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    Con panna

    I don’t blame Michael or Henry Lewis for not bringing it up, but there’s an interesting aspect to this story that I think worth paying attention to:

    The Concerned Women of America, a “traditional family values” organization run by Beverly LaHaye, wife of fundamentalist preacher Rev. Tim Lahaye, a Christian broadcaster, has targeted Starbucks for promoting “homosexual values” by including quotes from gay individuals on their coffee cups, and for the company’s support of a San Diego gay pride event.

    The campaign also features quotes from other gay celebrities including singer–songwriter Rufus Wainwright, and musician Stephin Merritt.

    Starbucks started the “The Way I See It” quote program “as an extension of the coffeehouse culture — a way to promote open, respectful conversation among a wide variety of individuals.” Other notable figures whose quotes appear on the cups include actor Quincy Jones, New Age author Deepak Chopra, film critic Michael Medved, Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan and coaching legend John Wooden.

    So–our campaign to promote discussion among people of differing viewpoints includes a few gays, a New Age guru, a few movie types–isn’t Q still mostly known as a music producer, BTW?–and a few athletes. Notice anyone missing?

    I suppose it’s possible that there are deep thoughts from conservative Christians on some of the cups Starbucks printed for the program, or at least that there was bland spiritual content in the quotations from those considered notable for non-religious achievements. But it seems odd that the company’s media manager wouldn’t have mentioned that if it were the case. Doing so would, after all, have been the obvious way to deflect criticism from the CWF that Starbucks is promoting one-sided agenda.

    Starbucks program planners probably didn’t sit in their official smoke-filled smoke-free room and say, “Well, whatever we do, let’s be sure to leave out those dreadful Christians!” But the effect of hewing closely to the academic left’s definition of “diversity” is to give the religiously devout yet another little reason to feel that “the coffeehouse culture” believes they have no wisdom of their own to offer but plenty to learn from everyone else. Even if you don’t think that’s unfair, it’s bad strategy, especially for gays and those who think they’re trying to help us.

    Aside: I think that if I were confronted, of a not-yet-caffeinated morning, with a quotation from Deepak f’ing Chopra on my coffee cup, I’d hand the sucker back and head back to bed, perhaps forever.

    Added while trying to keep biscotti crumbs out of the keyboard: Henry Lewis commented to say that the contributors to “The Way I See It” do include a few conservatives; I’m more than happy to admit an error when it turns out I was being too cynical.

    Even so, maybe I’m just too inclined to be hard on gay PR and am making a big deal out of nothing, but…put it this way: you’ve got an exchange of ideas that includes a New Age guy, an out gay guy, an Asian woman athlete, et c. I think that most rank-and-file Americans would say that if you really want to reflect the diversity of society, there should be an obvious Christian, saying pointedly Christian things, in there somewhere.

    5 Responses to “Con panna”

    1. Henry says:

      2 things. CWA didn’t complain about the lack of conservative voices, they complained about the ‘homosexual’ presence (and Starbucks support of a gay pride event).

      Also, Starbucks does have conservative voices, including Jonah Goldberg and Michael Medved.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Thanks. I followed the link to the Starbucks site myself and looked to see whether they had their own screen shots of cups, but I didn’t see any. I didn’t even find the contributors’ list. (“Our stores” didn’t strike me as a promising place to look, though you’d think I’d remember by now that web designers’ idea of “intuitive” is kind of idiosyncratic.)

      I hope I don’t seem to be pressing too fine a point here, but what I was talking about wasn’t the substance of the CWA complaint. They’re going to freak at every pop culture mention of gays no matter what we do, and we can’t really do anything about it.

      The thing for me was…how do I put this? The GFN reporter chose to highlight the “diversity” of the contributors based on their various entertainment-industry jobs, not their beliefs. The Starbucks PR guy was presumably talking directly to the GFN reporter, so of course he was going to emphasize gay-friendliness and stuff–I get that. But if he wanted to emphasize the diversity of thinking among the contributors, the obvious thing to do would have been to say, “Hello? Jonah Goldberg writes for the NRO, which isn’t exactly the HQ for the national homo conspiracy!” See what I mean? It was tangential to the main story here–it doesn’t affect funding for Pride Day one bit, for example–but I really do think it shows how tin-eared our public figures can be.

    3. susannac says:

      I checked out their quote contributors list, and no one there is recognizable to me as a conservative Christian voice. However, based on their bios (they don’t have the actual quotes on the site), offering insights into mainstream religious expression wasn’t one of the goals of the promotion. Of course, some of the people they chose are reliably profane and deliberately so, which should have opened the door to countering views of American culture if the actual goal was as their official goal states (to encourage discussion in the coffeehouse tradition). Religion has a very long tradition of being a coffeehouse discussion mainstay (albeit in a negative way, usually). So I do think their failure to include quotes from religious sources, Christian or otherwise, was deliberate. Their own biases apparently kept them from seeing that the challenge to the profane is the religious, and thus they’re missing a big part of the debate by overrepresenting the profane and excluding the religious. Clearly they want to be manageably provocative, PC provocative, not genuinely provocative. If they wanted to be genuinely provocative, they could have had quotes from pro- and anti-death penalty types, for example, or ID and evolution proponents. Instead, it’s a bunch of people who are, for the most part, not genuinely provocative thinkers. Snack thinkers, not main dish thinkers.

      Not incidentally, “conservative” voices and “conservative Christian religious voices” are often different things. There are many people who are politically conservative who are either agnostic or atheist, or of a non-Christian religion (Muslim, Jewish, etc). Goldberg and Medved speak to politics, which of course is very connected to religion (on both sides*), but they are not in my judgment conservative in all the ways that I am conservative. In fact, I’d say that I’d have a lot of differences with the CWA group – certainly I find LaHaye’s teachings (via his Left Behind series) to be doctrinally fallacious, even harmful. They don’t speak for me any more than Goldberg does, and I assure you I’d be quickly labeled “Religious Right” by anyone on the left who finds it intellectually satisfying to dismiss entire arguments by vacuous demonization. I make Rush Limbaugh look like Ted Kennedy.

      * About religion on both sides – anti-religion is as much about religion as religion is. Hate is not the opposite of love; it’s a jealous twin. The opposite is indifference.

    4. Portia says:

      “This is Hell, nor are we out of it” Christopher Marlowe — both gay and the religious stuff covered.

      Portia — slinking off.

    5. Sean Kinsell says:

      “Clearly they want to be manageably provocative, PC provocative, not genuinely provocative. If they wanted to be genuinely provocative, they could have had quotes from pro- and anti-death penalty types, for example, or ID and evolution proponents. Instead, it’s a bunch of people who are, for the most part, not genuinely provocative thinkers. Snack thinkers, not main dish thinkers.”

      Thanks for commenting, Susanna. My first thought on reading the list was, like, Is there a surface left in America that hasn’t been used to push Armistead Maupin and Deepak Chopra? They must be two of the most overexposed writers on the planet. Normally, I wouldn’t get worked into a lather over this sort of thing, but to have the Starbucks guy talk as if there were some kind of genuine exchange of ideas going on…huh?

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