As longtime readers know, Media Matters was the driving force behind the attempt to force Rush Limbaugh off the airwaves through secondary boycotts of advertisers.

Unlike more noble boycotts in American history, the Limbaugh boycott movement did not urge consumers to boycott Limbaugh’s show, it sought to undercut Limbaugh’s platform by scaring advertisers away from the show through explicit and implicit threats to boycott the advertiser.  This, unfortunately, has become the modus operandi for all manner of left-wing boycotts of conservative speakers.

Media Matters’ boycott-guru Angelo Carusone helped organize and coordinate the supposedly independent Limbaugh boycott movement in the days after Limbaugh’s comments about Sandra Fluke (for which he apologized) based on pre-existing Limbaugh boycott plans.  The Fluke controversy was the excuse, not the reason, for the boycott.

The Limbaugh boycott movement has scared away some advertisers, such as high-profile advertiser Carbonite, which later had to admit to investors that dropping the Limbaugh sponsorhip damaged Carbonite substantially.  Those sponsors have been replaced.

Most of the much-ballyhooed list of advertisers who have “dropped” Limbaugh in reality consist of advertisers who never advertised with him to begin with or who have policies against advertising on politically controversial programs of any nature.  Hyping long lists of advertisers who “refuse” to advertise on Limbaugh is meaningless.

In a very predictable irony, Media Matters’ efforts did damage to liberal talk radio as well.   Advertisers who “refused” to advertise on Limbaugh generally have walked away from all talk radio — conservative and liberal alike.  So says liberal radio talk show host Tom Hartmann (via Hot Air):

THOM HARTMANN: David Brock and Media Matters were leading the boycott Limbaugh crusade, which did presumably some damage to Limbaugh’s show. I can tell you it did a lot of damage to progressive talk radio, because a lot of advertisers, right across the board, said just pull me out of all talk radio. I don’t know Limbaugh’s numbers, but I do know that, on our side, progressive talk radio took a hit as a consequence.

Meanwhile, Limbaugh continues to dominate talk radio ratings, as groups of anti-Limbaugh dead-enders continue to spend their days tweeting and emailing advertisers.  It’s unclear how much financial damage has been done to Limbaugh, but the controversy has given Cumulus radio an excuse to blame Limbaugh for broader business problems.

Most recently, Cumulus leaked that is would consider dropping Limbaugh from the 40 Cumulus radio stations which carry Limbaugh.  That’s a drop in the bucket of stations, and Limbaugh would be picked up by stations in those markets eager to expand their own listener base.  It all appears to be part of contract negotiation posturing — in which Limbaugh would seem to have the upper hand because the listeners are loyal to him, not to Cumulus.

Cumulus does not have a meaningful replacement for Limbaugh.  Attempts to substitute Mike Huckabee in some markets have resulted in failure.

Yet what’s interesting is how Media Matters’ is spinning this as a lose-lose for Limbaugh – even if Limbaugh “wins” he “loses.”

Media Matters’ Senior Fellow Eric Boehlert writes, For Rush Limbaugh, The Damage Is Done:

One week after it was first reported that talk radio giant Cumulus Media might cut ties with Rush Limbaugh and pull his show from 40 of its stations nationwide, the end result of the contractual showdown remains unclear. But we do know this: The damage has been done to Limbaugh and his reputation inside the world of AM radio as an untouchable star.

By opting to publicly negotiate its contract and making it clear the broadcast company is willing to walk away from his program, Cumulus has delivered a once unthinkable blow to Limbaugh’s industry prestige. (Cumulus is also threatening to drop Sean Hannity’s syndicated radio show.)

Even if Limbaugh wins in the end, he loses. Even if Limbaugh manages to stay on Cumulus’ enviable rosters of major market talk stations, Limbaugh comes out of the tussle tarnished and somewhat diminished.

That’s not how Media Matters expected the Limbaugh boycott movement to end — with Limbaugh victorious but “somewhat diminished.”

In fact, it is Media Matters which emerges “somewhat diminished.”  Media Matters threw its weight into the effort to take out the big right-wing kahuna, and it failed. 

Portraying losing as winning doesn’t change that.