I don't think bullshitwashing is a word—whitewashing something with bullshit—but it's the only way to describe Jo Becker's bullshit "history" of the movement for marriage equality. In Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality, Becker argues that the movement for marriage equality didn't begin until election night 2008. It wasn't until that night, after the passage of Prop 8, that Chad Griffin—then a political consultant, now the head of the Human Rights Campaign—decided to stop "standing idly by" and do something about marriage equality. Becker argues that Griffin is the marriage equality movement's Rosa Parks.
Andrew Sullivan tears Becker's bullshitwashing book to shreds in two long, impassioned, must-read posts. From Andrew's post yesterday:
After that surreal opening, the book descends into more jaw-dropping distortion. For Becker, until the still-obscure Griffin came on the scene, the movement for marriage equality was a cause “that for years had largely languished in obscurity.” I really don’t know how to address that statement, because it is so wrong, so myopic and so ignorant it beggars belief that a respectable journalist could actually put it in print. Obscurity? Is Becker even aware of the history of this struggle at all? Throughout the 1990s, marriage equality had roiled the political landscape, dominated the national debate at times, re-framed and re-branded the entire gay movement, achieved intellectual heft, and key legal breakthroughs, such as the landmark Hawaii case that vaulted the entire subject from an idea to a reality. The man who actually started that revolution was Dan Foley, a straight man from the ACLU, who filed the key lawsuit. Foley does not make Becker’s index. Why would he? If the revolution only began in 2008, he is irrelevant. The courage and clarity it took to strike that first blow is nothing for Becker compared with that of two straight men, David Boies and Ted Olson, and one gay man, Chad Griffin, who swooped into the movement at the last moment and who were, not accidentally, Becker’s key sources for the entire tall tale.
Becker ignores Sullivan's seminal, groundbreaking work on marriage equality; Becker trashes Evan Wolfson, a pioneering leader of the movement for marriage equality, who created the Marriage Project at Lambda Legal twenty years ago and left Lambda Legal to found Freedom To Marry; Becker writes Mary Bonauto, the lawyer who won marriage in Vermont in 1997 and Massachusetts in 2003 and the legal architect of the movement, out of the history of the movement entirely. Sullivan and Wolfson and Bonauto were fighting for marriage equality long before it was cool—long before it was "marriage equality"—and long before it was safe (and lucrative) for "political consultants" like Griffin to jump in. (Both Sullivan and Wolfson were routinely and viciously attacked as traitors and assimilationists for supporting marriage equality in the 1990s!)
From Andrew's post today:
In 1996, support [for marriage equality was] at 27 percent. By 2007, it was at 46 percent. It has since peaked at 53 percent in 2011 and 54 percent now. What Becker is arguing is that increasing the support by 8 percent after that early momentum was the only period that matters. The increase of 15 percent before that—in a far less propitious environment—was irrelevant, and in fact, proof that until the key figure of Chad Griffin arrived, nothing was really happening. I’d love to know how Becker can make that argument with a straight face. Or whether on her book tour, she will be confronted with the sheer perversity of that judgment. I also think it’s incumbent on Griffin to say whether that is his view of the matter as well. It sure sounds like it from Becker’s book.
Then there are the following bizarre consequences of her insane history. Among the heroes of her book are Joe Biden and Ken Mehlman. Now just think about that for a moment. [Ken Mehlman] ran the Bush 2004 campaign that used the marriage equality movement to turn out the Republican Christianist base and ensure Bush’s re-election. Without that issue, Bush may well not have won Ohio, and John Kerry would have been president. Now, I was delighted at Mehlman’s metamorphosis and have long believed that we should welcome all converts and hunt no heretics in this cause. I gave him a platform on the Dish I was so happy with his reversal. But when he is credited as a critical hero of the movement and Evan Wolfson is damned as an obstructionist, you are seriously in an alternative universe.