Friday, December 3, 2010

Cage rattling for fun and profit

Interest groups have long known, of course, that there's nothing like a terrifying tale to loosen the grip of donors on their wallets. The NRA routinely announces that the government is coming for your guns; Greenpeace that the whales, tigers, oceans, or planet are being annihilated.

Still, the NRA and Greenpeace actually do something with the money they raise. A few enterprising spirits came to realize, however, that terrifying people about public policy could be a complete business plan in itself; no need to actually spend time lobbying congressmen, preparing position papers, consulting with experts, building political coalitions, or any of the other tedious business of public policy.

We have an excellent example of this entrepreneurial spirit alive and well here in my very own Loudoun County, Virginia, in the form of one of our elected county supervisors, one Eugene Delgaudio, whose day job consists of running an outfit modestly named "The Public Advocate of the United States," whose cash-flow plan consists in its entirety of sending out heavy-breathing fundraising appeals warning of the advancing "homosexual agenda."

Exactly like the flim-flam scientific and medical charities I remember doing some investigative stories on years ago when I worked at Nature, "Public Advocate" spends almost all of its operating budget on fundraising operations (though, also like those bogus charities, it tries to define fundraising as "education," which reminds me of nothing so much as the Reagan Administration's brief attempt to define ketchup as a "vegetable" to save money in school lunch programs).

In any case, business at Delgaudio's "small office of volunteers and low-paid staffers" is apparently good, because for 30 years it's kept him supplied with the necessities of life. "Radical homosexuals will terrorize day care centers, hospitals, churches and private schools . . . You'll see men hand-in-hand skipping down to adoption centers to 'pick out' a little boy for themselves," reads a typical Delgaudio fundraising message. Almost all warn of impending congressional action on "The Gay Bill of Special Rights," "The Homosexual Classrooms Act," or other legislative initiatives that he alone seems to be aware of.

Delgaudio actually managed to make "The Daily Show" with one of his utterances (regarding the county government's anti-discrimination policy), but the other day he truly outdid himself, discovering that the TSA's "sexual assault searches" and "homosexual porno scanners" are also part of the "Gay Bill of Special Rights" — as is the agency's non-discrimination hiring policy altogether:
"That means the next TSA official that gives you an 'enhanced pat down' could be a practicing homosexual secretly getting pleasure from your submission."
I am sure most of this is calculated; business after all is business. Still, you do wonder sometimes about the obsessions on the right with certain topics; like the evangelical anti-pornography crusaders who see sex everywhere, there's something about it all that makes even a confirmed skeptic about Freud such as I am wonder whether he wasn't onto something now and then, especially with that business about "projection."

"They want us to think about homosexuals," Delgaudio once indignantly complained (the particular occasion was his protest against the county's anti-discrimination policy, which he termed "freaky, bizarre, and fruity"). "It's freaky," he continued — with such admirable command that it did not betray even the merest hint of irony — "because most don't think about homosexuals."