Just submitted via the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s contact page:
I really liked your youtube video featuring the audio of the Oklahoma state legislator making the homophobic comments. (Well, I was appalled by it. But I like that you’re helping to publicize it.)
I’m trying to figure out why you would fail to identify the person making the remarks. It seems to me that if posting the audio is justified, then identifying the person speaking is also justified. I mean, she’s a politician, and should be held accountable for her remarks. If identifying the person speaking is not justified, then posting the audio isn’t justified, either. I mean, it’s trivially easy for someone who is active in Oklahoma state politics to identify her based on the recording, so you’re not actually protecting her identity in any meaningful way, right?
The best I can come up with for a rationale is this: Something about the recording itself might have been illegal, or unethical. The video indicates that she was recorded without her knowledge. Maybe that’s actually a violation of Oklahoma law? Or maybe the editing of the audio omits remarks by others questioning her that would cast the people making the recording in a less-than-flattering light?
If that’s the case, then I can see a rationale for leaving her unidentified in the video. By not identifying her, you avoid the side issue that would be raised if she were to challenge the authenticity, completeness, or legality of the recording. In the meantime, you still get the benefit of shocking people with what she said (which probably translates into fundraising, or at least awareness-raising, for your organization). If she’s not identified, then she would have to “out” herself (so to speak) to raise an objection to the recording, which she might be unwilling to do.
But here’s the thing: If that’s the explanation, it strikes me as a shady ethical approach for your organization to take. I come back to the same position I felt when I first heard the audio: It’s shocking, and it makes me want her identity to be known so she’ll pay whatever price her constituents think is appropriate. Not identifying her may make some sort of tactical sense in terms of the rough-and-tumble of politics, but for me, it doesn’t pass the smell test. I’d be more inclined to support your organization if I believed that you were being scrupulously ethical in your actions.
She sounds like a homophobe, and a hate-monger. But she’s also a human being. She deserves to be exposed for having made those comments. But she also deserves an opportunity to give her side of the story, to the extent she wants to give one.
If you’re concealing her identity in order to prevent your audience from knowing the full story behind the recording, I’m not sure that’s ethically cool. It’s a pretty minor ethical lapse compared to denigrating and discriminating against a whole class of people based on their sexual orientation, granted. But it’s still uncool.
I wish you would be more cool.
Update: Apparently the Oklahoma state legislator whose voice is heard in the recording is Sally Kern. GayPolitics.com, which appears to be operated by the same people as the Victory Fund, posted the following comment yesterday:
One of the primary questions people have had after hearing her hateful speech was why no one ever mentioned her name. If the audio was worthy of being publicized, why not single out the person responsible?
There are a couple reasons.
First, we don’t want to make her a hero in anti-gay circles. Running a name and a picture would merely serve as a feather in her cap.
Also, while this speech is remarkable in its statements, it’s not unique. For every bit of hateful rhetoric we hear, scores of other anti-gay statements go unchallenged.
It is not our intention to make this individual the target of animosity and hostility. It is, however, our intention to let her know that we heard what she said, we do not approve and that we support public officials who recognize people in the LGBT community as equal, ordinary citizens.
I appreciate their providing the explanation, and I don’t doubt that that was the intention behind not mentioning her name. At the same time, I think their logic was muddled. By publishing the clip, they guaranteed that she would be identified and would receive the responses (both pro and anti) that they say it was not their intention to promote. This is a fish-or-cut-bait kind of situation. They can’t have it both ways. If they didn’t want to publicize her actions, then the appropriate course of action was… not to publicize her actions. If they were willing to publicize her actions, then I don’t think they’re really carving out any sort of moral high ground by letting others take the predictable next step of tracking down and sharing her identity.