You may have heard about the American retail giant Lowe’s — a DIY/home improvement chain, not to be confused with the multiplex chain Loews — having pulled its advertising from the TLC documentary program All-American Muslim after a right-wing religious organization, Florida Family Association, complained that the show:
is propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.
Lowe’s was responding to an FFA letter-writing campaign targeting advertisers on the show. (Lowe’s Web site, by the way, completely ignores the matter.)
Then the politicians started getting involved. From the Associated Press:
California Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) said he was considering a boycott.
Calling Lowe’s decision “un-American” and “naked religious bigotry,” Lieu said he may seek legislative action if Lowe’s doesn’t apologize to Muslims and reinstate its ads. The senator sent a letter outlining his complaints to Lowe’s Chief Executive Robert A. Niblock.
He vowed to look into whether Lowe’s violated California laws and said he would consider drafting a senate resolution condemning the company’s actions.
“We want to raise awareness so that consumers will know during this holiday shopping season that Lowe’s is engaging in religious discrimination,” Lieu said.
Lowe’s actions may well be un-American and bigoted, but most instances of either are not illegal. I’m pretty appalled by the whole situation, but I’m not sure that legislation is the answer.
What do you think? Should advertising on television be more regulated? How would we limit advertisers in the picking and choosing of the programs (or which magazines, Web sites, etc.) they may advertise on… or choose not to advertise on? Would it be possible to allow advertisers to make decisions based on some demographic concerns — such as age and income — but not on others, such as religion or race?
This smacks of hate-crime legislation, which I have some problems with because it criminalizes thought rather than action. Murder is illegal, so should it really make a difference if a murderer thought “I hate this guy because he’s black” rather than “I hate this guy because he’s a jerk” while he was committing his crime? In this particular instance of Lowe’s pulling its ads from a show about Muslims in response to pressure from a Christian organization, we can certainly point to religious motives. But in the larger legal sense of drafting legislation and enforcing its dictates, how would we ever know whether an advertiser refused to place ads on a TV show because its audience wasn’t wealthy enough rather than because its audience wasn’t white or Christian enough?
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