The 35,000-member Southern California affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union has launched a campaign to combat fundamentalist groups that it says have tried to censor television programs in recent months.
The campaign is aimed at supporting programs--including "Midnight Caller," "Knots Landing" and "Tour of Duty"--that have been targeted by the Rev. Donald Wildmon's Christian Leaders for Responsible Television (CLeaR-TV) as containing "high incidents of sex, violence, profanity and anti-Christian stereotyping." In July, CLeaR-TV launched a one-year boycott of the Mennen Co. and Clorox Corp. for sponsoring those and other programs it deemed to be "un-Christian."
The ACLU campaign was launched Wednesday night at a symposium on "Cultural Censorship in the '90s" at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The campaign seeks to back the Mennen Co. and Clorox Corp. through a supportive letter-writing campaign and a "buycott," in which members will be urged to go out of their way to buy the companies' products.
In addition, the ACLU chapter will boycott the next consumer products company that bows to pressure from fundamentalist groups and pulls its advertising from a TV program, said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California.
"To those sponsors who, because of fear, ignorance or (to avoid) inconvenience, decide that the mere threat of opposition from the small but vocal censorship groups is reason enough to abandon their commitments--to those sponsors, beware," Ripston told the more than 100 people at the symposium. "We are here and we are waiting. And that's our bottom line.
"We're here tonight to say that we're taking back our power--our power to decide what we will read, what we will view on television, what we will listen to on the radio, and what we will purchase in the stores. We will steadfastly defend the television industry's right to produce and air its creative products without fear of censorship or the loss of corporate sponsors."
Advertisers, she said, "are running scared. They get a few letters and they think it's a movement. The important thing is to let the people in the television industry feel free to create the kind of show they want to create. If sponsors know there's going to be support for them, then I think they'll go ahead and support these programs."