Yesterday, Hugh Hewitt linked a piece in the LA Weekly on what that alternative newspaper calls a “New Blacklist” in which certain corporations have bowed “to anti-gay Christian groups’ boycott demands.” Social conservative groups have successfully lobbied several corporations not to buy ads on such TV shows as Will & Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy or in gay magazines and on gay web sites.
One thing which struck Hugh about that piece also struck me. Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at the Annenberg School of Communication, called these groups’ actions a move toward “theocratic oligopoly,” part of a “drumbeat of religious fascism.”
I wonder if, five years ago, Mr. Kaplan said the same thing about the successful attempt by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and other activists to lobby companies not to buy ads on Dr. Laura’s television show.
If it’s part of a “drumbeat of religious fascism” for Christian groups to lobby corporations not to advertise on TV shows and in media they find offensive, then it would also be fascism (but of a different sort) for gay groups to similarly lobby. No one is forcing the private companies to listen to such groups. Corporate boards (and executives) respond to such lobbying based upon what they believe is in their best business interest.
That best interest tends to benefit gay people. As both the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and this blog have noted, the private sector has lead the way in improving workplace conditions for gay and lesbian Americans.
If Christians want to boycott companies because they don’t like their policies, they have the freedom to do so. The American Family Association ended its boycott against Disney because it failed to persuade that company to change its gay-friendly policies. Now, as Doug Ireland reports in the LA Weekly, Christian groups seem to be having some success, it becomes incumbent on gay organizations to lobby the corporations as the social conservatives have.
Perhaps, GLAAD can take on this responsibility. Or maybe there’s another group that is qualified to do so. Or perhaps we need a new group, one which focuses only on encouraging private companies to reach out to the gay and lesbian market. One which does have a political agenda, one which gay conservatives, like your humble blogger, can eagerly support. Many gay groups have been successful in lobbying corporations to adopt non-discrimination policies and to offer domestic partnership benefits to same-sex couples.
I’m not as disturbed as Mr. Ireland or Mr. Kaplan is about the success of these social conservative groups in influencing corporate policy. These groups are just exercising their market muscle. But, they are not the only ones who can speak out and pressure companies to change their policies. Gay groups have the same freedom that these Christian groups have; they should be doing exactly what the social conservatives are doing.
In the free market, if a socially conservative Christian does not wish to buy a product because the company which produces it has policies which he doesn’t like, he is free not to. Similarly, a gay man or lesbian can refuse to buy a product from a company whose policies he or she abhors. I know conservatives who won’t eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream just as I know liberals who won’t eat Domino’s Pizza. That’s their choice.
Mr. Kaplan and Mr. Ireland certainly have a right to be upset that some Christian groups are lobbying American corporations. Just as those groups get upset when gay organizations lobby the same corporations. But, to suggest that such actions represent some kind of “drumbeat of religious fascism” to is to misunderstand the free market. The Christian conservatives aren’t forcing me (or any other gay person for that matter) to buy a product from a Christian-friendly corporation, indeed, their actions may cause gay people to stop buying that company’s products. (Just as no one is forcing a Christian to buy products from a gay-friendly company.)
Just over four years ago, due in part to the activism of a number of gay groups, Paramount canceled Dr. Laura’s television show. If the current actions of certain Christian groups to lobby gay corporations represents a drive toward “theocratic oligopoly,” then the actions of those gay groups were similarly offensive.
I don’t take such a dismal view. Both Christian conservatives and gay activists are free to protest and to lobby. We retain the freedom to purchase the products we choose. And we can base our decisions on the quality of that product, the policies of the corporation which makes it or for whatever reason strikes our fancy. That’s not oligopoly. That’s not fascism. That’s freedom. And we should be grateful that we remain free to make such choices.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com