Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Anti-everybody

Andrew Sullivan is amused/annoyed at the "We All Have AIDS" campaign, which seems to entail presumably non-AIDS-patient celebrities such as Will Smith and Rosie O'Donnell declaring that they, in fact, have AIDS. This campaign is an obvious rip-off of the Anti-Defamation League's recent "Anti-Semitism is Anti-Me" campaign, in which we all learned that anti-Semitism is bad because... it is upsetting to Naomi Campbell. Julia Gorin pretty much says what needs to be said about that campaign. Because no one cares when anti-Semitism affects Jews, or even when it affects, say, Shalom Harlow (who may or may not actually be Jewish, I have no idea, but her name is Shalom so why not?), but it's when Naomi Campbell's feathers are ruffled that we must protest this most dire of problems.

The logic behind these campaigns is more or less sound--we live in a just society, ergo any sort of injustice makes the society as a whole unjust, ergo it affects us all. And yet, it doesn't. The problem is that, as a just society, we ought to understand that it's enough that AIDS affects those with the disease and that anti-Semitism is a problem for Jews. Who cares if Paris Hilton feels personally insulted at anti-Asian slurs, or if Brad Pitt is especially bothered by anti-black racism, or if I, Phoebe of WWPD semi-fame, take it personally every time an effeminate middle-school boy is called a "faggot." This reminds me of a pin I've seen around, with which the wearer declares himself an "ally" of the gays. Which is, in effect, saying, "I'm liberal, but I'm straight, I tell you, straight!" Which is a bit disturbing, because I cannot think of any other pin with which one could make clear that one supported a cause but was explicitly not a part of the group victimized by whichever wrong was being protested. I say, go with the rainbow flag, no explanations, I've known straight people who have, and it didn't seem to cut into their social life.

What this all amounts to is the following: It's better, in a way, to leave things ambiguous. For all anyone knows, Naomi Campbell is Jewish. (Naomi is a Jewish enough name, no?) Anti-semitism may not be anti-Naomi Campbell, but it is anti-Gwyneth Paltrow, anti-Natalie Portman, (not to mention anti-Lior Ashkenazi and anti-Yehuda Levi, and given that those two are the best-looking actors, nay, life forms, in the galaxy, we must, I mean must, take note). So, lame as the "anti-everybody" ad campaigns may be, they remind the public that, "It's just a problem for those people over there" is not acceptable. When there are ads from Planned Parenthood, featuring gay male couples, with the caption, "I demand access to birth control and abortion," we will be able to rest easy, knowing that we live in an utterly ridiculous, and yet strangely wonderful, society.

2 comments:

codone said...
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codone said...

"Cause evangelism" has always bothered me. I completely agree with you.

These kinds of campaigns rob critical problems of their substance. Issues end up losing their tangibility and become vague fashion imperatives.

Important messages end up being lost on a public immune to over-sentimental self-righteous cause-vertising.

Causes need to be viewed less as causes, and more as practical activities.