Over the years I have become a somewhat unwitting connoisseur of the infomercial. Because I'm often up past midnight, with a computer on my lap and projects strewn across the living room floor, I'm usually half-attentive as the TV transitions from reruns of Frasier or Girlfriends to half-hour programs promoting real estate ventures that will transform everyday working Americans into millionaires, and kitchen innovations that can turn the toast-burners among us into world-class chefs.
Now, I've never bought anything off of an infomercial. But with their compelling sales pitches, testimonials from people "just like you," appeals to people's anxieties, and easy-to-buy solutions that help you solve your problems from the comfort of your own couch, I can see how infomercials can be very engaging.
Earlier this week, GLAAD was alerted to an hour-long paid infomercial that had appeared on local broadcast affiliates in Traverse City, Mich., Charlotte, N.C., and Toledo, Ohio. This was an infomercial of a different sort, though. While it bore many of the trademarks of infomercials of old, what it was selling is extraordinarily dangerous.
The infomercial was created and financed by the anti-gay American Family Association and features interviews with anti-gay activists who make a series of predictable, breathless, fear-mongering claims about LGBT people and equality.
As you would expect, the video is propaganda, pure and simple -- manufactured to perpetuate a climate of hostility toward our community and to create a culture where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are less safe, less secure, and where our families are put in harm's way.
The good news is that local voices in Grand Rapids, Mich. -- one of two remaining markets where the AFA is known to have tried to place the infomercial -- have been reaching out to the station management there, making them aware of how hurtful this propaganda piece really is. WOOD-TV today announced that, after having pulled the infomercial out of an early-evening weeknight slot, they had made an offer to the AFA to air the program in a non-prime-time slot on a Saturday. And since the AFA had not responded to their offer, they announced today that, "we are removing ourselves from this matter."
WSYX-TV in Columbus, Ohio, has also decided to postpone airing the anti-gay infomercial after hearing concerns from community members, and will issue a decision later after the general manager has had an opportunity to review. A new air date has not been set.
GLAAD is proud to have been able to support the leadership of these local activists. And it's critical that local community members across the country be vigilant should the AFA try to place this propaganda in their local markets, and be ready to effectively explain why the public's airwaves should not be used to sow seeds of fear, hostility and malice in the communities they serve.
While it is sad that anti-gay activists want to continue to perpetuate fears about our community, at the end of the day, it's all they have left. Every day, more and more Americans are getting to know and understand LGBT people and our families. For those whose opinions of our lives are becoming more favorable, the single greatest contributing factor is knowing someone who is gay or lesbian. And as more Americans see and know us as we are, our opponents' myths, attacks and defamatory stereotypes will continue to fall on ever-growing numbers of deaf ears.
There's still a lot of work to be done. LGBT people can still be fired from their jobs in states across this country. We continue to be targeted for hate violence. And anti-gay marriage laws and adoption bans continue to place our loved ones and our families in harm's way. But anti-gay activists know that their support is deteriorating, and that it will continue to deteriorate as people get to know us and recognize the common ground that we share. That's why they have to resort to playing on fears and misinformation, and -- like far too many infomercials -- selling us something that we don't need.
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