Should CBS be the arbiter?

Q: The conservative Christian group Focus on the Family is sponsoring a pro-life ad, featuring football star Tim Tebow, during … Continued

Q: The conservative Christian group Focus on the Family is sponsoring a pro-life ad, featuring football star Tim Tebow, during Sunday’s Super Bowl. Should CBS show the ad? Should CBS allow other faith-based groups to buy Super Bowl ads promoting their beliefs on social issues? Is a major sporting event, or a TV ad campaign, an appropriate venue for discussing such vital and divisive culture-war issues like abortion?

This question is laboring under a major philosophical misconception that CBS is a “public” sphere in the American discursive space that must abide by certain ethics of fairness and must pursue the public good. If it costs between $2 million to $3 million for 30 seconds to send a message during the Super Bowl, then it is clear that we are talking about an arena that can only be described as an “exclusive sphere”.

Even if CBS allowed both sides of any issue to air their arguments, the matter of the ability of the advocates to pay for exposure remains. Thus if CBS allows all advocacy and public interest messages airtime, only the rich will be able to avail the opportunity.

I would love to use the Super Bowl as an opportunity to recite verse 5:32 from the Qur’an and try and convince millions of Americans that Islam does not condone violence and that the Qur’an deems taking of innocent life as an abomination. This pro-life message could go far in combating Islamophobia, improving U.S.-Muslim relations and perhaps save us from future wars. But alas, even if CBS allows me that I cannot raise the millions necessary (on a side note, fundraising at that level could actually get Muslims in trouble).

The point I am trying to make is, if you have the power (financial or numbers) you have the message. The fact that Focus on Family may influence people during Super Bowl is less relevant because its presence on the messages board itself sends the signal that this idea has power behind it, that it already has momentum.

Should CBS allow Focus on Family to air its message is also a wrong question to ask. The key question is should CBS be allowed to allow or disallow advocacy messages. Should they have the authority to make a value based assessment on which of the many richly endowed messages is worthy of airtime and which is not? I think that given the track record of the corporate sector, it is safer and wiser to assume that they cannot be trusted with this responsibility. Entities for whom the bottom line is the driving force morality and public goods are of secondary significance.

The right to freedom of speech as an important institution in the American democracy is not well served because of the privatization of the public sphere. The inherent tensions between democracy and capitalism — the former seeking to maximize benefit for all, and the latter pursuing profit for some – continue to manifest themselves in many key issues in our society, health care, advocacy, religion and public policy are just some of them.

Written by
  • rentianxiang

    I would also love to be able to air some quotes from the quran. How about 2:216 Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not. Or how about 8:12 I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them. Or how about 9:29 Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued. Or how about 4:34 …As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly). (Other translations more honestly use the term “hit”.) And yes, there are plenty more like these and the more we put them in context the more frightening they become. Yes, Mr. Khan I too would love to buy some time during the Superbowl to display passages from the Quran so people can know what is in that book so we will wake up to the dangers Islam poses to a society based on equality and democracy and tolerance. And before you call me intolerant, I believe sincerely in your right to believe whatever you want to believe and live a life in peace, just as long as you keep your beliefs to yourself. But the fact is, the Quran poses a threat to me when the “believers” take its injunctions seriously, which many (not a small minority) do, and may try to force their beliefs down the throats of democractic societies. I can tolerate that which does not tolerate me and my fellow non-believers.