Having recently gotten back from an extended trip abroad, I searched and searched the Internet for blog-worthy items about the Western Sahara and was on the verge of concluding that Will, Alle, et al. had comprehensively taken care of business when I ran across a strange tale of J. Peter Segall and Edward M. Gabriel from early April that somehow missed their radar. Thanks guys for leaving one for me (or could it be that you did not consider it a blog-worthy item?). Anyway….
Now Ed Gabriel is familiar to my readers as the former American ambassador to
On April 1 the following “in memoriam” ad for Mr. Gabriel appeared in the Washington Post below his smiling mustachioed face: “Though I no longer have you as my partner, this day will always be OUR anniversary. . . . I could never quit you.” Before you construe my nasty words about Mr. Gabriel in the previous paragraph as tasteless trashing of a dead man, let me quickly add that the ad was an April Fools joke and that Mr. Gabriel is not in fact dead (you can still construe it as tasteless trashing of a live man if you like).
In the spirit of aprilfoolery, the Post on April 2, in an article titled “A ‘Death’ is Noticed,” explained that Edward M. Gabriel, an “international business consultant who was the U.S. ambassador to Morocco from 1997 to 2001,” was “very much alive”; that the ad, “in language reminiscent of the movie ‘Brokeback Mountain,’” was a hoax; and that the one who took out the ad, public relations executive and lawyer J. Peter Segall, was paying for a retraction in that day’s Post.
Other than Mr. Gabriel’s obvious association with
According to the Post article, poor Ed “fielded calls all day from friends who thought he had died. One woman told him she spent two hours crying after seeing the ad.” An apparently mortified Segall explained, “As I said in a correction that I hope is published [today], I engaged in a very stupid and ultimately cruel April Fools' joke against a man that has been my best friend for 30 years, and I deeply, deeply regret it." And Gabriel elaborates, “He's an old friend who plays jokes on me every year, and some are hilarious, but they've been private….He's a good friend who went a little too far. He's apologized profusely, and I've accepted it, but not without being a little hurt. I think -- I know -- he had no ill intent.” Summarizing the whole episode, “Segall said,” according to the Post “that he is a mature man who made an immature mistake.” Given the utter stupidity and silliness of publishing a gay death hoax about a friend in the Washington Post, I would say that Segall’s maturity is certainly open to question -- especially since he is a high-level executive for one of the biggest and most influential PR firms in the world.
And what in the world is the homosexuality angle all about? While Segall’s ad does seem to insinuate a gay relationship (“though I no longer have you as my partner…”), the Washington Post article takes it a step further by making the connection with “Brokeback Mountain” (“in language reminiscent of the movie ‘Brokeback Mountain’”), a popular recent movie about two married cowboys who carry on a long-time gay love affair behind the backs of their wives. The language in question in Segall’s ad, by the way, is “I could never quit you,” which is indeed reminiscent of Brokeback’s “I wish I knew how to quit you.”
Let me preface this paragraph with a disclaimer that I couldn’t care less about Segall, Gabriel, or anyone else’s sexual orientation. I just find it incredibly strange that Segall would pull a public gay spoof on his old friend when, first of all, Gabriel is married (to Democratic Party operative and tobacco industry lobbyist, Kathleen “Buffy” Linehan), and, secondly, both these guys lobby and do PR for Morocco, where homosexual relations are illegal and can land you in jail for up to three years (Section 489 of the Moroccan Penal Code). With Edelman’s
This whole silly April Fools episode strikes me as sadly symbolic of the tragic dilemma in which the
I can’t help but be left with an image of J. Peter Segall and Edward M. Gabriel in their tight blue jeans sitting around a campfire on a dark stormy night on Brokeback Mountain concocting new and exciting schemes to screw the Sahrawi.
As an aside, in confirming that Gabriel was in fact married, I ran across some tidbits online about Gabriel’s wife, Buffy, that are interesting in the context of this story. In 1992, as head of Philip Morris’s lobbying group, she was deposed in a lawsuit against B.J. Reynolds Tobacco (KUEPER v. R.J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO CO). Sourcewatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, comments about her deposition: “…Linehan indicated that she was involved in lobbying against the banning of smoking on commercial aircraft, and that she does not consider the health consequences of the product she is lobbying (cigarettes).” And at another deposition in 1995, Sourcewatch adds that “Linehan stated that she did not believe that cigarette smoking is addictive.” Buffy and Ed really do seem made for each other; both are lobbyists who get paid for actively promoting products (cigarettes and Morocco) that spread misery and death, and neither is willing to consider the human consequences of their actions.