Ugandan Tabloid May Have Used Facebook To Obtain Photos In Anti-Gay Vigilante Campaign
October 4th, 2010
We have more information on the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. publication by the same name) which promises to embark on a virulent anti-gay outing campaign. It appears that the tabloid, which published only eleven of its promised “100 pictures of Uganda’s top homos,” may have obtained some of the photos from Facebook profiles of ordinary LGBT people in Uganda and abroad.
Sources in Uganda express concern that they recognize some of the published photos as having been posted on the popular social networking site. Many believe that someone posing as a gay man may have “friended” some in the LGBT community in order to obtain private information and photos, which were then turned over to Rolling Stone for publication. One name in particular has surfaced, someone who was involved with last year’s anti-gay outing campaign. We are unable to confirm those concerns, but given the circumstances behind this campaign and knowing the involvement of key people in previous mass outing campaigns, I think those suspicions are not without basis.
[Update: According to additional scans obtained by Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton, Rolling Stone acknowledges that some of the photos also came from Gaydar, a popular U.K. based dating website.]
[Update (Oct 16): The anonymous blogger GayUganda confirms that some of the photos were obtained from facebook profiles]
The October 2 edition of Rolling Stone only outed a few dozen people so far, but the tabloid promises that their list will be continued in the next issue, in what they describe as a four-part series. Of the names mentioned in this edition, some of them make no sense. One person “outed” by the paper is an American journalist who no longer lives in Uganda. Another person who was fully named — by first name and last — had “quit lesbianism.” Rolling Stone added, “She told our investigators ‘I am a changed girl.’ She is now married with a baby girl.” It’s puzzling that this woman was identified along with the name of her very small village in Western Uganda — and deeply troubling.
As we said earlier, the tenor of this outing campaign is even more vicious than those conducted by the notorious Red Pepper tabloid, which Rolling Stone appears to see as its chief rival. This time, Rolling Stone‘s front cover headline includes the admonition to “hang them,” while inside the pages they included many people’s surnames in their descriptions, a practice that Red Pepper had avoided.
It was in the aftermath of last years’ conference put on by three American anti-gay activists that the Red Pepper joined a similar vigilante campaign instigated by conference organizers. During that campaign, we began to receive reports of mobs attacking LGBT people in the streets and police making arrests.
It remains to be seen whether this campaign will take hold or not, but Rolling Stone isn’t leaving anything to chance. They’ve chosen a two-pronged approach to stoking anti-gay hysteria. In addition to outing specific people, Rolling Stone published an incredibly fanciful “investigation” into the gay community. According to their imaginary findings:
Our research showed that most gays meet along Jinja Road based [redacted bar name] in Kampala. They usually gather at this place on Fridays for meetings and recruitment. It’s here that they assess the performance of their recruitment drives and initiate new members.
During these meetings, new members are given nick names they will use in gay circles. … Research also revealed that graduates are the biggest target as they are desperate for opportunities of earning a living. They are promised jobs in gay organisations abroad, monthly allowances and connections to rich gays residing in United States, Norway, Canada and United Kingdom.
The new members are also provided with gay blue movies,a list of gay websites and telephone numbers of representatives of gay organizations.
At the end of every month, gays usually gather at homes of gay organization leaders… Wine is popped and sometimes gays engage in orgies. …We have accessed secret videos of top citizens enjoying steamy gay sex.
This newspaper also discovered that most secondary schools and tertiary institutions have been penetrated by gay activists to recruit kids… The curriculum has been altered to include gay-promoting ideals with the view of brainwashing kids toward bisexual orientation. An informer said so far 10,000 secondary students have been recruited while 100,000 graduates have been enlisted in gay organizations.
This plays into two popular myths promulgated by anti-gay forces in Uganda. The first myth is that the LGBT community represents a vast, well-organized conspiracy to recruit children into homosexuality. The second myth is that homosexuality is a Western import, facilitated by wealthy gay people abroad. After naming several local and international NGO’s which are allegedly part of this imaginary conspiracy, Rolling Stone adds:
An insider said that organizations receive funding in billions which is now used to eat into the moral fabric of kids.
Rolling Stone’s debut occurred just five weeks ago on August 23. The top headline in its inaugural edition was “Rwenzori mineral water full of feaces,” a description that would aptly fit the fledgling scandal sheet. The editors trumpeted their new rag in a page 2 editorial:
Our esteemed readers, the much-awaited savior – The Rolling Stone newspaper, is born today. We have liberated you from the monopoly of half-baked news, inaccurate reports, deliberate misinformation and agents of propaganda and populism. Under our motto “Nothing But The Truth”, we promise to strip all facts bare and leave no stone unturned in exposing the evils in our cherished society without fear or favour.
And black is white and up is down, in the greatest tradition of tabloid “journalism.” The most amusing part is where the editors get to their qualifications:
Based along Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road in Kampala, Rolling Stone is the only newspaper in the country owned and managed by three youthful men who have attended Mass Communication lectures at Makerere University.
Clearly, the six people named in the editorial — Managing editor Giles Muhame, Editor Joseph Bahingwire, Advertising manager Cliff Abenaitwe, Brand Manager Benjamin Rukwengye, HR Manager Collins Murangira, and Circulation “Expert” Nicholas Mwesigwa — hadn’t bothered to actually graduate from a journalism program, let alone pass a single course in ethics.
That inaugural issue also carried a mild preview of the gay-baiting that was to come, with a comparatively timid article claiming that an un-named mayor was “suspected to be gay.” But even in that brief one-paragraph article on page five, Rolling Stone covers all the bases of anti-gay myth-making:
We have information that the politician, who travels abroad almost thrice a month, has been holding gay meetings with a top city pastor and homosexuals in the United States. At his home, we are told, he maintains a separate room where he meets male visitors. It’s also rumoured that he receives lots of dollars from US and Scandinavian countries to boost gay activities in Uganda. He also recruits young children into gay organizations under the guise of education sponsorships overseas. This eloquent man applies “make up” on his face.
It’s now five weeks later and that timidity has worn off.
Last week, the more established tabloid Red Pepper published an appalling distortion of an interview originally published in Washington, D.C.’s Metro Weekly by Ugandan asylum seeker Kushaba Moses Mworeko. This week, we have this Rolling Stone’s clarion call to hunt down and lynch LGBT people, in precisely the kind of vigilantism that has been Red Pepper’s trademark. It’s not a stretch to see Rolling Stone’s effort as a direct challenge to Red Pepper, to demonstrate which tabloid can be the most sensationalistic and the most homophobic.
This raises the ugly possibility of a circulation war breaking out with LGBT Ugandans bearing the brunt. We already noticed that Red Pepper’s Stanley Nduala, who had written many of that paper’s outing articles, drives a shiny Mercedes. Exposing gay people to mortal dangers and calling for their deaths is a proven pathway to great riches in Uganda for reporters and newspaper editors. And for Pentecostal preachers with ties to U.S. megachurches. That works just as well.
Update: It appears that Ugandan pentecostal pastor Martin “Eat Da Poo Poo” Ssempa, who has close financial ties to Las Vegas-based Canyon Ridge Christian Church, may have played a role in this latest campaign.