On the Captain Jim video thing and reporting on homophobia

In response to the video featuring James “Captain Jim” Harkins of Atlantic Adventures yelling at cyclist Jay Riley and then using a homophobic slur, Harkins has suggested that the video has been edited to be deceiving and it does not show everything that happened. This is fair to consider, as both notorious bags of shit Andrew Breitbart and James O’Keefe have maliciously ruined careers with the aid of selective editing. That said, edited or not, Harkins was still shown using a homophobic slur and this issue exists on its own. Leaving the bicycle rights issue aside—and I can go on about how online outrage, even when it appears to not be constructive, can positively be utilized to compound pre-existing movements—that Jim resorted to employing homophobic slurs is disappointing enough to put former sponsors in the right for withdrawing their support for Harkins’ show.

I chatted about this aspect with my friend Justin Levesque. Justin has volunteered as a camp counselor at NEHA Family Camp, mentors LGBTQ youth, and now serves as Creative Director for The Hemophilia Alliance of Maine. He is also a co-director of a project called “FOLX” which provides education and resources for LGBTQ bleeders. By the time we had connected yesterday, I had seen an article in the Bangor Daily News about the incident, and one on WGME (in which Harkins didn’t much help his cause by suggesting it might have been easier should he have just run Riley over). There was also an article in the Press Herald which Justin was upset about because it didn’t include mention of the slur. (It would later be updated, which I will touch on shortly.) He had just complained to the paper about the omission.

Alex: The BDN piece refers to a slur. The Press Herald piece doesn’t. You suggest that omission is substantial, right? What does that indicate for you?

Justin: Cyclist/Motorist conflicts are an ongoing issue that lots of folks are trying to change. That’s not really the issue here. The anti-gay language shown in the video as the response of a prominent Maine business owner is unacceptable. I didn’t catch any of the TV news coverage but when I saw the PPH article without a single reference to the video (and the language), I was pissed. That’s some tricky reporting, right there. The events are completely mischaracterized. The BDN article mentioned a slur was used but for whatever reason didn’t mention that it was anti-gay. For some reason, the issue is being avoided.

But I think this indicates there’s some other force at work here influencing the story and it makes clear that the news is not gospel. I think both papers have written articles heralding Mr. Harkins as a kind of local hero. There’s a TV show about him. He’s an archetype of the success of the Maine fishing industry. To previously have reported on him with such esteem and then later have to report his use of anti-gay language is not great for image.

Alex: Is it that blatant, or is it that it is, for whatever reason, not apparent to the news that the slurs themselves—their use—is part of what is ultimately offensive. That this is a bike issue and an issue where it has become clear that some dudes are using language like this? That the issue is being seen from a straight lens of some sort?

Justin: Maine folks need to realize that just because we passed “gay marriage” doesn’t mean that we can wipe our hands clean on the issues that face LGBTQ people in Maine.

Alex: Or maybe there is, based on those suggestions, an inability to see it for the issue it is? The way he is presenting it – the Captain – is that this video was edited in a misleading way, but the fact remains that he used “gay” as a slur to talk shit to this kid.

Justin: A bike issue is an easier story to cover. It doesn’t matter if the video is edited or not. It doesn’t even matter if Jay called the Captain an asshole. I [get called an asshole] riding on my bike down marginal way pretty much every time. But when folks resort to anti-gay language, whether it’s a learned defacto response for in the heat of the moment insults… and that insult is coming from a member of the community who receives endorsements. Then we have a big issue.

An iteration of the Press Herald article [that has since been revised] came out a few hours later and it featured an acknowledgement by Harkins that the homophobic slur was inappropriate. “I should have just called him a punk or something,” he said.

Justin sent me a message acknowledging the dark humor Harkins was likely unaware of when he made the suggestion:

It’s funny because: “a. Slang: A young man who is the sexual partner of an older man. b. Archaic: A prostitute.” Hah.

Or as the late William Burroughs, who is credited with the assignment of the word to the modern subculture, told Legs McNeil: “I always thought a punk was someone who took it up the ass.”

Update (June 7, 12:31): The cyclist, Jay Riley, reached out and sent me the following message, explaining he feels as though the WGME piece, while appreciated, didn’t fully represent his position on the slur:

[In the interview] I went into lengthy detail about how I feel the “gay” comment was a huge issue in itself and the bicycle a separate. I support gay and lesbian rights and the fair treatment of everyone. I posed it to one reporter that if I was gay it would have blown up even larger but because I am heterosexual the media felt it was okay to basically not cover that attack.

I posted… to [Atlantic Adventures’ FB page and it said “I am not gay, but even if I was it’s OK. Your Hate is not tolerable.” This disappeared when he deleted the facebook page.

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Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.