Columnists :: Grinding the Edge
Anti-HRC-Goldman Sachs Protests: Hypocritical & Self-Defeating
Gay activists are howling about the alliance between the HumanRights Campaign and Goldman Sachs. As reported here, protesters were outside the HRC gala last weekend in Manhattan, and bloggers have been going into overdrive.
These protesters are aghast that an organization with "human rights" in its name would honor the company that has become the corporate poster boy for bad behavior. Goldman Sachs, in Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi’s memorable phrase, is a "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity."
I’m not going to defend Goldman Sachs. It’s a ruthless investment bank, one of - if not the - most ruthless on Wall Street, which is really saying something. Nor am I going to fight assertions that Goldman helped destabilize the monetary system, sent widows into the street and made the European Union a basket case.
Because, in this case, I don’t care.
The fact is, the company is exemplary in its championing of gay rights. Its chairman, Lloyd Blankfein, was one of the powerful businessmen who put his weight behind marriage equality in New York State last year. People who don’t look at this very essential work are hopelessly uninformed about how homophobic Wall Street was until recently. Goldman Sachs has been in the forefront of a 180-degree turnaround in the financial industry’s attitude about gay employees.
What I don’t get is the utter naivety of protesters, who seem to believe that, because Goldman Sachs’ work is so blatantly capitalistic, it’s somehow more at fault than any other Fortune 500 company. It reminds me of the photo of two Occupy Wall Street protesters scarfing down McDonald’s burgers.
Let’s wake up and smell the coffee, shall we? In our society, all money is equally tainted. Or, to quote Balzac, all great fortunes begin with a crime.
John, Teddy and Bobby Kennedy wouldn’t have had the means to do their good works if their dad hadn’t been a ruthless bootlegger. And while these protesters coordinate on their iPhones, iPads and MacAirs, maybe they should pause for a moment to reflect on the virtual slave labor in China that built those tools to fight The Man.
All those cool duds you’re wearing? Honduran, Bangladeshi sweatshops. Those organic vegetables? Undocumented farm workers. As for those McDonald’s burgers, I’m a vegan. I’ll send you literature.
If you want to argue that HRC is an ineffective, elitist organization, go ahead. I’m not sure I agree, but, hey, it’s your right and duty to hold our organizations’ collective feet to the fire. But, please: Don’t blame them for honoring a company that is leading the way toward expanding our rights. And don’t criticizing them for going, in bank robber Willy Sutton’s memorable line, where the money is.
Or, if you’re going to do that, go live in a cave. Because that’s the only way you’re not going to be aiding and abetting, in one way or another, Goldman and companies like it simply by living in our society.
Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).