mnmlist: #Pantigate: How an Irish drag queen demonstrated the full – fabulous – Streisand Effect
Less than a month ago, drag artist Rory O’Neill aka Panti Bliss, appeared on an Irish talk show on RTÉ and said that despite much positive change in attitude towards gay people, there remained some folk who are “really horrible and mean about gays”. The presenter asked O’Neill to name these people and he obliged, naming Irish Times columnist, John Waters as well as members of conservative Catholic lobby group, the Iona Institute, David Quinn, Breda O’Brien, Dr Patricia Casey, Dr John Murray and Maria Steen
In an unusual twist, the six instigated legal action against RTÉ and O’Neill, claiming damages at being labelled homophobic. The broadcaster cut some of the interview with O’Neill from their catch up service, broadcast an apology and handed over €85,000 to the six.
Panti, however, would not be silenced quite as easily. What happened next was textbook Streisand Effect as Panti, skillfully operating within the edges of Irish defamation law, reframed the discussion and deftly used social media to amplify the message – a definition of homophobia – far beyond the audience reached by the initial TV show.
Her video ‘Panti’s Noble Call’, a ten-minute speech on the stage of the national theatre, the Abbey, has been viewed over 300,000 times in the last week. The story has been picked up or endorsed by BBC, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Gawker, Madonna, Stephen Fry and thousands more. It has been translated into several languages, shown in classrooms and discussed in both houses of the Irish parliament as well as the European Parliament.
So, far from silencing a drag queen who called them homophobic, John Waters and the Iona Institute have inadvertently pushed themselves into the global spotlight. And the world really doesn’t like what it sees.