The fat lady may not have sung yet, but pigs are definitely flying. While I’m not the biggest fan of most celebrities’ lukewarm attempts to stir up controversy about causes they support, I have to jump in on the current battle Ashton Kutcher is waging on Village Voice Media.
I don’t like to get involved in feuds, particularly tech/geek feuds. They’re much more fun to watch from a distance rather than getting in the middle of it. The last time I did so, it was again with me supporting (gulp) Techcrunch in their stance against Moviefone. Kutcher’s attacks on Village Voice and particularly Backpage.com are warranted and deserve attention.
Here’s the breakdown of what’s happened so far:
- Kutcher and wife Demi Moore lead a crusade against human trafficking
- Village Voice writes an article attacking the campaign as not using real facts and of attacking personal adult freedoms when only a small number of actual cases of law-breaking occur
- Kutcher attacks back on Twitter
- VVM counterattacks on Twitter and posts another story about Kutcher’s attacks on Twitter, calling it a “tantrum”
I’ve read the stories, the Tweets, and much of the backstory. I’ve visited Backpage and looked into their “adult” section. Again, I’m not big on celebrities doing what I consider insincere activism in many cases, but there are 4 reasons that I support @aplusk on this one:
- Kutcher’s activism seems real. It’s not something where he’s simply speaking at an event or two and throwing his image on a charity’s website. He’s actually DOING something, creating awareness, making videos, and talking about it wherever he goes.
- VVM’s original attack article is transparent in its intentions. They have money to be made and whether they support human trafficking intentionally or not, it reeks of the type of PR spin that sleazy companies use when trying to protect their own interests with misdirection and defensive posturing. The followup story is even worse.
- The ads that Kutcher and friends have made have been attacked for being off-topic or confusing. These accusations are often coming from bloggers who apparently don’t understand the ways to deliver a message effectively. For example, having Sean Penn making a grilled cheese sandwich with an iron actually does get the message across – it’s sharable, somewhat entertaining, and leads people to the Facebook page that has nearly 100k likes currently (compared to 131k for the much larger March of Dimes charity which has been around for longer). Kutcher’s and Moore’s actions are heading in the right direction and they’re doing more than most of the people complaining about them.
- A look at the adult section in question on Backpage is appalling. Even if you put this lawsuit aside, there is clearly a lot of potential for the wrong girls (is there really a right girl?) to be listed against their wishes on pages like those. I’m sure they make a ton of money for the company, but there is very little doubt that they can be used for illegal purposes. There’s a reason why Craigslist made a change.
I would never have expected to support Kutcher and Moore on this one. Prior to doing my research, I was leaning towards the “American rights” and “get your facts straight” perspective that VVM was taking. Digging deeper, I see that Ashton was right. This time.
Here’s the video mentioned above: