Volvo's Gay Friendly Position Proves Ford Didn't Cave To The AFA

The best definitions of “conservative” and liberal” I ever heard comes from….well…me. “Liberals” are about protecting freedoms of choice for individuals as long as those freedoms aren’t unlawful or hurt other people. Those who call themselves “conservative” today aren’t happy unless people abide by their choices.
And so I enter into the vortex of insanity called the press coverage surrounding ther American Family Association, its head, the appropriately named Donald Wildmon, and Ford Motor Co. I’ve been deconstructing the events and here are my conclusions.

For months, the AFA has been urging a boycott of Ford products because of its support through advertising of and sponsorship of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, an advocacy group, advertising in a few gay publications and its support of domestic partner benefits. Ford met with the AFA as they meet with many special interest groups. Jaguar and Land Rover, which have been undergoing severe cost-cutting, had decided, as was related to me as far back as September, to make big cuts in its magazine budget. Though gay publications were not specified to me then, the strategy was to eliminate titles where audiences overlapped. In other words, Jag and Land Rover could reach the same readers of the gay publications in The Wine Spectator and other such mags.
The AFA, which has an undeniable (though it tries) agenda against homosexuals living peacefully and enjoying liberties equal to straight people, is in the business of claiming victories, even when there isn’t one to claim. That helps drive membership contributions. I wouldn’t doubt that some dealer or even a Ford exec may have pointed to some gay magazine titles dropping from Jaguar/Land Rover’s ad schedule as a ploy to make the group go away. But since Volvo has no intention of dropping its ad schedule with The Advocate, a gay magazine, I’m at a loss to figure out why the AFA can claim victory for anything. The AFA took down its www.boycottford.com website, which now simply links to the AFA’s website, citing Ford’s apparent decision to give into their demands.

This is akin to someone claiming they made the sun come out because they did a sun dance just before dawn. Jaguar and Land Rover were almost certainly making these cuts regardless of the AFA.

Ford will be meeting with a coalition of gay advocacy executives soon to hear them out too. Meantime, the groups are squawking. From Michael Wilke, executive director, Commercial Closet Association: “Commercial Closet Association understands Ford Motor Co.'s dilemma, though we don't agree with its decision to reverse its careful research on gay and lesbian consumers, years of friendship-building corporate sponsorship, and gay-friendly advertising since 2002.”

Sigh.

This is one of those non stories driven by people with a wacky axe to grind. The AFA claims a false victory. GLAAD and CCA have to respond because the AFA makes it appears as if the AFA clubbed Ford like a harp seal. Now, Ford, which I know, after covering the company for twenty years, is not anti-gay (it’s former CFO is openly gay and it’s benefit policies are toward domestic partners are more generous than most) may be compelled to articulate or re-affirm that it is not anti-gay. I hope they do. But they may not be able to. Sales are down and the company is suffering financially (no doubt a plague brought down o them for being supportive of gay rights)and dealers will not want to go back on the boycott merry-go-round.

If ever there was a misnamed organization, it’s the AFA. This from their website:

"Does AFA Hate Homosexuals?
Absolutely Not! The same Holy Bible that calls us to reject sin, calls us to love our neighbor. It is that love that motivates us to expose the misrepresentation of the radical homosexual agenda and stop its spread though our culture. AFA has sponsored several events reaching out to homosexuals and letting them know there is love and healing at the Cross of Christ.”

And this: “'Gay' - For centuries, gay was defined as "merry, happily excited or lively." Homosexual activists have reinvented this word to define their lifestyle. It's odd, isn't it, that the term "gay" would be used to describe a lifestyle than (on average) lowers the life expectancy of homosexual males by over 20 years? That's according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta -- not a statistic just dreamed up by opponents of homosexuality.”

Okay….can we at least agree that the AFA is terribly hostile to gay people. For what reason, only Reverend Wildmon really knows.

I’m not carrying water for Ford on this issue. My aim in this particular blog entry is to carry water for the truth. The truth is that since Ford’s Volvo brand is still running ads in gay media, how can the AFA claim any kind of victory here. How ironic that Volvo is arguably the most family focused brand under Ford’s corporate umbrella. It's decades long positioning as the safest car for your children. It invented safety belts. If you are curious about the business reasons, if not the moral reasons, for Volvo not giving in. The Swedes would organize a boycott of Volvo in the brand’s home market if Ford gave into the AFA. And Volvo is one of the only profitable pieces of Ford these days.

Good for the Swedes!

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