The kryptonite that bought Prop 8

via creative commons license from courosa on flickr

via creative commons license from courosa on flickr

Freeze-frame in memory from my daughter’s infancy:

She’s rolling around on the floor several feet away. I’m talking with someone on the couch. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a tall lamp post begin to fall in a trajectory towards my daughter’s head. I leap up from the couch and my body flies horizontally, lingering in mid-air to barely intercept the lamp post before it makes contact with her head. Then everything returns to normal, I’m back on the couch, and we resume our conversation.

In fact, what was happening behind the scenes was that my body was transforming from mild-mannered “parent” into cape-clad superhero, faster than the speeding lamp post that threatened my child. Parents in particular are instinctually familiar with this state, but I have learned that these powers used in service of good are also highly vulnerable to purposeful deception when the safety of kids is involved.

In Behind the numbers of Prop. 8 today in the LA Times, David Fleischer takes us through the revealing study of just how effectively the awesome power of parental instincts was exploited to move a half a million parents to pass Prop 8 in California:

The Yes on 8 campaign targeted parents in its TV ads. “Mom! Guess what I learned in school today!” were the cheery-frightening first words of the supporters’ most-broadcast ad. They emerged from the mouth of a young girl who had supposedly just learned that she could marry a female when she grew up.

Among the array of untrue ideas that parents could easily take away: that impressionable kids would be indoctrinated; that they would learn about gay sex; that they would be more likely to become gay; and that they might choose to be gay. California voters, depending on where they lived in the state, were exposed to the Yes on 8 ads 20 to 40 times.

This deception is the kryptonite that bought Prop 8. It’s important to note that these parents are far from evil. They are not motivated by hatred, as Fleischer points out most crucially:

Another misconception was that those who voted for Proposition 8 were motivated by hate. This does not describe most of the 687,000 who changed their minds in the closing weeks. After all, they supported same-sex marriage before the opposition peeled them away. Yes, they turned out to be susceptible to an appeal based on anti-gay prejudice. But they were frightened by misinformation.

Although it is is not news to folks close to the campaign that we lost because of these school scare tactics, it’s good to see it validated in today’s report. Yet while the No On Prop 8 campaign reacted as if stunned by the explosion of kryptonite, and the other side knew all too well we didn’t have time after the ad-bombs to recoup in the dwindling days of the election, we’ve all had no excuse to not see this coming again. In fact, the exact same ads were used with success to beat gay marriage just last year in Maine.

The blame is not on the parents who are only doing what they are instinctually conditioned to do. Likewise, the solution lies not in further trickery and deception. To truly help parents continue to do what they do best is to expose these scare tactics for what they are, but sadly, the element of fear remains a top-seller in our world. I have asked myself how to neutralize this element every single day post Prop 8.

New Ways of Organizing: Lessons in Online Activism from Prop 8

We witnessed a building of tremendous momentum — particularly online — around and immediately after the passage of Proposition 8 last year in California. This momentum built worldwide, despite the local nature of the proposition. In the wake of Prop 8, civil rights and LGBT organizations as well as nonprofits in general may questioning their role in online organizing. In the extreme case, organizations may be asking themselves: Are we becoming irrelevant?

This was exactly the question posited in last week’s panel at CompassPoint Nonprofit Day in San Francisco:  New Ways of Organizing: Lessons Learned from the Proposition 8 Battle (download the slides).

I had the privilege of participating on the panel, moderated by CompassPoint’s Sierra Catcott, and was joined by Greg Rae and Kristina Loring from the @NoOnProp8 campaign, and Charlie Bufalino, a marriage equality activist who currently canvasses for EQCA.

It was a great panel and I’m thrilled I had the opportunity to participate. My only wish is that we had enough time to take more questions. About 40-50 people attended the session and I could tell there was a lot of interest and a lot of questions left unaddressed. Please chime in in the comments if you have any follow-ups or questions!

In the end, though I don’t believe organizations and leaders become at all irrelevant, there can be little doubt of the power of online activism.  To me, the key lies in bridging the gap between “organizationlessness” and organization. If you’re a nonprofit — or any — organization wondering about building an online presence, my advice would be don’t wonder: begin today, and try to integrate it with your cause.

Thanks again to CompassPoint and Sierra for the opportunity!

How to NOT advertise against yourself

Thanks to @qrty for this blog post today:

Masterminds Behind ‘Yes on 8′ Reveal How They Did It

I’ve spoken before of some of the tactics used online in campaign to pass Proposition 8, but at the moment I want to call out this one, as underscored from the Yes campaign in the above blog, and more specifically how to protect yourself against it:

A Google surge. You may remember that even gay websites running Google Ads were running ‘Yes on 8′ ads in the final days of the campaign. That’s the power of internet advertising dollars at work.

“As the campaign headed into the final days, we launched a ‘Google surge.’ We spent more than a half-million dollars to place ads on every single website that had advertising controlled by Google. Whenever anyone in California went online, they saw one of our ads in the final two days of the election.”

I was alerted to this tactic by the No On Prop 8 online community itself, during the last few days of the campaign.  Gay and straight people alike called out with concern about what was happening on their blogs. Many wrote to tell me how to defeat it, and I’m thankful that, because I was able to pass it along.

Here it is, courtesy of @calipidder — please spread it to anyone who has an AdSense account they’re concerned about now or in the future:

In your Google AdSense account, go to AdSense Setup -> Competitive Ad Filter. You can block ads from specific URLs or destinations.

In this case, the Yes ads came from “protectmarriage.com” – so that’s what you would enter in your filter list if you wanted to not serve ads from them.

Says @calipidder:

The only thing sitting in my Filter list is protectmarriage.com. I was so angry to see that on my site I took down the ads until after the election, PLUS I blocked it here just in case they kept running them.

Amen. And thanks again, Rebecca.