JCPenney, Sears Pull Ad Buys From Saturday Night Live

A case study in how the Right can get results.

Back on February 16, Saturday Night Live – a show that would never have the guts to lampoon Muslim prophet Mohammed – went after Jesus with both barrels. Or rather, they had Jesus go after everyone else with both barrels. The skit, titled Djesus Uncrossed, featured Christoph Waltz’s Jesus killing Roman soldiers using swords and firearms. “He’s risen from the dead,” the voice-over says. “And he’s preaching anything but forgiveness.”

In the aftermath of that slap against Christianity, Tim Wildmon’s American Family Association went to sponsors of the program and asked them to pull their advertising. The skit, Wildmon wrote, was “an affront to all people of faith, especially Christians … NBC would never do this to any other religious group, but it’s popular in Hollywood circles to go after ‘crazy’ Christian.” Sears sent Wildmon a thank you, and pulled its ads, stating that they had also “taken steps to ensure that our commercials do not air online ….” Wildmon is pushing more boycotts, stating, “As long as corporations support this kind of offensive material, their sales are going to suffer as shoppers abandon retailers that support blasphemy …. When you embrace television programming with no morals, you can’t possibly embrace the public you are trying to sell to.”

So, is Wildmon right? Should conservatives begin targeting advertisers in order to curb Hollywood’s anti-religious propaganda?

In an ideal world, such boycotts wouldn’t be necessary. We’d all be able to watch television without being hit over the head by propaganda. Comedians would be equal opportunity defenders. The Obama hacks at Saturday Night Live would spend time going after Islam the same way they go after Christianity.

But we don’t live in that ideal world. Which means that the only way to really fight back against offensive material on television is to target advertisers. We can take the high road, and declare that advertisers should be able to get away with placing their ads anywhere. But we’ll lose the fight. The left uses such pressure tactics on a regular basis. The Obama administration unleashes  its allies like Media Matters and Common Cause to launch boycott efforts against figures like Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs. They target advertisers and encourage them to pull their funding, not for breaches of public taste, but for breaches of political correctness.

And it’s tremendously effective.

So why doesn’t the right use such tactics? It used to. Back in the 1930s, all of Hollywood voluntarily adopted the so-called Hays Code after Catholics began boycotting films because of their sexual improprieties. For thirty years, Hollywood made films that didn’t depict raunchy sex, criminals getting away with it, or anti-American themes. That wasn’t fascism, as the left claims.  It was the power of the free market.

But now the right has been convinced that to boycott breaches the boundaries of appropriateness. While the left uses every tool in its arsenal to destroy the careers of those on the right, the right hopes to take the moral high ground, and then scold the left into decency. It isn’t going to happen.

Freedom of speech doesn’t include freedom from consequences of speech, and it’s perfectly within the rights of religious people to choose their consumption habits based on whether advertisers back views antithetical to their own. Will entertainment become more bland as it becomes more politicized? Surely it will. But it has already been made both bland and left-wing because the left has used boycotts so adroitly. If the right doesn’t fight back, it loses the opportunity for a fair shake -- and blows the opportunity to teach the left about mutually assured destruction.

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