Sunday, January 31, 2010

The AFA Embraces Hypocrisy in Support of Pro-Life Super Bowl Ad

I decided to check in with the American Family Association to see if they had weighed in on the Tim Tebow/Focus on the Family Super Bowl ad controversy. I figured they wouldn't miss the chance for one of their famous action alerts, and sure enough:

Urge CBS to stand firm on airing pro-life Tebow Super Bowl ad
Our good friends at Focus on the Family have purchased time during this year's Super Bowl broadcast to air a compelling pro-life ad featuring Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and the decision his mother made 23 years ago to give birth to her unborn son when doctors were urging her to abort him.
CBS has come under withering fire from the left for its decision to air this ad. Joy Behar of "The View" even said abortion would have been an appropriate choice since there was no way for Tim's mom to know that he wouldn't grow up to be a "rapist pedophile."
I must have missed the meeting where we elected Joy Behar as the official spokeswoman for "the left". I'm also going to assume that what Joy meant was that 'don't ever have an abortion because you might give birth to a future college football star!' is not necessarily the world's best argument.

The hypocrisy here is thick. Abortion proponents claim to be all about choice, but they are outraged over an ad that features a woman exercising her right to choose life for her baby son.
Yes, of course that's precisely why we're outraged. As usual the AFA has its finger right on the pulse of the pro-choice movement. And apparently by "the hypocrisy here is thick", the AFA means here in this action alert:
Unfortunately, CBS sent a signal this week that it would be willing to accept "responsibly produced" ads that promote abortion or homosexuality. But a message that promotes death or sexual deviancy is not the moral equivalent of a message that celebrates life, and CBS must be urged to reject any such advocacy ads.

CBS needs to hear from all of us who support the decision to air the Tebow ad.
So while most feminist and liberal groups are arguing that if CBS is going to accept anti-choice ads, they should also be willing to accept advocacy ads from the other side of the political spectrum (several of which they've rejected in the past), the AFA is arguing that only ads that conform to their moral standards should be accepted. And while most feminists are simply asking that CBS clearly state exactly what their new policy is regarding advocacy ads so that the playing field is more level, the AFA is apparently fine with CBS cherry-picking ads and providing vague explanations as long as it means that only AFA-approved ads ever make the cut. And of course the morals card is used to justify their stance.

This morality argument was explored further in a post by Bryan Fischer on the AFA's blog.
Below is a letter I wrote today in response to a CBS affiliate manager in Roanoke, Virginia, who told a member of the AFA network that if a station chooses to air one advocacy ad (e.g., the Tim Tebow ad) they must be prepared to air any and all advocacy ads (e.g., an ad promoting abortion or a homosexual dating service.)

---

Dear Jeff,

One of our constituents was kind enough to forward on to us your reply regarding the airing of advocacy ads.
I can only imagine how thrilled Jeff's going to be when he receives our boy Bryan's letter.
I'd like to kindly challenge you on one point. You expressed that once one advocacy ad is aired, you have some kind of moral obligation to air all advocacy ads. But I'm quite sure you do not believe this in practice, for I'm guessing you would turn down an advocacy ad for the KKK or for neo-Nazis and feel quite correct in doing so. Please correct me if I am wrong.
I guess we should be glad that he compared a pro-choice ad to a neo-Nazi ad rather than just straight up going for the Hitler comparison.

Now what this means in practice is that if an ad represents a morally objectionable point of view in your judgment, you rightly feel quite free to reject the ad.

The bottom line here is that ads that promote abortion promote the practice of putting an innocent human life to death. Ads that promote the normalization of homosexual behavior promote behavior that is so dangerous and unhealthy that the FDA - hardly a right-wing religious organization - will not allow a man to donate blood if he has had sex with another male even a single time since 1977.

According to the CDC (again, not a right wing organization), homosexual behavior is the single greatest risk factor in acquiring HIV/AIDS. The second highest risk factor is IV drug use. You surely would not accept an ad that promoted IV drug use, but homosexual behavior is even more dangerous than that.

This would put you on solid moral, social and cultural ground to reject any such ads. An ad that celebrates life can hardly be considered the moral or social equivalent of an ad that promotes the death of unborn children or a dangerous and destructive lifestyle.
So are we all clear now? Anti-choice ads are innocent and beautiful celebrations of life, while pro-choice and pro-gay ads are morally bankrupt death orgies that may as well be promoting Nazism. It's so admirable that Bryan has the courage and compassion to look for common ground on this divisive issue.

Monday, January 4, 2010

My dirty secret: I watched Brokeback Mountain

More gay lawsuit media panic!

Earlier this month, a group of people filed a class action lawsuit against Netflix for releasing private information about Netflix users. One of the plaintiffs ("Jane Doe") is described in the complaint as "a lesbian, who does not what her sexuality nor interests in gay and lesbian themed films broadcast to the world". Much like the "Ron Livingston Sues Wikipedia For Calling Him Gay" drama (which was probably more about him being stalked and impersonated online than it was about gay rumors), the media is having a field day with this story:
Can Your Netflix Queue Reveal Sexual Orientation? [Switched]

Netflix Spilled Your Brokeback Mountain Secret, Lawsuit Claims [Wired]

Can Netflix Tell If You're Gay By the Movies You Rent? [The Frisky]

Netflix Revealed Lesbian Mom’s L Word Habit, Lawsuit Claims [Autostraddle]

Lesbian Sues Netflix Amid Privacy Concerns [Tom's Guide]
Netflix: Outing the Gay and Lesbian Community Since 2006 [Glass Houses]
Now, if you were to only read the titles of the articles covering this lawsuit, you would think that Jane Doe was the only plaintiff in the case and that the main issue was her secret homosexuality. Yet there are actually three other plaintiffs who are suing on behalf of more than 2 million Netflix customers.

Here's what actually happened: In September 2006, Netflix started a contest to create a movie recommendation algorithm that was more accurate than Netflix's own. They gave contestants "anonymized" data on 480,000 customers, including 100 million movie ratings, the date of the rating, subscriber IDs and other movie info, but according to the lawsuit the data wasn't anonymized enough. Shortly after the contest began, two researchers from the University of Texas compared the Netflix data to reviews posted in IMDB and were able to identify several Netflix users, including their political leanings and sexual orientation. (The contest was eventually won by "BellKor's Pragmatic Chaos", a team lead by AT&T researchers.)

The lawsuit has two main goals: First, to receive damages due to the fact that Netflix released personal data (that they should've known would be identifiable) therefore violating their privacy policy. Second, to try and stop Netflix from launching its next contest which would give out even more user information such as zip codes, ages and gender - making it even easier to identify users.

Now this sounds like a legitimate lawsuit about a pretty broad privacy violation... so why is the media selling it as a "OMG they made me look gay" panic story? Because between the straight forward (no pun intended) privacy issues, there is something referred to as "The 'Brokeback Mountain' Factor". No really, that's what they called it.

Here are some actual quotes from the complaint (pdf):
To some, renting a movie such as “Brokeback Mountain” or even “The Passion of the Christ” can be a personal issue that they would not want published to the world. [...]
A Netflix member’s movie data may reveal that member’s private information such as sexuality, religious beliefs, or political affiliations. Such data may also reveal a member’s personal struggles with issues such as domestic violence, adultery, alcoholism, or substance abuse. [...]
On a number of occasions, Plaintiff Doe has rented movies listed in the “Gay & Lesbian” section of Netflix’s movie categories. On other occasions, she has searched for and rented specific titles of movies that would be considered to be “gay-themed.”
Now, Plaintiff Doe does have a point... sort of. Sexual orientation is something that people might want to keep private and there are some people who might judge you based solely on your movie rentals. But the real issue here is the fact that Netflix revealed private information, period, not that renting gay-ish movies is some kind of shameful activity. I mean Brokeback Mountain won three Oscars (and was nominated for eight - the most that year) as well as a slew of other awards and accolades. It was ranked eighth among the highest-grossing romantic dramas of all time... so I guess there are a lot of people with the same dirty secret.
We're not discounting the fact that there are a lot of homophobic and hateful people out there... we're sure that Plaintiff Doe does have legitimate concerns about the potential harms of being outed, even based on circumstantial "evidence" like renting the L word. But yet, it still puts such a strong focus on sexual orientation needing to be kept secret, which is really only one piece of private information that Netflix potentially revealed and that is the issue. The privacy breech, not the gayness.

And yes, there are some bigoted people out there who might make judgments based on one's movie rentals, but really... since when do you have to be gay to enjoy a "gay-themed" movie like Brokeback Mountain? How much does your rental history really say about you? I can only imagine what one assumptions one might make about me based on my own viewing habits.

Let's take a look. Here is a recent sampling of my Blockbuster.com queue (sorry, no Netflix, so unfortunately I won't be seeing a penny of whatever settlement they come to):
Lord only knows what assumptions someone might make about me based on that list. Not only might you think I'm gay, but you might also suspect that I was a thirteen year old girl or that I had a crush on Jason Statham. (For the record: only one of those things is actually true.)