You've gotta give the AFA some credit here. Their strategy was brilliant, and they're going to profit well from it.
Earlier this week we learned that the AFA had purchased a one-hour primetime slot in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to run their infomercial Speechless: Silencing the Christians. It's all about how the homosexual activists are using propaganda and their elite media connections to silence real Americans (yes, there are real Americans in the infomercial!) and push through their horrible agenda that will harm children and destroy America.
You can watch the entire thing online if you feel like it, but I'll save you the 57-minutes and just let you know that it's standard-issue rightwing anti-gay propaganda meant to stir up anger and hatred towards us and those who would give us "special rights."
Anyway, they ran the infomercial in a few small markets. They probably don't have much money to run it and they're targeting people who live in rural areas anyway. In the documentary, it's obvious that they're trying to build up some rural resentment to them city-dwellers who think they know how to run everyone's lives.
So one would think that we'd want to be discreet here, and not seem like we're censoring the movie or silencing Christians. The title of the infomercial is "Silencing the Christians," for crying out loud; they're pretty much begging for the movie to get pulled.
I'm sure they knew that it was going to get pulled and the point was to either get some earned press as the Christian lobby group gets their infomercial about silencing Christians blocked from various markets or to raise funds off the angry homosexual lobby doing exactly what they describe in the movie. It's rather clever, if you think about it. The only people who really lose here are the LGBT people who have to live in the rural areas where this infomercial was going to play.
HRC sent out an email blast yesterday telling people to call or email WOOD-TV in eastern Michigan, and telling them to tell their friends to call or email the station. An hour later, the documentary gets pulled, and HRC takes credit:
The HRC alert urged members to contact the station and ask that they pull the scheduled program and instead air a fair discussion or debate on both the issues and pending legislation.
"I am so proud of our members who answered the lies and distortions of the AFA and stopped this campaign of hate and deception," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "Our community stood up and would not let those lies stand."
Simple and effective, right?
Well, GLAAD has another story about why the documentary was pulled:
Since Monday, we have been working with local community members in Grand Rapids, offering them assistance as they led efforts to mobilize community members to express their concerns to the station management at WOOD-TV (NBC), where it was set to air.
The organizing was led by Colette Beighley, who serves as assistant director of the LGBT resource center at Grand Valley State University and a GLAAD-trained spokesperson. Colette is also serving as the community's lead spokesperson on the issue, and she continues to work with GLAAD on media monitoring and interview prep this week.
Thanks to the efforts of community members on the ground, WOOD-TV first postponed the airing. The station then said it offered the American Family Association another timeslot. General Manager Diane Kniowski said: "We made a gesture of the 2-3 p.m. Saturday time period. It's been 24 hours and we had no response. Our station is being bombarded with calls and messages, and we find ourselves in the middle of someone else's fight. Ours was a fair offer and we are removing ourselves from this matter."
So what happened? Did WOOD-TV pull the documentary because of GLAAD and local LGBT activists worked behind the scenes asking the station not to run it? Or did they pull it because of HRC's email blast? Because neither group is giving the other any credit, so I highly doubt they worked on a coordinated effort here.
Here's what I can piece together from various sources, including the AFA's website:
-AFA sends out an email to its followers in Michigan (not nationally) telling them that the infomercial will air Wednesday.
-LGBT people and allies get that email too (since we all sign up for some of that junk) and tell GLAAD about it.
-GLAAD contacts local activists.
-Local activists and GLAAD quietly pressure WOOD-TV to rescind the time offered to AFA.
-WOOD-TV rescinds its offer of a primetime hour on Wednesday night and offers an afternoon slot on Saturday instead.
-HRC sends out an action alert asking people to call and email the station to drop the infomercial. The email says that it will air Saturday, not Wednesday.
-One hour later, specifically citing the fact that 24 hours passed since the offer to AFA was made, WOOD-TV announces that it won't be showing the infomercial.
-HRC puts out a press release claiming victory, mentioning that they got what they wanted in one hour.
-AFA, through OneNewsNow, complains about how their infomercial was shut out of Grand Rapids, mentioning the offer made by WOOD-TV. They bemoan "a real threat to our First Amendment and free-speech rights because Christians are being shut down and shut out and shut up by the very people who say they champion freedom of speech."
-GLAAD's Rashad Robinson posts on the Huffington Post saying that WOOD-TV pulled the infomercial because of "local voices in Grand Rapids, Mich.[...] have been reaching out to the station management there, making them aware of how hurtful this propaganda piece really is."
What this is looking like...
To me, this is looking like GLAAD and local Michigan activists were working on getting the infomercial removed quietly and were about to do it, when HRC jumped in, like an elephant in a window shop, sent out an email, and then claimed credit. There's really no way that, one hour after sending out the email, that enough people would be in front of their computers and be motivated and able to call right away, and then for WOOD-TV to have had some sort of discussion about pulling the infomercial, and then for the station manager to have put together an announcement saying it was gone. Canceling content takes a bit of time and discussion, and there's no way all of that could have possibly happened in an hour.
Also, WOOD-TV would have had to have sent an offer to AFA for the Saturday slot in that time period. AFA said they received it and made no implication that they got it without enough time to respond. That sort of thing had to have happened with some time to plan.
Considering that GLAAD didn't thank HRC in their discussions of this matter, I really, really doubt GLAAD asked them to send out an email to put pressure on WOOD-TV. And considering HRC didn't thank GLAAD or local activists in its press release, we don't even know if they were aware someone else was working on this already.
It wouldn't make sense, either, to make this matter hyper-public when we all know that AFA was going to fund-raise off of it. I mean, they called their infomercial "Silencing the Christians," and it's about homosexual activists using media ties to silence people just like them. Maybe this is a good time to avoid appearing like we are censoring them?
This is the exact sort of thing that should be done privately if at all possible, and it seems like the folks in Michigan and GLAAD were handling it just fine. The email from HRC even acknowledges that the program will be airing on Saturday, which was the work of the folks in Michigan. Obviously, the AFA didn't want a time slot no one would watch, and they didn't even bother to respond to WOOD-TV.
Where's the coordination, people?
HRC and GLAAD weren't working together on this, and, honestly, this is more in GLAAD's domain than HRC's. It's a media issue, not a federal lobby issue. HRC could have picked up the phone and called either GLAAD or a local org in Michigan to see what was up before stepping on everyone's toes.
But to me it's worse that they would take credit for this victory when that timeline is so pressed. There's little here to make me believe that HRC's email blast did much to change the situation; AFA had already snubbed WOOD-TV's offer for Saturday for 23 hours by the time it went out.
While none of these organizations should be in it for themselves and should be thinking about what's best for the LGBTQ community first, there's nothing wrong with them claiming their own victories and fundraising off them. But to claim another org's? That's not polite.
It all works out well for AFA, though, since no one can talk about this incident without mentioning their movie, and their movie is about exactly what HRC did very publicly - silence Christians. Personally, I have no problem with it; free speech is all good and well but the airwaves are owned by the public and the people of Grand Rapids can decide what's allowed to air in their backyard.
But we all know how AFA's going to spin this one - they put it right in the title of their infomercial. It would have been nice if someone could have gotten that program off the air with as little fanfare as possible, no?