Is Dan Choi paid for activism?
This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin
July 30th, 2010
LezGetReal’s Melanie Nathan is reporting some interesting observations about Lt. Dan Choi’s activism. Although she had been a fan and supporter, her curiosity was peaked by Choi’s seeming delay in reporting his discharge.
After reading the piece, it seemed rather odd to me that a month had gone by and Dan had not made his discharge public. I too thought, for the man who has become the face of DADT repeal, letting people know about an event like his discharge under DADT should have been a pretty important event to Dan as well. As an activist why did he not immediately inform the LGBT community, all who have invested in his journey and had eyes on his every move.
So while not my beat, I began to look for my own answers. I first asked Dr. Brooks what was up with all of this?
She told me she thought, in her opinion, Choi had probably turned “pro” and the reason for not saying anything about the discharge might stem from the fact the uniform was a pretty good prop and to wear the uniform after you are discharged, is a federal crime. She also told me she has been trying to get him to clear up some questions she had about financial issues for better then a month.
Melanie’s investigation led her to the discovery that Dan Choi has an agent and is being paid speakers fees for his appearances.
One of many sources who asked to remain anonymous, has informed Lez Get Real “I know for a fact that what you are saying about Lt. Choi is true and factual. He spoke at Texas A & M. Lt. Choi was one of my biggest inspirations because I too am a US Veteran, and I am gay too. I have since also questioned his motives tremendously, and lost a lot of respect for him as a person, and as a soldier and activist.
He required Texas A & M to pay him $7500 and then tacked on an additional $2300 for travel expenses. He also required that they fly him first class. His agent is also a miserable human being. Since this was done through a school I’m sure there are records of it.
This appeared consistent with a story of students at Texas Tech who were unable to bring Choi to their campus because they did not have a budget for the speakers fees. And follow up work confirmed the stories.
I already checked with a source involved in the deal with Choi, he confirmed that Dan was paid. He told me that his TX AE has a budget for speakers and expects to pay. They dealt only with the Agent. I was told that The Tech Kids never had a budget.
Nathan is concerned that this may be motivating some of Choi’s activism.
The nature of his behavior is what impacts and ups his price on the speaker circuit, whether motivated by such or not; some of the antics may not be good for DADT repeal. My assertion is that if one does not have pure motives while being an activist, hampered by publicity stunts that serve to raise one’s price, and get one from coach to first class, points to a serious conflict of interests, unless the boundaries are very clear and then not crossed. In this instance Dan’s silence has created doubt as to whether there are any boundaries at all.
Personally, I find nothing wrong with professional speakers being paid speaker fees. While most activists do so on their own dollar – often at great personal expense – professional speakers need to buy food and housing as much as the rest of us. Life is great when you get paid for doing what you love and for making the world a better place.
And if Dan Choi wants to engage in public actions which are designed to increase his marketability, I have no objection. If his goal is to raise his public profile so as to maximize his financial future, that is only smart. Plenty of celebrities have additional motivations attached to their good works.
But, if Nathan’s report is true, it does provide some explanation for Choi’s recent actions. And it does flavor my perspective on his character and my willingness to support his activism decisions without question.