Change You Can’t Believe In: My Response to Breitbart

Breitbart Headline for Blog

[Note: this piece originally ran in the Huffington Post’s Politics section on January 22, 2016.]

Last week, I blogged for HuffPost Politics about my voting strategy for the 2016 presidential election. While I’m definitely going to support the Democratic nominee in November — whether it’s Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders — I’m actually voting for Donald Trump in March. Voting in the opposing party’s primary, a tactic known as “party raiding,” may seem counter-intuitive at first, but there is logic behind it. Trump, who consistently trails both Clinton and Sanders in potential head-to-head matchups, is much more likely to lose in a general election contest than better-polling rivals like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. A vote for Trump, therefore — the weakest of the major Republican contenders — actually gives the Democrats their best hope of winning the White House. It’s the age-old political tactic of picking one’s opponent.

My piece about party raiding, entitled I’m Voting for Donald Trump, Here’s Why, was picked up by several news outlets and aggregators, including Yahoo!, PinkNews, and the conservative Breitbart News Network. Breitbart’s article, rebranded with the headline Gay Porn Star Says He’s Voting for Trump, ‘Operation Chaos’ Style, begins as follows:

openquoteInspired by “Operation Chaos,” in which radio host Rush Limbaugh encouraged his listeners to participate in the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential primary, gay adult film star Jesse Jackman says he is voting for Donald Trump in the upcoming Massachusetts Republican primary.

Let me be clear: Operation Chaos did not inspire my strategy for the 2016 campaign.

Operation Chaos used the party raiding technique as well, although Limbaugh’s goal was somewhat different: he had hoped to slow down Barack Obama’s surging “hope and change” candidacy, rather than to elevate the weaker-polling Hillary Clinton. Limbaugh succeeded in convincing many of his conservative followers to vote for Clinton in several key Democratic primaries. As a result, Operation Chaos took delegates away from Obama and prolonged the Democrats’ nominating process.

The Breitbart article’s claim that I was “inspired” by Limbaugh’s gambit is misleading. Perhaps intentionally so. The reality is that I’d already finished writing most of my HuffPost piece before ever learning of Operation Chaos. But by suggesting that Rush Limbaugh’s idea inspired mine, the article makes Limbaugh look like a visionary and me a simple copycat.

The author takes other liberties as well. The article selectively omits sections of my writing, rearranges others, and neglects to include specific references I made to Republican leaders’ concerns about the damage that a Trump nomination could do to their party. These alterations serve to purposely dilute, distort, and deflect the thrust of my original message. My supporting argument is reduced to mere weasel words.

Perhaps more troublingly, the author repeatedly refers to me as some variant of “gay porn star Jesse Jackman”. While my HuffPost bio reveals that I’m a full-time software engineer who moonlights as an adult entertainer, my sexuality and my occasional freelance work are neither mentioned in my post nor relevant to my argument. Had the references only occurred in the headline, it could possibly be forgiven as a run-of-the-mill example of clickbait. My sexuality and sideline employment are brought up three additional times in the course of the Breitbart article, however. This doesn’t just serve to draw attention away from the substance of my argument: it pushes the piece toward the realm of sensationalist journalism, stokes homophobia, and encourages Breitbart’s readers to impugn my character. And impugn and stoke it did. Comments on Breitbart’s version of the article, which were universally critical, feature such examples as “hes not too fucking bright, well look what he does for a living”, “gay porn performer = political AND sexual deviant”, and “Just another liberal faggot.”


Addendum: It also launched an amusing exchange on Twitter about my glasses:


My writing was also the victim of contextomy, or the cherry-picking of content to undermine the original message. Absent from the Breitbart article was my definition of party raiding, as well as the distinction between my “survival of the weakest” methodology and Limbaugh’s “slow down the frontrunner” approach. Because it neglected to highlight those differences, the article led its readers to a direct comparison between my approach and Limbaugh’s, prompting intense castigation of my strategy (“That’s nothing like Operation Chaos!”) and its dismissal as irrelevant. And those who took the time to criticize my argument based on its actual content — instead of attacking me ad hominem — were only condemning a straw man version of it, since the author omitted many of the salient points I had made to support it.

Matthew S. McGlone, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, studied the effect of contextomy on popular opinion. McGlone presented his subjects with a positive-sounding or negative-sounding quote from an overall neutral article about affirmative action. He then showed them the entire article and asked them to rate it as positive, negative, or neutral. McGlone observed “residual distortion” in his subjects’ opinions: those who had first seen the positive quote tended to see the neutral article as positive, and those who had first seen the negative quote tended to judge the article to be negative. “A contextomized quotation,” McGlone concluded, “not only prompts audiences to form a false impression of the source’s intentions, but can contaminate subsequent interpretation of the quote when it is restored to its original context.” The study’s findings suggest that a person who reads the Breitbart article before reading mine may be prematurely biased against my post… which is why, perhaps, the author linked to my post at the end of his article.

The popular LGBT website PinkNews also ran a version of my piece with the headline Meet the Gay Porn Star who Wants You to Vote for Donald Trump. Perhaps a little sensationalism in the service of creating a marketable headline cannot fully be avoided; after all, an article titled Software Engineer Voting for Trump would hardly garner any clicks. But PinkNews included all of the pertinent points of my story and presented them in a way that’s consistent with my original argument. Unlike Breitbart, PinkNews did not undermine my reasoning or harp on my sexuality in any way. “The goal of sites like Breitbart is to drum up hatred among their conservative base,” explains Susan Wright, founder of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. “They will never be fair or tolerant in their coverage.”

In the words of author E. B. White, “All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular.” But Breitbart tilted my writing to the point of near-unrecognizability, and crippled my work to the point of outright disbelief.


Follow Jesse Jackman on Twitter: twitter.com/JesseJackmanXXX

14 replies
  1. rik1vegas@aol.com
    rik1vegas@aol.com says:

    I wouldn’t be so sure Trump is “much more” likely to lose against a Democrat in November. Polls at this point are ludicrous, since only a tiny percentage of Americans really have a true sense of all the individuals running. Trump is a classic demagogue, quite dangerously so, and the more he appears to have support the more his “positions” become legitimized with a vast portion of our country who are “low-information” voters but who are susceptible to following anyone who seems “different” & “stronger” than the usual politician. Personally, I’m voting in my Democratic primary for Bernie Sanders, cause I really do want him to win, versus Wall-Street-Suckup Mrs. Militarism Hillary.

    Reply
    • Jesse
      Jesse says:

      The real danger with Trump, I think, is that he’s pushing the national discussion so far to the right. There’s this concept I’ve been meaning to write about called the Overton window; the basic gist of it is that as the discussion shifts more toward one extreme, the lesser extreme – but still pretty out there – policies being floated actually seem more mainstream (even if, on their own, they’d be seen as radical). The upshot is that, in a lot of peoples eyes, Trump is starting to make people like Cruz seem palatable by comparison… and since some of Cruz’s proposals actually have a chance of being passed in Congress, the prospect of a Cruz presidency is perhaps even more terrifying to me than a Trump one.

      Reply
      • rik1vegas@aol.com
        rik1vegas@aol.com says:

        I agree, both Trump and Cruz seem dastardly, like any rightwinger who uses fear & loathing to amass power. But just be careful you’re not being too clever for your own good by planning to register for the GOP primary so you can vote for Trump. Apparently the Repukes are using a similar tactic, like Karl Rove funneling $$ into pro-Bernie and anti-Clinton advertisements, the idea that Sanders would be “easier to beat” in the general election.

        Reply
  2. Frank Knottyfor
    Frank Knottyfor says:

    Three points (I teach this at the college level):

    (1) “Open primaries allow voters to choose on election day which party primary they wish to participate in…Opponents of open primaries have argued that these types of primary elections allow for ‘raiding’–organized efforts by one party to get its members to cross over to the opposition party’s primary and defeat an attractive candidate and thereby improve the raiding party’s chances of winning the general election. But there is little evidence to show that large numbers of voters connive in such a fashion.” “Politics in America” by Thomas R. Dye.

    (2) Even if Trump actually believes everything he says (which I totally doubt), getting anything accomplished in the federal system is, at best, ponderous. Our system of government is directed toward stopping things, rather than moving forward (ex. filibusters & “holds” in the US Senate).

    (3) Trump is one of the most accomplished candidates I’ve encountered in terms of self-promotion. He also plays outside the box, politically speaking (whoever heard of a major candidate turning down an opportunity to appear before a national tv audience in a debate?).

    My feeling is: Don’t for a minute count out Donald Trump. Not for a minute.

    And my other feeling is that I’d rather have a Donald than a Canadian as president.

    Reply
    • Frank Knottyfor
      Frank Knottyfor says:

      And a further comment:

      A very, very prominent Democrat at the national level once confided to me that if a candidate could not look someone in the eye and lie to them, they shouldn’t be in politics.

      That attitude is not within just one political party, of course.

      Reply
    • Jesse
      Jesse says:

      It’s true, not many people engage in party raiding… but it has been shown to be effective (as I documented in my original article on the subject). I’m still pissed that Breitbart saw fit to corrupt my argument to suit their own agenda.

      I heard someone — Steve Kornacki, I think — on MSNBC this morning quote sources within the Democratic party who are estimating that they stand to pick up 15 or so House seats with a Trump or Cruz nomination (in addition to winning the White Hosue). But you’re right, “conventional wisdom” has been proven wrong in this election cycle already. I just don’t think — when it comes down to it — that registered Democratic voters (who far outnumber registered Republican voters, by the way) will stomach the idea of a Trump presidency. It’s a matter of voter turnout at this point… and what better than the specter of a Trump administration than to inspire the opposition party to cast their ballots?

      Reply
  3. Don Howard
    Don Howard says:

    Your argument very much reminds me of Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill’s tactic for her 2012 re-election. She saw Todd Akin as the candidate in the Republican primary she would most likely be able to defeat in the general election, so she ran adds in support of Akin (and, I believe, actually spent more in support of his candidacy the he did). The plan worked: Akin won the Republican primary and she trounced him in the general election. Of course, it helped Sen. McCaskill when Akin started voicing his opinions on matters such as “legitimate rape”.

    In short, manipulations such as party raiding not only are engaged in by voters but also are used by candidates.

    Reply
    • Jesse
      Jesse says:

      Exactly! She ran ads against Todd Akin claiming that “Missouri’s ‘true conservative’ [as Akin called himself] is just too conservative.” What Sen. McCaskill’s campaign referred to as her “dog whistle ads” — only the intended audience would hear the implied message, and subliminally at that, which is that true conservatives should vote for Akin in the primary because McCaskill is supposedly afraid of facing him in the general election — helped her essentially hand-pick Akin as her opponent in the general election. And yup, she trounced him. The only reason I didn’t bring up McCaskill’s campaign in the article as an example of attempting to pick one’s opponent is that I was already running up against my word limit. It’s a great example though!

      Reply
  4. Marvin
    Marvin says:

    Just a little humor here: Do you remember the TV game show, THE WEAKEST LINK, in which the players tried to eliminate the strongest challengers so that they could more easily defeat the weakest opponent? Of course you do! The concept is the same. As for the Democratic primary debates, I think they are absolutely terrific. Both Sanders and Clinton are passionate with their messages. FYI, one article I read in yesterday’s DAILY BEAST issue explains why Sanders is not electable. I think you should read it, if you haven’t. When the fall season begins, and the race for the White House gets serious, I’d like you to follow Nate Silvers’s predictions for the presidency and the Congress at http://www.fivethirtyeight.com.. It was a joy to watch the results on election night in 2012 and not worry that the Republicans might have full control of the government, again.

    Reply
  5. Mark Greene
    Mark Greene says:

    Jesse,
    Being a big fan of yours and of your husband as well,this article both sickens me and enlightened me.Allow me to explain.I am sickened by the deceitful nature of the people you were dealing with in the first place.Any direct disrespect to a fellow gay man angers me,and this is exactly what this was.It enlightened me because you had the determination and “balls”to right the wrong.
    I personally wish you nothing but the best brother.Regards to Dirk as well.

    Yours in the Struggle,
    Mark Greene

    Reply
  6. vladK
    vladK says:

    I am not a US citizen so not sure if my comment will come across as offensive but I follow the argument and understand and agree with most of what you’ve said. My one doubt: with the Republican Party in its messier than usual state and the field of candidates loonier than in preceding elections (I really thought they had touched bottom, sts in 2008 but then 2012 came and I thought – OK now the lunacy will abate as they realize even the “establishment candidate” had a tough ride to the nomination and virtually everyone else was unelectable then along came the current primaries in which I think everyone is unelectable apart from being in their different, nasty ways very *peculiar* sort of people).. well, the thing is I know Iowa isn’t very representative and yes I do remember Rick ..(Santorum, was it? and in 2008 possibly Huckabee) but I think the scariest guy running is by far Ted Cruz. It worries me because even most republican voters (presuming not every democrat or independent voter that can will vote in the republican primaries and caucus..es won’t trust Trump & his tantrums and bigotry. Ted Cruz has his bigotry handed down to him from God and calls it something else. Is he not more dangerous. If this was happening in my country they would go up big cultural barriers, indeed the whole Republican Party would be considered far too much to the right and lumped in with neo-nazi groups and the like. That’s where they’re at but though it pains me to say it isn’t the Evagelical/Christian Fundamentalist (deeply unchristiam in its attitudes and values I don’t know what weird books they get their schtick fro,..oh hang on. Right) much more “reliable”. As far as voter turnout goes, say? Trump doesn’t stand a chance but even he doesn’t propose abolishing whole sections of the Federal Government. Nor is he firmly convinced the apocalypse is coming in his lifetime. This is not defending the undefendable crazy guy which outside the US (& Canada possibly) is the one getting all the coverage. This is just me asking if Cruz isn’t much worse (not least because he believes the barbaric things he says – they are articles of faith for him)? Is there any reason to think he is also nore unelectable? I am really clueless here because I would have thought both are obviously suffering from personality disorders of some kind and that applies to almost all the other candidates except possibly Bush or Runio but I can’t see what chance they have tough I think the Republican establishment would rally round with all the endor$$ements if it thought they stood a chance. If both turn out to be unelectable because they are too moderate for republicans to pick them (they are less crazy and a bit more civil but I’m not sure that even as republicans tey are all that moderate) who will the BigBucks go to? If it comes down to Cruz and Trump I’m fairly sure whoever the democrat candidate ends up being he or she will win. But fairly sure is not 100% sure. What if we ended up with a Bernie vs. Ted scenario. Unlikely. But if it came to pass would americans really plump in reassuring masses to elect a self-styled socialist (which he says he is but he wouldn’t be by European standards, he’d be mainstream moderate left-of-center) over a religious zealot that will probably not disclose fully his agenda? I know politicians don’t ususlly disclose their agendad but actually those two have big plans for the US and have written about them extensively. Polar opposites they are but that would only send the % of those not voting at all skyrocketing and then we’d be left with hard core religious zealots and what I beliece is call the radical left liberal core (again, they’d be mainstream slightly left-leaning where I live but that’s no consolation) – which core is bigger to put it bluntly? Why does a foreigner like me care? Because the US are the only superpower left so their power is projected across the globe and I have many american friends and my whole pop culture (even some of the little highbrow I have as well) comes from the US of A and there’s much to admire. But since 9/11 I think a substantial number of Americans have been living in Fear of some sort. Bordering on paranoia on occasion. Otherwise the Republican Party’s fielding the sort of candidates they have in the last three presidential elections would have self-destruct and yet it hasn’t so I can only assume there are dangerous times ahead. Or will they merely be interesting? You see when McCain lost and then Romney lost I thought the Republicans would have realized a coallition of the elderly white voters (and by no means all mof them) the pissed off formerly blue collar vote (again not all of it) and the Loony tea-partiers and loonier christians would render them permanently unelectable as demographics continue to change towards greater diversity and society becomes more plural yet inclusive and embracing rather than tolerant of differences. Or is that a rosy view of the future USA? I guess I’m just worried Cruz has a small chance. I think Trump has none and will lose momentum. Hasn’t he started to already since Iowa? True, I can’t see Cruz winning in NH but then SuperT is around the corner and whilst Hillary may clinch the Democrat nomination then who the f..hell will the republicans choose?
    Sorry that was way too long…(and unspellchecked to boot). All the best wishes to you!

    P.S. Please feel free to edit this or not let it show at all. Even I am aghast at how long I ranted. I just get worried particularly because in the worst possible sense I think Politics is the one issue that should be on everybody’s mind this year in the US but it doesn’t help that the primaries are such a lenghthy process. Some people tune out and those that stay hyper-involved on the Republican side tend not to have moderate views on..anything, really. By moderate I mean remotely acceptable.

    Reply
  7. Mark F.
    Mark F. says:

    I will say that the Donald impressed me in last night’s debate when he dared to criticize George Bush and his Iraq fiasco. That was rather brave of him. He also seemed to be making a play for the political center.

    Mr. Trump is, in fact, very close to winning the nomination. I can hardly believe I am writing this, but it is true. He can still falter, but he has the best odds right now. Mr. Trump is likely to win South Carolina, and if he gets 30% against a divided field, he will get a lot of delegates on Super Tuesday. On March 15, there are winner take all primaries in Ohio and Florida that have huge delegate counts. He may have it all but wrapped up by then. Things are happening fast and furious.

    Reply

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