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A witch-hunt at Manhunt
A witch-hunt at Manhunt
by Chris Crain - SGN Contributing Writer

They say politics makes for strange bedfellows, and that's certainly true of the $2,300 contribution by a co-founder of Manhunt, the Gay hookup site, to the campaign of Republican John McCain. Unfortunately, the boycott demands that came in response only prove once again that despite all our talk about prizing diversity, Gay bedfellows make for strangers to tolerance - at least of the ideological variety.

A lot of eyebrows got raised when word got out that Jonathan Crutchley, one of two original investors behind Manhunt.net, had donated the maximum allowed by law to a presidential candidate with a rotten Gay rights record. The site, which boasts a staggering 1 million members who generate $30 million a year in revenue, dwarfs Gay.com and other web holdings of the struggling PlanetOut. With the motto "Get On, Get Off," it's also an unlikely cauldron for conservative politics.

News of Crutchley's contribution to McCain could have been an opportunity for real discussion about why some Gay folk prioritize other issues like national security - which Crutchley cited in his own defense - over "the Gay agenda," as he put it somewhat dismissively.

Of course that's not what happened. The blogs howled with angry calls for horny Gay boys everywhere to cancel their Manhunt accounts in protest. The righteous outrage all but ignored that Online Buddies, Inc., which operates Manhunt, had nothing to do with the donation from Crutchley, who chaired the company's board of directors. What's more, co-founder and CEO Larry Basile is a long-time supporter of Democrats and Gay rights groups.

If the angry boycotters really cared about who takes the White House in November, boycotting Manhunt is about the least effective way to do something about it. It doesn't help Barack Obama or the Democratic Party or Gay rights groups. Then again, the boycott threats were much more about political correctness than effectiveness. The ideological purists are always bloodthirsty for Gay man and Lesbians who give aid and comfort to Republicans. Once they feel quenched by the universal denouncement of Crutchley and his ilk, they can then savor that "special" sense of superiority. Imagine Dana Carvey doing his "Church Lady" dance if you need a visual.

Judged by those standards, the witch-hunt at Manhunt was a huge success, partially because Online Buddies was uniquely vulnerable to ideological attack, headquartered as it is in Cambridge, Mass., which practically gave birth to political correctness some two decades ago.

I saw it firsthand, arriving at Harvard Law School primed to complete my transition from the Bible-thumping conservative of my youth to open-minded progressive. But I was so repelled by the intolerance from the left that poisoned the environment there, I had moved back to the right by graduation.

I don't know what qualifications are required to serve on the board of Manhunt, but the directors there, along with CEO Bastile the self-professed liberal, clearly graduated from the same school of thought. They reacted with "disbelief" to Crutchley's donation and asked for his resignation, even though they'd known all along about his moderate Republican politics.

It is especially ironic and even hypocritical for a company that profits off providing hundreds of thousands an anonymous way to get laid to be so judgmental of anyone's personal beliefs and political contributions. After all, Manhunt isn't about same-sex marriage as much as the right to privacy - though clearly not the ideological variety.

Like most ideological witch-hunts, this one sits on a slope so slippery, no lube is required. Hundreds of Gay-owned or Gay-focused businesses have been launched or managed by homos with conservative tendencies. The owners and executives at these small business no doubt are overrepresented among the quarter of Gay voters estimated to have backed George W. Bush's re-election.

So why aren't we ferreting out their contributions so we can target their livelihoods? While we're at it, what about Gays with the temerity to be Catholics? The Vatican has had a far more pernicious impact on Gay lives than Republicans ever could.

For that matter, why should GLBT citizens from friendlier places like Western Europe and Canada continue to patronize Gay businesses from the U.S.A.? Just think of the tax dollars going to benefit a government that happily expels Gays from the military and refuses any form of relationship recognition or basic civil rights protection.

Then again, this sort of demand for ideological purity is always situational because the intolerance that motivates those who hunt the witches gives no weight to things like intellectual consistency.

To be sure, there are times when it makes good sense to boycott a business based on personal politics, especially when the target owns a large share of the company and uses his wealth to directly harm Gay interests - giving to groups and causes that are specifically anti-Gay.

Like most Gays who donate or vote for John McCain, the man behind Manhunt supports Gay rights, even if he gives our equality a lower priority than you or I would want. Almost all the Gays who've stuck with the GOP have done so based on libertarian or conservative views about taxes, fiscal policy or national security - perfectly valid and important issues.

Gay Republicans will are less likely to listen to those voices that challenge their views in a respectful way if we are drowned out by those who gleefully judge them as greedy, self-loathing hypocrites. The mean-spirited display of intolerance also reinforces the disgust for movement politics that is responsible for apathy among others.

As wrong as we may think it is for the Crutchleys among us to help elect John McCain, we should be even more troubled by the arrogant intolerance that says they have no place in a community that flies rainbow flags to show pride in its diversity.

Chris Crain is former editor of the Washington Blade and five other Gay publications and now edits GayNewsWatch.com. He can be reached via his blog at www.citizencrain.com.

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