Justin on TV, in the papers

Yesterday morning, Santa Rosa’s local news station, KFTY TV50, interviewed me about my Exodus billboard parody and the ACLU’s involvement in defending my freedom of speech.

A friend of mine, Kyle Rankin, conveniently the author of Linux Multimedia Hacks (published by my employer, O’Reilly Media, Inc.), offered to record the segment on his Archos AV430 so that I could see it (and put it up here on my blog). Enjoy.

Justin Watt on Santa Rosa KFTY TV50

Oh yeah, on page 3B of today’s USA Today (Friday, March 24, 2006), there’s an article by Jon Swartz on the case with the headline: Christian group Exodus backs off infringement case against blog parody (also available via Yahoo News).

Update: on page C7 of today’s New York Times (Monday, March 27, 2006), there’s an article by Lia Miller with the snarkalicious headline: Both Sides in Parody Dispute Agree on a Term: Unhappy (with a screenshot of Justinsomnia in the print edition!)

Update: OK, it’s not every day that a screenshot of your blog is printed in the New York Times, so for anyone who wasn’t able to see a print copy, here it is scanned in:

Scan of 'Both Sides in Parody Dispute Agree on a Term: Unhappy' article from the New York Times

psst: My name is actually spelled Justin Watt.

Here’s the full text:

Both Sides in Parody Dispute Agree on a Term: Unhappy
By Lia Miller
Published: March 27, 2006

Last September, Justin Watt, a blogger based in Northern California, posted an altered version of a billboard on his Web site, justinsomnia.org. He was mocking an advertisement for Exodus International, a Christian organization whose objective is to make gay people heterosexual through religion and counseling.

Earlier this month, Mr. Watt found out how serious Exodus was, even about parody: he and another Web site that posted his parody received cease and desist letters from Liberty Counsel, a law firm representing Exodus International, asking them to take down the image and stop using Exodus’s logo.

The Exodus billboard, which was placed on roadsides throughout the country, read “Gay? Unhappy? www.exodus.to.”

Mr. Watt, who is not gay, decided to protest the message by posting an image of the billboard on his site, altering it to read “Straight? Unhappy? www.gay.com”

“The original billboard is ridiculous to me, but you really understand that it becomes a ridiculous claim when you see it put the other way,” he said.

Mr. Watt, who is now being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, erased the Exodus logo from the image but did not take down the parody.

Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International, said the group did not want someone to think that it had endorsed the image. And he says he has no problem with it now that the logo is gone.

“I’m a fan of parody myself, I watch ‘Saturday Night Live,’ I read The Onion, it’s funny. But when it gets too close to something that could be misconstrued as ours by someone looking for help. I take issue with that,” he said. Mathew D. Staver, the president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, maintains that its only concern was to get the logo removed. On Friday, Exodus dropped its case against Mr. Watt.

But Tamara Lange, a senior staff lawyer with the A.C.L.U. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project, said that the point of the initial letter from Liberty Counsel was clearly not just about the logo. “It’s no surprise that they are backtracking now that their scare tactics didn’t work. The original letter from them was an attempt to make Justin take down his criticism.”

Mr. Watt said he was mainly happy that his message made an impression. “It’s bothersome that you could market in some way that you really target a minority group that already is underprivileged. It’s marketing in such a way to make someone feel bad about who they are.”


LOL justinsonoma.org

Glad to hear they’re dropping the complaint. :)

I was kind of hoping they would push on so you could crucify both them and The Liberty Council under CA’s malicious prosecution laws.

I’m glad to hear everything turned out well, Justin. Keep on fighting the good fight.

P.S. – A friend and I started a pro-ACLU blog yesterday, and you’re our second feature! Congrats!


i’m somewhere between a giggle and a cackle… well played justin!

What more can I say? Proud of you, Justin…not that I’d have expected any less.

Peter, justinsonoma.org is available! However I don’t expect the TV50 news report is going to drive any significant traffic there. But what a great misread of the teleprompter.

Angry Fag, I have to admit, me too. SLAPPing them back would have been fun.

Capt. Rational, many thanks.

Sommer and Jason, damn this has been exhausting. Luckily I was partly on vacation this week, but sheesh. Cranking the PR machine is hard freaking work.

Wow, smart AND a hottie! Way to be, Justin!
Chalker Cross in Los Angeles

Look at you!
We have been having an ongoing discussion at our house about when it is appropriate to fight back, when to back down, and how to tell the difference. Thanks for providing an excellent “real life example” for a growing girl.


Justin, what you said in your interview was brilliant, concise, and right on. Thank you.


Bravo, Justin!

Good for you, Justin. From violent intimidation of Danish newspapers to Tom Cruise deep-sixing South Park episodes, someone has to stand up to this sustained assault on our freedom of speech from the more unreal elements of the “faith based community”.

CSG, of course that’s something I’ve always struggled with, and I don’t always get right. I empathize with the frustrations of your growing girl.

I remember reading the serentity prayer for the first time in Slaughterhouse Five during high school and it was something of a revelation to me.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Thanks Peter, I’m doing my darnedest.

[…] This morning on page C7 or online. In fact, a lot of news is covering Justin on this one. […]

Holy Christianite Batman!

Your all over the Hitlernet.
I will expect to see you on the nightly news tonite.

You better be careful with these crazy Christian Groups!
They probably have a “contract” out on your head!

Be very weary if you suddenly receive an ISH on your front door step!

I first heard about this in the New York Times (online), and was glad to hear that Exodus has backed off. The day may eventually come when we’re no longer allowed to poke fun at such things, but for now, we’re protected. Thanks for making an example of yourself.

This whole things just shows how uptight the Christian groups are. Jeez.

congrats justin, glad you won, glad most of the world is sane

Congrats on the NYT article. It reminds me why blogs are so important. Because they are real time – almost – and because they provide archived context you can understand some important truths. All you have to do is go back to the first post and read to the most recent one. You get special metadata that newspaper article can NEVER provide. Unless they become blogs that is.

If I had just read the NYT article about your parody I would have thought Exodus and Liberty Council weren’t acting that bad. I might actually *believe* Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International, when he said all he cared about was the trademark. IF that was the case Liberty Council would have written a letter that said only that. Ah… how unfair and balanced!

You are a excellent role model Justin. But don’t worry. Just continue being yourself. :)


hey justin,

Read the article in the ny times this morning. As others have commented, “good for you” for speaking out … !!!!!!



two words: flippin rad!

[…] This is the story of a clever parody and a mean, trickster bully – and fortunately David in this case had the good sense to sick the ACLU on Goliath’s dumb butt! Yeah! Score one for the good guys!! What I’m referring to is Jason Watt’s parody of the Exodus.to IRL billboards that read “Gay? Unhappy?” and direct you to a website – a site that will not help you cope with depression related to being treated like crap by religious freaks and homophobes, but one that will help the groups, need to inflict their beliefs on others at all costs and convert all those gay people to straightness through Jesus. […]

Good job Justin
Keep up the good work


I don’t see your recent ads. I just found this regarding the Exodus bullshit! I love it! Keep up the good work man! I want to thank you from the GLBT side for being a upstanding and educated hetro in our fight for civil rights! Thanks!


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