In NYC, gay groups are fighting Wal-Mart

A while back we told you how the anti-gay Wal-Mart plans to take over Dallas by building 12 new stores here. Little did we know at the time that the man who’s taking “credit” for bringing the new Wal-Mart stores to Dallas, former Mayor Tom Leppert, would show his stripes as a back-stabbing homophobe only days later. Anyhow, we just wanted to note that in New York City, LGBT groups are taking stands against allowing Wal-Mart to come into the city — due to the group’s anti-gay employment practices. Change.org reports:

Last week, Change.org writer Lauren Kelley noted that the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City issued a statement opposing the construction of a WalMart in the Big Apple. Their reasons for opposing WalMart? Pretty straightforward, really: the company receives a dismal grade when it comes to workplace equality, the company’s CEO supported efforts in Arkansas to ban LGBT people from adopting children, and last year, more than 100 WalMart stores announced that they would carry a book championing ex-gay therapy.

Yuck, indeed. Now this week comes word that another heavyweight organization is lending their voice in the effort to keep WalMart out of New York City. That group? The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which issued a statement this week knocking WalMart’s record on LGBT equality.

“With the expansion of Wal-Mart stores comes the expansion of antiquated employment policies that provide little to no protections for, and at times even hostility toward, their LGBT employees,” the Task Force said in a statement.

—  John Wright

GSA supporters to protest outside Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi on Friday

Nikki Peet

A pro-equality demonstration is planned Friday outside Flour Bluff High School in Corpus Christi, where officials say they’ll eliminate all non-curricular clubs to avoid allowing a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance.

Paul Rodriguez, president of the GSA at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said he’s expecting more than 300 people to attend the protest.

Rodriguez has been working with 17-year-old Flour Bluff student Nikki Peet since November to launch the GSA. After the Flour Bluff principal refused to allow the GSA, district officials announced they’ll bar all non-curricular clubs from meeting on campus — including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes — to avoid running afowl of the federal Equal Access Act.

“I couldn’t believe my ears,” Rodriguez told Instant Tea. “I couldn’t believe that an administration of a public school would actually go to that length to show hatred, to show intolerance. It’s just appalling.”

Rodriguez said supporters of the GSA have contacted both Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union, which are investigating. But the goal of the protest is to convince district officials to change their minds.

“As far as Nikki and her supporters go, they were very nervous about going to school today, because they don’t know what kind of hostility or bullying they’re going to face,” Rodriguez said. “They’re afraid they’re going to get blamed for all the non-curricular clubs not being allow to meet. We’re hoping to redirect that anger to where it really belongs. If we can get all those people on board and join us in this fight for equality, that would just be awesome.

“We want equality to rein at Flour Bluff,” he added. “We want them to open their eyes and realize that everyone is human, everyone can co-exist. You don’t have to like us, you don’t have to agree with us, but you do have to co-exist with us.”

For more information on the protest, go here.

—  John Wright

Online comments and the death of civil discourse

When you can spout off anonymously and don’t have to talk face to face, it becomes too easy to attack one another

DAVID WEBB  |  Special Contributor

I sometimes wonder if the blogosphere was designed for a class of people that enjoys animal fights over a good movie or a football game. That’s what the blogs of practically all publications often resemble today — a dogfight between readers and journalists, readers and readers, and even journalists and journalists.

There’s something about the ability to instantly lash out at another person without having to look them in the eye that generates written warfare on blogs’ comments sections. The added benefit of being able to exchange written blows without the writers providing full names or even first names seems to make going to battle even more inviting.

The blog spectacles draw crowds of invisible observers sitting in front of their monitors watching the warriors and cheering them on to more aggression. Occasionally, the observers get so caught up in the action that they even get drawn into it.

It’s turned out to be a highly contagious atmosphere, and journalists themselves have become infected with some of the more severe cases of what I’m calling blogoitis.

One of the more spectacular blog slugouts in Dallas occurred about four years ago between two high-profile columnists from competing publications.

The gentlemen, both of whom I’m acquainted with in a casual sort of way, let loose on each other like it was World War III — and the plan was for no one to be left standing.

The funny part about it was that both writers are pretty laid back individuals that in person seem incapable of such hostility.

And on Dallas Voice’s blog, Instant Tea, there have been countless battles waged between all of the parties I mentioned above. I admit to succumbing to it myself in more than one category.

Given that no one is actually getting physically bludgeoned, it might seem almost harmless — if it were not for the resulting complications. It’s one of the laws of the universe: According to one of Newton’s laws of physics, “Every action is accompanied by a reaction of equal magnitude but opposite direction.”

In that regard, I think we’re probably seeing a chilling effect arising. I’ve had journalists and readers tell me the experience of a blog fight had left them feeling bad for several days. If a journalist or a reader knows that their words will result in an immediate, symbolic public stoning, it could easily lead anyone to keep their opinions to themselves.

Since the relevantly recent birth of the Internet’s blogosphere, the phenomena of cyber-bullying has also developed. One example of it is the presence of activist groups that maintain e-mail lists for the purpose of launching campaigns to flood blogs with complaints anytime something is written that they don’t like.

I’ve had a few unpleasant, unforgettable experiences with that.

I wrote a column last year that a group of activists didn’t like. One of the members of the group admitted to me that he had heard about the column over dinner one night and immediately launched an e-mail campaign against me without even reading the column. He told me about it because after looking at my blog and seeing how supportive I had been of his group over the years, he actually read the column and then decided to call off the dogs.

Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. It appeared that most of the people who sent complaining e-mails also hadn’t read my column. In fact, they so distorted what I had written, that even I was becoming unsure of what I had actually said.

In any event, criticism does come with the territory for anyone who steps into the public domain, so none of this is meant to imply that criticism and debate shouldn’t take place.

But it does seem like everyone, myself included, should think about what they are writing before posting a comment on a blog — and then strive to be respectful. Otherwise, it’s just too easy to write something that is unfair and could be regretted later.

David Webb is a former staff writer for the Dallas Voice. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28.

—  John Wright