Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why it is wrong...

so I have been fired up. I try to avoid the news. I really do, but sometimes things are just so glaringly wrong, that they have to be talked about. Or researched. And I have spent the last two days doing both.

I also want to say that this is a free country, we have the first amendment and it is an important one.

So there is a show on TLC about Muslims living in Dearborn. I suspect the point of the show is to show Americans what it is like being an American and Muslim. I watched the bits of the show I could find on Hulu, YouTube and the TLC website. I gotta tell ya, it is pretty normal stuff. Some wedding stuff, some baby stuff, some I want a baby stuff, some work and life balance stuff. Might I even say that it was approaching boring stuff...

Which I think was the point. These are Americans, in many cases first, second and third generation Americans. (As an aside, my husband is a 1st generation American. You guessed it, my husband's parents were not both American citizens at the time of his birth. They both emigrated from Germany. Right after WWII for his father and the early 70s for his mother. They spoke no English in the house until H went to school.)

No big deal right? Another reality show, on a channel devoted to reality shows.

The FFA didn't think so. They felt that because the show only showed normal boring stuff that they were covering up the Islamic agenda. So let me get this straight, if the show had been about my husband and his family and it showed them going to Catholic mass, work, school, and out to dinner, speaking German and so forth, then that show would be somehow covering up the insidious German Catholic agenda. All Germans back then were Nazi's right? How could they make a show that did not reflect that stereotype?

Or are Muslims somehow special?

The entire point of the show is to say - hey look, it isn't all that exciting, we do what you do. We eat lunch out, we have babies or we are trying to have a baby, we have interfaith weddings, and we struggle for family life balance. We struggle with our faith. We make choices about god, and god's place in our lives.

And understand, I support FFA's right to write letters, to maintain a website and they certainly are entitled to their opinion. That is part of the first amendment. And I did something many people who are upset probably didn't do, I actually read their website. It was hard. I think they are off base on 99% of what they have posted, but that is the beauty of a free country, I am free to disagree. I will say, in their slightly marginal defense, if what they have posted is true about a possible honor killing in Tampa, which is not being prosecuted, then that is the issue they should be focused on.  As much as I value religious freedoms, no one, is free to kill their daughter in the name of "religious" and cultural traditions. Not in the US for sure. That said, it is hard to take them seriously on this very serious issue, when they have so much other noise going on.

So what is so wrong. I will tell what is so wrong. Both Lowe's and KAYAK have confirmed that out of the 27 businesses targeted, they pulled their ads from the show. Based on the opinions and letters of a few, these companies choose to break their ad contracts with a given show, because in the minds of a few, the show is not fitting their stereotype of what a Muslim is.

Update: This evening it appears that perhaps FFA duped Lowes into believing more companies were on the bandwagon. That is even more disturbing to me. I also think that someone should be looking into FFA's use of trademarked logos on their site without permission.

And certainly, had either Lowe's or KAYAK cited that the show did not have enough viewers or some other verifiable business reason (note: data, real verifiable data makes it easier to make a case that there was a business purpose and not bigotry involved), this would be a none event. In fact the show, averages an average viewership. It is scheduled to be 8 episodes. I suspect the viewership has gone up slightly now... the other advertisers thank you Lowe's and Kayak. Instead Lowe's links to the letters from FFA and their supporters, offers a lamely written excuse and then hides. They have all but retreated from their social media sites.

That is what is not ok. Television is about a certain perceptive. Docudrama is a genre all its own. It isn't designed to be taken a gospel or fact. Reality television is rarely grounded in 100% reality. I find many other shows on TLC much more offensive. Much.

For Lowe's and KAYAK to bow down to single opinion of a fringe extremist group, which is what FFA is, is discriminatory and it is insulting. To us ALL. We live in a free democratic society and with that freedom comes great responsibility. We are free to hold our own thoughts and beliefs, we are free to write about those beliefs, make shows about those beliefs, hold public meetings about those beliefs, make purchasing decisions taking into account those beliefs,  what we are not free to do is impose those beliefs on others. We are not free to assume that others must believe what we believe. What happens in your own home and your place of worship is up to you, what happens on the public street, on the public airwaves, is printed in the media, that must be held to a community standard and the community standard must take into account all parties involved and not just the loudest and best funded few. Religious preferences of any persuasion cannot be the only basis for that standard. Stereotypes held by a few cannot be the basis for that standard. The standards must be grounded in verifiable facts, not religious texts and teachings, not stereotypes, not bigotry, but verifiable fact. Furthermore, these standards should be such that they are not exclusionary, but rather inclusive and sensative to the needs of others. We are all free to then limit what we expose ourselves and our children to, but we cannot do that by legislating, we have to own our convictions and be honest about our convictions with our children, families and friends.

A company committed to reflecting that standard does not pull its ads from a show that fails to paint a certain group in the stereotypically way a certain other group believes to be true.

Democracy cannot work that way.

No comments: