This evening at 5:30 pm, I showed up to the Regal theater on the Southwest side of Columbus, Ohio, for what I was told would be a “gathering,” a “simulcast” event “emceed” by actor Peter Coyote at which, according to a soliciting e-mail:
Actors, musicians and comedians will join church-state community members in 37 theaters across the country on Wednesday evening, March 26, to put church-state separation on the national agenda during the 2008 election season. Please join us for this exciting (and free) event.
Other actors and celebrities scheduled to participate include Michael J. Fox (“Family Ties” and “Spin City”), Jack Klugman (“The Odd Couple” and “Quincy, M.E.”), James Whitmore (“The Shawshank Redemption”), Wendie Malick (“Just Shoot Me!”), Dan Lauria (“The Wonder Years”), Catherine Dent (“The Shield”), stand-up comedian and Air America host Marc Maron, singer/songwriter Catie Curtis and singer/satirist Roy Zimmerman.
In addition, Americans who have fought for individual freedom will tell their stories. Invited guests include…
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, and the Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of The Interfaith Alliance Foundation, will also participate in the simulcast.
A “simulcast” used to refer to a live program that was broadcast on radio and television simultaneously. These days, it refers to the private, non-public narrowcasting of events occurring live (possibly in more than one place) to more than one location. None of these accurately characterize the First Freedom First event that just ended. The local First Freedom First representative let the truth slip when he told the assembled (103 said they’d come, 27 actually attended) that any moment now, someone would “press play on the DVD.” What followed was clearly pre-recorded, consisting of actors who’d been long-ago videotaped, all folksy and avuncular:
or “interviews” with F.F.F. administrators that were scripted and more than occasionally edited for brevity:
with occasional cutaway shots to a pre-recorded not-live “live” audience:
and some song-and-dance numbers.
This was all very pat, with twinkly piano music for when we were supposed to feel sad, and cutaways to giggling audience members when we were supposed to feel amused, and kudos for all the right people all around. It wasn’t thought-provoking or intellectual. It was a sales pitch for people who are already sold on the idea of church-state separation, a sales pitch for a particular organization that sure could use your contribution. It was an advertisement.
You know, for an organization that says it’s for “academic integrity,” how about a little truth in advertising? For an organization that says it wants “respect for all families,” how about some respect for its constituency? Try being upfront next time. You know, something like, “hey, we’d like you to watch our pre-recorded infomercial for 90 minutes. Want to come over?” Something like that. What, it wouldn’t work? We wouldn’t come? Well, what does that mean?