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Topics In the News
Pushback against Rick Perry's Brokeback Mountain Ad
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 12/09/11
Last updated on: 12/09/11
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Governor Rick Perry dressed in what parodies have called his "Brokeback Mountain" outfit.

The blogosphere has been full of pushback against hapless Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry's anti-gay ad that paints Christians as victims. The response to the absurd ad has ranged from parodies to the outing of one of his strategists.

Assuming the persona of a rugged cowboy, the former Texas A&M cheerleader who has for years been dogged by rumors of homosexuality looks in the camera and says, "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As President, I'll end Obama's war on religion. And I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again. I'm Rick Perry and I approve this message."

Here is Perry's ad:

The fact-challenged ad is a desperate attempt to capitalize on the religious right's increasing paranoia. They know that they are losing the culture wars and, consequently, cast themselves as victims--victims of "political correctness," victims of what they see as unfair media characterizations, but most profoundly victims of a changing society in which they are often seen as bigots and haters and in which they are increasingly irrelevant.

In this appeal to the only demographic that thinks the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell was a mistake, Perry is attempting to make some inroads into the constituency fought over by Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum, neither of whom are riding very high in the polls, even among Iowa's conservative Republicans.

The decision to make an ad demonizing glbtq people, including gay and lesbian soldiers who risk their lives to protect the country, was probably not very smart even as an appeal to religious fanatics, but the reaction to it has no doubt been far different than Perry anticipated. After all, the ad sits comfortably in a long line of political advertisements in which gay people are defamed as a means of rallying the Republican base.

However, the reaction may indicate a significant change in the American electorate and in the response of glbtq people to political gay-bashing.

In response to the ad, even mainstream political reporters have subjected Perry to some hard questioning. When Wolf Blitzer confronted him on CNN, Perry became tongue-tied and incoherent. Even some conservative commentators have rolled their eyes at the ad's blatant appeal to prejudice.

A New York Times editorial said the ad "will test anyone who thinks they can no longer be affronted by a political hustle." It has been subject to withering criticism on Facebook and on YouTube. In addition, it has been relentlessly parodied.

Someone noticed that in the ad, Perry is wearing a jacket very similar to one worn by Heath Ledger in Ang Lee's gay-themed film Brokeback Mountain. This similarity has had the effect of reminding people of the rumors of homosexuality that have dogged Perry for most of his political career. The rumors were so prevalent that shortly before entering the Presidential race, Perry issued a statement explicitly denying them.

Many of the parodies of the ad have played with these rumors. A video parody has redubbed the ad with a lisping, high-pitched voice. Screen-captures of Perry in his Brokeback Mountain jacket have been photo-shopped with pictures of Richard Simmons and of Tinky Winky, the Teletubby that Jerry Falwell claimed in 1999 was a homosexual role model for children.

But perhaps the most interesting pushback against the ad was the reaction of the conservative gay group G0Proud, whose leaders proceeded to out one of Perry's strategists, pollster Tony Fabrizio.

In response to GOProud's charges, Fabrizio issued a statement saying that he had opposed using the ad, and the Log Cabin Republicans criticized GOProud for outing Fabrizio even as it also criticized the ad itself.

Chris Barron of GOProud in turn issued a statement saying that "Tony Fabrizio is not the victim here. Tony Fabrizio has lined his pockets for years with money from gay groups and is now one of the chief architects of a campaign strategy not just an isolated television ad--intended to demonize gay people in order to score political points. Fabrizio claims he opposed the latest anti-gay Perry television ad. If Fabrizio really does oppose the ad and the broader strategy then the honorable and decent thing to do would be to resign from the campaign. Tony Fabrizio is no junior staffer he is one of the top campaign pollsters and strategists in the country."

More important than the internecine conflict among conservative groups is the fact that even a right-wing gay group is now willing to use "outing" as a political tactic when sufficiently provoked.

Most significant of all, however, has been the quick and devastating response of the gay blogosphere to the ad, as well as the almost universal condemnation of the ad by mainstream commentators. It may be that defaming gay people is no longer quite the sure-fire political tactic that it was just a few years ago when Karl Rove used the "gay menace" as a means of getting out the Republican base to vote for George W. Bush for President.

Here are three video reactions to the ad.

This one is a parody by an atheist:

This one is called "Jacket":

Here is a serious response by activist Sean Chapin:

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