Wednesday, November 20, 2013

“without judgement, endorsement or agenda”

There’s a campaign by PETA to get the SeaWorld float removed from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I haven’t written about it primarily because I didn’t think it had any chance of succeeding – a prediction which has since been confirmed. (I also don’t care for parades, so I tend not to take much interest in stories about them.)

There’s a new AP article about the controversy. PETA’s protest and petition are getting a lot of traction due to the release of Blackfish,* but there’s essentially zero chance that Macy’s will remove the hideous float from its lineup. They’d like to present this refusal as merely consistent with a general entertainment-focused, apolitical policy:
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade stands as a unique American event solely devoted to entertainment. The Parade has never taken on, promoted or otherwise engaged in social commentary, political debate, or other forms of advocacy, no matter how worthy. Its mission has always been about entertaining millions of families and spectators. While it is understandable that such a widely embraced event can sometimes feature elements or performances that some people may find disagreeable, Macy’s intention is to provide a range of entertaining elements without judgement, endorsement or agenda. While we cannot control external forces that wish to impose their own perceptions on the Parade, we will remain steadfast in following the guiding core of a decades old mission, celebration and entertainment for all.
This is of course bogus. The parade’s official partners are corporations and it’s long been a platform for corporate displays of good will – a celebration of the status quo and consumerism. This is endorsing an agenda. Their suggestion that SeaWorld is dedicated to entertainment is making a judgment: that the suffering and rights of animals are trivial. There’s nothing magical about entertainment that removes it from the spheres of morality or politics.

But the inconsistency stands out. The AP article describes how the SeaWorld float is one of two controversial issues related to this year’s parade. Singer, vegetarian, and animal rights activist Joan Jett had to leave the South Dakota state float (for another which I think is still undisclosed) after complaints from the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association. It appears Jett herself made the decision to leave the float in the face of this. But why didn’t Macy’s insist to these “external forces that wish to impose their own perceptions on the Parade” that they wish to proceed “without judgement, endorsement or agenda”? Why are they not stating publicly in response to a trade association that finds Jett's appearance “disagreeable” that their “goal is to entertain” and that this is Jett’s “goal as well”?

Regardless of the float outcome, the publicity will not be good for SeaWorld or the fearful “cattlemen.” So it’s a victory in that regard.

* Independent of what happens with the float, SeaWorld is feeling it. Their stock price has fallen, they’re resorting to gimmicks to draw people in, celebrities are speaking out,** and even their CEO has sold a chunk of stock. Additionally, PETA “has submitted a formal complaint urging Florida State Attorney Jeffrey L. Ashton to investigate the park and pursue felony charges for alleged violations of Florida’s anti-cruelty statute.” SeaWorld is plainly on the losing side of history; now it’s a matter of whether its decline will happen quickly or slowly.

** Fortunately, an actor named Jason Biggs was there to provide the obligatory violent misogyny.

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