Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Advertising hate

Maine's Question 1, which repeals the state's legalization of same-sex marriage earlier this year has passed by a small margin. That makes me very unhappy. I expected it to be defeated.

I can respectfully agree to disagree with people who disapprove of homosexuality for religious reasons. And I've come across secular arguments against same-sex marriage that are intelligent enough to make me think, even if I don't agree with them.

But from my perch here halfway around the world in Taiwan, I hear from the media and my parents that Mainers have been subjected over the past month to all sorts of nonsensical hatred via their TVs and radios, warning them of emboldened queers coming up from out of state to prey on Maine's schoolchildren.

Now, I can't read the mind and look into the heart of every Mainer who voted "yes" on 1. I don't honestly know what influenced them. But if Question 1 had to pass, why did it have to pass following such an offensive "yes on 1" campaign? I hate the idea that someone might think this kind of ad campaign has been validated.

On my fantasy wish-list for humanity, I think I'd like to propose a "no hate-spewing political ads" rule, whereby every political action organization across the political spectrum agrees that political advertisements that encourage hatred against a segment of society cannot possibly do good. Want people to repeal gays' right to get married? By all means you can run TV spots advocating your position, but you gotta do exactly that: advocate your position. Don't feature ominous music and dark lighting to make viewers afraid of the vile faggot lurking round the corner, waiting to pounce on and seduce some pure-hearted straight children.

Sure, scaring voters may be a more effective use of dollars (AAAH! GAYS!). But if my fantasy wish-list came true, we'd all realize that it's bad for society. It increases public ambient hate and distrust. Some people might actually think the ads are real.

This applies across the political spectrum. If some extremely misguided gay rights group decided to make an ad that depicted conservative Protestants and Catholics and Mormons as threats to the well-being of same-sex couples, and used all the standard advertising tricks to make the viewer afraid of the hypothetical hate-filled religious person who could be living right next door, that ad would help us all to hate one another just a little bit more. It wouldn't do a bit of good to anyone.

There's too much ambient hate out there. If you use the powers of TV and radio to stoke it and encourage it to grow, you're just making things worse for everyone - and shaming whatever your cause happens to be.

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