Why I oppose the effort to get Orbitz to cease advertising on Fox News
May 19th, 2011
A collection of gay and progressive groups have banded together to demand that Orbitz Travel not advertise on the Fox News Channel. The coalition consists of:
- Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
- Courage Campaign (a multi-issue advocacy organization seeking progressive change in California)
- Equality Matters (a new media and communications initiative in support of gay equality)
Here is the reasoning:
Fox News has a conservative bias. It tends not to be pro-gay but to instead give a voice to those, like Bill O’Reilly, who are conservative and do not speak out as favorably on gay rights issues as we would wish. Therefore they should not receive any ad revenue from companies that want gay customers.
Fox News demonstrated an indefensible bias in its coverage of core issues for the LGBT community. An analysis of coverage on everything from gay marriage to the repeal of DADT to gay individuals supports a conclusion that Fox’s coverage is driven by a political agenda and cannot be considered an objective news source.
Or, as the more histrionic dropfox.com put it:
Fox News gave Mike Huckabee his own show despite a history of comparing homosexuality to drug abuse, incest, pedophilia, and necrophilia. Huckabee has repeatedly used his Fox platform to campaign against gay marriage, even insultingly suggesting that marriage equality poses a threat to stable society.
Bill O’ Reilly has repeatedly used his popular and prime time show to warn against the “dangers” of allowing gay people near children, to assert that same-sex marriage could lead to nuptials with turtles, ducks or dolphins, and to baselessly claim that implementing a hate crimes bill could protect pedophiles.
First, it’s pretty clear that those who are leading this campaign have never ever actually watched any of the programs about which they complain.
Their depiction of Bill O’Reilly, for example, is so far from reality that it embarrasses me for my community. While O’Reilly is by no means an advocate for our community and opposes basic equality, he has also advocated for the end of DADT, has spoken favorably at times about civil unions, and conditionally supports gay adoption. He is not “progressive” in his views, but they are not outside the realm of reasonable political positioning.
O’Reilly is prejudiced, biased, and opinionated, but his show also features regular guests, like Margaret Hoover, who use that time to argue in favor of marriage equality and other pro-gay positions. And I would argue that more conservative families have been exposed to pro-gay arguments – made by conservatives – through The O’Reilly Factor than by any other venue.
The sort of caracatures that this coalition set up are best left for the Peter LaBarberas and Linda Harveys of the world, not for organizations which purport to be advocating for accurate portrayal of gay people or for equality for all.
But I don’t think the anti-gay defamation or marriage equality really have much at all to do with this campaign. These organizations don’t like Fox’s perspective or viewpoint – in general – and want to silence the network. The gay angle is just convenient. So they are seeking to pressure a gay-supportive company to stop advertising with Fox (and you can be sure that it won’t stop with Orbitz).
And this campaign cares nothing for the fact that at least a third of gay Americans are not “progressive”. While these openly gay Americans may object to statements made on Fox, they do share many of their underlying values and perspectives. But that is ignored.
“You can’t appeal both to gay customers and conservative customers!” this campaign tells Orbitz, “so you must choose what kind of customers you want!”
And that is the sort of stupid, hard pressure, arrogant nonsense that only feeds anti-gay activists with the ammunition that they need to portray our community as intolerant, demanding, and totalitarian. Because this tactic IS intolerant, demanding, and totalitarian.
If we disagree with O’Reilly – and we do – then let’s challenge his views. Let’s demand that he retract extremist positions. And let’s inform his specific advertisers of where he is taking positions or making statements that are offensive and based in prejudice and fear.
But demanding that those who like us must also hate those we hate has not been an effective strategy since sixth grade. And frankly, if we go down that path we may find ourselves losing more friends than they do. Most successful business people don’t respond well to bullies.