Periodically our writers here update a kind of informal frequently asked questions about conservatism and The Issues. These are terms that are useful for people to know as they approach the question of understanding and acting upon politics.
As part of these, we have to understand tribalism. Identity contains two planks, innate and elective. Innate identity consists of a mosaic of religion, race, culture, ethnicity, and class. Elective identity comprises the life choices you make, like being a Star Trek fan (this metaphor was borrowed from Richard Spencer) or joining the Marines.
Sexuality fits into one of those two groups, depending on what you believe. In my experience, homosexuals come in three types:
However you slice it, sexuality becomes a part of tribal identity, and those who are gay do what other tribes do: form nepotistic cliques who then exclude outsiders to the extend of beating them down whenever possible.
If you want an illustration of why diversity cannot work, the gay mafia provides it, as does every other tribal group, including elective tribes. Politics, like sexual orientation, may be polycausal, with some born Left or Right by the nature of the inclinations, abilities, and attitudes encoded in their genes.
The gay mafia came to light in the modern press through the experience of Michael Ovitz, who blamed a gay mafia for sabotaging a somewhat unsteady business venture:
Ovitz says the decline wasn’t all his fault, but was caused by a conspiracy of a group he labels the “gay Mafia” whose members include the openly gay record mogul David Geffen.
“It was the goal of these people to eliminate me,” said Ovitz. “This business would have worked except for these five or six guys. They wanted to kill Michael Ovitz.”
Ovitz said the secret cabal also wrecked the three deals he set up to get backing for his struggling AMG group. AT&T had agreed to put in $150 million, but backed out at the last moment, and Disney also mysteriously spiked its $165 million investment deal. Diller also was going to plow in a like amount, with Universal’s backing, but also quit without explanation.
This presents classic tribal behavior: all other tribes are competition, so must be eliminated, and when members of those tribes become weak, all members of the tribe do their part to subvert, deceive, and vandalize them, even if in small ways.
A gay mafia member may pass along the wrong numbers at a board meeting, pretend to be ready to invest and then back out, slander the outsider in public, or commit simple everyday prole acts of sabotage like losing mail, dropping calls, and making bad coffee for the boss.
Some people refer to this as “gangstalking,” which has taken on an unsavory air of paranoid symbolic conspiracy, but may in some cases simply refer to people who encountered a hostile gang.
Others have pointed to a gay mafia within the Catholic Church that has protected sexual molesters through tribal unity:
I asked a Church insider why Cortinovis would quit so quickly. He agreed that it was “peculiar” and noted that Wuerl has cycled through a parade of priest secretaries. Having to do dirty work for a particularly touchy member of the Church’s Gay Mafia, he said, is an “awful job.” I remember I contacted Fr. Kennedy to ask about his hasty ouster from St. Ambrose. His response was downright bizarre. He has “nothing to do” with Wuerl, he explained, as if he was talking about the head of a crime syndicate. When I probed Kennedy further, he hung up on me.
“Donald Wuerl is a criminal and the archdiocese is a criminal enterprise,” an angry mother with children in a D.C. archdiocesan school said to me. “He sent a Gay Mafia priest to our children’s school and destroyed it.” I have heard many such stories from angry parents.
Yet Pope Francis, even as he pink-slipped Wuerl on Friday, had the gall to describe his tenure in glowing terms and praised the “nobility” of his quitting for what he implied were nothing more than good-faith “mistakes.”
Tribalists infiltrate every organization because as soon as you hire a member of the tribe, you have someone in the organization who will recommend others for hire, shift business their way, or bring them in as outsiders, trying to get them into the organization.
This happens because a tribalist alone finds himself prey for other tribes. He may be members of multiple tribes — the people in the Ovitz gay mafia were gay, Jewish, and of varied national origin — but his most specific tribal identity is where he is weak.
Members of other tribes may include him in their tribe, for example if he is Irish and so are they, but at some point, his gayness makes him an Other there, and so if the tribe is under stress, he is the member they will give up.
His position will not be secure until he has other members of his most specific tribe, which in this case is homosexuality. He may later defect to the Irish tribe if he thinks that tribe will support him more thoroughly, but usually, whatever is most specific is his point of weakness, so it is what he will defend.
In the case of the Catholic Church, a gay mafia infiltrated simply because to be both gay and Catholic is an unstable position, since the church adheres to Christian teachings which see homosexuality and sodomy as sinful.
That naturally attracts homosexuals who want to neutralize a force that is attacking their tribe.
At the end of the day, people join tribes (much as they join collectives, cliques, gangs, cults, herds, mobs, and throngs) out of self-interest. They need protection, and given the parts of their identity that are immutable need defending, this means that they need others of their tribe to be present and powerful in all organizations.
The self-help nature of tribalism came out in later stories about the Hollywood gay mafia and its members:
Truth is, many gay men will tell you that there most certainly is a Hollywood/media gay mafia — using that term or its synonym, “the velvet mafia” — whether or not they are members themselves. It’s made up of men such as DreamWorks cochair David Geffen and Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, plus many more lesser-known individuals. They are men of a certain generation and status who travel together, throw swanky parties and introduce young beautiful things to one another. In other words, it’s no different from the straight male mafia in Hollywood, where the casting couch for actresses is practically an institution.
“It’s a social thing,” says David Ehrenstein, author of Open Secret: Gay Hollywood 1928-1998 (William Morrow, 1998). “That’s really all.” Sure, it can help you in your career, just as networking on other social scenes can, particularly if you’re an actor who needs a break, or if you’re an agent who needs five minutes with a certain producer or whatever.
In other words, like all gangs, it benefits the individual to join. He will achieve protection but also have opportunities come his way. He gains a social group, which since most people spend most of their time at the job and therefore it is their only real social arena, saves him time that he can then dedicate to himself.
Gay mafias are like any other group. People join unions so that their own incompetence will be hidden and they will gain the benefits given to the group as a whole through collective reward; people join gangs to have something to do, people to defend them, and a source of income through illicit activity; people join cults to have others who understand them so that they are not so alone in the world, cognitively.
As part of this, the tribe must retaliate against any who stand in its way or challenge it, even if innocently, because only a trail of bodies convinces humans to respect an authority. Bill Maher noted this tendency in the entertainment gay mafia that crosses into politics:
FMR. REP. TOM DAVIS (R-VA): Because he gave $1,000 eight years ago and it’s come back to haunt him.
CARRIE SHEFFIELD, FORBES: Well, and he gave it when President Obama was still against gay marriage. So, I don’t think it’s very fair.
MAHER: Good point. Also, I think there is a gay mafia. I think if you cross them, you do get whacked.
Like organized crime, a tribe works by intimidating others; this provides preemptive defense, or a deterrent, to other tribes infringing on its territory or more importantly, threatening its members. When everyone in the tribe feels good, the tribe is strong.
For this reason, the tribe works to exclude anyone who might not be an ally, and works with allies until it needs what they have, at which point it works passively and later aggressively to exclude them.
Adam Carolla described the nature of tribes in his analysis of the gay mafia in the media industry which operates a clique with gang-like attributes:
If you can’t work with gay people, you’re gonna have a difficult time in Hollywood. There’s plenty of gay people, and they’re in positions above you. You’re not going to get your movie directed.
“I don’t have a problem with it — they’ve just turned into a mafia and demanding everyone apologize for every joke and retract every statement.
Tribes turn toward policing language because language influences thinking, a concept called “linguistic relativity.” If they allow you to use terms for them that are not explicitly positive, then you begin to be aligned against them.
For that reason, tribes rely on “offense” because it enables them to summon their hordes against any perceived intruder. If you say “homosexual” (clinical, therefore bad) instead of “gay” (positive, therefore good) you become an enemy in their mind.
Later they extend this to everything as a way of enforcing their own power. Each time someone causes offense, and is forced to back down and apologize, the tribe becomes stronger and other tribes become weaker.
This shows us the ultimate struggle of any tribe: only one tribe can rule, and if you are not ruling, you are subject to others, so every tribe strives to dominate the others. At first this happens through small and passive things, and later, escalates to Ovitz-style warfare.