I was on my first sip of coffee this morning, which turned out to be more relevant than I could have forseen, when I read a Huffington Post story: ‘Microsoft, Apple Unite to Demand That the National Organization for Marriage Boycott Them’. “Is this a dream, or is it real?”, I wondered. “A joint press conference held by Apple and Microsoft?”
In the wake of its support for same-sex marriage, and the boycott led by the National Organization for Marriage, Starbucks’ stock has risen. The success of the “thank you card to Starbucks for standing up for gay rights” petition by Sum Of Us has overshadowed that started by NOM 637,000 to 22,000. And so the story had a ring of possibility about it.
Microsoft has a strong track record on LGBT rights, thanks to the work of GLEAM (Gay and Lesbian Employees at Microsoft). It has offered insurance and related benefits to same-sex domestic partners since 1993. Apple stood against Proposition 8 in 2008, and stated that it, “was among the first California companies to offer equal rights and benefits to our employees’ same-sex partners, and we strongly believe that a person’s fundamental rights — including the right to marry — should not be affected by their sexual orientation. Apple views this as a civil rights issue, rather than just a political issue, and is therefore speaking out publicly against Proposition 8.”
The story, however, turned out to be “comedy”, and a note at the end stated, “All quotations are fabrications for the purpose of satire”. About half way through reading the coffee kicked in. It would have been absurd to have believed it after a Microsoft spokesperson, envious of the support for Starbucks, is quoted: “Where are all the photos of happy people tapping away on Windows machines knowing that they, too, are supporting equality for all? What about us?” So I checked the date of the pieve to see if it was a April Fools’ joke. It wasn’t. Did it miss the deadline but run anyway? After all, the Huffington Post isn’t The Onion.
No-one likes to be fooled, and there were plenty of people fooled, as the comments below the article show, but in the end I am not sure this is funny. (Was the note not there orginally, or were people so excited by the idea that they missed it?) It may have been amusing as an April Fools’ joke. I am not immune to satire. Gore Vidal is one of my favourite authors, after all. Perhaps I just wish the story had been true, and so it felt like a cruel joke.
The great political challenge of 2011 in the West has been to question what corporate responsibility can and should be. This is one idea the Occupy movement has made urgent (although of course it is far more complex than that). The great cultural challenge of 2011 has been the debate over equal marriage rights. This story unites the two debates. I think that as satire if falls far short of the mark. The Colbert Report could pull this off. But can a random article in the Huffington Post?
This is a serious debate, and perhaps that caused me to lose my sense of humour? What do you think?