Focus on the ... Super Bowl?
It seems to me that Super Bowl Controversy is a sport unto itself. This year the controversy centers on an anti-abortion ad by Focus On The Family. The ad features football star Tim Tebow and his mother discussing her choice not to abort, despite medical advice that it might be best for her health, when she was pregnant with him.
Focus on the Family is an exrtraordinarily regressive organization when it comes to women's rights and sexual freedom and I would not expect to like any ad of theirs. But this one in particular is galling because the only reason it tugs at our hearts is that Pam Tebow HAD a choice, one that she exercised after private discussions with her family and her doctors. Yet her very exercising of this choice is being used to swing public opinion in a direction that would take choice away from other women.
The Women's Media Center, backed by the Feminist Majority and the National Organization of women, began calling for CBS to pull the ad. I received several emails from friends asking me to sign a petition. Despite my anger about the ad I did not sign. Everything in the petition was true, of course. It is true that CBS denied advocacy ads that promote women's reproductive freedom, and that they refused a commercial for a same-sex dating service despite airing Focus on the Family's ad or the homophobic Snicker's ad from teh 2007 Superbowl.
Broadcasting over airwaves owned by the public is a privilege and is supposed to serve the public interest. It is wrong of CBS to accept or reject ads in such a biased manner. But in this case I am convinced that the remedy to de facto censorship is not further censorship. The remedy to an attempt to limit speech is more speech. Rather than calling on CBS to can this ad we need to be online distributing videos and commentary that counter it. Some important messages that such spots could promote:
We support Pam Tebow's choice and want to protect reproductive choice for all women.
We think CBS has a biased approach to accepting or rejecting ads and should either publicly acknowledge its bias or get rid of it.
I'm glad to see that such efforts are already well under way. Here are just a few, gathered by blogger Irene McGee at SFGate.com.
Al Joyner and Sean James on behalf of Planned Parenthood
Women's Media Foundation and Not Under The Bus with some ideas about what CBS stands for.
And a musical performance by the South Florida Raging Grannies, singing to you from an undisclosed livingroom not far, I'm sure, from Dolphin Stadium.