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Conservative activists turn to web for traction; denounce gay 'marraige'

By Matthew Shaer / May 28, 2009

A still from 'NY Consquences,' the new advertisement from the National Organization for Marriage, a conservative group which opposes same-sex marriage. The spot is part of a multimedia advertising campaign aimed at voters nationwide.

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Two days after California's Supreme Court upheld a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriages, conservative activists launched a multimedia campaign warning that "legalizing gay marriage has consequences for kids." The newest advertisement from the National Organization for Marriage is aimed at voters in New York, where a same-sex marriage bill recently passed through the state assembly. (The legislation faces an uncertain future in the state senate.)

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In the 30 second spot, a man with a Southern accent launches into a litany of grievances– "Massachusetts schools teach second graders that boys can marry other boys," etc. – while an ominous score plays in the background. A handful of newspaper clippings flicker by, before the narrator adds, “And it’s not just kids who face consequences. The rights of people who believe marriage means a man and a woman will no longer matter. We’ll have to accept gay marriage whether we like it or not."

Oops

The spot, which NOM will feature prominently on its YouTube channel, was designed to stir up support among conservatives across the country. But for an ad about education, NOM sure did make a monster error in the video's final frame. Today, goodasyou.org, a gay news blog, pointed out that the word "marriage" was spelled by NOM as "marraige."

After posting a screen shot of the misspelling, Good As You couldn't resist a little jab at NOM. "And we're the ones who threaten school kids?!?!" one of the site's bloggers wrote.

A multimedia campaign

But who ever let a poor sense of the written word slow them down? (We're looking at you, Dubya.) By all accounts, NOM is pressing ahead. Speaking yesterday with the New York Times, Maggie Gallagher, the founder of NOM, explained the rationale for the advertisement. “We need to combat the relative vacuum on our side," she said. "This message is that gay marriage will have consequences. And if you oppose gay marriage, pick up the phone, write a letter, drop an e-mail, send us some money.”

NOM's campaign spills across multiple platforms: Twitter, YouTube, blogs, message boards, Facebook, MySpace. On each platform, users from all over the nation are invited to share their thoughts on the same-sex marriage debate, and given addresses of their local lawmakers. The idea is to create a groundswell of online support, and mobilize conservatives from Boston to Los Angeles. And obviously, someone has done his or her homework. The NOM site is sleekly produced, and the Twitter and YouTube channel follow all the rules of Web 2.0: update frequently; link out; create a community.

The backlash

The danger of any Web 2.0 campaign, of course, is the potential for backlash. Invite people to a lively discussion, and they're liable to get a little boisterous. Consider this: In April, Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert had a field day with an earlier NOM advertisement, which used storm clouds and lightning bolts and other dramatic, dark imagery to agitate against same-sex marriage. Days later, dozens of like-minded satires flooded YouTube, and garnered millions of views – far more the original NOM advertisement. That quickly, NOM's advertisement had gone from a serious-minded alarm to a national punchline.

No one – as far as we can tell – has yet created a satire out of the new NOM spot. Then again, it's only Thursday.

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