For those who have not heard the deafening criticism of the refusal of networks to air United Church of Christ (UCC) ads on television, a link is here.
I think the networks are right.
In spite of the wave of condemnation and handwringing about censorship and political bias, I am going to break with my colleagues on the left and question the current hysteria.
Declining to show these ads was certainly a fair decision, and quite probably the right decision.
1) The ad in question is controversial. Sure it iss clever, but the basic message is clear-- the UCC accepts gays-- other churches don't.
The fact is that homosexuality, especially homosexuality in religion, is a very controversial subject. In our diverse society, we need to accept that there are deeply held disagreements over these issues.
These ads will upset people.
2) These are commercial television networks. People normally watch these networks for entertainment, not to have their deeply held religious and politcal beliefs challenged.
Further more the networks (being commercial) are businesses trying to make a profit. Running ads that will offend a segment of their viewers is not a reasonable expectation. This is not their role nor their responsibility.
I am all for offending people with my political views. There are plenty of forums for public discourse (A2K for example) where challenging political and religious beliefs (and having one's beliefs challenged) is expected and appropriate.
But commercial television advertisements are neither effective, nor appropriate for this purpose. Ads come at you, in your face, while you are intentionally watching something else. I consider ads that offend me in my own living room while I am watching the Simpsons really inappropriate.
Many people are accusing the networks of hypocrisy since they ran Swift Boat ads et. al. (and refuse the UCC ads). I don't think the comparison appropriate (although I would have not been upset if the Swift Boat ads were refused as well).
First the Swift Boat ads were political ads, during a political season. I thought they were stupid and perhaps even offensive, but they weren't attacking any of my religious or moral beliefs.
For a better comparison, imagine a truly similar ad from the CCU (a hypothetical conservative church).
An "unamed church" is shown with a revolving door. A young family with a clean-cut father, "pretty" mother in a dress and cute innocent 7 year old girl are standing outside watching.
Through the revolving door people who look like drug-users, and glam-rockers (including two men holding hands enter, and then leave looking the same, as the mom tries to cover the girls eyes.
The anouncer ends saying: "The Bible has standards, so do we".
Should the networks be able to refuse this ad?
To those who condemn the networks, I ask... do you really think that commercial television is the place to promote controversial values? I fear that people are coming down against the networks solely because this time the issue supports their own values.
In a pluralistic society, this makes me uncomfortable.