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No On 8 Using Obama In Web Advertising

by: David Dayen

Sun Oct 26, 2008 at 10:28:22 AM PDT


If you tool around the Internets as much as I do, you may have noticed this.  The No on 8 campaign has been using Barack Obama's logo and image in Web ads that say "Obama Calls Prop. 8 Divisive And Discriminatory".  Clicking on the ad will take you to this page, at the No On Prop. 8 site, with a couple quotes from Sen. Obama about the measure.

The Obama campaign would not let this happen on its own.  God for them for allowing the No on 8 campaign to associate with his remarks.  Obama has shown a willingness to lend himself to the efforts of downticket races - he's cut an ad for Oregon US Senate candidate Jeff Merkley - though I doubt we'll see much more than this Web advertising from him on Prop. 8.

Here are a couple other things I think need to happen to help the Prop. 8 cause.  First, Google needs to stop running ads that violate their own policies.  Google has a very specific standard for those groups that use their architecture to advertise, which includes banning ads that advocate against a "protected class" like the LGBT community.  Yet they allow Yes on 8 to use Google ads.  I know Google as a company is on the right side of this debate, but they can either stand behind their stated policy or not.

The other thing that the no side might want to consider is putting an actual face on who would be discriminated against with this measure.  I know this has been a source of controversy that's simmered under the surface, but today Jonathan Rauch brings it up in the LA Times.

The need to walk that tightrope helps explain why the actual subjects of next month's initiative, gay couples, were "inned" by the "No on 8" campaign's ads. (Full disclosure: I am a "No on 8" donor.) One ad, for example, features a gray-haired straight couple. "Our gay daughter and thousands of our fellow Californians will lose the right to marry," says mother Julia Thoron.

A subsequent ad, all text with voice-over narration, mentions marriage only once ("Regardless of how you feel about marriage, it's wrong to treat people differently under the law") and never uses the phrase "gay marriage" or even the word "gay." Just as oblique was a spot, released Wednesday, in which state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell reassures viewers that "Prop. 8 has nothing to do with schools or kids. Our schools aren't required to teach anything about marriage." A casual viewer could have come away from these ads puzzled as to exactly what right thousands of Californians might be about to lose.

Asked about the absence of gay couples, a senior "No on 8" official told KPIX-TV in San Francisco that "from all the knowledge that we have and research that we have, [those] are not the best images to move people." Children, also, were missing; showing kids with same-sex parents could too easily backfire [...]

Whatever the tactical considerations, the absence of gay couples and gay marriages from California's gay-marriage debate makes for an oddly hollow discussion. It leaves voters of good conscience to conjure in their own minds the ads that are not being aired: Ads that show how gay marriage directly affects the couples and communities that need it most.

You can show me all the data you want; "hollow" is the best word for what's happening.  Neither side is talking about the actual proposition in their messaging.  I expect that from the Yes side, to hide their serial homophobia and focus on made-up protections of imagined rights that would be encroached upon.  But when a self-described squish like Kevin Drum terms No on 8's ads "bland and generic," something is wrong.  Without a clear indication, as done in the Ellen DeGeneres PSA, of who would be harmed by this measure and why, there's this subconscious message of shame about the rights that this campaign is trying to defend.

On a completely unrelated note, this is a great post from a minister discussing what the Bible actually says about marriage.

David Dayen :: No On 8 Using Obama In Web Advertising
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