Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Charlie Warner regarding the Glenn Beck Boycott

I found an interesting quote from someone "defending" Glenn Beck and criticizing advertisers for pulling their ads from his show. Charlie Warner the "media curmudgeon" puts forth arguments of the following nature.

The pressure on marketers to cancel advertising on TV programs that an interest group finds objectionable brings back memories of the Reverend Donald Wildmon's protests in the late 1970s against television shows that he thought promoted immoral lifestyles. He spoke against such programs as "Three's Company," "M*A*S*H," and "Dallas" and urged his fundamentalist followers not to buy products from companies that advertised in the targeted programs.

His efforts failed miserably because consumers weren't going to stop buying Tide, Charmin, Prell, Colgate toothpaste, or Fords because Wildmon didn't like "M*A*S*H."

Contrast this to his later statement.

But it seems to me the larger question is about the ethics of urging advertisers to use their economic power to influence the agenda on the public debate.

Warner makes a critical self-inflicted error here comparing the two situations. In the first, he indicates that Wildmon's efforts failed because consumers would not alter their behavior. He indicated that Consumers have the power. Now he seems to think that Color of Change is urging the advertisers to stop advertising because the advertisers have the economic power. But like the 70's, it is still the consumers who wield the power. Color of Change is the messenger, but the consumers have the power and the advertisers are following suit.

I am quite amused by this ditty.

As much as I despise racist remarks, right-wing hate mongers such as Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter, and over-the-top liberal hate mongers such as Keith Olbermann, and as much as I feel these venomous snakes are poisoning the TV atmosphere and polluting the public debate and debasing the agenda on issues of public importance, I don't want to silence them. I don't want to restrict their freedom of speech.

Contrast "right-wing hate mongers" with "over-the-top liberal hate mongers". It's a tricky paragraph because the grammar is messed up - is he correlating racist remarks with right-wing hate mongers, or does he say that he hates (1) racist remarks, (2) right-wing hate mongers, and (3) over-the-top liberal hate mongers. I'm not giving him a pass. He's showing his right-wing bias.

The other laughable component in this paragraph is "restriction of free speech". No matter what Sean Hannity might think, the First Amendment doesn't say anything about guaranteeing any form of speech a spot on cable television. Warner tries to play on this one later...

Furthermore, the idea of free speech has two concepts embedded in it. Free in one sense means people should feel free to voice their opinions, whatever those views are. Free in another sense means that people should have access to information and opinion at no charge – that ideas should circulate freely in an open marketplace of ideas so that people can freely compare ideas and embrace the ones they like (that confirm their own biases).

Thus, for free speech to flourish and for the marketplace of ideas to be stocked with a plethora of competing ideas, we need Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, ABC, Talking Points Memo, the Huffington Post, and yes, even Rush Limbaugh.

Hey man, I think the Vuelta Espana should be broadcast live over the air. But I'm not willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the costs, so I'll scrape by with twitter feeds. Warner is being a "socialist of convenience" stating that Beck should have a platform for his views for the public good even if nobody is willing to subsidize that platform. And even if he gets ratings, he is subsidized. Everyone who buys a product from an advertiser is paying a small amount for every ad that said advertiser puts on television, and it is part of their right of free speech to say "I don't want to subsidize Glenn Beck getting a platform on National television, put him back on AM radio where he belongs".

If pressure groups try to get advertisers to use their economic power for reasons other than advertising effectiveness, then they unwittingly encourage Pandora to open her box of unintended consequences, especially the potential limitation of free speech.

Those pressure groups are called "the public". The public uses their economic power to veto all sorts of things. The Giants start losing, fans stop going, next thing you know, boom new manager. Was Felipe Alou's free speech destroyed? No. If people vote with their dollars - in the most effective way they can by threatening a boycott - that is capitalism at work and Glenn Beck still can exercise his First Amendment rights, maybe he can go yell at some town halls.

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