Why Pat Buchanan Firing Is a Seize-the-Moment Opportunity for Multicultural Marketers

Pundit's MSNBC Ousting Should Push Industry to Boldly Take the Lead

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When I heard that Patrick Buchanan had been fired as a commentator from MSNBC, my first reaction was "It's about time!" Buchanan had been suspended four months earlier by the network after publishing his book "Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025." With chapters such as "The End of White America" and "The Death of Christian America," the book has been called racist, anti-Hispanic, anti-black, anti-Semitic and homophobic. Said MSNBC President Phil Griffin, the book should not be "part of the national dialogue, much less part of the dialogue on MSNBC."

It's a little baffling because Buchanan basically says nothing in his new book that he hasn't said before, on television and in writing. He wrote in his blog that "in the 10 years I have been at MSNBC, the network has taken heat for what I have written, and faithfully honored our contract." So why ditch him now?

Buchanan blames his firing on Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who he claims has sought to have him censored for 22 years. The ammunition that Foxman needed, according to Buchanan, was a remark to NPR's Diane Rehm that he believed homosexual acts to be "unnatural and immoral."

Whatever the reason, Buchanan's removal could be seen as a sign that tolerance in mainstream America for extreme nativist views has dipped considerably since he first started spouting them. Just as there came a time when slurs against blacks and Hispanics were no longer OK on national television and smoking on the air became taboo, MSNBC now has drawn a line saying that nativism is no longer to be tolerated either.

That makes this an important moment for our profession. If, in fact, the nation has passed the threshold where Americans can no longer shamelessly vent against a multicultural society, at least in public, then perhaps some attitudes need to change among those of us who do multicultural marketing.

If America has entered a new era, then it bids us, as multicultural marketers, to embrace a freedom that many of us never felt we had. We have permission to be bolder in our marketing. We have the license to develop campaigns that push the envelope, and support multicultural causes and concerns that may have made us timid in the past. What does this mean? For starters, more Hispanics, Asians and gays in mainstream ads. And let's not be afraid to show cultural authenticity. Our country, our customers and consumers are ready to see multicultural America as it really is . Let's show Hispanics speaking English. Let's depict African-American culture in a way that 's respectful and aspirational, yet real. Let's depict Asian Americans and gays -- period. That's how we'll lead the way to portraying the American reality that Buchanan so much disdains.

The more I ponder the issue, the more I am convinced that Buchanan has served a purpose. As odious as I find his views, his firing is a wake-up call to multicultural marketers, to get energized, and to the rest of our profession to recognize the truth that multicultural marketers have been proclaiming for years: It is no longer business as usual in America. Rather, it appears to be a fait accompli that we have become a nation of different hues, not just in skin color, but linguistically, in our religious views, and in our choices of whom we share our lives with. As multicultural marketers, let us move on, with no reserve. Let us take the lead in our communications and show the world what the new America is all about. Mr. Buchanan, you should only know how much work we are putting into keeping your legacy alive!

David Morse is president-CEO of New American Dimensions and the author of Multicultural Intelligence: Eight Make-or-Break Rules for Marketing to Race, Ethnicity, and Sexual Orientation.
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