This fan community is nothing if not passionate. But the hate that has been hurled at the dedicated people of this publication recently has surprised even me (and as the Svengali Arch Villain of Archuworld, I’m used to it). We tried to make light of it with a humorous take on the accusations of our “agenda,” but the hateful emails continue. There have been times in the past when we may have deserved some animosity for immature or unsophisticated choices, but this was not one of those times. Something else is going on here.
Of all the ugly things posted about us, the one accusation that got under my skin was that we intentionally, in some conspiratorial way, sought to perpetuate controversy and major media attention. In comment after comment across the fan boards, even in correspondence from well-respected über-fans, we have been accorded a range of slick skills and cunning capabilities that I sometimes wish we actually had. These people give us too much credit.
It needs to be stated outright and yet again that the story picked up by the major media was not that David Archuleta had been seen at a club, or even a gay club. The major media could have cared less about that. Despite the fact that our original article was referenced by some large publications as basic background, it was not the story. The story was David’s backpedaling tweets, which were in response to Sunday’s twitter storm, which had nothing to do with the article at TDC. We did not break the news. We did not promote it. Everything was already on Twitter (and had been for some time) before we posted it.
Here is where the fork in the road seems to lie. Regardless of the fact that there were hundreds of tweets already – and hundreds, perhaps thousands, more to come over the course of that day – somehow or other TDC is accused of “fanning the flames.” Why, because we treated it as a minor news item? (If we had been so hell-bent on sensationalizing this then why didn’t we make it a feature article?) Was it because our headline was automatically posted to Twitter amid a torrent of other tweets about the same thing? Or because we included a description and photographs of the venue? Just because certain people find something scandalous does not mean that that was its purpose. Interpretation does not mean intention. How can we be accused of trying to perpetuate scandal with content we found to be completely innocuous? I’ll tell you how: because plenty of people consider anything to do with the gay as being inherently scandalous.
The very notion of “fanning the flames” implies not only the existence of flames in the first place, but an intent to encourage bigger flames. But if we examine what those flames actually mean, what the nature of those flames really are, we can easily see that a gay-friendly publication like TDC not only has no vested interest in those flames, but in fact is much more aligned with efforts to normalize gay news and information so that no such flames need ever exist. It is quite preposterous to accuse the very people who would seek to normalize gay issues with an intent to sensationalize them.
Common to a large portion of this fan base is an underlying assumption that any association between “David” and “gay” is cause for alarm. It is therefore inconceivable to them that such an association may in fact be a good thing, and that those who view it as a good thing may be seeking to foster not scandal but detente by drawing focus to it. This mental barrier is either homophobia or heterosexism and can be extremely dense; I well understand that there are fans who will never comprehend the idea that David being associated with anything gay could be positive. Even within our own admin team there were apologists for the selection of the original headline because it contained the word, “gay.” Perhaps we might have chosen a less scandalous headline, so the argument went. Oh, really? So, the word which describes millions of highly respectable, loving, good-natured people who pay their taxes, raise their children, attend PTA meetings, and buy David Archuleta records is scandalous? There is nothing inherently scandalous or controversial about anything gay; only entrenched homophobia and heterosexism make it so.
Anyone who wishes to ignore this issue because it is “uncomfortable” is by proxy voting for the status quo. Which, as we have seen all-too clearly, is marked by perfectly innocuous circumstances being treated as scandalous simply because they happen to involve gay issues or gay people. If fans think I have an agenda because I refuse to let stand a status quo that favors discrimination, then so be it. If fans think TDC has an agenda because we fail to tow the stay-mum-about-that-topic line, they might consider that exactly the reverse is true: This topic holds no more weight for TDC than any other topic because we do not see it as inflammatory; it is those who seek to avoid this topic who have the agenda.
“Well,” some might exclaim, “even if you don’t agree that such issues or information should be scandalous, you undoubtedly know that they are, so why add to it?” The answer is this: Anyone who continues to allow bigotry and heterosexism to define what makes something scandalous is responsible for helping to perpetuate discrimination. Even if we know that the narrow-minded still consider such references as scandalous, choosing not publish them for that reason would, by omission, support and perpetuate that connotation. TDC will not be complicit in casting gay issues and gay people as the subjects of whispers and raised eyebrows. It is wrong, and anyone with any sense of morality or conscience knows it. The real scandal here is not that TDC posted a news item about David having been to gay club. The real scandal is that none of the other fan sites posted it also.
As Ronald observed in his wonderfully magnanimous and inclusive article, David’s artistry has the ability to create kinship between people who would otherwise have little in common. I would like to think that the efforts we undertake to explore and dissect our differences are done in a spirit that David would recognize and appreciate. Bringing a wide variety of news, views, information, and discussion to light may carry with it the risk of confrontation with people who would prefer to keep certain things quiet, but that’s a risk we are willing to take in order to build bridges of understanding over moats of isolation.