Thursday, January 31, 2013

Alive! Gay Pro Life And The Minority Report

It's been some time since we discussed the suspicious @ProLifeAtheists. Unusually for an atheist group, the most common adjective their followers used to describe themselves was 'Catholic', with only two profiles containing the word 'atheist'. Cardinal Dolan and David Quinn featured high on the list of accounts the group felt worthy of following. In short it seemed rather a poor choice for those who posit significant numbers of atheists who oppose abortion. You're welcome to read the post for background.

This post has been rather popular. In fact it's my most popular post of all time, and I was touched by the genuine interest and excitement around the investigation. A recent spike in visits to the post (over 2,000 in one day last week, my thanks to @glinner) caused me to wonder if the masterminds between this cunning deception might have targeted other groups unpopular with American Republicans to create the impression of diverse support.

So I checked.

I looked for accounts recommended by @ProLifeAtheists. I focused on groups considered minorities who had a similar narrow focus on opposition to access to abortion, eschewing mention of their own group's interests, and having at least 20% shared followers with @ProLifeAtheists. With that I found Alive! Gay Pro-Life:

Pro Life Atheists: Give @AliveGPN - a gay pro-life network - a follow. Great to see diversity in the movement! Retweeted by Alive! Gay Pro-Life

The Twitter Stats

As is my wont I ran a word cloud of their followers' Twitter biographies. Click for big. This gave me pause for thought - obviously both 'gay' and 'LGBT' are present. True, they are dwarfed by 'conservative', but should I rush to assumption? I don't describe myself as straight in my Twitter biography and there's nothing incongruous in considering oneself better described by ones political than sexual orientation. Arguing that Catholics are by necessity straight would also be flawed. Ditto conservative or Christian. Father, mother, husband and wife - to an extent these words are considered incongruous by some when discussing the LGBTQ community. They shouldn't be.

At least some genuine gay pro-life followers contributed to this word cloud. But how many?

To check, I examined every follower, and pulled a list of every account they follow. I used this to build a matrix which showed me which accounts were most popular with the followers of Alive! Gay Pro Life:

  • Pontifex
  • PaulRyanVP
  • StevenErtelt
  • secularprolife
  • LilaGraceRose
  • LiveActionFilms
  • LifeSite
  • prolifecampaign
  • AbbyJohnson
  • MittRomney
  • michellemalkin
  • ProLifePolitics
  • ProLifeAtheists
  • alvedaking
  • SBAList
  • 40daysforlife
  • AnnCoulter
  • spud_planter
  • JillStanek
  • AnnDRomney
Usernames in light grey devote their primary energy to activism against access to abortion. I'm more interested in the others. What happens when we subtract "Pro-Life" from "Alive! Gay Pro-Life"? What will bind its followers through philosophies and interests?

Pontifex, the Pope's English account, comes above all others. He has described those who do not share my exclusive fetish for the opposite sex as "objectively disordered" and having a "strong tendency ordered towards an inherent moral evil"
Paul Ryan repeats his election trick of coming second, despite campaigning tirelessly against marriage equality, adoption rights, and military career options for the LGBTQ community.
Mitt Romney trails Ryan considerably, both in homophobia and ranking, managing only to oppose marriage equality and unduly inconvenience children raised by same sex couples.

Michelle Malkin follows, her energies devoted to countering marriage equality.
The gender balance is further improved by the addition of Alveda King, who opines that "Homosexuality cannot be elevated to the civil rights issue. The civil rights movement was born from the Bible. God hates homosexuality". 
Ann Coulter is perhaps included because she feels that "marriage is not a civil right [for the LGBTQ community]", or that she can "talk gays out of gay marriage", or perhaps because she opposes sex education that may teach children about the "homosexual lifestyle". She makes my job easier by issuing all quotes at a talk to gay conservatives.
Some say I have a habit of understatement. Perhaps true. Let's just say these results are not what I would expect from a primarily gay group.

Pomp And Circumstance

A closer look raised suspicions further. Pro Life Atheists started tweeting on the 8th of June.
Pro Life Atheists' first tweet on 8th June. Their fifth tweet is a retweet of @ProLifeCampaign.
Alive! Gay Pro-Life joined the following month:
In both cases a corresponding blog was launched on the day of joining Twitter. In both cases, both blogs use the chunk theme. This was not the default theme for new blogs last year, nor is it unduly popular. (It ranks 56th among bloggers.) You can compare the font, layout and colour themes of and for yourself. Or I could put screenshots side by side. 'Pro Life Atheists' on top, 'Alive! Gay Pro Life' below:
Hi! If you're using a screenreader, you may have to take my word for this - both blogs use the same layout, fonts and colours.

I accept that this is just circumstantial evidence, but I do feel it helps build a cumulative case.

Let's Talk About Sexual Identity

Last month I raised an eyebrow at how almost every 'pro life' group in Ireland felt comfortable working with Human Life International (Ireland), a group which opposes the vaccination of children. They also endorse the harmful and damaging pseudoscience of gay conversion 'therapy', a stance shared with EWTN who coordinated the video in question. As @AliveGPN earn an occasional retweet from prominent Irish opponents to abortion access I was moderately familiar with the group, so I asked if they were willing to condemn the association:

Me: how do you feel about Irish pro life groups working with EWTN, who promote gay conversion therapy? Them: we work with a broad range of pro life groups. We may disagree on every other issue but all want to protect mothers & babies. Me: surely opposing vaccinations works against a commitment to protecting babies? Them: You can talk to them about their positions. We oppsoe abortion. EWTN is a Catholic news channel & go into all kinds of issues. Me: including thinking that homosexuality is a disease that should be cured. I wouldn't share a taxi with them, let alone a platform.

To reiterate what I feel to be the salient points of my case, many of the accounts most popular with followers of @AliveGPN seem homophobic. AliveGPN themselves are unwilling to condemn gay conversion therapy, antivax nonsense, or working with groups that promote such foolishness. They were set up around the same time as @ProLifeAtheists (widely regarded as an AstroTurf account) and use the same blogging platform and theme. Being gay and being against access to abortion is not contradictory, and @AliveGPN does seem to have some genuine followers, but based on evidence gathered thus far it's hard to view it as an account operated in good faith.

How useful is this analysis of an ostensibly gay group by a straight guy? I think I've added some value, but I see that Ireland's premier cranky bisexualist queermo has also written on the subject. I urge you to go read.


Anonymous said...

With respect to the list of Twitter accounts most popular among Alive! Gay Pro Life followers: I'm not sure how much that tells us. For instance, the pope is a prominent public figure, quite aside from his stance on homosexuality, so it's not surprising that a lot of people would follow him (hell, I'm a pro-gay-rights atheist, and I follow @Pontifex). I also wouldn't be surprised if Alive! followers also followed Beyonce and whichever other celebrity is in the news.

Perhaps a better approach would be to see how the habits of Alive! followers differ from the population at large. For instance, if 1% of Twitter users follow Justin Bieber, we can how many Alive! followers also follow Bieber, and see whether they're disproportionately likely or unlikely to read him.

Geoff said...

Hi Arensb,

I'm afraid unless someone in Twitter wants to whitelist me (i.e. give me an unlimited number of queries per day) any system of making global comparisons of all users would be unworkable.

Normally what I do is to contrast opposing groups: say atheists and Christians or anti choice and pro choice. Here's one I did on William Lane Craig and Stephen Law.

As to the specific query of Beyonce, she seems unpopular with AliveGPN. She didn't feature on the report. That said I ignore anyone with fewer than five shared followers, so there could be a few fans. Out of curiosity, how many of the other accounts mentioned in the blog post do you follow?

Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid unless someone in Twitter wants to whitelist me (i.e. give me an unlimited number of queries per day) any system of making global comparisons of all users would be unworkable.

Yeah, that seems to be a common comment among researchers: "If I had a bigger budget/more resources, I could do more/better research". So I understand and sympathize.

In case it wasn't clear, my point is simply that a given person may be popular among members of a group because that person espouses the group's goals, or simply because the person is popular among the population at large.

Having said that, upon reflection, it looks as though this probably isn't as much of a problem as I originally thought: this list of Twitter users with the most followers seems to be very heavily slanted toward entertainers, and the list you posted doesn't seem to have any. In other words, I'm guessing that the list you posted really does consist of people who share the group's goals, rather than "general" celebrities.

Out of curiosity, how many of the other accounts mentioned in the blog post do you follow?

I've checked, and Pontifex is the only one I follow.