Talk show host and social media activist Jeff 4 Justice is a man with a plan, taking on Prop 8 supporters in his hometown of Yuba City, California, one YouTube video at a time. In each video, Jeff 4 Justice visits individuals who donated large sums of money to the Prop 8 campaign in 2008 and “surprises” them with flowers and a personal note. The note reads: “Dear Sweetie, I hope you spent as much money donating to help the poor as you wasted on preventing gay and lesbian couples from having the freedom to marry back in 2008. Sincerely, Jeff.” The reactions? A variation of door slamming, angry rants and general avoidance.
Jeff 4 Justice began working as an independent vlogger on YouTube in 2011 and made a name for himself by filming interviews with well-known celebrities both inside and out of the SUV he calls home. He has interviewed such individuals as Chaz Bono, Christian Chavez, Dr. Cornel West and Goo Goo Dolls lead singer John Rzeznik. In an email interview with NMR, Jeff 4 Justice shares why he chose to use pranks to stand up to homophobes and why one-size-fits-all activism just doesn’t work.
Why did you decide to use YouTube and pranks to address the issues of Prop 8 in your hometown?
Jeff 4 Justice: Before starting the first visible LGBT group in my hometown, I read a news story in my local paper about Randy Thomasson of Save California (formerly Campaign for California Families) visiting my hometown and encouraging locals to oppose AB205 — the domestic partners bill. After starting the group in the summer of 2003, remembering Thomasson’s visit and not doing anything, I vowed that anytime anti-LGBT people showed up in my hometown I would counter-demonstrate them one way or another. The next time Thomasson visited was 2005 and this time I counter-demonstrated his event with some LGBT locals and allies.
Fast forward to 2008, I left my hometown for the first time as an adult and was employed as a NO on 8 volunteer recruiter in San Francisco and Sacramento. Having dedicated so much of my life to bettering the LGBT community, it drove me nuts not to be in my hometown during the campaign. I worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week so I had little time to get there. But I did get there a little bit on my days off to organize phone banks. After the campaign I relocated to the Bay Area through 2011. My hometown paper did a story on the Yes on 8 donors, and I was disgusted at how much money the local businesses spent especially since Yuba-Sutter was an economically challenged area before the economy went bad nationwide. Couldn’t they have given their employees’ businesses or donated to a homeless shelter instead? In the summer of 2011, I returned to my hometown and in the back of my mind I knew I must confront the Yes on 8 donors. By then I had started my YouTube channel. Perhaps the creative Michael Moore-activist-type video maker in me thought it would be a creative way to symbolically show these donors how they hurt gay people. By pretending to be a flower delivery person, I get their hopes up. Then they read the letter and are admonished for their Yes on 8 support. To me this puts them in the shoes of the gay people who they stole the joy from by taking away their freedom to marry.
During the first prank, were you nervous about the reactions? What has been the worst reaction you have gotten so far?
I am always simultaneously nervous and ballsy when doing stuff like this. It’s human nature to not like confrontation, but I feel it’s necessary to stand up to homophobes. Most of them I pranked seemed upset. I certainly don’t expect to change their minds necessarily. I more so just want to stand up to them. I don’t need to change their mind anyway; polls show gays are winning now.
What do you hope the people you’re pranking take away from the prank? What do you hope people take away from the videos?
What I did has been reacted to with mixed views. Some people think it’s great, some think it’s wrong to put the Yes on 8 folks on the spot. What they did was so harmful to LGBT people; it is far worse than anything I could do to them. I just did it to stand up to them and make a symbolic point. If people like the vid, they could do a prank too. If people don’t like the vid, then I say go do the type of activism you feel is best. I’ve done all types of activism in my decade as an activist — sometimes calm and civil and sometimes aggressive. It’s up to each person to express themselves as they see fit. I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all activism.
Why is making these videos (a unpaid side project) so important to you?
I have been a YouTuber since January 2011, and I do it more than anything to express myself and find like-minded people. I feel I am a minority of minorities: I am gay, overweight, I live out of my SUV instead of traditional housing, and I vote outside the two-party system. I think I’d have a more successful channel if my content was not so controversial. I even speak out against the LGBT community at times on topics like racism, classism, elitism, anti-feminism and waste by LGBT mega-groups. But I always find people out there who feel the same way as me and that helps keep me sane.
What are your upcoming plans for Jeff 4 Justice?
My YouTube channel is a mix of celebrity interviews, commentary on social issues, and activism. I feel like the equivalent of a comedian or singer out there trying to make it and build my fan base. I am a one-person crew living out of my SUV (sometimes a friend helps me record). While I’m in the league of an upcoming YouTuber, I am approaching half a million views. If that was album sales that’d be impressive, LOL. But most of all I just keep making vids to keep my sanity by wearing my emotions on my sleeve and being my most authentic self.
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