Thursday, July 29, 2010

The concept of a "culture of inclusion" really isn't that complicated. Home Depot's spokesman explains it simply and elegantly


One of the great things about Home Depot's refusal to knuckle under to AFA's homophobic crusade is the obvious corollary that the "culture of inclusion" the company believes in isn't just sane social policy, it's also good for business!

“To forbid our associates to have any involvement in pride festivals would run counter to the company’s culture of inclusion. We’re not going to discriminate against anyone because of race, religion or sexual orientation.”
-- Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes, quoted in the Hatewatch post "Religious Right Group Slurs Home Depot in Anti-Gay Attack"

by Ken

I just wanted to finish up on the Hatewatch report (link above) I referenced last night on Home Depot's pushback against a smear campaign by the infamous American Family Association, which included the above quote from spokesman Stephen Holmes, which continues to arouse my admiration and awe. It's amazing how simple the concept of a "culture of inclusion" is when you get down to it.

Now the AFA is not to be confused with the Family Research Council, whose current homophobic bullying in Michigan Howie wrote about this morning. But the organizations do share a determination common to the Christian Right: that the family can be used as society's fundamental breeding ground for ignorance and hatred, these groups' ever-reliable resources as well as specially cherished goals.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has long taken as its mission the tracking of hate groups in America, in particular those with links to violence, and it's indeed reassuring to see its estimable Hatewatch blog ("Keeping an Eye on the Radical Right"; today, for example, Hatewatch features a report by Heidi Beirich, "Neo-Nazi Official Patrolling Arizona Border Lauds Violence") targeting the AFA's campaign against Home Depot.

As I mentioned last night, the AFA crusade tries to conjure menace with the shocking revelation: "The Home Depot has chosen to sponsor and participate in numerous gay pride parades and festivals.” This is what Stephen Holmes was responding to in his lovely statement.

But as the Hatewatch post points out, the AFA goes to considerable lengths to manufacture the revulsion toward Home Depot it's hoping to arouse.
AFA’s announcement strongly implies – with clever wording and misleading “evidence” – that the home-improvement retailer is helping gay sexual predators stalk children.

A letter posted on AFA’s website and signed by its president, Tim Wildmon, declares that a photograph “taken during recent homosexual events sponsored by The Home Depot show[s] children being encouraged to visit gay sex websites.” In the photo, children presumably attending the Southern Maine Pride Festival and parade in June, are seen holding orange Home Depot cups with small red-and-white flags stuck in them. The AFA caption reads, “The flags in these Home Depot cups promote a gay website which proclaims itself as ‘the men’s social group for men who have sex with men.’” The caption goes on, “The cups were given to children by The Home Depot gay parade marchers, while homosexual activists followed up by introducing them to gay sex websites."

Hatewatch notes that AFA never actually accuses Home Depot of being involved with these scarifying flags. "But," the writers note, "AFA nevertheless concludes, 'The Home Depot has no problem aligning itself with gay activist groups who target children with a pro-homosexual message.'”

Hatewatch became curious about those dreaded flags, which the post reports are unreadable in the accompanying photo. What's more, "AFA conveniently never identifies the offending website -- and for good reason, as it turns out."
The flags, Hatewatch has learned, were distributed by an Augusta, Maine, group called Just Guys, which provides safe sex counseling, HIV testing, social support and other resources for gay men. Its meetings are on the calendar of MaineGeneral Health, Maine’s third-largest health care system. And just for good measure, the front page of prominently displays a warning:

“This website contains HIV/STD prevention messages that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Since HIV infection and Sexually Transmitted Diseases are spread primarily through sexual practices or by sharing needles, prevention messages and programs may address these topics. If you are not seeking such information or may be offended by such materials, this website may contain pages which you may not wish to visit. Thank you.”

Not exactly the hallmarks of drooling pederasts.

Just Guys director Lew Alessio acknowledged that his organization distributed the flags at the southern Maine festival. The message on the flags said simply, “Gay Pride, Safe Pride,” and then the web address – the promotional phrase AFA cited wasn’t on them. The obvious conclusion: AFA representatives went to the website to find the promotional phrase — and thus knew perfectly well that is not a “gay sex website,” and that it doesn’t target children in any way.

“All of our written material must be approved by the review board of the Maine Center for Disease Control,” Alessio told Intelligence Report. “While we gave out thousands of trinkets with various safer sex/gay pride messages on them, every single message was approved by the MCDC in advance of the event.”

A bit different from the impression the AFA screed was clearly trying to plant in readers' imaginations, of drooling preverts trying to lure good Christian children into visiting a gay porn site. You may or may not be surprised to learn: "A representative of the American Family Association, contacted by Hatewatch, said no spokespersons were available to comment."

The post also recalls a famous previous AFA crusade, when the group was still headed by Tim Wildmon's father, Donald: an attempted boycott of Ford for what the post describes as "similar pro-gay offenses." In the mind of the AFA's Bryan Fischer, whose title is "director of issue analysis for government and public policy," “Ford Motor Company eventually surrendered, and re-focused its energy on making automobiles instead of retooling American culture.” (Hatewatch notes that Fischer "has recently argued that homosexuality should be prohibited by law, that Muslims should be banned from the U.S. military, and that executing couples engaged in “sexual immorality” might help the nation renew its “commitment to follow God.” He has argued that Adolf Hitler was gay and that World War II Nazi stormtroopers were actually a sinister, elite gay fighting force.)

Unfortunately for Fischer, history doesn't support his bravado. Dispassionate observers agree that Ford weathered the campaign without compromising its corporate principles in the direction of that same culture of inclusion -- so abhorrent to people who think like the AFA. And then Hatewatch quotes a colleague who's one of my favorite people, one of the wisest people I know.
Bob Witeck, CEO of Witeck Combs Communications, which specializes in marketing to gay consumers, said most anti-gay organizations have abandoned consumer boycotts as a strategy for a simple reason: They haven’t worked. Few other religious-right or anti-gay organizations have joined AFA’s call.

“To the best of my knowledge, no corporation has evidenced any drop or loss of revenue from boycotts of this sort,” Witeck told Hatewatch. To the extent they are still used, the primary goal seems to be assuring the boycotting organization’s base that their contributions are making a difference, he said. “You take a cause, you do it, then you declare victory and then everyone believes their money was well-invested.”

The real net effect of anti-gay boycotts, says Witeck, is like listening to “one hand clapping. They really don’t change corporate behaviors.”

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At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Richard Keefe said...

It's interesting that you mention the SPLC and its "mission of tracking hate groups" in a post about a "culture of inclusion."

For starters, there is no legal definition for "hate groups," which is why even the FBI doesn't track "hate groups."

The SPLC is a private, fund-raising organization with nearly $190 million donor-dollars in cash on hand. It has no mandate and receives no external oversight or review. The SPLC has no authority to designate any group as anything.

Of course this doesn't stop the SPLC from smearing groups and individuals as such. The deliberately meaningless term "hate group" allows the SPLC to smear people without ever actually accusing them of any criminal activity.

As for "keeping an eye on the Radical Right," pretty much everyone is to the right of the SPLC's worldview, which of course, makes them "radicals."

And finally, it's ironic to quote the SPLC on inclusion when NOT ONE of the SPLC's top ten, highest paid executives is a minority, much less an immigrant.

At 2:47 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Well, Richard, I guess somebody has to stick up for the haters. You must be very proud.



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