2.17.2022

Does Anyone Under 40 Have Any Idea Who Ron Reagan Is?

posing a question

I don't particularly enjoy criticizing secular organizations whose mission I generally support. I am well aware that they face an onslaught of criticism from many directions as it is, and I'm not eager to contribute to it. These groups are doing many good things in advocating for secularism, and this is something we desperately need more of. When I do offer criticism, I aim to make it constructive because I'd like to help these organizations be more effective. I want them to succeed at what they do, and I recognize that whatever gripes I may have are relatively trivial in the sense that I'd prefer to see more organizations doing what they are doing.

It is in that "spirit" that I'd like to offer some constructive criticism to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). While I am fairly confident that most Americans have heard of former president and Republican demigod Ronald Reagan, am not convinced that most people under 40 have any idea who Ron Reagan is (his son). The FFRF is quite proud of what they characterize as an "iconic commercial" they made with him decades ago and which they have been periodically re-broadcasting on select TV shows ever since. In fact, they are so proud of their one and only ad that they issue a press release every time whenever it is going to air again. It isn't clear whether the original ad has ever been re-filmed, but it doesn't matter because the script does not seem to have changed.

My criticism is simple: Just because this is the only TV spot the FFRF has produced doesn't make it iconic. I don't think most Americans, especially those under 40, have a clue who Ron Reagan is or why it might be significant that's he's an atheist. I fear that whatever impact the ad might have had way back when it was brand new is long gone. It is long past time to retire this ad. Perhaps it could be replaced with something that would be more effective.

There is nothing wrong with recruiting celebrities willing to publicly identify themselves as atheists to appear in ads. In fact, I'd like to see more of this. The United States is so hopelessly mired in celebrity culture that this could have an impact. Many Americans really seem to care what celebrities think for some reason. But I suspect that whatever impact it might have will depend on whether the person featured in the ad is someone with which the audience is familiar (i.e., an actual celebrity who is perceived as relevant).

Television ads are expensive, and the FFRF probably doesn't have the budget to utilize them effectively. This is probably why they created one so long ago and are continuing to run it so sporadically with few, if any, modifications. I get that. But since they are probably spending some money to run it each time, I can't help wondering whether they are getting much of a benefit for their investment. If not, there might be better uses for their funds.

In the unlikely event that you have never seen the FFRF's ad, you can check it out below: