Western & Southern satire goes viral… sort of

In the satirical video, Chris Day plays a faux-Western & Southern public relations exec giving the residents of the Anna Louise Inn a piece of his mind. Photo: Chris Furgason

By Jim Luken

The conflict between Anna Louise Inn (ALI) and its Western & Southern Corporate neighbors has been played itself out on these pages for more than a year, but only recently has the problem taken on a “visual media” dimension.

On Friday, June 27, a coalition of activists, under the auspices of the group Cincinnati Faith and Justice, placed a parody video on Youtube that has added heat (and hopefully some light) to the issue that has been so painful for the women residents at the Inn.

In the two-minute clip, a suited man, identifying himself as a public relations honcho is standing in front of the fabled (now disputed) Inn. He talks, condescendingly and disdainfully, about how W & S views the Inn.

The clip, called simply the Western Southern Video, was picking up steam, viewer-wise. By the following Wednesday it had generated 1500 “hits.” That same evening it was “taken down” on the basis that it “violated copyright laws.”

The video’s local producer, Matt Dawson, put it up again, with an almost immediate takedown. Then he put it up on Vimeo, an alternative to Youtube. In less than a day, the same result. Western and Southern obviously doesn’t like its policies being the subject of parody.

The video was the brainchild of Rev. Troy Jackson, co-pastor of University Christian Church.  At the Freedom Center on May 4th, the day Judge Norbert Nadel ruled against the City and the ALI. Jackson and Dawson brainstormed their plan. Then Dawson enlisted the skills of a local video artist, Chris Ferguson, to write, direct and edit the clip.

They found a professional actor as the “front” man and set up their cameras in front of the ALI. Dawson says, “We asked for and received no permissions from anyone. It was kind of  ‘Let’s do it,’ and we did it.”

In the Cincinnati Enquirer, Michael Laatsch, vice president of public relations for Western & Southern Financial, stated that the company sees its position as a “win-win” situation for both parties to the litigation. Troy Jackson views the overall conflict, and the video dispute, differently.

“We think it’s unfortunate that they’ve taken this approach. We think it’s a distraction from finding a ‘win-win’  for all involved, Jason says. “We are simply inviting them to repent. We want them to be a great corporate citizen in our community. We want then to be good neighbors.”

Dawson says that Streetvibes readers can now find this same video, “Western & Southern Needs a New Direction,” at its new website: southernwestern.net