does gayness make you hungry?

From time to time, major mainstream companies will put ads on T.V. that are specifically pro-gay. Usually, these air in Europe, because American audiences are still a bit pee-shy when it comes to The Gay. But at least it happens. Last year, McDonalds aired a pro-gay ad in France as part of their “come as you are” campaign.

Sean Hannity discussed the ad with one of his invited guests on his radio show. During that conversation, he obsessed over one and only one thing, which he repeated over and over again ad nauseum:

“Does that make you hungry? It doesn’t make me hungry. Isn’t an ad for a restaurant supposed to make you hungry? I don’t understand. I don’t get it. Seeing that didn’t make me hungry. Does it make you hungry? No matter what your stance is on gay people, how is that ad supposed to make you want to eat?”

His guest tried one or two times to make the point about a company demonstrating open-mindedness in order to attract certain groups who tend to favor patronizing open-minded companies, but he never quite got to make that point. Instead, every sentence was interrupted by Sean insisting, “But it doesn’t make you hungry! McDonald’s ads should make you hungry!”

And so the conversation never got off the ground. It was a diversionary strategy wrapped in a political agenda stuffed in a comical delivery style and baked into a radio format where Sean is the only person allowed to interrupt. Quite a dish.

I don’t know for sure whether Sean is playing the clown for political gain, or whether he honestly doesn’t understand why a company would make that ad. (I have my suspicions, of course…) But either way, the line of argument that he put forth is one that many of his listeners probably did take seriously… once they heard it coming from him. And they gleefully repeated it on blogs and when they called into liberal talk radio shows: “The ad doesn’t make me hungry! Ads are supposed to help a company sell their product! Why would seeing that make me want to eat there?”

Sean, I’m not asking you to not have your own point of view. I’m asking you to be consistent and logical about it. As a free-market capitalist, you know that people have choices. As a rational actor in a free market system, when presented with a field of similar products, I will purchase whatever product maximizes what I perceive to be the overall value gained from purchasing that product.

That value can come in the form of the taste of the food, or the satisfaction that I did something healthy for myself by eating it. It can come in the form of a positive experience with friendly restaurant employees, or perhaps the atmosphere in the dining facility. That value can come in many, many forms. And one form of value that some people include in their calculation is the value of strengthening open-minded businesses, because they know that empowering open-minded businesses is one way to empower open-mindedness in a society.

As an aside, I don’t know a single person where this is the only factor that goes into their decision. If you don’t eat fast food, you will not start because you saw that McDonald’s ad. But if you are craving fast food, and you don’t think the differences between the taste and price of McDonalds, Wendys, and Burger King are all that great, then the added expected value of supporting a pro-gay company—even if that value is small—may be enough to tip your decision.

Surely Sean, being a sophisticated free-market capitalist thinker, understands this. But he is playing the clown, and in doing so is undermining the core philosophy of his own conservatism: belief in the dynamics of the free market. Belief that a consumer exercising his free will and acting to maximize his own value in his economic habits is absolutely the driver that all that is good in economics.

Shame on you, Sean. You’re a bad conservative.