Letters to the editor

  • by BAR staff
  • Wednesday July 14, 2021
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Letters to the editor

SF Gay Men's Chorus lost the woke culture war

I am in a special position to comment on the culture war flare-up surrounding the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus' "We'll Convert your Children" music video, as I served for seven years as the chorus' accountant ["SF Gay Men's Chorus receives death threats after InfoWars article," online, July 8]. In principle, I supported the chorus' mission, but not necessarily the implementation of that mission. I was also a paid music critic and a professional classical musician.

Based on my front-seat view to the SFGMC's artistic planning process, I suspect "We'll Convert your Children" fits into the same type of sophisticated psy-op as the CIA's "Woke" feminist Latina recruiting ad, and the U.S. Army's Private Emma Has Two Mommys recruitment film. I suspect that the alt-right backlash was coordinated with the video's release and even some of the more tasteless online comments were arranged by the chorus' PR firm. The song had been around for some time, having been commissioned by the Oakland Symphony. The sudden attention suggests the hidden hand of PR. For those corralled into the San Francisco Bubble, the video does not seem what it is: a parody of what conservatives think a parody of the gay agenda is. It's so cartoonishly over-the-top and out-of-touch it's hard to take seriously. Hence the cringe factor. The joke just isn't funny. Let me be clear: nobody takes the lyrics seriously and actually thinks the SFGMC is coming for their children to brainwash them into some perverted gay agenda.

Predictably, San Francisco liberal outlets such as SFist reported on a parody of the conservative backlash — evoking straw-men such as QAnon, or "anti-vaxxers," or "Trumpists," or costumed rebels at "the insurrection," or linking to "bottom-feeding media." The result: a gratifying smugness that safely contains chorus fans in a bubble where they won't convert anybody. After a season when progressives call to defund the police, the chorus announced it had consulted law enforcement. For an ensemble that prides itself with parody, it is now policing its intellectual property so the video cannot be used for parody. What was left out completely was engagement by the chorus or its supportive media with the far more substantive criticism that the SFGMC's video evoked a certain cringe factor and reflected an unhealthy cancel culture.

While the SFGMC claims to be progressive, it's really only trying to convert members of its own choir. That's why corporate funders search out gay organization sponsorship — to put on a progressive face to making the public turn a blind eye to the many injustices underpinning our corporate society. This does not mean that gay liberation or tolerance should be abandoned. SFGMC members are happy to consume matching "Pride" T-shirts allegedly made by child slave labor in Bangladesh specially purchased for this video. Someone's coming for those children. I'm sure the SFGMC's proud corporate sponsor Wells Fargo will even open unauthorized accounts for them. Yes, trans liberation or immigrant rights are deeply-felt issues — but addressing them means opening a dialogue with those the chorus means to convert. Therein lies the true revolutionary potential.

Tom Busse

San Francisco

Flag flap is cancel culture at its worst

I agree completely with Matt Foreman's well-reasoned letter regarding the Progress flag flap ["Progress flag leaves out many," Letters, July 8]. Pun entirely intended.

According to the Bay Area Reporter's reporting ["Castro Merchants propose 2nd flagpole," July 1], the Philadelphia flag was designed by a marketing firm and the more controversial Progress flag was created by a graphic designer who apparently immediately monetized its design. Those facts alone should give one pause on this entire issue.

Prior to Gilbert Baker's inspired late 1970s creation of the rainbow flag the most used iteration of our identity was the lambda symbol. A symbol currently not known by many people and one I often need to explain to those who visit my shop. I can't think of any culture in the entire world that needs an explanation of the meaning of the rainbow flag.

While Baker and I didn't always agree, he did produce, and gave away without any thought of remuneration, this symbol that currently enjoys worldwide recognition. A design that seemed to include ALL the letters of the ever-expanding alphabet of our communities with no fuss. Unless I failed to get the memo I don't recall there being any hue and cry demanding a change in the internationally recognized rainbow flag. I might be more sympathetic with Progress flag creator Daniel Quasar's confused design were it not for the fact that they created it and immediately moved to be enriched by its production and use. Baker, on the other hand, was content with the moniker of the "Gay Betsy Ross."

I suggest that those who want to invest in and personally display either of the new designs do so. Just as people have with the leather, bear, and trans flags-among many of the "new" identity flags. However, there is absolutely no good reason to change the iconic rainbow flag at Market and Castro streets; or for that matter anywhere else — including the questionable act of adding a second competing flagpole. What do we do with the banners gracing the light poles or the crosswalk design at 18th and Castro streets? Are we then required to replace those with a muddled and difficult-to-explain Progress flag? And what happens when someone comes up with a symbol designed to replace what they decide is a dated Progress flag?

This entire subject of replacing one identity flag with another smacks of cancel culture at its worst. I can assure you the right would jump on this controversy in a skinny minute. Our communities are currently under enough assault without adding this to the mix.

As far as I'm concerned the rainbow flag ain't broke so we don't need to fix it.

Patrick Batt

San Francisco

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