Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Ford: Like A Crock?

If Ford cars are supposed to be built "ram tough", why does the company cave so quickly?*

Facing a threatened boycott from the
American Family Association, Ford decided to pull its ads from gay publications. That action, in turn, has spurred retaliatory actions from outraged gay activists.

OK, so its one more blip in the culture wars, right? A "mainstream" company caught between two interest groups, right?

Well, that is true in part, but I think one can discern who has the "higher ground" here -- logically, if not "morally" -- with one question:

Why does the American Family Association even care where Ford spends its advertising dollars?

This controversy is very different than, say, that of recent years when "pro-family" groups
protested "Gay Day" at Orlando's Disney World. While any private company should be allowed to host the special promotions of any law-abiding group, one can understand that a heterosexual family visiting a traditional theme park might be surprised if they stumbled upon a weekend catering to same-sex couples.

One might disagree with the demand that Disney be boycotted, but also see that traditional parents might have a point in not wanting to be unfairly "surprised" in a quasi-public entertainment venue that once was considered synonymous with the adjective "family."

But social conservatives have little claim in the Ford case.

How are their rights -- or their ability to raise their children in the way that they desire -- being infringed upon because an automobile company chooses to advertise in gay media? It is not even as if Ford chose to produce an ad featuring obviously gay couples and placed them in mainstream media outlets that could offend "traditional" sensibilities. If Junior sees a Ford Expedition in the middle of a gay magazine, well, it wasn't Ford that forced him to pick up the magazine in the first place.

Via e-mail Deroy Murdock, syndicated columnist with Scripps Howard News Service, adds:

Social conservatives have said that their crusade against gay marriage is all about preserving the sanctity of matrimony and protecting the best interests of children. Anti-gay bias has nothing to do with it, or so they claim. How, then, do they explain this initiative? What do car ads have to do with those who drive them, presumably pairs of men who love each other? How does a Land Rover ad in The Advocate magazine prevent a little boy or girl from enjoying a positive upbringing?

The American Family Association is engaging in pure homophobia. This group would be better off addressing true threats to the family, namely divorce, deadbeat dads, spousal abuse, or other aspects of irresponsibility among heterosexuals.
But, again, why can't Ford make this argument: It's a private company and should be permitted to make various creative gestures to attract and develop a varied customer base.

It's not that hard.

*UPDATE/CORRECTION: Slightly harder for me to keep my advertising slogans straight. "Ram tough" is a Dodge truck tagline. Should have stayed with the "like a rock" allusion that's in the header. Can rarely go wrong with Bob Seger...

UPDATE II: On a slightly related note, John Cole identifies a rather "interesting" public-service suggestion from Accuracy In Media. As John says, you can't make things like this up.

UPDATE III: Ford caves again -- in the right, uh, "correct" direction this time! The entire episode did not exactly cover the company in glory. They've now been identified as having a management structure that runs terrified depending on who's providing the pressure. Hardly a confidence-building anecdote for investors.
A car that gets crushed on both the right and left sides usually ends up being totaled.

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