A funny thing is happening during commercial breaks in Australia — subscribers to regional satellite TV are being inundated with antigay propaganda wrapped in a neat little package dubbed “family values.”
Actually, the package isn’t so neat. Viewers are subjected to some of the most awkward moments of broadcasting we can recall seeing — four ads depict the inner monologues of a traditional nuclear family, calling on them to go “back to the table” for family dinners.
It’s all part of a thinly-veiled effort for — who else? — Focus on the Family to raise funds for their cause.
In case you need reminding, FOTF is a U.S.-based Christian right group whose last released annual revenue in 2011 exceeded $95 million.
They spend their cash on a number of unsavory crusades, chief among them a hardline stance against gay marriage, civil unions and gay acceptance in general. The organization’s founder and sole leader from 1977-2003, James Dobson, has said: “Same-sex relationships undermine the future generation’s understanding of the fundamental principles of marriage, parenthood, and gender.”
In 2008 they were part of a coalition that sponsored California’s Prop 8, the ballot initiative to remove same-sex marriage.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights and hate group monitoring organization, has described Focus on the Family as one of a “dozen major groups [which] help drive the religious right’s anti-gay crusade.”
The group supported John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid only after trophy-girl Sarah Palin joined the ticket. Prior to that election, it launched a television and mail campaign predicting terrorist attacks in four U.S. cities if Obama was elected, equating the future president to Hitler.
FOTF’s current Australian campaign takes a more subtle approach, where they are working to undermine national efforts to achieve marriage equality — a hot button issue currently hitting major speed bumps in Parliament.
Here’s one of the spots, in which a flustered mother finds the comfort she seeks at the dinner table:
And here’s another where her son finally feels heard at, yep, the dinner table. Oddly, nobody seems to ask him “How did you get that black eye? Are you alright?!”:
The ads, clumsy as they are, appear innocent enough. That is, until you head to the link displayed at the end — backtothetable.org.au.
There, you’ll find a dynamic background featuring the same family from the ads resting behind the “conversationalizer,” a rotating list of “fun chats for the dinner table.” Wholesome!
Scrolling down, the group’s mission statement is revealed in giant typeface — “Getting back to the table is a simple solution where families can talk, listen and learn; discovering unconditional love, support and understanding.”
And just below that feel-good message, a call to action:
But wait, where do these donations go? Assuming a viewer hasn’t peered past the campaign’s false intentions (and if they’ve made it to the donation screen, chances are they haven’t), there is no indication of where the money goes, save for a comparatively small logo at the end of the ads and a minuscule mention at the bottom corner of the page that Back to the Table is an “initiative of Focus on the Family.”
Since regional Australian TV doesn’t receive too many direct advertisers, viewers are reporting seeing the ads at an alarming volume, to which we can only apologize to the people of Australia that our religious slime has oozed its way south.
Perhaps the best solution is to turn off the TV, sit your family down around the dinner table, and discuss a range of topics like religious extremism, how marriage equality lets love flourish, and if the kids are old enough, the diabolical effects of antigay propaganda.