Apr 14·edited Apr 14Liked by Brandon Gorrell, Mike Solana, River Page

Great article! In summary, “follow the money”. As described, respectability politics basically creates healthy political change by bringing an inclusive approach to advancing causes that argue for inclusivity. Surprise, surprise.

THEN what happens is that a vast gang of opportunistic self-dramatists jumps on what is now a clearly successful trend and raises enormous funding by promoting confrontational activism. It’s a money and status machine, and they’re basically grifters posturing as courageous super-moralists.

My dear friend Craig Chin was an MD and PhD in Political Science at NYU who tragically died in 1993 at the age of 32. His PhD thesis shows how the Randy Schilts and his praise of ACT-UP in the book “And the Band Played On” distorted and in places fabricated how the US Government responded to the emergence of AIDS--a mysterious, terrifying disease in its early years.

Craig’s thesis demonstrates exactly what your article asserts, that the Reagan Administration responded to respectability politics and appeals to decency and our common humanity and provided funding and institutional resources at scale and as soon as possible. To the extent this is acknowledged at all by activists, ACT-UP is given the credit. In fact, Reagan responded just as he did in CA as you describe in your article--with common sense and humanity. He and his wife Nancy were actors with many gay friends, and there wasn't a prejudiced bone in his body.

By the way, Randy Schilts' account is also the basis for the hugely successful "Angels in America", so the money till kept merrily ringing away, and the opportunities for moral outrage and self-promotion kept spinning along for decades.

Sadly, nobody’s ever heard of Craig’s thesis--the truth doesn’t always generate opportunities for huge fund-raising and demonstrations of self-promoting moral outrage.

I have a PDF of Craig’s thesis and would be glad to send it to anyone interested in reading it.

Requiescat in Pace, dear Craig.

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Apr 14Liked by Brandon Gorrell, Mike Solana, River Page

Your best one yet, River. Gave me a shot of hope to start my morning. We might not be as good as we might hope, but we are *much* better than we all fear.

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Apr 14Liked by Mike Solana, River Page

Totally blown away by this article. Truly one of the best I have read in quite some time (including on my own Substack, so you know it’s good 😊).

Sad that we need the term “respectability politics” to advise people the best way to act around others is to be a civilized human being.

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Apr 14Liked by River Page

River Page’s writings deeply resonate with me.

It also made me think not all nations/counties are at the same page and some are just a few decades behind/ahead.

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Absolutely brilliant article once again! Also, one day, maybe you can help us all to understand what is wrong with assimilation to your country? The ideals of being respectable people aren't about race or sex or gender. Is it too hard to change disrespectful actions? Or, is it just taught over and over and over again with complaints coming in waves when those disrespectful actions have consequences? We don't give our children candy for dinner because they threw a temper tantrum. Why would adults be any different?

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Apr 15Liked by River Page

EXCELLENT work here, Rivz.

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Hey River, huge fan here, i plug your articles to 8k people in my newsletter every single week, so know i'm arguing in good faith here. :)

I think you're missing a cultural element of the respectability politics that lends itself to radical activism. While I personally dislike Taleb, he describes the dynamic I'm referring to quite well in this article: https://nassimtaleb.org/2016/08/intolerant-wins-dictatorship-small-minority/

Basically, the intolerant minority can win huge cultural concessions because they are so intolerant, noisy, and aggressive that they effectively hold the majority of people, who are reasonable, hostage. I think that respectability politics worked well for the eras you described, but with the modern internet based political landscape, I don't think it's true anymore.

I think an example can summarize my point: conservatives may have gotten Roe overturned, but radical activists are why third grade public school girls soccer teams have to carry an LGBTQIA+ flag instead of a US flag. The intolerant minority have so totally dominated and controlled American pop culture that it's a social faux pas to even admit one has a conservative opinion in most areas. So sure, respectability politics got the Supreme Court ruling, but the intolerant minority is making it such that that is the last victory the conservatives will ever have.

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