Thursday, 9 June 2011

Think of the children!

I live practically next door to a high school. There's a second high school just down the road, and a third up the hill the other way. Outside the first high school, on a main road, there's a bus shelter. One of the now-infamous Rip n Roll ads is on that bus shelter.

Or it was - when I drove past a few days ago, I noticed that the ad had been sprayed over. I could still see the edges, visible around the sides of some white or silver spray paint. And the graffitier hadn't put offensive words or tags or anything, they'd just blocked out the image of the ad.

It was pretty obvious what'd happened - someone had decided to take matters into their own hands, and ensure "the children" never had to see the horrifying sight of QAHC's ad, which features two fully-clothed gay men embracing. Or two adults holding a condom - whatever aspect of it was supposed to be more offensive, I forget. (Probably the gay part.)

Then, I drove past the sign again a day or two later, only to see that someone had taped up an A4-size version of the original ad over the whited-out version.

This whole deal, with Adshel, the Australian Christian Lobby, and the Rip n Roll ads, has had me more interested in local social issues than anything else in ages!

The first thing I appreciated about it was the sheer volume of people who've been so keen to speak up against homophobia and censorship. The Facebook group had 40,000 people last time I checked - and when I checked this morning, it had over 96,000!! - and while I can't tell how many of them are local (not without stalking all of their profiles, anyway) I think it does undermine Brisbane's reputation as a redneck, homophobic town. (Suck on that, haters!)

Goa Billboards has also reacted to the campaign (probably capitalising on the publicity, but still) by starting a new campaign called Embrace Acceptance. While I'm not totally sure what this campaign is for (maybe it's like a NOH8 thing?), it's an interesting result. I quite liked their press release, too.

To be cynical, I think a key element of this campaign was probably that it was easy. All someone had to do to show their support was accept a Facebook event - they didn't have to march, they didn't have to protest - and maybe send an email. Essentially it was armchair activism, and I think that appeals to a lot of people who feel strongly about stuff but don't have the time or the inclination to stand in the sun and yell at The Man.

And I think this benefit of the information age should be embraced. When a vocal hate group claims to have "grassroots support", it's just getting easier and easier for the actual grassroots to disagree with them.

It's also easier for someone to publish the so-called letters of protest on the internet so everyone can point and laugh at how badly written they are. Or how obvious it is that someone's hit copy + paste a bunch of times. (They seem to have been taken down again, or I'd link to them here.) Homophobes are going to have to up their game, if they don't want everyone poking holes in their stories.

So yeah, the actual grassroots has spoken. And the consensus seems to be "We're not gonna censor ourselves just so you don't have to have awkward conversations with your children. Also, use protection."

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