One-two Punch

By Choire Sicha

Originally published on Advocate.com September 09 2008 11:00 PM ET

“i’m normally not a very opinionated
blogger,” says Andy Towle. But during the lazy
days of August, at least two things seriously pissed off
the mild-mannered Web pioneer. Combined, the instances
positioned Towle as both attacker and the attacked and
underscored the influence of Towleroad, a site he
started five years ago primarily to keep in touch with
friends.

On August 18, the
antigay Catholic League complained to the Democratic
National Convention organizers that Towleroad (pronounced
“toll road”) was “anti-Catholic
and obscene” -- and requested that the site’s
press credentials for convention coverage be
rescinded. A press release from the Catholic group
complained that the blog “shows men in jock straps
and underwear” and that it takes the pope
“to task for wearing a cape with
ermine.” To which many gay Democratic Party staffers
most likely replied, “Of course it
does.” After all, those posts are partly what draws
such an active audience to the site, which logs a very
healthy 4.5 million page views per month. As one
visitor responded to Towle’s write-up about the
Catholic League press release: “Oooh, It is
ON!”

A few days
earlier Towle was really ticked off -- and the crowd went
wild.

A story by
Michael Joseph Gross in the September issue of Out
magazine, which identified a cofounder of the popular
gay hookup website Manhunt as a Republican, prompted Towle
to link to an item from The Huffington Post
saying that the same cofounder, Jonathan Crutchley, had
donated the maximum amount allowed by law, $2,300, to
John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Towle railed
against Crutchley for “collecting money from
thousands of gays and donating it to a presidential
candidate who would deny them status as equal
citizens.” And his readers roared back; more than 250
expressed their outrage at Manhunt and Crutchley in the
blog’s comments section, and many of them
promised to cancel their Manhunt memberships in
protest.

Just two days
later Larry Basile, Crutchley’s longtime business
partner, released a statement saying that Crutchley
had stepped down as chairman of the parent
company’s board.

Look out, Andy
Towle!

Now, Basile
didn’t say that Crutchley relinquished any ownership
of the corporation -- which is called Online Buddies
Inc. -- or that Crutchley would not retain any other
position. And it’s not clear how many -- if any
-- people canceled their Manhunt memberships in response to
Towleroad. But the whirlwind of activity invigorated Towle
as he flew into Denver to cover the convention.
“I didn’t fully understand the broad
simmering level of anger that was about to set the Manhunt
revolt in action,” he says. “I’m
continually amazed at the viral power of
blogging.”