e-mail – a tool for good, and for evil

Every once it a while, you get an e-mail that’s so shocking that it could either destroy your soul, or make you a completely better person.
Recently I got blind carbon-copied on an exchange a friend of mine had with “respected activist” Marla Randolph Stevens, a former resident of Indiana and former “political activist” here in the state. If you don’t know her and aren’t politically active on the gay community in Indiana, you won’t care about this at all, so don’t bother clicking through the continued link. But if you do know her, you’ll find the following e-mail enlightening, to say the least. My favorite part is the subject line “Unsolicited and probably unappreciated.” Oh, it’s appreciated more than you’ll ever know, my dear.

From: Marla Stevens < e-mail address removed because I'm much too kind >
Date: Mar 10, 2006 8:50 AM
Subject: Unsolicited and probably unappreciated
To: [A Friend of Mine]
You wrote:
“This runs smack into one of my key issues with IE, being their lack of fiscal transparency. Indiana Equality President, Kathy Sarris, once stated that “There is an assumption that if a group is a corporation, you have to open up to the public. That is not true.”
That’s taken out of context and meant something quite different than what you painted it in your gayindy post to mean. I think Kathy’s got control issues out the wazoo. But that’s no reason not to be accurate when bitching about her. At least she’s in there swinging in an organized way. They’ve fielded a lobbyist and they’re working on trying to put the House back in Dem hands, which is damned good because that’s the only shot Indiana’s queers have got as the point spread is too large to overcome at the ballot box.
They’re not “averse to using technology” to raise money. They just realize that it’s only a piece of the puzzle. It’s not just their opinion, either. You kept on railing about it even when Ellen, whose job it is to understand such things and who is very good at her job, gave you the facts that countered the unsubstantiated wishful thinking being put forth on the list. It’s not “bullhockey”, [name of friend]. It’s conventional wisdom of the people who run campaigns and would give their eye teeth for it to be true backed up by solid research of the political scientists.
Doesn’t mean that technology can’t be a useful part of a campaign but it’s not the be all and end all that you and Steph seem to want it to be.
Michigan Equality is operating in what is functionally a blue state with some very wealthy queers who give money hand over fist to support that group. They also have a different cultural geography with several cities with much larger gay communities with a longer history of active involvement than does Indiana. They also have a functional gay press.
Steph has a point about people using their networks of family and friends to make change but she’s wrong that they don’t need training. It’s one thing to talk to mom and dad. It’s quite another to be effective in the few seconds you have when dealing with a stranger at their front door to keep them from slamming it in your face — or worse.
I don’t see the patronizing, top-down approach as stemming from a desire to use the fight to garner personal power and feed oversized egos. I see it as coming from insecurity that you and others feed with too much criticism and too little time spentin the trenches with them.
They have enough knowledge that they don’t know what they’re doing without you trumpeting it at every opportunity. They know that they’re up against impossible odds and that they will be blamed for the inevitable failure.
Beyond that, Steph is a sad case who somehow always manages to put herself on the outside being critical. People with unresolved abuse issues tend to do that.
Speaking of those with psychological problems, besides being clinically narcissistic at a rather severe state — a disorder that doesn’t make one able to handle coalition politics for very long, the RI nutcase had promised to share the contact list and went back on her word, not to mention declaring that she was thenceforth refusing to work with IE (not the other way around. They had lots more patience with her certifiably whacko shit than I did.) And the $2 bill campaign was just plain lame. I suspect that the church to which you referred, if they hadn’t figured that out then and wasn’t already giving it and her a gentle heave-ho, they would have once they’d had a little more experience with it/her.
The 2005 rally was big because it was new, the issue was live at the statehouse and hot in the press, RI’s nutcase hadn’t quite melted down yet, and there were lots of people and groups working to make it big who didn’t mind letting RI and its nutcase get the credit because they actually do care about the issues more than their personal egos. It’s a lot harder to maintain such work than it is to do it flash in the pan style.
I noticed recently at a critical juncture, that you kept saying “you” and “they” when you should’ve been saying “we” and “us”. That and a highly critical spirit are your additions to the coming failure. You won’t be responsible for the loss — none of you will as it’s just too big a fight for even the best effort you collectively could put together to win. But you’ll be a part of making it longer and harder in the long run at least as much as you’ll be a part of making it shorter and easier and, given your potential to do otherwise, that’s a pity.
The only shot in this marriage battle you as a state have right now is getting the House back in 2006. What are you going to do to see that happen?
— Marla

I went back and forth about posting this e-mail several times, but I ultimately decided to do so because
Marla is very fond of talking about how she’s a descendent of Thomas Jefferson. She appears to be upholding his legacy well.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Vanessa

    Marla’s comment about “on the outside being critical” is interesting. Doesn’t she live in another state?
    I think anyone who has had even the tiniest of dealings with Marla Jefferson Stevens knows to take everything she says and does with a grain of salt. Still, her sad attempts at relevance are sometimes hurtful and almost always annoying.
    I’m glad you posted the e-mail. I think it’s about time for the gays and lesbians of Indiana to start exposing Marla’s antics in public forums rather than making her the butt of living room jokes. (Although that’s fun, too.)

  2. Lori

    Nutcase? That is really amusing since I have kept all of Marla’s email exchanges from GayIndy in a file titled WEIRDOS AND FREAKS for over a year now. Wow Steph, I don’t remember seeing her at any of the meetings for RI nor do I remember all of the help we got from those “other” organizations, do you? I wonder how she got ALL of that “inside” information {wink, wink}, don’t you? IE doing what they do best, dog an event and then take the credit when it turns out well. Thanks for posting the email. It really does tell quite a story.

  3. Marti

    “Every once it a while, you get an e-mail that’s so shocking that it could either destroy your soul, or make you a completely better person.”

    I hope it did the latter. I only BCC:’d you because I want you to do the same. I never meant for this vile venom to hurt you. I was so mad, and tired of her slinging her shit in private. She’s a sick person, and if I had to choice to have someone work next to me, you’d be the obvious choice. You don’t rest on your genetics, or your supposed contacts…instead you plow forward with the work at hand.

  4. Steph Mineart

    Oh, yes, it did the latter, definitely. I’m very glad you BCC’ed me on it. Believe me, I wasn’t hurt by it. Of course when I read it I was way PISSED, but then I remembered that I’m NOT nuts. I have a clean bill of mental health, in fact. So I got over it. But it certainly is shocking to see someone say this kind of thing in actual print. Where it can be passed around and reprinted. Say on someone’s website.
    Especially her — after she delivered that diatribe last year about respecting people’s mental health differences when someone commented on Bil’s Bipolar disorder.
    That’s pretty typical of her — she won’t hesitate to play dirty, but she’ll cry foul when someone else uses something from her bag of tricks. Which is another reason why I went ahead and posted this e-mail; it’s the kind of thing she would do.

  5. Steph Mineart

    Despite criticism, I have to stand by my decision; posting this email is the right thing to do.
    One thing I have to take direct issue with — his statement of “We should strive to avoid such disgusting political pettiness…” The word “political” is completely out of place. The e-mail was a personal attack, and I put it on my personal website. I didn’t post it in any sort of political space. I also never made a personal attack like it, towards Marla, or anyone in Indiana Equality. The only time I’ve ever gone personal is in a recent post I made about Ted Fleischaker. Other than that, I’ve always stayed away from the personal attacks, and focused on political methodologies.
    I wonder if this had been directed at someone different — say, the same email had been sent about someone that Bruce cared about, whether he’d react the same way. Would the “why can’t we all just get along” plea be the same if the email were about him? Somehow I suspect not.
    What kills me about Bruce’s criticism is that much of it has been exactly what I’ve been saying, but he’s framing as though it’s his idea, and as though I’m in opposition to it. Jon Stewart made the same joke recently about Bush’s sudden position change on alternative fuels – “I love the way the president says things that everybody’s known for 30 years as though he just thought of it and we’re all disagreeing with him!”
    This is my exact position — that we have to get over the top-down, ego-driven, individual, personal agendas “my way or the highway” method of organizing — the very thing that is coming from inside the organization for which he’s volunteering. Or maybe what he really means is that we have to get over that method of organizing, but they don’t. I’m not sure whether Bruce is really that cynical, or if he just doesn’t understand at all that all that venom is coming from behind him, and that to deliver this criticism, he really needs to turn around.

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