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How Not To Create A Fallen Villain

Jim Burroway

August 29th, 2012

There is a really exciting story making its way around the Internet right now. It has all of the elements we love in a story: forbidden sex, child victims, hypocrisy, and a heaping dose of schadenfreude thrown into the mix. Here’s how The Examiner pumps the story:

Caleb Hesse, 52, is a well known anti-gay activist and former elementary school teacher. He has been charged with four lewd acts on a child. The investigation is in its early stages and incidents of abuse going back to 1987 have been reported, but that is by no means a cut off point for Hesse’s abusive history and authorities are encouraging anyone with knowledge of past abuses to please contact them. Some of Hesse’s victims may now be 40+ years old.

Back-To-Stonwall puts it this way:

A longtime anti-gay activist, California Prop 8 donor,  and  elementary school teacher was taken into custody on August 17th after admitting inappropriate contact with young boys.Caleb Douglas Hesse, a teacher for the Morongo Unified School District since 1987 (most recently, he was teaching first grade at Friendly Hills Elementary School in Joshua Tree) and a longtime youth volunteer with the virulently homophobic Evangelical Free Church of Yucca Valley, has  confessed to sexually abusing “numerous underage boys,” with authorities believe the crimes occurred between the early 1980’s and as recently as a week ago.”

Raw Story, which as far as I can tell, did the best to try to put the pieces together, was somewhat more restrained, at least in its lede:

Anti-LGBT Prop 8 activist confesses to molesting young boys

A Yucca Valley, California man associated with the anti-LGBT ballot initiative Proposition 8 has confessed to the molestation of multiple young boys over the course of decades.  According to the Wisconsin Gazette, Caleb Edward Hesse, 52, a first grade teacher and youth volunteer, has been arraigned on 4 felony counts of lewd conduct upon a child.  The San Bernadino District Attorney’s office has said that more charges are pending as the case develops and more victims come forward.

I’m always baffled whenever I see a web site reporting on events in San Bernardino, California by citing a news article from a Wisconsin web site. As it happens, the San Bernardino Sun has a fairly decent rundown. Hesse went to the sheriff’s office last Wednesdayand confessed that he had “inappropriate contact” with an unknown number of boys. The paper reported that Hesse had been an employee at the Morongo Unified School District since 1987, where he most recently worked as a first-grade teacher in Joshua Tree. He also worked as a youth volunteer at the local Evangelical Free Church in Yucca Valley since the early 1980s. Consequently, investigators were unable to provide an estimate on how many child sexual abuse victims might be involved in this case. When Hesse appeared before a judge on Monday, he recanted his confession and entered a plea of not guilty. Hess faces anywhere from eight years to life in prison if he is convicted.

So where is the gay activist angle in all this?  Raw Story put these two pieces of information together:

The Gazette has found that Hesse donated in 2008 to the campaign supporting the anti-LGBT ballot initiative Proposition 8.  He was also the owner of ProtectMarriage.com, a now-defunct Prop 8 fundraising site, according to LGBT news service Gayopolis. (sic)

Sure enough, a search of Prop 8 donors shows that Hesse made a donation to support Prop 8: a one-time donation of $100. Along with, I’m sure, several other fiends, felonsand degenerates of all stripes mixed in among the many millions who contributed to both sides of the campaign. Spend a few hours looking around and I’m sure you can find a similar number of anti-Prop 8 contributors at the $100 level with sinister skeletons in their proverbial closets. It’s bound to happen. Flogging Hesse’s story as an example of who our opponents are is fun, certainly. I’ve had my share of fun with similar stories. But that’s not what we’re being asked to do here. We’re expected to take seriously the notion that Hess, “a well-known anti-gay activist,” is really all that.

And what about that “anti-gay activist” part? If he’s well-known, I can’t find any evidence of his “well-known activism” prior to his arrest. Raw Story pins his “activism” to “owning” the ProtectMarriage.com web site “according to LGBT news service Gayopolis (sic).” But go ahead and click on the link. It doesn’t go to any evidence that he owns ProtectMarriage.com. Instead, the link just goes to Gayapolis’s “About” page, which shows that it isn’t a news service but is a general-purpose portal provides LGBT “internet-based community services” for small businesses.

And who own ProtectMarriage.com? Actually, that’s an easy one to answer:

Registrant:
   ProtectMarriage.com
   P.O. Box 161359
   Sacramento, CA 95816-2849
   United States

   Registered through: GoDaddy.com, LLC (http://www.godaddy.com)
   Domain Name: PROTECTMARRIAGE.COM
      Created on: 24-May-02
      Expires on: 24-May-13
      Last Updated on: 25-Jun-12

   Administrative Contact:
      Marriage, Protect  protectmarriage@protectmarriage.com
      ProtectMarriage.com
      P.O. Box 161359
      Sacramento, CA 95816-2849
      United States
      +1.9166083065

   Technical Contact:
      Marriage, Protect  protectmarriage@protectmarriage.com
      ProtectMarriage.com
      P.O. Box 161359
      Sacramento, CA 95816-2849
      United States
      +1.9166083065

In other words, it’s exactly who you would expect it to be. It is owned by Protect Marriage, the main political group that was responsible for passing Proposition 8 in 2008.

So in the end, there are two ways to deal with this story. I could have made it an Heterosexual Menace story in which a we have evidence of yet another “pro-family values” guy exhibits a very elastic notion of what it means to be “pro-family.” And on an ordinary day, I might have done just that, just for the fun of it. As I said, I love schadenfreude as much as the next guy, and I love nothing better than to see anti-gay activists exposed for the pond-scum that many of them are. And make no mistake about it, if the charges against Hesse are proved, then he is the bond-scummiest of them all. But he’s no activist.

But that’s not the story that’s being pumped on the internet. We’re being asked to take seriously that this is a big fish that represents a huge stink emmanating from our opponents. But in looking into this, that just not something I can go along with because, in truth, he is, at best, a small-time minnow whose only reason for being spotlighted like this is because there are people who really, really, really want this nobody-who-nobody-else-ever-heard-of-before-until-now to take on much greater significance than the situation deserves. They want Hesse to be the face of Tony Perkins and Brian Brown. But Tony Perkins and Brian Brown already have plenty of face for us to deal with. We’re small, petty, and just plain silly when we try to invent new super-villains out of whole cloth. I think we can safely leave the chum like Hesse to the California legal system.

Comments

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Timothy Kincaid
August 29th, 2012 | LINK

Very well said, Jim.

I became suspicious when the Evangelical Free Church was described as “virulently homophobic”.

Now it is entirely possible that the church is, indeed, virulently homophobic. But I kinda doubt it. The Evangelical Free Churches tend to be more along the lines of “Well… it is a sin and we don’t support gay marriage, but we love everyone so let’s not talk about that. Everyone’s a sinner. Have a cookie.”

Not supportive, but very rarely “virulent” about much of anything.

Elaygee
August 29th, 2012 | LINK

In a propoganda war, there are no civilians. Hesse makes great copy.

What LGBT haters have been doing that worked against us for decades is negative campaigning. Being “nice” and “polite” = defeat.

Hesse=LGBT hater.
Hesse= secret Child molestor.
LGBT haters included Hesse.
LGBT haters = secret child molestors.

Timothy Kincaid
August 29th, 2012 | LINK

Elaygee’s comment is indicative of the type of thinking I despise and hold in contempt. It is to counter just that sort of thinking that I began writing.

Priya Lynn
August 29th, 2012 | LINK

I could be wrong, but I don’t think Elaygee was advocating using that kind of rhetoric.

Jim Burroway
August 29th, 2012 | LINK

In a propoganda war, there are no civilians. Hesse makes great copy.

If I were interested in a propaganda war, I’d agree with you. Come to think of it, I agree with you anyway.

But I’m not interested in being a cog in a propaganda war. That’s the heart of what’s wrong with our country right now. Everyone’s looking to win a propaganda war and nobody gives a shit about anything resembling the truth. You can totally, completely count me out on that, and I don’t give a flying farthing what anyone thinks about it.

Priya Lynn
August 29th, 2012 | LINK

I think Elayagee was just observing what some people do, not condoning it.

David Waite
August 29th, 2012 | LINK

“Virulently homophobic” did it for me when this story hit the blogs after his recantation in court. I started digging. All I was able to come up with about the church’s policies was that a former practising gay person must have lived “sin free” for the 5 years preceeding admission to membership. I don’t even know if that is true, and even if it is true it wouldn’t quite get to “virulent” for me. The same dubious source for that supposed requirement also had vicious innuendos about the church’s youth minister.

This is the kind of thing that has been done to me, over both my color and my orientation, for over 60 years, but I understood, even before I read LoTR in 1956, that one cannot defeat orcs by becoming them.

Ben in Oakland
August 29th, 2012 | LINK

The story to me is simply this: yet another person antigay enough to make an appearance on anybody’s radar seems to be pointing fingers at other people to deflect from his own sins.

ConBab
August 29th, 2012 | LINK

Thanks for posting this, Jim. Maybe people will listen to you — they certainly haven’t listened to me.

I have been trying to get the message out that Hesse is not some high-profile activist, nor does he “own” ProtectMarriage.com. He’s just an anti-gay DONOR, who’s been charged with sexually assaulting boys. Period.

ConBab was (as far as I know) the first to connect Hesse to his Prop H8 donation, and if you follow every subsequent blog post on the story, they all ultimately lead back to our original post.

As you can see, nowhere in that post is any of the erroneous stuff about Hesse being an “activist” or owning PM.com even suggested.

How anyone could possibly have come to the conclusion that Hesse was some big fish in the anti-gay movement — or how any of the “big” sites, like Raw Story, could have run with it without taking an extra 30 seconds to verify — is a mystery… and a shame.

The first thing any good blogger should have done was search for Hesse’s name in any reliable Prop H8 database. After finding the record in our own files, we cross-checked the Calif. Sec’y of State database, and even the L.A. Times database, just to make sure there was an easy way for others to find it online. (You’d think a few readers would want to check it out for themselves, wouldn’t you? Well, we thought so.)

The second thing — upon seeing the suspicious-looking claim that Hesse was some Prop H8 big-wig — any good blogger should have done was to run a WHOIS on ProtectMarriage.com. Jim, you’re probably the only blogger who did that. I can’t believe no one else did!

And this kind of sloppiness (or laziness, or whatever the problem) makes us all look bad.

Anyway, thanks again, Jim. I hope more people listen to you than they did to me.

P.S. If anyone’s wondering why we made the Hesse-Prop H8 connection in the first place, that’s what Conservative Bablyon does, and has been doing, since 2003: citing the hypocrisy of the “family values” crowd, particularly when it comes to anti-gays.

Honestly, we were quite surprised when the “big” gay blogs (Back2Stonewall, JMG, etc. — who, it should be noted, did NOT run with the false claims later blogs did) picked up our post on Hesse — which by that time was already ten days old — and ultimately sent us the biggest traffic spike in ConBab’s history.

Frankly, the Hesse story is no big deal to us — it’s typical of the stuff we read about and blog about every day. There are much bigger stories out there, and real anti-gay activists of note, doing things far worse things than what Hesse is accused of doing.

We can’t figure out why this story picked up so much steam — was it the Prop H8 angle? Why didn’t these same blogs go as nuts over the stories of Tommy Gene Daniels (another one whose Prop H8 donation we scooped) or Eugene Ballantyne or Jesse Ruhl? Beats us.

P.P.S. This sort of thing happened in 2008, with our old Lavender Newswire blog: Somebody linked a single word to one our posts as if to suggest we had some inside information about the Obama campaign. We didn’t, of course, and we still haven’t figured out what the “logic” was behind the link, but after the entire PUMA movement had played the game of “Telephone,” suddenly our quite-innocuous post was held up as “proof” of some vast Obama conspiracy. I guess people read into things whatever it is they want most to see.

Donny D.
August 30th, 2012 | LINK

This reminds of a story maybe a few months ago about a “San Francisco gay activist” who was busted by the SFPD for child molesting. The stories tried to make him sound like a big wheel — but I’ve lived in this town for 30 years and I never heard of him. The story sounded flaky to me for that reason.

The story was like a stone dropped into a tiny pond, causing quick, brief ripples and then nothing after that.

Though I’d be surprised if the anti-gay movement’s media hadn’t made at least a little something out of it. I mean, a “San Francisco gay activist” child molester, that’s too delicious for them not to have made some kind of fuss about.

Ben in Oakland
August 30th, 2012 | LINK

Wow, conbab. Never heard ofthose guys. Just confirms what I wrote above.

Blake
August 30th, 2012 | LINK

Good post & well said. A heterosexual menace post would’ve been more fun though ;)

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