As I sat prepping for YearlyKos, the convention of the liberal blogosphere, Mike Stark of Calling All Wingnuts posted some great news at DailyKos. I can’t imagine a better honor than to be recognized by other bloggers for my work. I’ve been named a BlogPAC Hero. In addition to the honor, the award comes with a $1,000 grant.
Thanks to everyone at BlogPAC for this honor.
By Susie Madrak, Suburban Guerilla
Mike Rogers isn’t used to getting much respect for what he does. After all, he’s been outing closeted anti-gay politicians for years now, and the response is usually along the lines of what happened when he introduced himself to Joe Klein at a progressive conference a few years ago. I was there watching when Michael approached him for a handshake:
“I’m a fan of your work. I’m a blogger who works to out closeted gay elected officials who are anti-gay,” he said.
Klein looked at him with fairly obvious disdain. (“Like he’d just discovered dog shit on his shoe,” I later described it to Michael.)
“I don’t approve of that,” Klein responded.
“Really? I’m curious. Why not?” Michael said. (He’s used to the reaction, he says, but never lets it go unchallenged.)
“I find it distasteful.”
“So if you found out a prominent Republican official, a leader in the anti-abortion movement, had paid for his girlfriend’s abortion, you wouldn’t consider that a story?” Michael said, drawing what he thinks is an obvious analogy.
“I just don’t approve of that,” Klein said again. He turned and walked away. (Editor’s note: Klein, who later admitted he wrote the best-selling novel “Primary Colors,” initially lied to reporters for months.)
People have turned their backs on Michael Rogers for a long time, but as he points out, it hasn’t stopped him yet.
“I’ve been a rabble rouser for a while,” he says. And he has been. In high school Rogers was a student coordinator for a State Senate campaign (“A Democrat, of course,” he noted). In college he was involved in the anti-apartheid and student voting rights movements, in New York City he belonged to ACT-UP, Queer Nation and was a board member of Lambda Independent Democrats.
In 2004, frustrated with the GOP’s use of the Federal Marriage Amendment to garner votes, Rogers started BlogACTIVE — a web site to report on closeted government officials and high-level staffers who work against the interests of the gay and lesbian community. His work began to have an impact right away.
“In less than two months, I exposed Congressman Ed Schrock’s hypocrisy, the man who represented Virginia Beach – home to Pat Robertson’s Regent University,” he says. “A very conservative district. I mean the Christian Coalition gave him a 92% rating.” He coordinated a successful, tongue-in-cheek letter writing campaign that thanked the coalition for developing a voting guide that helped a gay man earn that rating. Within days of Michael’s report, Schrock announced he would not seek reelection and his work landed on the front page of the New York Times and was the subject of a Washington Post editorial.
In the 2006 mid-term elections, when the Democrats were fighting to take back Congress, Rogers’s work continued to pay off. “Right before the election, the Mark Foley intern scandal broke in the blogs and then the national press,” he says. Rogers had first reported on Foley in 2005. “The Republicans were already trying hard to spin that as an aberration, then, thee weeks before the election, Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho was added to the mix. As Bill Maher and Barney Frank discussed Craig’s closeted homosexuality on national television, the Republicans were again on the defensive, trying to explain that big pink elephant in the middle of the room. There was yet another layer of conservative hypocrisy.” In an appearance on CNN, ABC News’ Brian Ross confirmed that Rogers had served as a source in the network’s reporting of the Foley story.
When he exposed Craig, the conservative Idaho senator, Rogers wrote:
I find myself in the odd position of being one of the few people who seem to be willing to tell religious conservatives, who don’t approve of people like me, just how many conservative political leaders are like me.
Also during the 2006 election, Rogers used the RNC’s commercial against Harold Ford as the perfect opportunity to go after party chairman Ken Mehlman. In a widely viewed seen commercial Michael responded to the RNC’s race bating by tossing a bit of Mehlman’s strategy back at him. (The commercial he wrote and produced may be seen here.)
“As anyone who’s followed my work knows, I’m bipartisan when it comes to exposing closeted people who work against the gay community,” he says. “The fact that 99% of these cases are Republicans says a lot more about the Republican Party than it does about me. Reporting this type of hypocrisy has done some real damage to their tactics and I’m not going to stop now.”
Michael Rogers prides himself on doing meticulous research on a shoestring budget, carefully checking and double-checking sources, and traveling around the country to meet with them. “For years, I’ve been explaining why it’s in the progressive left’s interest to fund my work,” he says. “That’s why this BlogPac award is special to me – I am honored to be recognized for this work. There really is no greater honor than to be recognized by your peers. That this award comes from other bloggers means an incredible amount to me.”
In addition to publishing BlogACTIVE, Michael also operates Proud Of Who We Are, a national coalition that holds government officials “accountable for their truths,” and PageOneQ — a lesbian and gay news site. PageOneQ is the largest progressive LGBT news aggregator on the web and has become an important launching point for a number of new bloggers. “Giving voices to bloggers is what PageOneQ is all about,” he says. “The site depends on bloggers to give a fresh look at news, adding important commentary an analysis. At the site we strive to deliver the best of that content to our readers.”
“As the impact of blogs continues to grow, I hope to continue to work to bring together leaders and bloggers in the gay community to advance the greater progressive agenda,” Rogers told me. His work continues with that in mind. Rogers has created bridges between the lesbian and gay blogosphere, traditional organizations and community leaders and he recently founded an advertising network for lesbian and gay political bloggers.
“Bringing bloggers together to help them access resources, benefits us all,” he explains. “Connecting them to other leaders in the community, academics and activists, helps us all move forward together. After twenty years of work in the movement, it’s exciting to see the next step in organizing. Like my other work in the LGBT and progressive communities I am excited and fortunate to be a part of it.”
I ask him: So who are your heroes? Who inspires you?
“Just about anyone who’s been harnessing the power of the web to create social change,” he says. Whether it’s through individual action or community sites, we have a lot of great things happening.” When pressed for specific examples, Rogers cites three. “John Byrne of Raw Story and his unyielding commitment to pushing underreported stories serves as a constant reminder of the value of my work. Mike Stark (Calling All Wingnuts) has done an incredible job of infiltrating the right wing noise machine and throwing a wrench into its gears. I’ve admired Matt Stoller’s (Open Left) organizing and have tried to apply his methods to work I have done in the LGBT community bringing together activists, bloggers, organizational leaders and political folks.”
Who inspired you in your earlier activist days?
Rogers points to ACT-UP founder Larry Kramer and Ann Northup. “Folks like them looked around, saw their government failing them and said ‘enough is enough.’ Instead of complaining, they did something about it…they organized a force that could not be ignored.”
“There’s a similar revolution out there today,” he says. “The power of the internet is not the information per se, but that now it’s bloggers who are pushing the information the traditional media has kept covered up.
“That’s why the mainstream media is so afraid of blogs: Because blogs threaten the unwritten pact of protection between the mainstream media and Washington’s power elite. No longer can journalists turn a blind eye to the bedroom shenanigans of these hypocrites, because the progressive blogs will not tolerate it,” he says.
“And it’s not just the sex lives, but also the web of financial interests. It’s Pandora’s box and it’s open for business. Things are evolving as we speak, and there are many of us out here who will figure out how to ride the next wave.”
Before landing in the blogosphere, Michael was involved in fundraising for progressive causes since 1988. Among the many non-profit positions he’s held: the first Development Coordinator at New York’s Hetrick-Martin Institute and Harvey Milk School, Development Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Director of Marketing for a lesbian and gay choral festival with over 5,500 attendees. Rogers also served on the staff of Greenpeace as the Senior Manager of Major Gifts.
Supporting our BlogPAC Hero.
Rogers work goes on. “If there is one thing we learned in the last election cycle,” Rogers notes, “It’s that there is a never ending supply of closeted anti-gay political and religious leaders to report on.” When the media focus shifts away from elections, he continues his research, blogging, and exposing of hypocrites. Investigating the cases and pushing the stories doesn’t come cheaply and Rogers needs the help of the progressive community to support his reporting. You can help Mike continue to kick open the closet doors by clicking here.)