MoveOn’s lost opportunity?

SarahWestIn an interview with Noel Murray of The Onion‘s A.V. Club, the masterful documentary filmmaker Errol Morris vents that he could not interest MoveOn PAC in some of his anti-Bush ads. More specifically, he says MoveOn took a pass on commercials featuring pro-Kerry evangelical Christians:

I wish the ads could’ve been used. I kept thinking that the only way ads like this could be effective was to just blanket the markets with them. You don’t show one person, you show 50 people. Make it seem as though there’s a bandwagon. And one thing that really interested me is, I shot evangelical Christians, and MoveOn didn’t even put those in the mix! For reasons that, you know . . . I’m speechless. It was assumed that you can’t touch evangelical Christians. “Oh, they’re the Republican Right. Stay away from those people. Don’t even try to talk to them.” Well, what’s interesting is that there were evangelical Christians who were voting for Kerry. There were right-to-lifers who were voting for Kerry. And it’s interesting to listen to the reasons why. To ignore that segment of the electorate is moronic. Particularly if you don’t know who those people are, or what their concerns are.

Morris mentions that he has posted some of those commercials on his website. In the commercials posted under the category of Religion, only two people (Doug West and Sarah West) say they speak as evangelical Christians. Only one (Sarah West) mentions abortion:

I voted for President Bush in 2000, but you can’t just blindly follow someone because they say they are a Christian. You still have to use you mind and look at the evidence. I just don’t see integrity. I don’t see truthfulness. I just don’t see much evidence of a life devoted to Christ. I’m a Christian. I am against abortion, but I’m voting for John Kerry.

Deborah Wood, identified as a lifelong Republican, objects to Bush’s claim that God is on the side of freedom, which Wood reduces to “God is on our side.”

Bob Scott, also identified as a lifelong Republican, takes umbrage at the idea that Bush would ask God for guidance on any policy, which Scott believes means that “[Bush] thinks he is speaking for God.”

It’s too bad MoveOn chose not to air Morris’ commercials. Free speech, especially about politics, is an inherent good, and political nonconformists certainly are more interesting than people who remain undecided until election day. And it would have been entertaining to figure out whether those commercials changed the minds of more than a few hundred people.

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  • http://www.dailycontentions.com Lucas Sayre

    Douglas, I thank you for a great post.

    If more people were able to acknowledge that a particular religion need not be associated with a particular party, our nation would be much better off.

  • Herman

    But, you ask, what about the religious fundamentalists? Have they started to bash Bush now too? Would they be at least mildly perturbed that Bush’s State Dept. now refuses to condemn Saudi Arabia for its role in the trafficking of prostitutes and child sex workers?

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/bush_human_trafficking

    The answer is “no.” If it were human embryos that were being trafficked instead of children, well that of course would be a completely different story. Otherwise though, Bush isn’t even going to slap his Saudi buddies (including “Bandar Bush”) on the hand.

  • Pingback: Jim Gilliam

  • David Neal

    Actually, most of the fundamentalists I know DO “bash” Bush for not condemning/acting on sex trafficking. Just because the press doesn’t report it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Perhaps you just don’t know the “right kind” of fundamentalists.

  • J-D

    “It’s too bad MoveOn chose not to air Morris’ commercials. Free speech, especially about politics, is an inherent good…”

    In what sense is Moveon.org’s refusal to air the Morris’ misinofmercials somehow a negation of free speech. And perhaps it would be best to define what you mean by “free speech” prior to delcaring it an “inherent good”. Is the yelling of “fire” in a croweded public space when there is no fire an “inherent good”? Surely this last paragraph is long on platitudinous moralizing, but short on substance. One of the big problems in American politics today is that people, especially, it seems, professional political observers, want to be entertained rather than informed – and the more outlandish the better (e.g. Cindy Sheehan).

  • marion r.

    “Free speech, especially about politics, is an inherent good”

    No, actually, it is not. The only inherently good speech is speech that is true.

    Government is highly fallable and prone to tyranny and opression. It is wise, therefore, to severly limit government regulation of speech.

    It is a fallacy, however to deduce from this latter truth that free speech is an inherent good. Often as not free speech is both oppressive and morally despicable.

  • http://SunsettWalls.org Steve Sunsett

    MoveOn passed on the mention of evangelical Christians because they correctly realized that for the few evangelical votes they might gain, they would lose even more anti-Bush votes from those who despise evangelical Christians. Simple math. Interesting ads, though.

  • Michael

    MoveOn passed on the mention of evangelical Christians because they correctly realized that for the few evangelical votes they might gain, they would lose even more anti-Bush votes from those who despise evangelical Christians. Simple math. Interesting ads, though.

    Exactly. Take out “evangelical Christians” and “Democrats” and add “gays” and “Republicans” and you have the exact same equation. Would there be “free speech” arguments if we heard a right-wing political group nixed ads that included Log Cabin Republicans. Probably not

  • Tom Breen

    “MoveOn passed on the mention of evangelical Christians because they correctly realized that for the few evangelical votes they might gain, they would lose even more anti-Bush votes from those who despise evangelical Christians.”

    Who would the Christian-hating anti-Bush voters vote for? Bush?

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2 Douglas LeBlanc

    Michael writes:

    {Would there be “free speech” arguments if we heard a right-wing political group nixed ads that included Log Cabin Republicans. Probably not}

    Well, I did make a free-speech argument when the major TV networks rejected a witty pro-gay ad by the United Church of Christ:

    http://www.getreligion.org/?p=478

  • VictoriaG

    “Who would the Christian-hating anti-Bush voters vote for? Bush?”

    They might vote for Nader, Kuchinik, or any other third-party or write-in candidate. Or, they might just stay home on election day.

    It’s a very dangerous game to assume that the folks who hate the other guy will vote for you no matter what you do.

  • SEV

    Are we refering to them being aired on television or being on the Moveon website? Because I definitely saw these ads on the website along with Morris’ other ads. I never saw any Moveon ads on television at all – but maybe that’s because I don’t live in a swing state, or because I don’t get cable… But moveon definitely had these ads on the website.

  • Michael

    Well, I did make a free-speech argument when the major TV networks rejected a witty pro-gay ad by the United Church of Christ

    Fair enough, although this really was more of a traditional “free speech” question than whether an advertiser should include certain content in an ad they are producing. Is it a free speech problem not to include the opinion of the 1 dentist in 5 who doesn’t like Crest???

  • Daniel Montiel

    “MoveOn passed on the mention of evangelical Christians because they correctly realized that for the few evangelical votes they might gain, they would lose even more anti-Bush votes from those who despise evangelical Christians.”
    That speaks a deep intolerance among the left–that they could be actually be turned away from voting for “their” candidate simply because some people they hate as a stereotypical group may support their candidate also. Very sad, and one of the reasons that many Christians, evangelical or not, stay away from the Democratic Party–the big tent isn’t quite up yet.

  • J-D

    “It’s a very dangerous game to assume that the folks who hate the other guy will vote for you no matter what you do.”

    Which is pretty much why the Democrats keep losing elections.


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