Tom Busse for VT
I am in a special position to comment on the Culture War flare-up surrounding the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’s (SFGMC) “We’ll Convert your Children” music video, as I served for seven years as the chorus’s accountant. In principle, I supported the chorus’s mission, but not necessarily the implementation of that mission. I also for years was a paid music critic.
Based on my front-seat view to the SFGMC’s artistic planning process, I suspect “We’re Comin’ For your Children” fits into the same type of sophisticated psy-op as the CIA’s “Woke” feminist Latina recruiting ad, the US Army’s Private Emma Has Two Mommys recruitment film – they’re coming for your children too.
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’s P/R firm. The song had been around for some time, having been commissioned by the Oakland Symphony. The sudden attention suggests the hidden hand of P/R.
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.
To understand why the joke falls flat, Imagine the U.S. Army Chorus singing a lighthearted tongue-in-cheek cover of “we’re coming for your children” with cameo solo appearances in a bizarre Brady Bunch Zoom Call of intelligence assets Oliver North, Merrick Garland, and Gina Haspell. It’s an obvious satire because we all know they are countering human rights abuses and making the world safe for democracy, right?
Predicably, San Francisco liberal outlets such as SFIst dismissed 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 a queer ensemble priding itself with parody, the Chorus is now policing its intellectual property under DCMA so the video cannot be appropriated as satire. Chorus apologists such as SFIst fail to engage with the far more substantive criticism that the SFGMC’s music video induces a certain cringe factor and reflects an unhealthy cancel culture.
There is a German word Fremdschamen meaning the embarrassment you feel on behalf of others. I suggest that was the point: to induce cringe at the expense of the dignity of SFGMC member dignity. Cui bono? Is this song pushing actual progressivism and equality?
Of course not. The Psy-Op is there to indoctrinate a new generation of social media consumers that sexuality expression and broadcasting radical inclusion is not very cool. It’s best confined to an ill-adjusted sad group of guys in a San Francisco Grindr chatroom. With such creeps out there, yes, let’s tolerate mass surveillance and social media censorship.
It’s good old-fashioned Hegelian dialectic – pushing a reactionary agenda in service to the SFGMC’s institutional funders. The SFGMC leadership is very much part of the establishment: they own their own building, receive taxpayer funding, pay a full-time staff, are sponsored by major multinational corporations with dubious human rights records, invest in pension funds invested in high Wall Street finance, and are awarded grants from foundations endowed from military contracts.
This is not a phenomenon unique to SFGMC – when one peels beneath the surface of “liberal Hollywood media elite” one usually finds the hidden strings of the Pentagon. In his previous incarnation as Executive Director of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA), the SFGMC’s executive director arranged for a GMCLA performance at the 85th Academy awards in 2013. The evening promoted spooky jingoist stories of dubious veracity such as Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, and Skyfall.
The SFGMC has been at the center of reactionary agendas before. A few years ago, the chorus co-commissioned a major work of Harvey Milk hagiography. To those in the bubble, Milk is a mythical hero, and the chorus’s origins were in memorializing the Milk assassination on the steps of City Hall the day it happened.
As revealed early last year, Milk was actually a multi-decade informant for US Naval Intelligence. The true purpose of Castro Camera: Milk would develop nudie pictures of gay men to be used for blackmail. What was the Reaction to the White Night riots? Eliminating a legal defense used by shellshocked Vietnam veterans and passing mandatory minimum sentences requiring a massive prison complex. No wonder Milk spoke of incremental change instead of the deep transformational change requiring “conversion.”
Recontextualizing “we’re coming for your children” within Harvey Milk’s demagoguery, it is helpful to recall Milk’s letter to Jimmy Carter defending The Rev. Jim Jones’s abduction of children to Guyana – specifically, the six-year old John Stoen:
“Not only is the life of a child at stake, who currently has loving and protective parents in the Rev. and Mrs. Jones, but our official relations with Guyana could stand to be jeopardized, to the potentially great embarrassment of our State Department… Rev. Jones is widely known in the minority communities here and elsewhere as a man of the highest character, who has undertaken constructive remedies for social problems which have been amazing in their scope and effectiveness.”
Per Michael Bellafountaine of ACT-UP/SF in his well-documented academic history of gays and the People’s Temple, Milk’s ashes were mixed with grape Kool-AID. Even though Kool-Aid comes in a rainbow of flavors, Kool-AIDS kids drink the White Milk.
A specific criticism of the SFGMC’s performance by Not The Bee, (which kicked off the 7/7 conservative media psy-op – a “magic number” in the intelligence world), “Man, this suurre sounds like a cult.” As a former employee of the organization, I can vouch for the chorus’s cultish behavior.
Similarly to the People’s Temple, the new social media generation has already embraced much of the SFGMC’s professed Gay Agenda of making your children “tolerant and fair.” Young people know San Francisco isn’t a hotbed of iniquity or that heterosexual men doesn’t turn queer when they don’t “wear pleated pants.”
That’s why the CIA and US Army put out their own strange complementary viral videos: to give The American Agenda a re-branding. Without the trauma of 9/11, the new generation is onto the unfairness and intolerance of US militarism. The Army needs a new marketing campaign to overcome its image as purveyors of torture and murder of civilians.
It is not coincidental that Rossier and Sohne, composers of “We’ll convert your children” previously wrote a musical about pederasty in Afghanistan – it’s what CENTCOM and the CIA are fighting, right? Andy Ngo (a classic agent provocateur in his own right) picked up on it in a tweet, “last year, the duo apologized for writing music accused of endorsing Afghan child sex abuse.”
Recoiling from the SFGMC, embracing the Army – why shouldn’t youth enlist alongside Two-Mommy-Emma with two mommies to drone-strike Yemeni wedding parties? It will make the world safe for the SFGMC’s corporate sponsors.
Recently, gay comedian Tim Dillon had this exchange with gay journalist Glenn Greenwald (reporter of the Snowden leaks – itself a bit of a psy-op):
Dillon: What do you think that happened to gay people? Let’s talk about that because it’s not fun anymore. It’s moralism. It’s very hard for me to take balls out of my mouth and tell people how to live. I don’t think it’s my job. I like going to Florida and eating shrimp, but now people want me to go to libraries and talk to children and help them realize who they are. It’s not my job and I don’t care. It used to be kind of fun, and not it’s become this office politics language driven weird and strange thing. I don’t understand it, and I don’t like it.
Greenwald: It’s really sad. Whatever is sh**y and cringy and repressive and weak about liberal politics, it finds its lowest point in gay institutional politics….the cultural left in the United States has a longer list of rules of how you can date, how you can f**k, how you can do this and that than the Pope does with his encyclicals. Everything is abuse. Everything is harassment. It is watching this mirror image where they have all become this highly oppressive movement that is unrecognizable to me except in reference to what the evangelical right was in the 1980’s.
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 or even pleated pants should be abandoned – but should they be sewn in a sweatshop by slave labor operating under an oppressive US-installed regime? SFGMC members are happy to consume matching “pride” t-shirts made by child slave labor in Bangladesh specially purchased for their music video. Someone’s coming for those children.
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. In the 60’s when all-male Ivy league glee clubs and Yale’s Whiffenpoofs represented the Establishment, an openly gay chorus was truly subversive at a time when there was no dialogue to be had.
Homosexuality and intelligence, of course, are a fruitful partnership. In places where homosexuality is oppressed, gays manage to form networks operating underneat the power structure.
The “gay mafia” is thus quite useful to intelligence agencies – or a threat vector. Exploring the role played by national security in catalyzing and shaping gay liberation has been neglected by “queer studies” experts, who would prefer to police pronouns and pretend to enjoy gay chorus music videos.
There are gay activists who do open real dialogues with “the others” – often to the annoyance of the Gay Elite. Witness journalist Glenn Greenwald’s interviews with Tucker Carlson – a same-sex “marriage of convenience.” This is a true threat to the establishment. I don’t particularly like either, but it is far more important to be respected than liked.
In their “we’re coming for your children” farce, the SF Gay Men’s Chorus has even lost the respect of a silent majority within the gay community. Conservative outlet WND’s reporting focused on the SFGMC’s YouTube comments: “as a gay man, I have to say this video is cringe worthy, full of hate, and promotes intolerance … this video is extremely tone deaf.”
I couldn’t agree more. So to the CIA, The Army, and the SFGMC’s artistic leadership, I say: Don’t send in these clowns. Cringe.