kottke.org posts about William McGowan

The Chickens and the BullsJul 17 2012

Writing for Slate, William McGowan tells the story of the Chickens and the Bulls, an extensive and brazen extortion ring that targetting prominent homosexuals (admirals, Congressmen, entertainers, etc.) and the NYPD & FBI investigators and prosecutors who put the kibosh on the whole thing with minimal exposure to the victims.

Though now almost forgotten, the case of "the Chickens and the Bulls" as the NYPD called it (or "Operation Homex," to the FBI), still stands as the most far-flung, most organized, and most brazen example of homosexual extortion in the nation's history. And while the Stonewall riot in June 1969 is considered by many to be the pivotal moment in gay civil rights, this case represents an important crux too, marking the first time that the law enforcement establishment actually worked on behalf of victimized gay men, instead of locking them up or shrugging.

The coda of the case is surprising...one of the members of the extortion ring became one of the gay movement's most powerful leaders.

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