National Commentary

Anything But Straight: Public Revelations

 Wayne Besen
Wayne Besen

I remember a few well-meaning friends telling me that I was "overreacting" when I expressed outrage over Mel Gibson’s sinister portrayal of Jews in his biblical blockbuster, "The Passion of the Christ." Thanks to Gibson’s well oiled PR machine, even smart people were able to justify, as mere "coincidence," Gibson’s full-cast of beady-eyed Jews with noses longer than Toucan Sam’s.

It was Gibson’s other enduring passion, bountiful booze, that finally revealed the actor to be the hatemongering anti-Semite that I had suspected. Last week, he was arrested for drunk driving by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies in Malibu. According to the report, in addition to threatening the arresting officer and trying to flee, Gibson said, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," and asked the officer, James Mee, "Are you a Jew?"

In today’s tightly scripted world, nothing is more entertaining than watching public relations give way to embarrassing public revelations. Sometimes, the expensive and controlled image campaign is no match for the out of control star who imbibed too much cheap Champagne.

Whether it’s Tom Cruise’s fanaticism, Michael Jackson’s fetishism or Mel Gibson’s fascism, it is a rare treat to see genuine personalities escape the guard of watchful publicists.

The ugly emergence of the true self is not relegated to Hollywood stars. For the past several years, ex-gay groups have worked diligently to appear as if they loved homosexuals. But, Alan Chambers, the leader of the ex-gay group Exodus International, told Focus on the Family’s online magazine that gay people are inferior.

"I think their long-term goal is to portray themselves as equals, as people who are the same as heterosexuals, that their lifestyle is just as legitimate as heterosexuality," Chambers said last week.With one burst of unfiltered honesty, Chambers threw away years of work presenting his organization as compassionate and mainstream.

In an equally candid moment, President Bush recently gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel an unwanted massage, causing the flabbergasted fraulein to flinch. Earlier that week, his true nature came bumbling forth in a foreign policy conversation with Tony Blair. "You see," he told the British Prime Minister, "the thing is what they [The United Nations] need to do is to get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over." While these incidents were inconsequential, they were a rare window into Bush-style diplomacy that offered a hint at why the globe is currently on fire.Fortunately, good can also occur when people escape their handlers to speak from the heart.

Former ‘N Sync star Lance Bass decided that coming out is easier than hiding out in outer space. He revealed that he is gay on the cover of People Magazine and has so far been an eloquent spokesperson."The thing is, I’m not ashamed and that’s the one thing I want to say," Bass says of his decision to come out.

"I don’t think it’s wrong, I’m not devastated going through this. I’m more liberated and happy than I’ve been my whole life. I’m just happy."

In another outburst of honesty, conservative Minnesota mega-church pastor Gregory Boyd has become America’s most articulate advocate of separation of church and state. In a shocking series of sermons, he revealed that he thought right wing spin was overshadowing Scripture.

"America wasn’t founded as a theocracy," he preached, according to The New York Times."America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn’t bloody and barbaric. That’s why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and State.

"When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses," he continued. "When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross."

In a similar manner, former football star and conservative preacher Reggie White started speaking the truth before his untimely death in 2004. White was upset about the way he was used by the far right to promote religion. In 1998, he even took part in a virulently anti-gay ad campaign that said gays could go straight through Scripture." Really, in many respects I was prostituted," White revealed to NFL Films.

On Saturday, White will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. However, one of his great achievements was not on the defensive line, but bucking the religious right’s party line.

In the black hole of the human soul, some people, like Boyd and White, finally see the light. On other days, in a drunken haze, a floodlight reveals the darkness of one’s true passions. Sometimes, even good PR can’t hide who you truly are.