Last weekend, Bil Browning received an email from John Aravosis, a gay activist and blogger for AMERICAblog. Aravosis and other bloggers were organizing something called a “blog swarm,” an attempt to essentially create a firehose of public outcry aimed at a single target: the Human Rights Campaign, considered by many to be the most influential LGBT lobbying group. With over 700,000 members, the organization wields significant power, a clout that extends into the White House and Congress.
And, according to those who participated in the blog swarm yesterday, this clout has not been put to good use, specifically in how much pressure it has placed on President Obama to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. “HRC may argue that it’s already told the President it would like to see DADT repealed this year,” Aravosis wrote in his post announcing the swarm. “Well, that’s not enough.”
“I think it’s always a good idea, especially as bloggers and community journalists, to keep our own organizations on the right path,” Browning, who runs the LGBT blog The Bilerico Project, told me in a phone interview. He said that the goal of the project was to create a flood of communication — phone calls, emails, blog posts, and articles — aimed at HRC to convince them that more firm action should be taken on DADT.
Citizen journalists using the web to funnel outrage to a small, influential group of individuals have had mixed results in the past. While a campaign organized by Color of Change recently led to several sponsors reneging their support for far-right extremist Glenn Beck, a similar campaign launched by the popular Consumerist blog aimed at NBC execs did not stop the company from letting go Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien.
Browning told me that their cause was aided by the fact that several more mainstream liberal blogs — outside of the LGBT-specific niche — had joined in on the swarm. “I think we’re all part of a larger progressive community and I think one of the problems that we’ve had in the LGBT organization, is that we haven’t reached out to the allies who write about labor, heath care reform, immigration reform,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that affect LGBT people too, but we just seem to be kind of off on our own working on our own thing. It can’t keep going on, and this is a good example where working in a coalition with other progressive blogs and organizations works.”
Those non-LGBT blogs range from Daily Kos to Taylor Marsh, and since the blog swarm launched yesterday, dozens of bloggers and hundreds of Twitter and Facebook users have joined in, indicating a critical mass in which the momentum of the swarm became self-perpetuating.
It has been a little over 24 hours since the swarm launched, and already the HRC has issued responses, mainly defending itself. “Donâ€™t Ask, Donâ€™t Tell has to be repealed this year,” a spokesman told POLITICO. “That has been the Human Rights Campaignâ€™s position from the start, and at this point there is no one in the White House who does not know it … We have been lobbying the White House relentlessly, and weâ€™ve seen more movement in recent weeks than in the previous 16 years.”
So while the HRC may not necessarily be promising a change in strategy, they certainly are listening, and as expected the blog swarm is in effect spilling over into the mainstream media and adding to the national conversation. Sometimes, it’s not just about influencing a single organization, but bringing once-private discussions out into the open. Given the recent drove of news reports about increased pressure to repeal DADT, these bloggers could not have picked a better time to turn up the heat.