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Saturday, April 26, 2014

OSU student discusses reaction to his anti-gay posts

OSU student newspaper headline about Bret Barlow's anti-gay posts, Barometer 4/14/2014, p. 1

PHOTO: I discussed The Oregon State University student newspaper's front page headline story by Tori Hittner, "Candidate admits to posting anti-gay slurs," Oregon State University Barometer, Apr. 14, 2014, p. 1, 4 in my previous posts OSU student posts anti-gay slur and plays 'victim role' before Lars Larson radio show (4/17/14 and OSU staff addresses anti-gay posts in letter to student paper (4/19/14). Nobody I am aware of asked the student for an apology, but the student newspaper received from the student and printed his letter to the editor by Bret Barlow, "Regarding candidate Bret Barlow's inflammatory comment," OSU Barometer, Apr. 25, 2014, p. 7

Barlow reaches out, apologizes to LGBTQ community

My fellow students of Oregon State University, allow me to formally introduce myself: I am Bret Barlow, former candidate for Associated Students of Oregon State University. After much time dedicated to reflection, I feel this is now the time to finally respond to all of you.

The reason I have stayed quiet this last week is because I wanted to wait until the anger subsided, as dialogue can never happen with intense personal emotion, and I did not want the election to make people feel that I am doing this to save my chances at winning.

It's obvious to me that it cannot happen, as there's deep anger over my lack of response from the fallout of this attention. What I will say, is that I have been attempting to reach out to leaders of the LGBTQ community to apologize.

These attempts have been largely a failure. However, the response I did receive informed me the best way was to go through Student Media.

Therefore, I am sorry for this heartless post and page I was a part of. There is no excuse for what I did and I hope now we can all begin the process of healing as we move forward to a better tomorrow. With this said, we can no longer argue about the past, as we have done over the last few days.

Watching from the distance as the university almost tears itself apart over this has saddened and angered me as I thought we, as a university, were better than this.

As a high note though, I will admit though that I am grateful of how united the LGBTQ community has been over this, as well as how much restraint they showed. You all should feel proud of your community as it is strong and united.

With best regards, Bret Barlow, Junior, digital communication arts

(Quoted from Bret Barlow, "Regarding candidate Bret Barlow's inflammatory comment," OSU Barometer, Apr. 25, 2014, p. 7)

Next to Bret's letter, the student newspaper also published a letter by Sam Kelly-Quattrocchi, ASOSU Director of Queer Affairs, "Regarding the April 23 editorial, 'We actually don't say,'" OSU Barometer, Apr. 25, 2014, p. 7, which defended using this situation as motivation for their previously discussed educational campaign.

I sense from student Bret Barlow's letter to the editor that he is still unsure of himself because his language awkwardly mimics the "politically correct" language that is often used today in university and business environments, nobly to be polite. However, the danger comes when politically correct language is used cynically or without agreement or understanding of its true meaning, which can lead to miscommunication and resentment. I do not fault him for being unsure.

Commendably, Bret's letter did not try to portray himself in the "victim role" as he did at first, however, he did admit to having been "sadden and angered" over "watching the university almost tear itself apart over this" because he "thought, we as a university, were better than this" and he was also "grateful of how united the LGBTQ community has been over this, as well as how much restraint they showed." Likewise, he explained his belated response as being due to wanting to "wait until the anger subsided" toward what I assume is him.

Although I will give Bret the benefit of the doubt that he intended his letter's observations as a compliment, different people might interpret or misinterpret Bret's letter. For example, I believe some people might view what Bret said as a back-handed compliment because it echoes an old homophobic fear that there is a unified "gay mafia" secretly controlling government and society -- a fear that was central to the 1950's anti-communist and anti-gay witch-hunts led by Senator Joe McCarthy and the FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover -- and more recently the right-wing fear that Hollywood and the media are controlled by "angry" gay liberals out for revenge.

Unless Bret Barlow demonstrates otherwise, I accept his apology and see his situation as being a good sign of progress because a half-century ago nobody would have objected to similar anti-gay comments for fear of themselves being accused of being gay and then shunned by society.

My letter to the editor and a letter in response to the original incident were previously published as follows:

UPDATE 5/1/2014 related links of interest:

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