs,” and “sexual rights” is only mentioned in a whisper).
Gay Kenya has recently developed a “business case” to consolidate economically as well as politically based arguments for scrapping the old sodomy law. This document, Breaking the Wall of Criminalization – which I think deserves wide study — seems partly meant to counteract the minoritizing discourse. The essence is that getting rid of the repressive law will benefit broad strata of the population; the specific case revolves around how outreach and openness help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. My guess is that arguments like this are the best if not only route to abrogating the laws across much of Africa. If so, everyone has a stake in extending them beyond economics and health to contend that decriminalization is a benefit to democracy itself. And that case would require engaging with a lot of existing critical thought about nation-building, the African state, patriarchy, and the politics of development. Some of this is already moving forward in the work of thinkers like Sylvia Tamale; the Kenyan document can contribute. The “business case” is noncommittal on the question of aid conditionality, though — precisely, I suspect, because the idea that (what are still seen as) “special rights” can have a general benefit hasn’t begun to catch on.
The politics of donor funding and sanctioning to induce the desired political response, especially in the area of human rights, is often characterised by a complex matrix of competing interests. … [S]hould aid be conditional to removal of structural barriers that we know lead to inefficient use of resources and negatively impact efforts to reduce HIV infections? This is not an easy question to resolve, partly because African leadership can engage in dangerous brinkmanship over HIV funding …
The “brinksmanship” is enabled — despite the years everybody spent ritually affirming the mainly heterosexual epidemiology of African AIDS — by the persisting belief that the pandemic primarily affects the marginalized, and that these inhabit the margin because they are immoral. Governments don’t think they’re playing va banque with public health in general when they put their AIDS budgets in the poker pot. In their piggybank heart of hearts, they still consider this a concern of homosexuals, drug addicts, and prostitutes, and of course women, who aren’t really part of the general public either. In this light, the “business case” makes an obvious point, but one still worth making. The less any aid cut affects the general population, the more closely it is targeted toward the issues engaged by conditionality, the more the same people you are trying to help will be hurt. It’s the marginal who will pay:
In the case of HIV … [w]ere aid to be withdrawn, it is the vulnerable, especially those on treatment, who would suffer the most and that would not only be punitive but also unethical.
Third, David observes that the aid conditionality question should have been argued yesterday, or last week. And in this he may be right. He writes:
I have bad news both for the elite African activists and the gay/lesbian on the street. To the Elite, quit whining, the genie has already left the bottle. When the U.K. statement on conditioning aid to gay rights, became public we should have known scapegoating and blame-shifting was to follow. … You can take this to the bank, any misunderstanding between an African state and any Western power on anything under the sun will from now on be blamed on gays.
It’s true, Cameron’s inept initiative, and Clinton’s more thought-through one, burst into daylight without any particular consultation with the people who would be, for worse or better, most affected. And what David and Hillary said and did will inflect all the backlashes to come.
Still, it’s not hard to hear in this some of the despair of a continent that is used to having not just its resources colonized but its voices ventriloquized, its needs spoken for and its aspirations represented and decided by others outside. For the queers confronting their impeccable and indifferent benefactors, this is as ineluctable a fact as for any other Africans. Yet I can’t believe it’s either universal or permanent. In the realm of HIV, treatment activists, many of them in countries across Africa, have shaped and redirected the global discourse about who’s responsible for the pandemic and what to do about it. They’ve accomplished this with an uncompromisingly confrontational assault on the received verities of globalization, one grounded equally in history and politics. Now that debate has begun in the UK and the US about what exactly these new, ill-formed initiatives mean, there’s no reason LGBT activists in Africa — either country by country, or finding commonalities across regions or the continent — can’t try to do the same.
a) How can you prevent backlash; how, in particular, to avoid the appearance of elevating queers as somehow superior to other citizens, subjects, and “victims”?
b) What’s the history that will shape how Western influence will be regarded, and answered? Rahul Rao lays out persuasive reasons why British interventions in the Commonwealth are especially problematic:
[T]o call on Britain to play an advocacy role in the struggle against these laws invites a contemporary rerun of the civilising mission: the spectre of the erstwhile imperial power and its white dominions berating the black and brown Commonwealth for its backwardness is not one that is likely to engender the sort of change that its proponents wish for. Moreover, the demand for an apology for the sodomy law, as opposed to, oh I don’t know, late Victorian holocausts, dependency, slavery or all of the other phenomena typically grouped under the sign of ‘colonialism’ (except when Niall Ferguson is telling the story), seems tantamount to charging a rapist with minor misdemeanours.
In addition to history, there’s also the ally’s present stance, including its funding on other issues. The new US embrace of LGBT rights has not altered one whit its Puritanism where other kinds of sex are concerned. It still enforces, for instance, a gag order banning money for any NGO abroad that won’t sign an oath to support criminal penalties for prostitution. It’s easy to imagine this situation: the US threatens to cut aid to a government that endorses criminalizing homosexual conduct — while defunding an advocacy group in the same country that endorses decriminalizing prostitution. How can activists negotiate these thickets of contradiction? How can they oppose a supportive government’s other, offensive policies?
c) Who will be affected by any conditions on or cuts in aid? Will women (who tend to be the targets of many aid programs, if not necessarily the recipients of actual aid) suffer in order to secure gay men’s rights?
d) Development is notoroiously a depoliticizing business; it turns rights claimants into supplicants. Drawing LGBT communities deeper into development discourse risks turning advocacy for political change into lobbying for resource allocation, and replacing rights campaigns with service provision. Indian feminist scholar Nivedita Menon describes how
The Indian population recognizes itself quite easily as the target of development policies of the state … The depoliticization (and feminization) of development discourse into ‘devel- opment altruism’ is noted by a study from Kerala …. Their interviews with women presidents of panchayats (village councils) show that these women identify as ‘development agents’ rather than as ‘politicians’. This is consistent with the discourse of the Left Front government’s Peoples’ Planning Campaign (1995–6), in which … ‘the panchayat was consistently projected as a space of ‘‘development’’ beyond divisive politics’. This allows the panchayat ‘to be projected as a non-political space, the space of development altruism.’
Assuming this space “beyond divisive politics” is recognized as fake, and its effects as deleterious, how can the pitfalls of “developmentizing” LGBT issues be circumvented?
e) Finally, where do the core problems, and the main target for change, lie? Are they in law and policy, or in hearts and minds? An obstreperous and oppressive law regularly enforced, or the promise of new and repressive provisions, would be one kind of threat. A pervasive atmosphere of prejudice, tending to eruptions of moral panic and collective rage, is another. It’s not that they don’t intertwine often and reinforce one another. It’s not, moreover, as though changing a law can’t be one road to changing people’s attitudes. But there are plenty of situations where a loudly foreign-enabled campaign against a particular law can make prejudice worse, and perhaps provide the spark that sets a full-scale popular panic going. My own pragmatic guess is that any threats involving aid would work best — indeed, may only work – where a specific law or a specific case is the clear target, or where, as in Uganda or Nigeria, a new law proposal requires urgent opposing action. If the goal is, instead, to alter attitudes and prejudices, even if as a precondition for law reform, aid conditionality (and many other kinds of overt foreign pressure) risks reinforcing hate and making reform impossible.
Soekarno said, in his famous speech at the Bandung conference in 1955, one of the early high points of tiers-mondialisme: “What harm is in diversity, when there is unity in desire?” The trajectory of the Third World since, as of the other two, has tended to reinforce not only the impossibility of the latter, but the importance of thinking of the former, so far as feasible, not as potential harm but as actual strength. But a conversation about desire — and especially, now, about what is wanted and what unwanted about Western support — can still help LGBT activists in Africa and elsewhere to shape what their allies do, and decide what can and can’t be done.
I feel I have failed Paul. He expected fireworks and battering rams, and he has got something less loud and conspicuous. So again, as so often before, I am constrained to offer him an apology. I can do nothing to redeem my masculinity but to grow my mustache. As of today, I break my razor as Prospero did his staff; and I shall not reapply it until my manhood stands proud on my upper lip like 150 activists, or a grove of Sequoias. Meanwhile, among African activists, the conversation should carry on. I hope folks like Paul will start to report it.
p.s. CORRECTION. We are sticklers for accuracy here at A Paper Bird. I just uploaded December’s photographs to my hard, hard drive from my tiny, feminine camera. On examining them closely, I don’t think that was Neil Patrick Harris at all.
The big gay news today is the one-two punch provided by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Clinton gave a major speech for Human Rights Day at the UN in Geneva that was entirely devoted to the question of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights. (The initial transcript I saw, apparently taken down by somebody as she was speaking, referred to the latter as “trance gender,” which is a nice touch.) I’ll cite just two passages (from the official transcript):
Reaching understanding of these issues takes more than speech. It does take a conversation. In fact, it takes a constellation of conversations in places big and small. And it takes a willingness to see stark differences in belief as a reason to begin the conversation, not to avoid it….
[T]o LGBT men and women worldwide, let me say this: Wherever you live and whatever the circumstances of your life, whether you are connected to a network of support or feel isolated and vulnerable, please know that you are not alone. People around the globe are working hard to support you and to bring an end to the injustices and dangers you face. That is certainly true for my country. And you have an ally in the United States of America and you have millions of friends among the American people.
The Obama Administration defends the human rights of LGBT people as part of our comprehensive human rights policy and as a priority of our foreign policy. In our embassies, our diplomats are raising concerns about specific cases and laws, and working with a range of partners to strengthen human rights protections for all. In Washington, we have created a task force at the State Department to support and coordinate this work. And in the coming months, we will provide every embassy with a toolkit to help improve their efforts. And we have created a program that offers emergency support to defenders of human rights for LGBT people.
Obama, meanwhile, issued a “presidential memorandum” outlining concrete steps he expects the entire US foreign affairs machinery to take in defense of LGBT people’s human rights.
On an emotional level, I was and am quite moved. It’s my government, after all, and if Hillary doesn’t quite speak for all the American people (amnesiac Texan Rick Perry promptly trumpeted that “This administration’s war on traditional American values must stop … Promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America’s interests and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money”), having this concern placed by the country’s leaders firmly in the contested, troubled arc of American history and its bend toward justice is a powerful thing — an impressive moment. On the other hand, there are still many questions about what it means. How much are they going to consult with local movements before intervening for them? Are they really talking about aid conditionality (a question both their statements left open, but an implication seized on by most of the mainstream news reports)?
Two things, though. First, there’s actually the suggestion of a strategy here, the product of some attentive political and progressive thought, not just a headline-grabbing rhetorical idiocy like what David Cameron produced last month. And the US is not simply targeting its former colonies or satrapies for moral lecturing. If they genuinely engage with the issue, truly interesting things could happen.
We do nothing but apologize lately. Soon we will need to appear on Leno to explain the incident with that woman and the limousine, or perhaps try a pilgrimage to Lourdes or Colorado Springs. In our latest occasion for penitence, Paul Canning, the humble and accommodating editor of the
chronically inaccurate [see below] blog LGBT Asylum News, has turned his preoccupied attention on us! – and has offered some intelligently spelled remarks in the Comments section. These sentences clearly are the product not just of typing but of Thought, so I prefer to respond to them in the body here, rather than relegate them to a footnote of history.
Canning writes about our post on African activists and aid conditionality:
Hilarious when in the same line you describe the Mail as “anti-everything” which it is not. That is an INACCURATE description of the Daily Mail.
Also, simply reporting the origins of this (the Mail) apparently means “attempts to minimize the shift”.
Which is a little rich given that I very quickly and uniquely gave a platform to a range of global south activists who mostly – though not entirely – criticised what the Mail had apparently reported.
But you don’t mention that.
You write polemics, Scott, but do you have to be such a b*tch? Because that’s what it reads like.
We apologize for calling LGBT Asylum News “chronically inaccurate”! We were misled by the following incidents, among others:
- In the middle of the Egyptian revolution, after State Security arrested the well-known dissident blogger “Sandmonkey,” Canning announced on his blog – incorrectly — that Sandmonkey was gay. This move could easily have resulted in further persecution of the blogger, who tweeted later, “Just as a matter of public record, I am not gay. Making such a claim about me without verification is incredibly unethical.”
- Canning’s story of a gay activist’s murder in Western Kenya was later discredited by the investigations of a coalition of nine local LGBT organizations working there.
- Canning has broadcast inaccurate stories of “gay executions” in Iran – and accused other bloggers, who had reprinted his accounts, of unethical behavior when, on finding the stories unsubstantiated , they retracted them.
- Then there’s Canning’s reliance on, and diehard support of, the discredited website GayMiddleEast.com. It isn’t just that Gay Middle East is inaccurate. It lied about its own staff and origins, and put activists across the region who worked with it in danger.
There are undoubtedly other errors we haven’t noticed. But wait! It’s also true that we may not have noticed the uncredited times that Canning’s blog has been accurate.
This is an unfair aspect of our highly technical world, where one error on a matter of concern only to a small number of specialists – like a patient’s blood type, the location of a bomb target, or the existence of “global warming” – can outweigh all the other things one got right, like Derek Jeter’s batting average or the number of jellybeans in that jar. We are all correct far more often than we think. I am surely on the mark when I assume that Earth’s atmosphere will not suddenly turn to laughing gas tomorrow, but do I ever get credit for the prediction? No. Surprisingly, even the Daily Mail [see below] is probably accurate when it reports, e.g., that the sun rose at 6:24 today. (I stress probably: there could always be some hidden slant; possibly some faceless bureaucrats in Brussels forced the sun to rise at 6:23 instead, and by reporting 6:24 the Daily Mail is striking a coded blow for free markets and for British independence.)
So we apologize to Canning for underestimating the occasions when he reflects the truth. Let’s say no longer that LGBT Asylum News is “chronically inaccurate.” Let us praise it as “episodically accurate” instead.
This brings us to the Daily Mail. Canning is quite correct when he calls me out for saying it is “anti-everything.” I was INACCURATE to give the impression that the newspaper campaigned against gravity, or condemned the habit of breathing. No one is against everything. Even the Russian nihilists had the odd thing or two they supported, such as better bomb technology. Moreover, on reflecting, one realizes that almost every anti comes with its own pro. For instance, we could note that the Mail opposed sanctions against South Africa during the apartheid regime; but rather than saying it was anti-sanctions, wouldn’t it be simpler to say that it was pro-apartheid? We could observe that the Mail stood bravely against the welter of colors that the 1930s fashion industry offered to confused consumers. But rather than saying it was anti blue, or pink, or green shirts, wouldn’t be better to say that it was pro Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts? (Though I have the feeling the Mail might prefer the first formulations, or maybe would like to forget the whole thing.) Even a cursory glance at the Daily Mail shows it supports women’s cosmetics; a strong native plumbing industry independent of Polish expertise; and the prosperity of Pakistan through the return of its diaspora to the motherland. In calling the paper “anti-everything,” I was succumbing to the wicked practice of “irony.” This is an addictive vice among homosexuals, sex workers, and editorial cartoonists; it mainly serves to infuriate the upright people who do not engage in it.
Finally: Canning says that he “uniquely gave a platform to a range of global south activists” on aid conditionality. Here I differ with him somewhat. In the one article he published, he quoted 13 people; 5 were in the global South, the rest in Europe. Three of those five expressed serious reservations about the British policy. Nonetheless, Canning headlined his piece, “Cautious welcome, concern as UK ties foreign aid to LGBT human rights.”
More importantly, in the weeks since then 53 organizations and 86 individual activists across Africa signed a statement laying out their reasons for opposing the policy; groups in other countries weighed in with their disparate responses; and a massive backlash caused by Cameron’s move led to mounting anti-gay rhetoric in Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and other countries. Canning didn’t consider any of this news; he covered none of it. It’s hard not to suspect the reason: he supports aid conditionality, and doesn’t want to give much space to its grim consequences, or to the global South voices that collectively offer a sophisticated critique.
Paul Canning is perhaps right that I’m a “polemicist,” not to mention a butch, or botch. But then, I lay my opinions out on the line. I don’t pretend to be reporting “news,” and meanwhile suppress facts that don’t suit my presuppositions.
Nonetheless: I apologize! In keeping with the spirit of utmost clarity, let me set forth my apology in transparent terms:
Such a vain endeavor! Let’s go back to agreeing compulsorily. To interrogate veracity is simply muddled. Facts remain overly messy. Truth hurts! Everyone should express expectable gregarious opinions. I swear that I can. Being unaware makes better life expectancy realistic – soon!
I hope no one will attempt to find some other meaning in that unequivocal statement.
Meanwhile, we are changing our policy with regard to polemics. In future, we will offer apologies proactively before saying anything, indeed before thinking it. In fact, when addressing other people’s errors, we will apologize not only before pointing them out, but before they have actually erred. We believe that this will save our detractors psychological pain, as well as the considerable legal fees and effort required to extract apologies under English law. Moreover, it encourages our critics to err regularly and rhythmically rather than erratically and sporadically, creating a feeling of predictability and confidence among their readers. We therefore announce that we are apologizing to Paul Canning weekly for the next five years, and to Peter Tatchell daily for the next ten. And we have programmed our pacemaker to emit an apology to Doug Ireland seventy-eight times a minute, audible only to bats and whales. Now we would like to ask Peter kindly to remove that bailiff from our lawn, as he is walking on the crocuses it took us weeks to plant.
The face of Africa, when tilted on its side like this, looks remarkably like Mr. Dithers from the old Dagwood and Blondie comics. It’s perhaps appropriate that the scream is coming from the area of Egypt.