The selling of gay marriage – the ‘cynical’ PR plan that started it all

In 1987, two American gay activists – advertising guru Hunter Madsen (using the pen name Erastes Pill, sourced from the Greek word for pederasty) and neuropsychiatry researcher Marshall Kirk – put together what they themselves admitted was a highly “cynical” propaganda campaign to trick the US public into supporting gay rights.

It was a trick in the sense that they admitted that one of the main planks of their campaign “we’re born gay” probably wasn’t true, and also in the sense that they would enlist Hollywood and the entertainment industry to present a false, non-threatening image of gays in TV shows to lull the public into acceptance.

“We have sketched out here a blueprint for transforming the social values of straight America. At the core of our program is a media campaign to change the way the average citizens view homosexuality,” they wrote in a five thousand word article for the gay publication Guide magazine in November 1987.

A major part of their campaign, they revealed, was to vilify anyone who opposed the gay agenda as “homophobic”, and to publicly compare them to the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan:

“Vilification of Victimizers: Damn the Torpedoes.

“We have already indicated some of the images which might be damaging to the homophobic vendetta: ranting and hateful religious extremists, neo-Nazis, and Ku Klux Klansmen made to look evil and ridiculous (hardly a difficult task).

“These images should be combined with those of their gay victims by a method propagandists call the “bracket technique.” For example, for a few seconds an unctuous beady-eyed Southern preacher is seen pounding the pulpit in rage about “those sick, abominable creatures.” While his tirade continues over the soundtrack, the picture switches to pathetic photos of gays who look decent, harmless, and likable; and then we cut back to the poisonous face of the preacher, and so forth. The contrast speaks for itself. The effect is devastating.

“…it would portray gays as innocent and vulnerable, victimized and misunderstood, surprisingly numerous, yet not menacing.”

One thing Kirk and Madsen were absolutely staunch on was that ordinary people were never to be exposed in the media to the true nature of gay sexual relationships which, as gay writer Eric Rofes documented in his book Reviving The Tribe, are actually far from “innocent and vulnerable”:

“[M]y eyes took a moment to adjust. I was in a large space filled with small wooden cubicles, like cupboards, in which men were apparently expected to kneel and give head. Glory holes were drilled into these closets, and other men came by, hoisted out their dicks, and inserted them into the holes in the cubicles.

“In another part of the room, men stepped up on a raised platform and other men stood below, eager to suck them off in a standing position.

“While there may have been thirty men in the room, none were talking. The only slurps – sounds were the throb of the music and the sounds of sucking, gagging, coughing, moans of relief … I moved toward the next room and discovered more cupboards, aligned along an elaborate maze filled with several dozen men moving, glancing, stopping, moving, kneeling, sucking, moving, unzipping … As my eyes adjusted, I recognized more and more people colleagues from political work, neighbors from my apartment building, friends from the gym.

“Everyone seemed plugged into the same intense energy and focused oral sex – on the same thing.

“I remained at Blow Buddies until three in the morning. During that time, I gave head to three different men. Seven men sucked my dick. I did not witness a single condom in use during oral sex. I did not encounter a single man who refused to participate in unprotected oral sex, and four of the men who sucked me asked me to reach orgasm in their mouths. Of the men I sucked, one came in my mouth.

“I left Blow Buddies that evening sexually satisfied, and happy with the ability of gay men to create environments which encourage men to enjoy a lot of sex.”

There’s a big difference between what gay American activists publish for their own audience, and what they engineered through Hollywood and TV programmes to pass off as real gay behaviour to the public:

“To make gays seem less mysterious,” advised PR gurus Kirk and Madsen, “present a series of short [TV] spots featuring the boy-or girl-next-door, fresh and appealing, or warm and lovable grandma grandpa types. Seated in homey surroundings, they respond to an off camera interviewer with assurance, good nature, and charm. Their comments bring out three social facts:

“1. There is someone special in their life, a long-term relationship (to stress gay stability, monogamy, commitment);

“2. Their families are very important to them, and are supportive of them (to stress that gays are not “anti-family,” and that families need not be anti-gay.)

“3. As far as they can remember they have always been gay, and were probably born gay; they certainly never decided on a preference one way or the other (stressing that gays are doing what is natural for them, and are not being willfully contrary). The subjects should be interviewed alone, not with their lovers or children, for to include others in the picture would unwisely raise disturbing questions about the complexities of gay social relations, which these commercials could not explain. It is best instead to take one thing at a time.”

This, of course, is the image gay rights have been sold around. The idea that gay relationships are identical to straight ones, just with same sex partners. No mention of gay promiscuity or drug addiction.

A recent survey of New Zealand gay men undertaken in conjunction with the NZ AIDS Foundation revealed nearly two thirds of gay men are drug users, and the majority also cheat on their partners, frequently. The survey found that 35% of NZ gay men have sex with between 12 and a hundred different strangers every year, often in circumstances very similar to the gay nightclubs Eric Rofes wrote about.

Again, this is never mentioned in news media reports on the gay marriage debate, just like Kirk and Madsen hoped that it wouldn’t be. The PR strategists wanted Hollywood to portray gays as stable, monogamous and committed (see point 1 above). Look  at TV shows Will & Grace, or Coronation Street, or even Shortland Street, and you’ll be fed that picture. Yet the NZ survey found 77% of gay men failed to stay monogamous even for six months!

“As cynical as it may seem,” wrote Kirk and Madsen back in 1987, “AIDS gives us a chance, however brief, to establish ourselves as a victimized minority legitimately deserving of America’s special protection and care.”

New Zealand’s gay male community today claims its relationships are worthy of the name “marriage” because they’re the same as heterosexual relationships.

To read the full “gay agenda” document, or as Kirk and Madsen called it, “the blueprint for transforming the social values of straight America” see this link, and to read the Investigate magazine feature on exploding the myths about gay marriage, see this.

A full analysis of Kirk and Madsen’s groundbreaking propaganda campaign and its stunning success in conning well meaning people by deliberately lying to them, can be found in the bestselling book Eve’s Bite, also on Kindle.


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  1. I’ll take your assurance that you believe people are born gay at face value. You did however write, “We argue that, for all practical purposes, gays should be considered to have been born gay, even though sexual orientation, for most humans, seems to be the product of a complex interaction between innate pre-dispositions and environmental factors during childhood and early adolescence.”

    “To suggest in public that homosexuality might be chosen, is to open the can of worms labeled ‘moral choices and sin’ and give the religious intransigents a stick to beat us with. Straights must be taught that it is as natural for some persons to be homosexual as it is to be heterosexual: wickedness
    and seduction have nothing to do with it.”

    As I have explained, the science is in, people do not appear to be born gay. You are correct on environmental factors. Greenberg and others argue that humans have always been innately bisexual, all of us, and that whether we choose to act on our bisexuality comes down to environmental factors and cultural conditioning. The more a culture accepts bisexuality, the more people feel willing to explore it.

    The issue I was highlighting as to cynical and deceptive is that you were not interested in the facts, just what you could spin. Nothing wrong with that, all good spin doctors take that line…but please don’t get precious about being misunderstood.

    You did say, after all:

    ““The campaign we outline in this book, though complex, depends centrally upon a programme of unabashed propaganda, firmly grounded in long-established principles of psychology and advertising.”

    “Our effect is achieved without reference to facts, logic or proof…the person’s beliefs can be altered whether he is conscious of the attack or not.”

    Contrary to your assumption, I am not “anti-gay” per se, just because I oppose propaganda campaigns used to good effect. I have opposed many propaganda campaigns (my current field of interest is the vitamin D vs sunscreens debate).

    I lived in a gay household for a while with men living and enjoying the gay lifestyle. One of my mates in the 80s was one of Freddie Mercury’s occasional lovers whenever Queen toured. I was a political spin doctor for part of my career.

    I couldn’t care less what you or anyone else does in the privacy of their own homes provided no one else is being harmed.

    Debates on issues of major public importance however should be based on transparent evidence, not the feelgood power of anecdotally-based TV and film campaigns. I was a master at making emotive TV, I won awards for TV journalism and current affairs. I know the game.

    I take my hat off to you and Marshall for what you laid out and how effectively it was picked up and developed, whether directly or simply by osmosis.

    You don’t like the fact I call it “cynical”. Tough. In my opinion anyone who advocates hiding the camel’s “unsightly derrierre” (your words) to fool the public is cynical and has no real grounds upon which to complain when called out on it.

    I’m pleased to see you continue to invoke Godwin’s Law by comparing people who dare to criticise the agenda you laid out, to Hitler and the Nazis. Slow clap.

    Again, straight out of your playbook:

    ““Jam homohatred by linking it to Nazi horror…Most contemporary hate groups on the Religious Right will bitterly resent the implied connection between homohatred and Nazi fascism. But since they can’t defend the latter, they’ll end up having to distance themselves by insisting that they would never
    go to such extremes. Such declarations of civility toward gays, of course, set our worst detractors on the slippery slope toward recognition of fundamental gay rights.”

    In the article above Eric Rofes’ depiction of a typical gay nightclub is a sharp contrast to the image you wanted straights to be left with:

    “In order to make a gay victim sympathetic to straights, you have to portray him as Everyman…completely unexceptional in appearance…in a word they should be indistinguishable from the straights we would like to reach.
    “The masses should not be shocked and repelled by premature exposure to homosexual behaviour itself…the imagery of sex should be downplayed…make use of symbols which reduce the mainstream’s sense of threat, [to] lower its guard…Replace the mainstream’s self-righteous pride about its homophobia with shame and guilt.”

    Anyone reading this can image search on Google for “Folsom Street Fair” and “sex”, if they want to see non-threatening, gay Everyman at his best behaviour in public.

    One can lie in several ways, and lying by omission is one of those. By cynically engineering favourable media and movie coverage of gay issues by distorting the real picture of gay male life you did, in my view lie by omission, and you did it knowingly, not accidentally.

    The one in ten claim was a ridiculous exaggeration recklessly used, as well.

    Anyway…we could sling quotes at each other all day. I bear you no ill will, and more than a little professional respect.

    All the best


  2. Oh, and one last thing. Your claim that we are lying deceivers is apparently based on something that you have misunderstood. We have suggested promoting the idea that gayness is a natural, inborn trait, because we believe it is obviously true, based on the tsunami of science amassed around this point. We have never secretly believe it to be untrue. No, the liars in this case are the guys who wrote that source piece that you’ve so carelessly cribbed in your essay.

  3. Ian, for more than two decades the Religious Right has been wringing its hands over After The Ball, the book that I co-authored with Marshall Kirk in the late Eighties, and eagerly inflating its purported influence on the gay movement. Here again we’re portrayed as the gay community’s conspiratorial “Elders of Zion,” whose crafty, “cynical” plot to brainwash the straight world with a pack of lies has been the movement’s playbook ever since.

    Your little squib here is a shallow crib of the same erroneous right-wing review that has been paraphrased widely elsewhere, adds nothing new to the debate. Rather than actually read our book, or even peruse the article “Waging Peace” on which it was based (an article that appeared first not in The Guide in 1987, as your lazy source material asserts, but in the magazine Christopher Street in 1985), you’ve simply copied out, yet again, the same handful of excerpts that your source material quoted.

    Even your arguments are copycats made elsewhere on the Right, and constructed with the kind of deception and cynicism that you try to impute to us. To reply to them here in brief:

    The whimsical pseudonym that I chose for that first article — “Erastes Pill” — was borrowed from the term that the ancient Greeks used to describe the mentor’s role in classical gay relationships (which you guys like to reduce coarsely to “pederasty”). And to be clear, the book After The Ball appears under my own name, not a pseudonym. I came out of the closets decades ago.

    You claim that the authors of After the Ball advocated lying to the American straight public, and that we were motivated by (horrors!) cynicism. In fact, our intentions were earnest — to put anti-gay bigots such as you to shame, to protect our minority from continued discrimination and attack, and to correct the nasty public stereotypes about gay people that bigots perpetuate. Cynicism is not, you should know, the same thing as lying or doing things that one doesn’t truly believe. If I sometimes feel cynical, it’s not about my cause or tactics, it’s about my lowered expectations for reasoned public debate about gay civil rights, given the mud that people like you keep slinging.

    In our book, we don’t advocate lying to the public — effective media campaigns work with the truth, not against it, or it generally doesn’t work at all. We advocate raising awareness about truths that, if understood by straights, would soften prejudice against gays. If some of those truths shed a negative light on the kind of company that religious bigots keep — from Hitler to the KKK — that”s fair game, too.

  4. marriage helps heterosexual men to be more monogamous . Why would this not be the case for homosexual men?

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