Drive-Away Lesson: Persistence
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Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 12:22:23 AM EST
"They're baaaaa-ack," goes the famous movie line in Poltergeist 2.  Now American Family Association has returned with a new attack on Ford Motor Corporation for its "destruction of the American family" caused by its "support" of "homosexual groups." AFA released a letter sent by chair Donald Wildmon to Ford, demanding that Ford censor itself from advertising in gay publications or supporting any group involved in the current cultural war.

From inventing "intelligent design" to replicate the discredited creationism, to the pounding of reproductive choice on a hundred fronts, to this renewal of threats against Ford, this much can be said about the Religious Right: it is nothing if not persistent.

Persistence is key.  As Kevin Jones noted in a report on Theocracy Watch about a 2002 "Confessing the Faith" conference in Indiana of conservative protestants:

The more I was around them, the more I admired their ingenuity and persistence while at the same time I got more and more scared at what they relentlessly want to accomplish.

It was just weeks ago, in December, when gay organizations seemed to have won a mini-victory after Ford said that it really didn't want to cruise to the tune of the AFA's strident whine, demanding anti-gay discrimination and bias. A December diary on Talk2Action described the situation.

Gay activists and a website Americablog had jumped on the issue and managed to rouse public attention.

Some of the less savory postures of AFA circulated, as described in this post by Michelle Goldberg, who urged that AFA deserved serious media scrutiny:

To me, one of the more sinister aspects of AFA's ideology is its association with anti-gay Holocaust revisionism -- the belief, promoted throughout the hard right, that not only were gay people not targeted by the Nazis, but that they were the primary mover behind Nazism.

By December 14, 2005, Americablog was declaring "We Won," and urging people to thank Ford via an online form.

Well, Americablog better swing back in action because AFA is baaaack.

In a letter, dated January 10 and co-signed by 44 Religious Right leaders including Tony Perkins of Family Research Council, James Dobson of Focus on Family, Gary Bauer of American Values, D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Paul Weyrich of Coalitions for America, Beverly LaHaye of Concerned Women for America, Judie Brown of American Life League, Ted Haggard of National Association of Evangelicals, Alan Chambers of Exodus International, AFA demands a return to intolerant anti-gay promises that it said Ford had made.

The letter outlines the concessions that AFA said Ford had given, and set a January 20 deadline for a turnaround.

On November 28, Ford Motor Company and American Family Association worked out a representation concerning Ford's support of groups promoting the homosexual agenda including homosexual marriage. Ford's representations seemed to AFA a very reasonable and attainable goal.

Here is what Ford's representation included:

1.    Ford would not renew current promotions or create future incentives that give cash donations to homosexual organizations based on the purchase of a vehicle.

2.    Ford would stop giving cash and vehicle donations or endorsements to homosexual social activities such as Gay Pride parades.

3.    Ford would not make corporate donations to homosexual organizations that, as part of their activities, engage in political or social campaigns to promote civil unions or same-sex marriage.

4.    Ford would cease all advertising in homosexual websites and media outlets (magazines, television, radio) in the U.S. with the exception of a small amount to be used by Volvo. The Volvo ads would be the same ads used in the general media and not aimed at the homosexual community specifically.

When homosexual groups opposed Ford's actions, seven homosexual leaders met with Ford. At that meeting, Ford repudiated your representations and issued a public letter strongly supporting the homosexual groups ....

Why would Ford put the interests of seven homosexual groups ahead of the interests of all your dealers?

This time, AFA not only pushed the anti-gay marriage buttons, but a few others, too:
Your support for these groups pushing homosexual marriage can only hurt your dealers.

We strongly suggest that Ford remove itself from involvement in the cultural war and apply its resources to building the best product possible. It ill serves the purpose of Ford to take sides in the cultural war. It is a no-win situation. When you favor one side, you alienate the other. Leave the cultural battles to the various groups pro and con and to the politicians.

And then, the threat:
We can not, and will not, sit by as Ford supports a social agenda aimed at the destruction of the family.

We ask that you respond to our request by January 20. If we do not hear from you by that date, we will assume that Ford does not intend to honor its representations to AFA.

If there is a lesson to be learned from the Religious Right, it's this: it doesn't back down. From Anita Bryant to Janet Floger, from Clarence Thomas to Samuel Alito, again and again, they come back and back and back.  

Is there anything on which the Religious Right has backed down?  Is there an example to inspect? Maybe, but it's not apparent. As much as eternal vigilance -- a guard-the-gates defensive position, the example of persistence -- a determined forward motion, is the one lesson that progressives and supporters of religious liberty should be driving baaa-ack home.

The only thing that will help will be for all gays to buy Fords and TELL THE FORD COMPANY ABOUT IT!!

by rbrtptrck on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 07:09:47 AM EST
I'm working on persuading my mother to call her local Ford dealership - where she has bought two new Fords, the only new cars she had ever purchased -  to politely inform them that she will not be able to buy another Ford to replace her aging model if the Ford Company caves in to pressure from leaders of the Christian right. If I can convince her to do this, the next step might be to persuade her to raise the issue with her local Unitarian church

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 10:31:37 AM EST
I think rental companies are some of the largest- volume purchasers of new cars.  And I think rental car companies should hear from customers that they won't take a Ford if Ford takes a right turn on gay issues.    

by cyncooper on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 11:18:30 AM EST
Seeing as Enterprise Rent-A-Car specifically left (a defunct web portal which was run by an AoG preacher and heavily supported by the AoG) because the latter funded the AFA and a group that published "The Pink Swastika", Enterprise Rent-A-Car would actually be quite a company to talk to in regards to this.

If Ford caves in to pressure from the AFA, Enterprise should be strongly encouraged NOT to buy Ford cars--and we should be sure to mention the specific example of why they pulled out of KingdomBuy to explain why.

At the least, Enterprise can be encouraged to put pressure on Ford (as one of their largest fleet purchasers) to not cave in.

by dogemperor on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 05:00:59 PM EST

Tell Ford they bought the car because they saw an ad in a gay publication!

by cyncooper on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 02:09:17 PM EST

Did AFA purposely renew its attack while the eyes of activists are turned toward the Alito hearings and other issues?  Or is this mere coincidence in the ongoing culture war.

by cyncooper on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 01:08:42 AM EST

Individiduals and whole organizations on the right may come and go -- and they have!  But the general antigay campaign is here to stay, certainly for the rest of the lives of anyone who happens to read this comment.

Therefore, even as we look at, and act on, the situation with Ford, we need to be looking at the lessons learned each step along the way, and taken as a whole. So we can organize better responses to opposition initiatives -- and take a few initiatives of our own.  

We can drive (no pun intended) ourselves crazy and hopeless if we find ourselves only responding to the latest urgent outrage. Sure playing defense is important. And learning to play defense even better is more important.  I hope that someone will examine the Ford/antiFord campaign at somepoint.  If anyone finds an article, or writes one(!), I hope they will let us know. Or write one right here at Talk to Action.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 02:57:41 PM EST

Cindy has done a really nice job of taking a longer look at AFA and pointing us to important articles an resources and helping us to get out of urgency of the moment psychology in which everything seems like it will be won or lost based on the current battle. Sure, we have to fight the current battle. But there are many battles yet to come, so let's all take a couple of deep breaths, and keep the long view in mind.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Jan 14, 2006 at 03:02:58 PM EST

AFA's comment ...We strongly suggest that Ford remove itself from involvement in the cultural war ....  It's kind of the like the Bush administration use of the "war on terrorism": vaguely-defined, never-ending, subject to interpretation in the future, isn't it?  

I've seen this kind of language used previously -- saying corporations shouldn't give to anybody -- by Life Decisions International, the group that makes up boycott lists.

What do you think is the intent?

by cyncooper on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 12:33:04 AM EST

All Ford is doing is good business. They are adversting in gay publications, because they want to sell cars.  To AFA, this means financing the gay agenda. To AFA, it means taking sides, even if Ford is not, say, contributing to the Human Rights Campaign or the Freedom to Marry Coalition, although they certainly should. No, this is about attacking Ford over the mainstreaming and acceptance of homosexuals in public life.

This is particularly chilling and repugnant, and should be fought hard. It is rare that large coalitions fight back on this kind of thing in a multifront way. This one strikes me, at first blush, to be a worthwhile fight.

There is a pretty good diary on the Daily Kos about this, although the title is very misleading.

This is different than the LDI efforts to defund PP, although that is always worthy of being addressed as well.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 02:13:50 AM EST

I think you may be seeing this too narrowly.

What I am referring to is the implicit statement by AFA that 'WE' (the religious right) are not asking for funding or advertisements for OUR groups, therefore, you (Ford) should not fund or advertise with our perceived enemies.

LDI -- which, by the way, is also anti-gay and calls for boycotts of companies that support gay issues. as well as being anti-contraception and anti-abortion and anti-Planned Parenthood -- and its chair, Thomas Strohbar, who supports anti-gay and anti-choice shareholder resolutions through his separate organization, ProVita, use similar rationale. They often ask, for example, that corporations fund NO charitable causes, and not just the supposedly offending cause.  For shareholder resolutions, some of this comes from the demands of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the language that must be used to get on a corporate ballot, but I see it as a broader strategy, as well.  

That strategy comes from this direction:  Many right wing organizations are financially solvent. As you know, they are amply funded, whether by wealthy individuals with corporate interests, or by corporate titans, or their families who need right-wing support to maneuver their special-interest capitalist campaigns. Those religious right groups aren't scrambling for funds, and certainly not with today's added enhancement of millions in government funds.

I see this language to stop funding ANY part of the so-called "culture wars" (as defined by AFA) as an effort to APPEAR 'even-handed,' but knowing that without private support, gay advocacy groups will be hurt.  I think this strategy is aimed at cutting off funding streams to gay groups, pro-choice organizations and progressive groups of all sorts.  

If Ford dollars can be stopped from going to the gay community, then Ford can be stopped from giving to disapproved other groups as well.  If Ford dollars can be stopped, then other big companies can be stopped.  And all of this is approached, in part, under the guise of being "fair" to all sides.  

I think it's an amazing and interesting shell game.  In some circumstances, it might even work to turn it around and direct it back.  

by cyncooper on Sun Jan 15, 2006 at 02:02:27 PM EST

I think it's nothing more than an attempt to paint the 'cultural war' -- concocted and nurtured by the right -- as the product of some vast conspiracy by the left and the corporations who supposedly support the left. The tactic is to go on the attack and then accuse the victim (in this case gays and Ford) as the instigators. And it usually helps their cause to have a Ford or an NBC or a Microsoft issue going on because it's good for rallying the supporters and raising funds.

by prodigal on Mon Jan 16, 2006 at 07:56:55 PM EST
You could be right about setting up the victim paradigm.  But I sense a broader effort to block all sorts of funding to progressive causes.  Ultimately, that will leave people with only religious groups to serve their needs, at which point, they can also do conversion.

by cyncooper on Tue Jan 17, 2006 at 12:43:10 PM EST

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