Massive Civil Rights Movement May Actually Be Clever ‘Milk’ Marketing Campaign

We just went over to the brand-spanking new site Seven Weeks to Equality and honestly, we’re not sure what to make of it. From the front page:

“We call on all supporters of equality to sustain and intensify the nationwide campaign of mass protests and non-violent civil disobedience, for seven weeks, starting on November 27, 2008, the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk, and to then gather together in mass, from all corners of our country, in Washington, DC on the morning of Tuesday, January 20, 2009, to honor the inauguration of our President, Barack Obama.”

Well, that sounds like a nice enough, vague, feelgood idea– even though sustained, intensified protests seem to be coming along quite nicely on their own, without waiting til’ November 27th. Wait, isn’t that Thanksgiving? Is it such a good idea to kick off a campaign like this when many of us will be away from our homes, doped up on turkey tryptophan? Maybe encourage people to talk to their families or something, that could work. Also, the About Us section confusingly says, “We will march and protest until November 20, 2009, then halt all actions to observe the inauguration of President Barack Obama.” Huh?

But mostly, the site mentions Harvey Milk a lot:

“On November 27, 1978, gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk was assassinated in San Francisco City Hall. Thirty years later, his struggle continues…It has been thirty years since Harvey Milk gave his life in our struggle for equality. We will not wait thirty years more…We also call on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to heed the call of Harvey Milk, when he spoke thirty years ago on the steps of San Francisco City Hall: “You must come out, my brothers and sisters, you must come out…starting on November 27, 2008, the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk…Harvey Milk has shown us the power we possess when we make our voices heard…”

Did we mention that one half of the duo behind this cause is Dustin Lance Black, screenwriter of the soon-to-be-released Milk? Now, don’t get me wrong, Harvey Milk’s an inspirational man, but isn’t there something a little craven about centering a start-up political website around a guy you are currently promoting a biopic about? I know having massive protests in the name of Harvey Milk during awards season would be a neat trick, but couldn’t you have called for your campaign without wrapping it in a big bow of Milk, so as to avoid accusations that you’re co-opting a growing movement for personal gain? While Harvey Milk’s struggle was important, isn’t this our struggle?

I know, I’m a terribly cynical human being.

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  • Anarchos

    Sure there’s a parallel to Milk and his work, but yeah, it does seem like a bit of surreptitious marketing as well.

  • ML

    Viral marketing at its finest. We are all cogs in the MILK brand experience. Ha!

  • parisinla


  • Steven

    Again Queerty, have you done your homework? Do you know who Cleve Jones is? Have you had a conversation with Dustin to see how this research/movie has effected him and to use his gaining popularity to move us forward?

    Call it a marketing ploy, I think the younger gays maybe even you need to know Harvey’s story. I’ve seen the movie and it’s historically accurate.

    With this post and the post about Regent Media it shows you just do this for sensationalism. I have a boycott of my own and that will be

  • JC

    So, in accusing their call for weeks of protests and a large scale march in DC as a cheap ploy to market the film, you’re ignoring the following:

    The relationship that Cleve Jones had with Harvey Milk in running his campaign. If anyone can speak on behalf of what Harvey would want, it was the people that were working for him and his cause before he was killed.

    There is no difference between Harvey’s struggle and what is happening today. If you had seen the film (or even the documentary about Harvey’s life) you would be able to draw the obvious parallels between Prop 6 and Prop 8. Know your history.

    This isn’t just about the film. The film will help the younger generation understand just who Harvey was and give them a sense of their history and what they’re marching for.

    The fact that you can sit there and accuse Lance and Cleve of using a call to action as a marketing stunt is astounding.

    You’re not having a very good first week, are you Japhy?

  • Leonard

    Steven & JC have clearly been drinking the MILK!

  • Krauss

    This is absolutely not a marketing ploy! it’s an outrage to me having to read this….clearly Japhy you have not done your homework…..check your facts first before you “blab”. I have heard Lance speak in public about his feelings and I know for a fact (cause I check them!)that Focus is not behind this and it’s not a cheap marketing ploy…..however, let’s give Focus props for making this very very import film. I’m with Steven and JC and yes I’m sipping on MILK!! not “Hate8”. What Lance and Cleve are doing is history in the making!
    It is demeaning to Harvey Milk and what he stands for to “blab” like you do!

  • cwm

    Ah yes, more infighting is exactly what we need right now.

  • The Gay Recluse

    I’m with Japhy on this — whether conscious or not, the piece has a whiff of self-promotion. Far better to just admit it: “We stand to make lot$ of $$$ if Milk is a hit, but we still believe in equality (except when it comes to casting for movies ha ha) …”

  • ousslander

    I’ll wait to rent tthe video and didn’t Obama say we should leave it (marriage) up to the states and respect their choice?

  • Bondable Cactus

    This has looked like a marketing stunt from day one. Thanks for the info. I get it now.

  • Curtis

    wow. Cynical much? It’s funny because my first reaction on the day after the election when I was just riddled with disappointment and anger over the Prop 8 results was to make a sign for a protest that said “What Would Harvey Do?”. Are we to ignore Harvey’s inspirational role in our community simply because there coincidentally happens to be a film about him set to open? I have nothing to do with film other than a person who has admired Harvey’s bravery and example since I was 10 years old and living in Utah and watching his story play out on TV news. He inspired me to become an activist, to stand in the streets of Salt Lake City in protest against the Mormon Church almost 20 years ago before it was fashionable, to get involved in grassroots LGBT community building in a city that desperately needed it.

    The coincidence of our newly energized activism, this film release and the anniversary of Harvey’s death is something to be leveraged to our communities advantage.

    Even if Dustin Black were involved is he barred from participating in this newly energized activism and excitement in our community because he happens to be a screenwriter of the film? Isn’t he a member of our community? In fact isn’t his prestige as the creator of what we’re all hoping is a brilliant film that gives us all as LGBT people something to be proud of culturally a positive thing and makes him on some level at least a cultural leader in our community?

    Why must we immediately throw a wet blanket on successful people in our community.

    It is so counter productive for progressive voices to always go immediately jump to conclusions about nefarious capitalist ulterior motives behind every action of anyone who isn’t 22 and living in a crash pad in the Mission (or its equivalent in other cities). Even successful people have sincere concern for equality issues.

    I wonder too, even if it is self promotion at it’s worst, don’t we have something to gain from both the call to boycott and the success of the film? Why would either be bad? Can’t we as progressive Queers dedicated to equality hitch our agenda to cultural milestones like this film? I think we have much to gain as a movement – especially a re-energized one from Harvey’s example, and from the potential success of the film. Can’t we find something positive in harnessing the resources of a big film studio to advance our agenda? Sounds highly productive to our cause.

    Are we really going to “eat our own” and call for the failure of “Milk” because of our own insecurities and knee jerk reactionary conclusions?

    Maybe the entire Prop 8 and marriage equality battle was all a nefarious plot to promote the film, perpetrated and orchestrated by studio executives and PR experts….

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