Sunday, January 31, 2010

That Superbowl Ad

Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon has an interesting theory about Focus on the Family's anti-abortion ad that's going to be shown during the Super Bowl.

The ad is not available online yet, but it is said to be about a football player, Tim Tebow, and how his mother's doctors had told her she needed to have an abortion when she was carrying him, for medical reasons. But she didn't do it, and now look! He's a football star. I am not sure of the logic here, is the point that the many paths of destiny have converged to bring us this one fantastic human being? I am surrounded by former fetuses that were not aborted or lost in miscarriage, I work with them, ride the train with them, they live in my neighborhood, and I notice that unaborted fetuses tend to grow into ordinary schmoes. There was also no noticeable shortage of football stars before this guy came along.

The lady had a choice to make, she made it, and now they are using that to demonstrate why other women should not be allowed to make that choice. I believe that understanding this example requires a brain unlike mine, an entirely different anatomical structure, I really don't get it on any level.

Amanda Marcotte:
There’s been a lot of talk about how Focus on Family---which has been on the financial brink and has had to lay off a lot of its workforce---is stupid to spend $2.5 million on the ad time alone for this anti-choice Tim Tebow ad. But CBS has had the rule against political advocacy ads for awhile now, and even as recently as last year, they denied an almost identical anti-choice ad, generating the usual faux outrage on the right. Is it possible that Focus on Family made the ad with the intention of it getting rejected?

Think about it. The ad gets rejected, and so they’re “forced” to put it on a website and send out a mailer about it, with a fund-raising appeal attached. The pose they affect is the absolute favorite one of wingnuts, which is that they’re victims of the evil liberal mafia that controls everything. It’s a very effective fund-raising ploy, and goes a long way to explaining why Pat Robertson is always there in a crisis, saying something horrible that gets everyone up in arms. “We piss off the liberals!” is exactly the sort of thing that opens wingnut wallets. But the plan was thwarted when CBS actually accepted the ad, probably in part because they don’t want to have to go through this crap every year with the antis. Tim Tebow ad thought

I had never thought of it this way. I figured, CBS is a person now, maybe he or she just liked the ad. No, really, I assumed there were conservative people making the editorial decisions, or they felt that anti-abortion dollars would be good for business, or something, it never occurred to me that CBS accepted the ad to bankrupt Focus on the Family and take the wind out of their sails. But I like it.

Marcotte elaborates:
Of course, the gamble was probably a “win-win” thing in their minds. If the ad is accepted, they get a bunch of free press and win. But if the ad is rejected, they get a bunch of free press and win. But in the latter scenario, the fund-raising appeal is strengthened and they don’t have to spend $2.5 million on the ad space. Now, the fund-raising appeal is weaker. They’re going to have to go with, “They tried to censor us!” instead of saying they were actually censored. Of course, to the wingnut mind, feminists even having the nerve to speak out is horrible anti-Christian oppression, so perhaps this is a distinction that’s too fine for them. Still, I have to think that actually being prevented from running the ad has more oomph than running the ad and getting criticized.

I keep thinking about the logic of this ad. I think the point is that we are supposed to imagine what a loss it would be if Tim Tebow had not been born. But the world is populated with real people, it is nonsense to speculate about possible people who might have been, and their wonderful possible accomplishments. If one unaborted fetus in a gazillion grows up to be a football star, that just means that a gazillion minus one didn't, doesn't it?

And of course the complementary example could be proposed: what if Adolph Hitler's mother had had an abortion? If there is logic to this sort of example, it works equally well in both directions.

There are so many ways of looking at this example, and none of them even begins to convince me that women, once impregnated, should be forced by law to give birth. I wouldn't mind if they ran an ad that made sense, even some "abortion is murder" kind of thing, but this example simply offends the intellect.

One more important paragraph from Amanda:
I’m not taking a “ignore them and they’ll go away” approach, of course. But I do wish that more of the feminist response had been centered around the inherent contradiction of anti-choicers celebrating choice, and less in demanding that CBS not run the ad. There’s a strong possibility that the more Focus on Family does stuff like this, the closer they get to bankruptcy, after all. But more to the point, instead of playing the role of censor in their fund-raising appeals, we could continue to point out that they’re buying into the pro-choice framework, and that if women like Pam Tebow don’t have a choice, they don’t get to be heroes. Just victims.


Blogger David S. Fishback said...

I heard one report that CBS and Focus on the Family had been negotiating for months on the actual wording of the ad. Perhaps CBS figured it would not be a problem if all the ad did was to encourage women to choose to proceed with at-risk pregnancies. If the ad itself does not attack a woman's right to choose, then perhaps, in CBS's view, it would be benign.

I am not so sure the ad will be benign. But we really wont' have a good bead on this until we see the ad.

February 06, 2010 9:38 AM  
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