That Zola Commercial

Here it is:

As you’ve probably gathered, the Hallmark Channel pulled this ad because the couple’s kissing–at their own wedding–supposedly violated Hallmark’s “policies on PDA.” Apart from the obvious hypocrisy and disingenuousness involved in invoking this excuse–what channel runs an ad that violates its own policies?–surely the question has to arise: why would any company adopt so idiotic a policy in the first place? Are articulable reasons involved, or just inarticulate fears?

How is it that in a country that so prides itself on its willingness to shock members of other cultures for its (supposed) willingness to tolerate offense, not to mention its loud attacks on “safe spaces,” “snowflakes,” and all the rest, the sight of a couple kissing at their wedding has suddenly become intolerable? I know: some questions answer themselves. To read the excuses that Hallmark served up in defense of its actions (click the previous hyperlink) is to immerse oneself, however briefly, in the “culture” of corporate social irresponsibility.

One of the reasons we have protests, cancel culture, and social justice warriorism is to expose and attack the cowardice and dishonesty of the well-paid frauds who dish up such slop in the name of “family values.”* Either we acquiesce in corporate irresponsibility, or we confront it. To acquiesce is, over time, to become complicit in it. To confront it is to find an effective means of contestation–which leads back to cancel culture and social justice warriorism. If there’s a defensible third alternative, someone feel free to tell me what it is. But as for me, whatever you do, don’t expect a Hallmark card from me. At this point, if I need to send someone a card, I’ll buy some construction paper and crayons, and make one of my own.

*For an excellent defense, see “Why Libertarians Should Be Social Justice Warriors,” by PoT’s own Roderick Long in The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom (Lexington, 2019), ed. Roger E. Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and Edward W. Younkins.

6 thoughts on “That Zola Commercial

  1. Hmmm. “Given our product, we need to (and do) cater to standards of decency (as long as these are not themselves intolerant or otherwise immoral)” is hardly irresponsible, immoral, etc. But I’m not sure that this sort of policy would satisfy the relevant “cancel culture.” Not depicting gay or lesbian people kissing because they are gay or lesbian, however, is unacceptable. And that seems to be part of what is going on in this case with Hallmark (in response to some “family values” conservative group, with some bad excuses thrown in to justify). However, I’d need a bit more context to be absolutely sure (which two commercials were accepted and did they involve any lesbian couples being intimate in any way?; what is the overall, broader profile of the network in portraying gays and lesbians generally and in family and romantic life?). I think there other ways to split the cultural differences here that do not involve caving to intolerance.

    I don’t feel the need (nor do I think it is morally required or even morally beneficial) to “cancel” Hallmark (thus, virtue signalling, in the non-pejorative sense, to myself and others, promoting the personal and moral benefits thereof). What happened should be pointed out publicly — precisely what the NYT article did. Yay! Regarding anti-PDA positions: some very strict preferences (hand-holding only, say) are silly, but hardly immoral. Regarding the “family values” group that lobbied Hallmark, I’m more likely to “cancel” (though I’d seek more information before initiating hostilities, mockery, etc. against the group). If they live up to the familiar Phyllis-Schlafly-esque stereotype, then some more boisterous calling-out and acting-out seems like a good idea morally speaking.


    • Even acknowledging the criticisms you’re making of Hallmark, I think you’re being overly charitable to behavior that is, morally speaking, shoddier than you suggest. I think your comment fails to get at the transparent dishonesty of Hallmark’s apologetics.

      It is simply not plausible to imagine that a company of Hallmark’s stature would have an anti-PDA policy, then broadcast advertisements that flouted it. Here is the bio of their general counsel, Jill Marchant:

      It defies belief that a person with that kind of legal experience would somehow fail to vet ads that Hallmark was broadcasting on its channel, or just not know that Hallmark had an anti-PDA policy that the ads violated. This is a person who gets paid six figures to know precisely that sort of thing. So my inference is that “the anti-PDA policy” is a convenient fiction, fabricated for present purposes–not a standing policy that was somehow unwittingly violated.

      It’s not as though this one ad (or only the ones featuring gay people) just happened to skate through undetected. Here is a compilation of all the separate ads, glommed into in one ad. All of them feature kissing couples.*

      No problem until One Million Moms saw the ad featuring a lesbian couple. The most obvious explanation? Pressure from the One Million Moms group.

      This is how 1MM bragged about it:


      1MM has personally spoken with Crown Media Family Networks CEO Bill Abbott who confirmed Hallmark Channel has pulled the commercial, featuring a same-sex couple, from their network. He reported the advertisement aired in error, but he was informed about it after hearing from concerned 1MM supporters. Way to go!

      The call to our office gave us the opportunity to also confirm the Hallmark Channel will continue to be a safe and family friendly network. Praise the Lord!

      1MM thanked him on behalf of all our supporters. We appreciate their prompt response and cooperation. No further action is needed! You are making a HUGE difference!

      Pause a second. “Aired in error.” “Was informed about it by 1MM supporters.” (And the beliefs of those supporters have to be read to be believed.) “The call to our office.” Do you find Hallmark’s story believable at this point? An entire ad campaign “aired in error”–undetected by the company’s CEO and the general counsel–until the error was coincidentally noticed at just the time a conservative group saw the ad, gathered an online mob of about 25,000 people, and phoned the CEO induced the CEO to phone the group in the name of the Lord? At a bare minimum, the next obvious question would have to be: how? How do the top executives at Hallmark manage not to know what’s running in their own ads?

      Suppose somehow that Hallmark provides a semi-plausible answer (which I doubt they could do). Isn’t the next legitimate question to ask, “What is the rationale for this policy?” It’s telling that they feel no obligation to provide one. But even if we grant the existence of this phantom policy, it’s a ridiculous policy. Until now, except for very conservative Muslims and Jews, I’d never heard anyone assert in the United States that the sight of two adults kissing at the marriage altar was somehow “controversial.” Children regularly attend wedding services, and couples regularly kiss at them. Very conservative Jews and Muslims aside (two tiny and reactionary minorities whose beliefs are themselves contested within those faiths), I’ve never in my life heard anyone regard kissing-in-front-of-children-at-a-wedding ceremony as “controversial.” I regard that as gaslighting-level absurdity. (And I think resentment or righteous indignation is the proper response to being gaslighted, especially by people of this stature and respectability.) The only factor that explains Hallmark’s behavior is their desire to placate an aggressive, organized form of homophobia.

      Notice that according to One Million Moms, Hallmark’s CEO didn’t just agree to pull this particular ad. He seems to have promised to “continue” to satisfy One Million Mom’s demands. Where does that end? He prudently doesn’t say. But the overall effect is to give 1MM a shot in the arm. They’ve pressured Hallmark, and Hallmark has collapsed under pitifully weak pressure. If I were in charge of 1MM, I’d be looking for my next target. The overall strategy of the group (which is just one group in a larger campaign) should be obvious: to de-normalize gay and lesbian sexuality after its relative normalization, in other words, to turn back progress to where we were before 1979.

      I don’t really see the need for further context. Suppose that there were other ads featuring lesbians that were more risque than two women kissing at the marriage altar. Solution: then pull them. Why pull this ad (the one in my original post), which is obviously inoffensive except to people who themselves harbor offensive beliefs about lesbians (or gay people generally)? I don’t see any need to split the difference with such people.

      I would say: an aggressive, organized form of homophobia–one that exerts pressure on major institutions to fall in line–has to be combated, not just exposed. Exposure of the kind afforded by the Times article is a necessary but far from sufficient response to Hallmark’s bigotry and deceptions. They have to be on the receiving end of an at least equal-and-opposite sort of resistance from the other side, the non-homophobic side. None of us have enough leverage over One Million Moms to cancel them. We can mock them, but that will have zero effect on their behavior, except to intensify their resistance to liberalism (not that we shouldn’t do it; my point is, it won’t accomplish much). But Hallmark needs to feel it where it hurts. (The other side of canceling Hallmark is that should get some credit, not that I’m about to get married all over again just to use their service.)

      Again, as a practical matter, I don’t have high hopes for canceling Hallmark. There are too many other battles to fight. But morally speaking, I’m completely on board. Moral principles are meaningless unless translated into action. This is a fight One Million Moms has started. In my view, without resorting to coercion, liberals have to know when to take their own side in a fight, and finish the fights others start against us. The first step is to acknowledge that (metaphorically speaking) they threw the first punch. That first punch was aimed at all the progress we’ve made in the last few decades on the homophobia front. Punching back at Hallmark and One Million Moms is a way–really, the only effective way–of refusing to be dragged backwards into ignorance by them. If I could do more than boycott them, I would. But I regard it as the least I can do.

      *Correction: not all; either three or four of the six do.


  2. I’ve only seen three of the six ads (and have no way of figuring out which ones have been pulled), so I can’t independently confirm that the following is the case, but if it is the case, isn’t it obvious that Hallmark’s CEO is lying or engaging in some kind of deception about the reason for pulling the ads?

    The Hallmark Channel spokesman suggested on Friday afternoon that the issue was the couple’s kissing. “The decision not to air overt public displays of affection in our sponsored advertisement, regardless of the participants, is in line with our current policy, which includes not featuring political advertisements, offensive language, R-rated movie content and many other categories,” he said.

    Only four of the ads were rejected as controversial, however, according to the email exchange with Zola and several of the company’s representatives. In one of the two ads that were permitted to continue to air, a bride and groom kiss passionately at the altar.


  3. To bring this up to date:

    More evidence of Hallmark’s lack of principle:

    More evidence of executive-level dogmatism and bigotry at Hallmark (along with the right way to deal with such people):

    And more evidence that we’re facing a systematic, concerted campaign to undo progress, which we have to contest and resist rather than compromise with or ignore:

    To my mind, the Hallmark story doesn’t have to become a “social justice warrior as anti-capitalist” story: defenders of the market can, after all, focus on the positive roles played by the likes of and Hilarie Burton in this story. No reason why and Burton can’t become the capitalist face of social justice warriorism. That may not go over well with the left, but then, Antifa doesn’t go over well on the right, so maybe both sides have something to learn from each other. I like to think there’s room in the world for an army of social justice warriors that includes the CEO of, Hilarie Burton, Antifa, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Center for a Stateless Society.

    But it’s late, so I’m going to stop now. “To sleep, perchance to dream…”


  4. Pingback: War with Iran (10): Militarism, Trust, and Character-Based Voting | Policy of Truth

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