The media is abuzz with the news that CBS will air a thirty-second spot by Focus on the Family featuring University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother during the Superbowl. Focus on the Family is a notoriously anti-choice organization, and the ad portrays Tebow’s mother’s decision not to abort her son, despite severe complications with the pregnancy and medical advice to do so. Focus on the Family, recall, is the same organization that staunchly advocates for a slew of conservative values. In 2008, the organization donated close to a million dollars to pass Proposition 8 in California. Focus on the Family also lobbies for abstinence-only education. Yea, because that’s really working out. The message is clear: this Heisman trophy winner could have been aborted if not for the moral convictions of his mother!! College football would not have been the same!! Kudos to Focus on the Family for fully exploiting a captive, football-loving audience with their clever anti-choice message.
The ad itself is not surprising to me, nor is CBS’s blatant violation of its policy against “advocacy ads.” CBS famously denied the liberal-leaning United Church of Christ advertising during the Superbowl in 2004, citing a policy against running any ad that “touches on and/or takes a position on one side of a current controversial issue.” In the past, CBS has also rejected ads by PETA and moveon.org because the network “does not run advertisements on controversial issues of public importance.” Right, because animal rights and political transparency are more controversial than a blatant anti-choice message. Most recently, CBS rejected an add from a gay dating site, ManCrunch.com, because it “did not meet their broadcast standards.” Because ads for Cialis and Viagra are fine, but when homosexuality is involved in romantic relationships, suddenly “broadcast standards” are violated. Despite pressure from a coalition of women’s organizations, the Focus on the Family ad is set to run during the Superbowl on February 7th, at a cost to the organization of $2.5 million.
Ultimately, this ad is symbolic of a trend evident in US politics for a long time – money is really effective at limiting the voices (and choices) of Americans. Solidified by the inane SCOTUS decision last week, corporate control over political discourse is on the rise, and has potentially disastrous consequences. I oppose the Focus on the Family ad not because of its manipulative anti-choice message, but because of CBS’s eager abandonment of policy for money. I have maintained little trust in corporations like CBS to adhere to neutral policies, but when such a decision is mirrored in the Supreme Court, the reality of full corporate control of our lives is evident. Because money speaks in advertisement, viewers are literally urged to “consume” anti-choice, to choose these values as they would a pickup truck or type of beer. Scary stuff. But what happens when those same corporate interests dictate law? In this case, the choice is no longer there, and we citizen-consumers are forced to conform to whichever policy has the most money behind it. Much, much scarier.