Organized bigotry is un-American, and organized bigotry under the banner of American values is misrepresentation. That’s what can be found on the Florida Family Association website here, as it simultaneously engages in several of Ethics Alarms’ most deplored conduct: bias, dishonestly accusing others of bias, bullying, boycotting, and worst of all having success at bullying and boycotting. I suppose I should add to that list making its readers stupid, because its arguments will do that too.
The Florida Family Association is offended by The Learning Channel’s latest reality show, “All-American Muslim,” which shows American citizens who happen to be Muslims pretty much living, acting and sounding like you and me, except when they are practicing their religion. I think it is, unlike most TLC series, an excellent idea. American attitudes toward Muslims since September 11, 2001 are substantially based on ignorance, the kissing cousin of bigotry and the mother of fear. Learning more about American Muslims can only be beneficial to all, but The Florida Family Association views the program as a plot:
“The Learning Channel’s new show ‘All-American Muslim’ is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law. The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.”
This logic, to be precise, is idiotic. It is the logic of comments on Ethics Alarms that often cause me to violate my own declared principles of civility, the logic regularly used by Media Matters to criticize any media report critical of the left, and the logic less frequently but still too often used by Newsbusters to attack media reports critical of the right. The theory, fatuous and manipulative, goes like this: if you show say something positive about someone or something we don’t like, then you are obligated to show or say something, or perhaps everything, negative about them at the same time. If you criticize one of our people for something, you are biased and dishonest if you do not point out that our adversaries do the same thing or worse. I call it the Zealot’s Balance Delusion, or ZBD for short.
The Zealot’s Balance Delusion arises from the zealot’s mindset that everything in ideological combat, and nobody is allowed to be objective, an observer, uncommitted or unallied to one side or the other. Thus saying anything good about some group’s adversary, real or imagined, is seen as an act of ideological war, and intended as such. One is not allowed to portray positive images of an “enemy” without taking equal time to show negative images. But you see, this is an impossible standard, and one that dictates a lockstep approach to documentaries, news stories and blog posts. Exploring one aspect of a story does not suggest or assert that another side doesn’t exist. Showing how the vast majority of American Muslims live does not imply that there aren’t dangerous radical Islamic extremists domestically and abroad. “The Cosby Show,” about an upper middle class black family where both parents were successful professionals did not white-wash the problems of poor black Americans or seek to pretend they don’t exist. And when I write that Newt Gingrich is untrustworthy, my choice not to balance the discussion with similar criticism of Barack Obama does not make my post unbalanced or deceptive. The post isn’t about Obama. “The Cosby Show” wasn’t about inner city crime, and the TLC’s “All-American Muslim” isn’t about terrorists or Sharia law, and that’s perfectly all right. If you want to focus on another angle, write your own blog post. Produce your own TV show.
Every show, article and opinion doesn’t have to cover everything about its main topic…particularly when most expositions of that main topic have concentrated on a different aspect of it. Bill Cosby launched “The Cosby Show” because most of the portrayal of black families in the entertainment media were negative, and he felt, correctly, that balance was needed. “All-American Muslim” supplies similar balance for Muslim-Americans. But ZBD insists that these legitimate efforts at balance must themselves be “balanced” by including the negative portrayals that created the need for balance in the first place.
Like I said—idiotic. And also unfair.
But the conservative Florida Family Association has a lot of members, and there are a lot of cowards in corporate boardrooms these days. Thus an e-mail campaign aimed at threatening boycotts of advertisers on the TLC show has been successful, apparently persuading 3M (Command, Scotchbrand tape), Airborne Vitamin, Amway, Anheuser Busch Inbev (Select55), Art Instruction Schools, Bamboozles, Bank of America (Cash Rewards), Bare Escentuals, Brother International (Ptouch), Campbell’s Soup, Capital One, Church & Dwight (Oxi Clean, Arm & Hammer), City Furniture, Conagra (Hunt’s Diced Tomatoes), Corinthian Colleges (Everst411), Cotton, Inc., Cumberland Packing (Sweet’N Low), Dell computers, Diamond Foods (Kettlebrand Chips), Estee Lauder (Clinique), ET Browe (Palmer’s Cocoa butter), Gap, General Motors (Chevy Runs Deep), Good Year, Green Mountain Coffee, Guthy Renker , Hershey, Home Depot, Honda North America, HTC Phones, Ikea, JC Penney, JP Morgan Chase, Kellogg, Koa Brands, Leapfrog Enterprise, Mars, McDonald’s, Nationwide Insurance, News Corp, Nintendo, Novartis, Old Navy, Pernod Ricard, Petsmart, Pier One, Pfizer,, Procter & Gamble, Progressive Insurance, Prudential Financial, Radio Shack, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, SC Johnson, Sears , Signet, Sonic Drive-ins, Subaru, T-Mobil, Toyota, Volkswagen, Vtech , Wal-Mart and Whirlpool not to advertise on December’s episodes.
“Florida Family Association has not experienced this strong of a response on any other issue during the past 23 years,” the website crows. Well, that’s just wonderful, isn’t it? It’s heartening to know that the efforts of bigots to pressure principle-challenged executives to support the suppression of communications, information and speech are more successful than ever, and that being an advocate for intolerance and hate is a thriving occupation.