Well, here we go again. Times and Seasons has revisited its previously deleted thread discussing Marriott Hotels and the fact that in-room pornography is available at most of its locations, despite the fact that the Marriott family is made up of very prominent members of the Church. BCC made a sort of chicken-hearted attempt at joining the discussion as well. On the previous (deleted) thread, I weighed in (along with many others) to express my disgust about this business practice and add my voice to the growing chorus of church members and others who are asking the Marriotts to get rid of the offensive in-room entertainment options. Other hotel chains have done this, as you can see here. [Note: Bill Marriott, Chairman and CEO of Marriott Int'l, has a blog where he shares his thoughts on many aspects of his company, but has not seen fit to explain the practice of offering adult entertainment in his hotels. (Maybe if we all keep asking him about it on his blog, he'll address the issue). He offered a decidedly unsatisfactory explanation to the American Decency Association in 2000, which you can read here.]
This latest T&S thread on this subject had many of the highlights and lowlights of the previous thread but none of the drama, as the poster, Julie Smith, was not called on the carpet by her fellow permas, the way Matt Evans was before her. Apparently, the powers that be at T&S have pre-approved the discussion this time, presumably with the proviso that no CEOs or GAs be called any nasty names. I didn’t comment this time around because I figure it’s just a matter of time before someone complains and the whole thing gets deleted again, but I’ll comment on it here, because then I can be sure my comments will be around longer than a day or two. It was interesting to note that the usual arguments by the usual suspects were raised all over again, including one by an unusually pompous ass calling him/herself “L,” who showed up late in order to offer up this priceless gem:
The truth is CEOs and Directors of Boards have a moral obligation to make to make money for their shareholders.
Well, no L, actually they don’t. They do have some fiduciary obligations and legal duties dictated by their positions, but moral obligations? Those are the ones that would dictate that they put monetary concerns on the back burner and consider what effects their actions are having.
L wasn’t done however:
I did not read all of the 131 comments. Eventually it gets boring to read comments of people who are ignorant about the functioning of society.
How cool is that? L doesn’t feel the need to know what anyone else has said before him because he already knows that the shoeless rubes commenting at T&S have no idea how the world works. In his world, apparently, CEOs are somehow required to use any means available to make money for the shareholders, including selling pornography (and what else? escort services?). I guess the hotels that made the decision not to offer adult movies in their establishments are ignorant of the functioning of society as well.
This discussion always seems to follow these same patterns. Someone raises the idea that maybe the Marriotts should try to do something about this issue, to set an example as members of the Church or to be leaders for change in their industry, but all too soon, commenters show up to raise the same tired arguments:
1. The Marriotts don’t really have the necessary control over the operations of their hotels to make such a change;
2. The Marriotts’ obligations to their shareholders require them to offer adult entertainment because it’s a huge revenue stream that the shareholders can’t be expected to live without;
3. The in-room entertainment service providers don’t allow you to purchase their services without adult movies;
4. Marriott Hotels sell alcohol and tobacco too, and you aren’t making a big deal about that, so you can just shut up about the porn as well;
and the worst of all:
5. Bill Marriott is an Area Authority in the Church and would not have been called to this high position if there were something wrong with his business conduct.
The first three of these arguments have been adequately addressed on the T&S thread, or other places it links to. Simply put, these arguments are factually and logically flawed and should be put permanently to rest.
Argument Number 4 was represented by Ellis this time around, who said:
Marriott also sells coffee and find wines in its restaurants. In the four and five star hotels they have wine stewards and and wine tasters. Rich people expect a certain standard in fine hotels. I just don’t see what all the fuss is about either way.
This type of argument embodies a huge fallacy. It essentially says that unless you are going to complain about every possible objectionable practice, you can’t complain about this one. Hogwash. There is something qualitatively different about tobacco and alcohol versus pornography. Don’t believe me? Try smoking and drinking in public and then try looking at an adult mag in public. The reactions you will get to those behaviors will differ markedly. Moreover, Marriott Hotels have banned smoking in their rooms. So their corporate policy says that you can’t smoke in the privacy of your hotel room, but you can buy and watch pornography. Anyone see anything wrong with the value judgment implicit in those choices?
Marriott doesn’t use porn as an enticement to get people to stay in their hotels. They do not actually encourage people to view it. Granted the information on the TV make it clear that adult material is available, but that is not the same as pushing it.
Drug dealers could make the exact same argument: “I’m not encouraging it, I’m just making it available. I’m not responsible if people make their own decision to use it.” No. There is simply no moral safe haven created by a passive marketing strategy. A drug dealer is a drug dealer and a porn dealer is a porn dealer, no matter how they choose to market their wares.
Their guests can block it so their kids won’t see it if they don’t want them to. It is not all that different from the cable and satellite companies. My satellite provider has more adult channels than I can count, not that I have tried. It also has the BYU channel. So should we indict the board of directors of BYU for allowing the BYU channel to be carried by the same entities that sell porn?
No Ellis, we’re not protesting anyone whose business has any tangential connection with another business that sells pornography, we’re talking about a prominent church member and leader whose business that bears his name actually sells and profits directly from pornography. If you don’t see the difference, you have serious problems.
If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. If you don’t think Marriott should provide it don’t stay there. Unless and until Marriott has a monopoly on the hotel business everyone still has other options. I understand the Omni chain of hotels does not provide any adult programming. Stay there. If enough people do that then things will change. Does anyone seriously consider that course of action. I doubt it.
I love it when commenters think they know what everyone else has considered. The fact that their comment has already been considered by everyone before is apparently not something they have considered. We’ve considered it Ellis. And the question isn’t whether we’re going to watch it. We’re not. The question is whether we ought to speak up when we see a prominent church member and leader doing something that we find morally questionable, and which sets a bad example. I think the answer to that question is yes.
This brings me to argument 5. It makes me tired when people say things like this. It implies that you can’t be a faithful church member if you question the behavior or statements of any church leaders. I think that idea would be denounced by Joseph Smith himself, who took a lot of guff from fellow members and leaders of the Church during his lifetime and, generally speaking, tolerated it without attacking those who criticized him. I happen to know some members of the Marriott family and they are, in my experience, without exception some of the finest people I have ever met. Criticizing Bill Marriott and his family for continuing a bad business practice is not the same as saying he is a bad person. Clearly, he is a wonderful person. But he is a wonderful person who is as fallible as everyone else is. I think he will eventually recognize that he should change this policy. I also think that, as Church members, we have a duty to speak up about it, so that he will not be mistaken in his beliefs about how Church members feel about this subject. That way, perhaps we can help bring about change at the Marriott Corp. and other companies as well.
I’m hoping that future discussions of this subject in the bloggernacle will actually move the ball forward and get to suggestions about actions we can take to collectively let Bill Marriott and his family and company know how we feel and ask for changes to be made. Since the last post that headed in that direction got deleted, I won’t be holding my breath. In the meantime, if you have ideas on that subject, please feel free to comment here.
UPDATE: Marriott has agreed to meet with grops advocating an end to in-room pornography. See article here.