I’m not old enough to remember the old Tonight Show with Johnny Carson show but I do love comedy. And if you love comedy, you’ll hear about Johnny Carson. Carson is an influence to your favorite comedian, the aspiration of many if not most comedians, and arguably one of the most successful comedians of all time. Enough people who I love and respect have told me as much and I’ve seen a bit for myself too. But today’s title sounds like a character Carson did called “Carnac the Magnificent” where he would hold the card up to his forehead as if to predict the punchline to a joke only afterward did he read the card and reveal the joke – in this case, it would be abortion. Well, it’s safe to say that Carson would not have been likely to bring up that topic on his show.
However, many news outlets and writers are addressing CBS’ decision to allow Focus on the Family to buy a Super Bowl ad, which apparently addresses abortion from the pro-life perspective. This has caused a small brush fire in the media, as abortion has been known to do.
Here’s my theory. If CBS has a history of rejecting advocacy, political and religious messages from airing during the Super Bowl, it seems odd they’d make an exception here. You can make a slight case for the fact that it’s “The Tim Tebow Story” and football fans are likely to be somewhat to mildly interested in that. For those who haven’t heard, Tim Tebow’s (University of Florida QB and Heisman Trophy winner) mother was told it would be safer to abort her 5th child (I think 5th?) than to risk childbirth. She decided to risk it and had Tim. Great story, everyone’s happy, and luckily neither mother nor child was in danger.
Fast forward to this week. CBS needs to be consistent. If CBS has rejected, as they apparently have, ads from PETA, ACLU, United Church of Christ, and Catholicadvocacy.org than they need to continue to be consistent and reject this one. If CBS were to announce prior to the Super Bowl selling-spree that the policy will be changed, then this ad and others like it are fine by me. If evangelical Christians or members of the Pro-life movement were to argue that this ad but no others deserves an exception, it would be ridiculous. As long as a policy is the same for everyone, it’s the best we can hope for in our modern society. Anyone who argues that CBS should be able to pick-and-choose causes and that pro-life causes pass the bar, is just dense and asking for problems.
On the other hand, if CBS did change its policy, in advance, to allow anyone with a cause to develop commercials and purchase airtime and Focus on the Family just happens to be first through the gate; then everyone on the opposite side of this issue needs to accept that. As long as they could produce and show a pro-choice or advocacy ad, the system works. If either side tries to make this argument larger than it is, I think they are missing the point. We need to be able to live in a society that can openly debate and air our differences and opinions without inconsistency or bitterness.
There is a larger question from Focus on the Family’s perspective – do you think Super Bowl Sunday is the best platform to present your pro-life story? I happened to think it’s fine though unlikely to work. Similarly, I will defend everyone’s right (within appropriate primetime television standards) to air any message that they think will impact viewers or get people talking. This should not be a pro-life, pro-choice battle and anyone who wrote an article from that perspective missed the point. It’s simply about fairness, consistency and equal opportunity.