|If only Benetton could examine its|
own conscience! (credit: Adbusters)
Instead of congratulating the Holy See for standing up to corporate robbers and bullies, most commentators in the so-called "liberal" press have used this story to accuse the Pope of homophobia and to state that the Vatican is somehow trying to curb freedom of speech. It is interesting to note, then, that not many media outlets have commented upon the fact that the White House also spoke out against Benetton. The fashion retailer unethically (if not illegally) used a doctored image of Barack Obama kissing Chinese President Hu Jintao and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez for the same ad campaign - bizarrely and rather self-righteously called 'Unhate'.
It seems that no-one has accused the White House of "homophobia" after it insisted that Benetton did not have the right to use the President's image. Yet, whilst ignoring the real reasons behind the Vatican's legal action against Benetton, it seems that opinion writers in papers such as the Guardian have used this story as a means of trotting out their prejudices against Catholicism. Thanks to secularist commentators, the real victim in all of this, the Pope, has now become the baddy, whilst a turbo-charged capitalist conglomerate with scant regard for ethical advertising, Benetton, has become the defender of human rights. Behold the (im)morality of the dictatorship of relativism!
Contrary to what Symon Hill, the pro-gay leader of the leftist Ekklesia think-tank, had to say in the Guardian yesterday - when he claimed that the Holy See's threats of legal action against Benetton merely reflected the Church's 'homophobia' - the Vatican actually called in its lawyers as it is illegal to infringe copyright for the purposes of corporate financial gain. The image of the Pope, for commercial purposes, is owned by the Holy See. If a huge multinational organisation like Benetton - a business that has no qualms in using shocking, disgusting or offensive images in order to sell its merchandise - is going to use an image of someone famous in order to cash in, morality and the base ethics of the market demand that: a) it asks the person's permission first, b) it offers to pay the owner of the person's image. This is a matter of corporate ethics, not free speech. It is about highlighting the immorality of unfettered capitalism, not the immorality of homosexual acts.
The fact of the matter is that Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, speaking for the Vatican, made it abundantly clear why the Holy See planned to take legal action against Benetton, when he said that the company's ad campaign involved a “completely unacceptable use of the image of the Holy Father, manipulated and exploited as part of a campaign for commercial purposes” (emphasis mine). This reflects the tone taken by the White House's spokesman, Eric Schultz, who said that "[t]he White House has a longstanding policy disapproving of the use of the president's name and likeness for commercial purposes" (emphasis mine). So, both the Vatican and the White House complained at the way Benetton flagrantly infringed copyright for commercial purposes, yet the media ignore the protests of the latter whilst twisting the complains of the former to make it seem as if the whole thing is about gay rights and the Catholic Church!
It is immoral if not illegal to use someone's copyrighted image for the purpose of making huge profits. It is completely unethical to do so when this involves an attempt to humiliate or mock the person whose likeness is being used. Good people refer to the former as theft and the latter as bullying. One would expect that so-called liberal or left-leaning papers such as the Guardian would not only respect that moral fact, but would also wish to speak up against the abuse of power by turbo-charged capitalist companies - whose lack of morality has often been highlighted by Pope Benedict XVI. As much as Benetton likes to assume the mantle of being some kind of champion of human rights, it is basically a business and its primary concern is the making vast amounts of money for is shareholders. It would seem, though, that when it comes to rubbishing the Catholic Church, the secularists on the left are more than happy to ally themselves with multinational conglomerates. They forget their natural enmity towards capitalism, suddenly proclaiming that unashamed profiteers such as Benetton are actually defenders of human rights and freedom of speech.
One must wonder why it is, then, that practically no news media outlet has mentioned the fact that the White House also threatened to act in the same way as the Vatican. Maybe the fact that Benetton also used the image of the US President in order to make corporate gain is not newsworthy? Maybe it doesn't feed the insatiable appetite that some commentators seem to have for rubbishing Christianity? Maybe it's because it would undermine the argument that the Vatican only acted to defend the Pope's image because of its supposed irrational homophobia, as it is well known that the White House's current tenant is a great supporter of the gay agenda? Whatever the reason, one fact remains, when it comes to the Pope and the Catholic Church, never expect secular commentators on the left - even if they claim to be Christian - to pay much heed to truth, reason or the facts in their fullest sense.
One piece of good news in all of this, though, is that - as reported in the New York Daily News on Friday - Benetton's stocks hit their lowest level in 25 years following the disastrous 'Unhate' ad campaign. The company's shares fell by 17% following the Vatican's decision to take legal action to protect the Pope's image. As the Pope said to the people of Benin last Friday, we should always be aware of the pitfalls that come out way when we unconditionally "surrender to the law of the market." May God bless our Pope and may his enemies continue to grind their teeth and fade away (cf Ps 112:10)!
[Image: Spoof Benetton advert, "True Colours of Benetton"; source: Adbusters and LaurenCDaniels blog]