Daniel J. Flynn writes:
Rather than the gentle, soft-spoken idealist portrayed by Sean Penn, the real Harvey Milk was a short-tempered demagogue who cynically invented stories of victimhood to advance his political career. During his successful run for city supervisor, for instance, Milk’s camera store was the object of a glass-shattering attack by low-grade explosives. Milk blamed singer Anita Bryant, the outspoken opponent of gay-friendly legislation.
“Years later friends hinted broadly that Harvey had more than a little foreknowledge that the explosions would happen,” biographer Randy Shilts noted. One friend explained to Shilts: “You gotta realize the campaign was sort of going slow, and, well . . .” (…)
Nine days prior to Milk’s death, more than 900 followers of Jim Jones—many of them campaign workers for Milk—perished in the most ghastly set of murder-suicides in modern history. Before the congregants of the Peoples Temple drank Jim Jones’s deadly Kool-Aid, Harvey Milk and much of San Francisco’s ruling class had already figuratively imbibed. Milk occasionally spoke at Jones’s San Francisco–based headquarters, promoted Jones through his newspaper columns, and defended the Peoples Temple from its growing legion of critics. Jones provided conscripted “volunteers” for Milk’s campaigns to distribute leaflets by the tens of thousands. Milk returned the favor by abusing his position of public trust on behalf of Jones’s criminal endeavors.
“Rev. Jones is widely known in the minority communities here and elsewhere as a man of the highest character, who has undertaken constructive remedies for social problems which have been amazing in their scope and effectiveness,” Supervisor Milk wrote President Jimmy Carter seven months before the Jonestown carnage. The purpose of Milk’s letter was to aid and abet his powerful supporter’s abduction of a six-year-old boy.
From Rick McGinnis’s review of Milk:
It took much longer for the connection between Jim Jones’ People’s Temple and Moscone and Milk to be recognized – the cult leader had made himself a major player in San Francisco city politics, and members of the Temple worked on Milk’s campaigns, though Milk was apparently wary of them. Moscone appointed Jones to the city’s Human Rights Commission in 1976 in gratitude for his help in getting him elected, and shut down the investigation into the Temple after Jones and his followers fled to Guyana. Jones was also a major supporter of Jerry Brown’s bid for the California governorship – such is the tangled web of progressive politics in San Francisco and California, and you can’t help but wonder why Van Sant’s film ends without a mention of Jones. (…)
Proposition 8’s opponents have made the classic mistake of turning a civil rights issue into one of human rights – a fallacy that might well be called the Canadian Error – and galvanized a reaction from undecided voters who might otherwise not have cared about gays entering into a marriage contract if they didn’t percieve a subsequent threat to religious rights in the bellicose rhetoric that’s become a default mode.