Gay or Straight, The Robert Dyas Christmas TV Ad Is Cheap and Cynical


Don’t praise Robert Dyas for their awkward, virtue-signalling Christmas television commercial. Condemn them for exploiting the hard-won civil rights accomplishments of others for monetary gain

If any further proof was needed that tolerance and equal rights have morphed from being simply the right thing to do into just another opportunity for ostentatious virtue-signalling, you need look no further than the bizarre Christmas television commercial recently released by Robert Dyas.

In the ridiculous TV advert – a parody of a 2009 satirical video by Rhett and Link – various Robert Dyas staff members are shown confessing their sexuality before going on to plug completely unrelated products stocked by the retailer.

(The original video showed black and white employees explaining how the products in their furniture shop were suitable for both black and white customers).

From the Telegraph:

The minute-long film, described as “the weirdest Christmas advert ever”, shows men and women declaring whether they are straight, gay or bisexual while describing unrelated products in the store.

In the clip filmed in one of the chain’s branches, a member of staff introduced himself by saying: “Hi, my name’s Marcus, I work at Robert Dyas, and I’m gay.”

Before showing off a large inflatable yellow Minion toy, he adds: “I like going out with my friends and playing volleyball. I also like showing our gay and straight customers a funky range of our Christmas gifts.

[..] The confusing advert then comes to a close with a shot of staff members and customers standing at the shop’s counter, and announcing in unison: “Robert Dyas – where gays and straights can buy drills and much, much more”.

Like all clever television adverts, this was clearly designed to be controversial and to generate discussion which would expand Robert Dyas’ marketing reach well beyond the number of people who will ever see the commercial on television. And as with the creepy John Lewis “Moon Hitler” commercial, also released this year, much of the weirdness is intended to get people talking – so mission accomplished.

But in this case it is worth taking the bait, because the message of the Robert Dyas commercial is symptomatic of a wider trend sweeping Anglo-American society, whereby it is no longer enough to quietly practice the principles of tolerance and non-discrimination in one’s own life, but rather we are continually encouraged to make ostentatious public displays of conformity with the new enlightened PC dogma.

Of course people of any sexual orientation should be treated with respect and dignity at all times, including people either working for or shopping at large chain retailers. But since when did it become the job of hardware shops to start preaching about social issues? How does the spectacle of individual staff members inexplicably revealing their sexuality help to advance equal rights? And what of those customers of traditional (or bigoted, depending on your view) beliefs, who do not agree with the message? Are they worthy of no respect, or magnanimity in the face of now-inevitable ideological defeat?

The Robert Dyas affair is not dissimilar to a similar action taken by Starbucks in the United States following the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Following that tragic death, Starbucks became possessed by the idea that they were going to make a meaningful contribution to race relations in America, and encouraged their baristas to “start a conversation about race” with customers while serving them in store.

In other words, Starbucks decided that it was no longer enough for private citizens to be non-racist themselves, and engage in whatever activism or campaigning on the issue that their hearts dictated in their roles as private citizens. Now, Starbucks – that beacon of moral enlightenment – would “help them along” by prompting them with guilt-tripping conversation openers about white privilege.

Quite how initiating a serious conversation about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations” with a bleary-eyed morning commuter might meaningfully help the country was never fully explained. And no sooner was the proposal announced in a blaze of sanctimonious publicity than it was then quietly dropped in the face of public scepticism and mockery.

The Robert Dyas affair is much the same – an ostentatious display of “right on” progressivism from a corporate retailer, who rather than being lauded for their enlightened position on civil rights should be condemned for co-opting the still serious issue of discrimination against gay people and exploiting it in service of their viral Christmas marketing campaign.

Of course Robert Dyas has the right to say anything they like in their television commercials – that much is an issue of free speech which should be protected and defended at all times. But not every PC pronouncement is made for the “right” reasons, and we should be smart enough to see through the virtue signalling of the social justice warriors and the cynicism of the business interests, which are more about self aggrandisement or monetary gain than advancing important social issues.

Real social change – positive or negative – comes from the ballot box, the picket line, the popular culture, the academy and the hearts and minds of private citizens.

Real social change does not come from the marketing department of Robert Dyas or their advertising agency – though thanks to their cynical marketing they do stand to reap financial rewards from the hard-won accomplishments of others.

UPDATE – 14 December: As the sharp-eyed commentator below points out, the Robert Dyas video is a parody of a 2009 satirical internet commercial by Rhett and Link, which is very similar – except that gay and straight are replaced by black and white. Top of the piece is now updated to make this clear, though I don’t think this necessarily changes the validity of my argument. Robert Dyas still chose to make and release the parody, and their motivations were still likely to be as described, half viral quirkiness and half virtue signalling – only now we can add unoriginality to the list of faults.

Robert Dyas have yet to comment on the video.

Robert Dyas - Christmas TV Advert - Gay

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The Soft Bigotry Of The Left: UKIP Banned From London Gay Pride March

Pride In London - UKIP banned - Gay Pride March - 40 Year Pride Anniversary

 

When is it right and proper to ban a group of people from participating in what has traditionally been an inclusionary and proudly non-partisan public event?

The answer, according to the organisers of the Pride in London gay pride parade, is when those innocent people just happen to be affiliated to UKIP, the pariah party among Britain’s political class.

There had been rumblings that this might happen for a few days now. When it was discovered that an LGBT delegation from UKIP planned to join the march, thousands of virtue-signalling left-wing keyboard warriors took to the internet in self-righteous fury, signing a petition to have LGBT UKIP members and other sympathetic Ukippers purged from the event.

The online petition (change.org petitions now being the preferred medium for the new middle class clerisy to purge opposing thought from the public sphere) raged:

Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, clearly does not support the values of acceptance that Pride promotes, and UKIP is an inherently homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, racist and misogynistic political party.

UKIP’s inclusion in Pride has already caused public outcry and many have stated they would feel unhappy and unsafe to have a UKIP group included in Pride 2015’s march, being that they are from an organisation that inherently does not support the values of acceptance and inclusion that Pride promotes.

To their partial credit, the organisers did not back down immediately. But now it seems that the anti-UKIP heat became too much for the Pride in London organisers to withstand. So great is the level of hostility and opprobrium showered on Ukippers – as well as on those others perceived to be going too easy on Nigel Farage’s party – that the banning of UKIP from the parade was sadly inevitable.

Continue reading

The Morning After In Arizona

Andrew Sullivan’s reflections on the vetoing of SB1062 by the Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer. We are in agreement, with one significant exception – Andrew sees no issue with discrimination against gays (or any other minority or class of individuals) in the private realm, only the public realm where government is an actor. While I admire his magnanimity in being willing to shrug off the hate and intolerance of certain fundamentalists, I cannot agree that this is the right approach. It is all very well to favour “maximal liberty”, but taken to its (logical, not extreme) conclusion, this would open the door for arbitrary refusal of service to anyone on the grounds of anything masquerading as religious conscience.

The Dish

[Re-posted from earlier today]

Here’s the money quote from Jan Brewer’s veto statement last night:

Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated … Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value, so is non-discrimination.

As I’ve mulled this over and over, I have a few straggling thoughts. Against the bill: it had two terrible features. The first was the breadth of the religious liberty invoked. The real innovation in Arizona was the extension of religious liberty claims against other citizens, rather than against the government itself. That’s a big leap, and trivializes religious liberty in some ways. No individual can coerce, even with a lawsuit, the way the government can. The second is the environment in which this bill was…

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Triangulating On Gay Rights

gayweddingcake

 

A surprising piece today from Andrew Sullivan, in which he distances himself from certain aspects of the opposition to the anti-gay discriminatory legislation currently working its way through the usual-suspect state legislatures.

Sullivan, gradually sensing victory in his long struggle and seeking (perhaps overly so) to be magnanimous in the face of it, writes:

The truth is: we’re winning this argument. We’ve made the compelling moral case that gay citizens should be treated no differently by their government than straight citizens. And the world has shifted dramatically in our direction. Inevitably, many fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews and many Muslims feel threatened and bewildered by such change and feel that it inchoately affects their religious convictions. I think they’re mistaken – but we’re not talking logic here. We’re talking religious conviction. My view is that in a free and live-and-let-live society, we should give them space. As long as our government is not discriminating against us, we should be tolerant of prejudice as long as it does not truly hurt us. And finding another florist may be a bother, and even upsetting, as one reader expressed so well. But we can surely handle it. And should.

I have read and re-read this paragraph multiple times, and this argument both surprises and concerns me. Boiled down to its essence, it is frankly disturbing – in essence, Sullivan is saying that discrimination in the private sector should be allowed and that a blind eye should be turned, and that we only have real cause for concern if gays (or presumably other minorities) face discrimination at the hands of the government.

Sullivan is also willing to play along with the fairly innocuous example of the gay couple approaching a florist to cater their wedding. It may well be the case that such a couple, spurned by one business, will be able to find an alternative provider in their town. But equally, it may not. There may be only one business of its kind in the vicinity, or there may not be the time or money to go on a Nativity-style trek through town trying to find a spare room at the inn.

More seriously, the business in question may be more important than providing flowers for a social occasion. What if it is accounting services? Or social care? A funeral home? Or medicine? Would it be permissible to deny services to gay or lesbian couples in one of these fields? If so, which ones? And what would be the logic behind such a consideration?

Sullivan’s desire to reach out to the viscerally anti-gay hold-outs in society (and if your beliefs prompt you to deny service to someone based on them, they are visceral) comes at the expense of the logic of his own argument. Sullivan remains fully cognisant of the danger of using religious freedom arguments to permit discrimination:

But the wording of the bills in question – from Kansas to Arizona – is a veritable, icy piste for widespread religious discrimination. And that’s for an obvious reason. If legislatures were to craft bills specifically allowing discrimination only in the case of services for weddings for gay couples, as Erickson says he wants, it would seem not only bizarre but obviously unconstitutional – clearly targeting a named minority for legal discrimination. So they had to broaden it, and in broadening it, came careening into their own double standards. Allow a religious exemption for interacting with gays, and you beg the question: why not other types of sinners? If the principle is not violating sincere religious belief, then discriminating against the divorced or those who use contraception would naturally follow.

This awareness only makes Sullivan’s desire to reach an accord with those who want to enshrine discrimination in law all the more bizarre. Sullivan seems to want to have it both ways – to point out the impossibility of the “religious freedom” bills, while also holding out an undeserved olive branch to the fundamentalists and proclaiming his unwillingness to force them to stop discriminating.

Sometimes it is appealing to float serenely above the fray and call for moderation and respect. Most of the time, it is probably the right course of action. But sometimes it is not.

The people currently trying to enshrine anti-gay discrimination into law want nothing more than to hoodwink the public into fretting about an imaginary future where beleaguered mom-and-pop businesses are forced at shotgun to commit acts in violation of their religious beliefs, acts that risk sending them straight to the pits of hell.

They want to recast the ignorant, the hateful and the prejudiced in the role of the plucky underdog hero, humbly attempting to live their simple lives according to their God-fearing values, but being thwarted and dictated to by the arrogant metropolitan elites. This image is sensationalist and false.

And the last thing that these cynical people deserve is the sympathy and respect of Andrew Sullivan or anyone else who has fought so hard to end discrimination.

Citing Religious Freedom To Excuse Discrimination Will Come Back To Bite

segregation

If your religion requires that you attend church every Sunday, you have the right to do so, and no government should ever strip you of that freedom. And if your religious beliefs compel you to speak out publicly on social issues, that also should be your absolute right, provided that you are not inciting violence against anyone else.*

But if the free exercise of your religion requires that you don’t serve gay people at your place of business because you disapprove of their lifestyle choice, that is just called being sanctimonious, and has nothing to do with piety and everything to do with being judgmental – incidentally, a character trait that some major religions frown upon.

And yet this is exactly the type of behaviour that would be sanctioned under a raft of discriminatory legislation working its way through a number of state houses throughout America. MotherJones reports on this new social conservative backlash:

Kansas set off a national firestorm last week when the GOP-controlled House passed a bill that would have allowed anyone to refuse to do business with same-sex couples by citing religious beliefs. The bill, which covered both private businesses and individuals, including government employees, would have barred same-sex couples from suing anyone who denies them food service, hotel rooms, social services, adoption rights, or employment—as long as the person denying the service said he or she had a religious objection to homosexuality. As of this week, the legislation was dead in the Senate. But the Kansas bill is not a one-off effort.

Republicans lawmakers and a network of conservative religious groups has been pushing similar bills in other states, essentially forging a national campaign that, critics say, would legalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Republicans in Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee recently introduced provisions that mimic the Kansas legislation. And Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have introduced broader “religious freedom” bills with a unique provision that would also allow people to deny services or employment to LGBT Americans, legal experts say.

One gets the very strong sense that the principle of “religious freedom” is being used by the proponents of these bills as a cudgel with which to hit people that they don’t much like.

We can also safely strike out the word “religious” and replace it with “Christian” without affecting the real intent of the legislation, because you can bet your life that supporters of the Kansas bill would go insane if the same law that they support was cited in defence of a Muslim waiter who refused to serve pork sausages to a customer. In fact, ten new campaigns to “keep Shariah law out of America” would be launched before you could utter the phrase “hypocritical, discriminatory nonsense masquerading unconvincingly as a principled defense of religious freedom”.

In short, these bills are exactly what we have come to expect from a religious and social right wing in America that believe the founding fathers established America as an explicitly judeo-Christian land and that the Constitution is nothing more than an appendix to the Bible.

Dan Savage pulls no punches in delivering his verdict on the spate of new discriminatory legislation:

I don’t remember where I read it but this is a good idea: these laws should include a provision requiring business owners who wish to access their “protections” to publicly post signs in their windows and on their websites that list the types of people they refuse to serve. That might prompt some hateful Christianists to think twice. Because then they wouldn’t just be losing the business of the odd gay couple they got to turn away in a fit of self-righteous assholery. They would also be losing the business of straight people who don’t want to patronize businesses that discriminate against their gay and lesbian friends, neighbors, and family members—and others who worry about where empowering religious bigots could ultimately lead.

Not a bad idea at all. Savage may propose it only in jest, but perhaps, if these odious bills are to be passed over Democratic opposition, they could be sabotaged with amendments to include just such a poison pill clause. You want to arbitrarily turn away gay people from your business establishment? Well sure, go right on ahead – but make sure that you post a big sign out front listing all of the types of people whose lifestyles you frown on and consequently refuse to serve. And while you’re at it, post the same list prominently at the top of your company website, just to make absolutely clear which potential customers you are willing to welcome and which ones you will shun. After all, a well-functioning market requires perfect information.

In seeking to usurp the protections of the First Amendment and bastardise them in service of their cynical anti-gay agenda, supporters of this pro-discrimination legislation are starting down a dangerous road. Having only recently put the Jim Crow era behind them, some people seem only too eager to dust off the old “No Colored Allowed” signs and repurpose them for the war against their next target.

Of course, even if the pro-discrimination bills do successfully make it through the state legislatures and get signed into law by the Governors (many of whom have national political aspirations of their own), and even if they survive their inevitable challenge all the way up to the Supreme Court, the legislation would almost certainly be destroyed in the fiery crucible of broader public opinion, most of all among young people with whom the Republican Party has enough of an image problem already.

One of the main problems is the fact that there are no real logical or enforceable limits to “religious freedoms” being proposed. One can easily picture Newt and Callista Gingrich forlornly walking the streets of Washington D.C. in the rain, being turned away from one fancy restaurant after another because the proprietor’s sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit adultery and call it a sin. Of course, under no circumstances could the proprietor ever entertain the idea of serving a customer whose life story did not perfectly comply with the teachings of Jesus Pat Robertson, and if the new legislation is passed he would now have the weight of the law to back him up.

A prohibition on stealing was important enough to be included among the Ten Commandments, so perhaps we can also expect huge lines building outside places like Starbucks as the already overworked employees complete the mandatory criminal records background check before serving you your tall non-fat vanilla spice latte with extra nutmeg.

We are able to laugh at these ludicrous examples of the laws being applied to their bizarre extremes because although the attempt to push new legislation is troubling, it is really nothing more than the death throes of an old way of life where persecution and ostracisation of people because of their sexuality is excused and permitted. The legislation represents a collective shriek of indignance and self-pity from people who are finally starting to realise that they have irretrievably lost the argument, and will soon have to change their own behaviour rather than bully others into suppressing their real selves for fear of causing offense or inviting persecution.

As Andrew Sullivan said of the Kansas bill:

It is premised on the notion that the most pressing injustice in Kansas right now is the persecution some religious people are allegedly experiencing at the hands of homosexuals.

Such a notion is plainly absurd. Certain bigoted Christianists may have convinced themselves that they are being persecuted because they are no longer allowed to inflict their worldview and moral code on others, but there are now too few Americans willing to show up to their pity party to be of any help. Playing the victim card will not work outside the confines of their own shrinking closed network of intolerant people. Sullivan continues:

It’s a misstep because it so clearly casts the anti-gay movement as the heirs to Jim Crow. If you want to taint the Republican right as nasty bigots who would do to gays today what Southerners did to segregated African-Americans in the past, you’ve now got a text-book case. The incidents of discrimination will surely follow, and, under the law, be seen to have impunity. Someone will be denied a seat at a lunch counter. The next day, dozens of customers will replace him. The state will have to enforce the owner’s right to refuse service. You can imagine the scenes. Or someone will be fired for marrying the person they love. The next day, his neighbors and friends will rally around.

If you were devising a strategy to make the Republicans look like the Bull Connors of our time, you just stumbled across a winner. If you wanted a strategy to define gay couples as victims and fundamentalist Christians as oppressors, you’ve hit the jackpot. In a period when public opinion has shifted decisively in favor of gay equality and dignity, Kansas and the GOP have decided to go in precisely the opposite direction.

Instead of full-throated encouragement from the Republican national leadership in support of what the state parties are doing in their name, there is nothing but a conspicuous silence from the likes of John Boehner and Eric Cantor. Nothing from the congressional leadership and precious little from the conservative blogosphere either – tumbleweeds abound. There is a reason for this.

There exists a group of people whose behaviour is so odious and disgusting that it should not be spoken of in polite society; those involved in promoting it are amoral subversives perpetrating foul deeds which constitute an affront to God and to civilisation itself. Such people can barely be described as Americans, and certainly don’t deserve acknowledgement from Washington or protection by the law.

Unfortunately for the Kansas GOP, through their actions they are now that group, not the gay people they so love to persecute.

 

* Should be, but sadly is not currently the case in modern Britain, where the rights of the ultra-sensitive and the politically correct not to be offended supersede the right of the people to free speech.