In defiance of the hatred and ignorance that fueled the Orlando terrorist attack that left 49 club-goers dead early Sunday morning, Viacom brands in every part of the world have turned their expansive social, digital and linear reach to pay homage to the victims and seek solutions to the plague of gun violence that is terrorizing American communities.
“We continue to use our public voice to loudly support and celebrate unity, acceptance, diversity, resilience, and change for good,” Viacom President and CEO Philippe Dauman and COO Tom Dooley wrote in a joint message to employees on Monday. “At Viacom, we will never stop speaking out against hate and gun violence and loudly advocating inclusiveness and sensible laws that protect us from violence.”
That the worst mass shooting in American history targeted a celebratory crowd of mostly LGBTQI individuals during what happened to be both Gun Violence Awareness Month and Pride month is a reminder of the importance of both to evolving our national conversation on many inter-related issues, and many Viacom networks spoke forcefully on these.
Logo, underscoring its role at the heart of the LGBTQI community, turned over a portion of their New Now Next news website to updates and commentary on the shooting, including a profile of two victims who planned to marry and will now have a joint funeral instead, and tributes by journalists such as Anderson Cooper and celebrities such as Adele. The site also compiled a list of victims and detailed ways to help with recovery efforts.
In a stirring survey of just how far the shots fired in the early morning hours at an Orlando nightclub echoed, Logo also posted a compilation of tributes from all over Europe and from Moscow, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand. Complementing this, MTV UK posted a gallery of tributes to the Orlando victims from Pride parades all over the United States.
On MTV Voices, Aria Alagha, who described himself as “an atheist cis-gendered gay British-born Iranian man” wrote a soul-searching exploration on how this tragedy made him realize the power of his own voice to combat the backward-thinking mentality behind such hate crimes.
“But what happened in Orlando is not about Islam,” he wrote. “It was the action of one person – not a religion. It’s about real people, human beings, brothers and sisters living their lives free of the threat of violence.”
MTV, VH1 and BET networks around the world dyed their logos rainbow and turned their considerable news resources to coverage of the tragedy and related issues. They did not hesitate to confront the cultural and political maelstrom that created the conditions under which such massacres have become routine.
“These politicians pleaded to God on behalf of the same LGBTQ individuals whose marriages they would deny,” wrote Ana Marie Cox. “They made gestures toward grace even as they continue to line up behind a presidential candidate who could not resist the urge to use a massacre as grounds for self-congratulation and to justify exclusion.”
MTV has long been a leading LGBTQI rights advocate, and the network’s Snapchat channel posted a grating summary of the repulsive treatment of this community in the not-so-distant past, from the likening of Pride marchers to “thieves and robbers” by the Los Angeles police in 1970 to the mass murder by arson of 32 people at a New Orleans lounge three years later. “Pride isn’t a party,” the author, Jane Coaston, writes defiantly. “It’s a response to violence – physical and emotional and spiritual. Pride is how we fight back. Not with guns, or knives, but with rainbow flags and parade floats and solidarity. And after Orlando, we’ll do it again, bigger and louder.”
Viacom’s commitment to the LGBTQI community is ongoing. Logo has pledged that its annual Trailblazer Honors event – the largest LGBTQI pride event – will be dedicated to the Orlando victims. When the annual Pride Parade hits Manhattan’s streets at the end of this month, employees from Logo, our Viacommunity social responsibility initiative, and our Emerge employee resource group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees and straight allies, will be there, cheering as loud as ever. The company has also pledged a donation to a fund for survivors and victims’ families.
On Monday evening, Viacom employees united at Stonewall Inn in downtown Manhattan for a vigil to the deceased. Uptown, Viacom lit its Times Square headquarters purple in a somber tribute to victims.