The pressure put on advertisers to pull ads from the Glenn Beck show on Fox News has caused about a dozen major corporations to instruct their ad agencies to make sure their ads did not run on the show.
These advertisers never directed their advertising to Beck in the first place, but placed media buys at Fox News generally. As of now, there appears to be no revenue loss at Fox News. It is not even clear from the news reports whether these advertisers even constituted a significant portion of the ads run on Beck’s shows.
The boycott stems from a remark Beck made calling Barack Obama a racist. The initiators of the boycott assert that Beck’s statement amounts to a false charge of racism.
But false charges of racism are not new. The Obama campaign used false accusations of racism against Bill Clinton very effectively to disrupt Hillary’s campaign in the primaries. Commentators on MSNBC and CNN regularly and falsely speak of conservatives, tea party attendees, and health care protesters as racist.
The use of false accusations of racism is so pervasive in our society that it has become part of the political landscape. Assuming Beck’s statement were false, it was no more or less outrageous than what is heard daily on many networks (not to mention the blogosphere). If a false accusation of racism was so out of the mainstream, these corporations would have pulled all advertising from MSNBC and CNN long ago.
The advertisers are not reacting to Beck’s speech, but to their own fears of being labelled racist. Call it the Al Sharpton phenomenon. There probably is no label a major corporation fears more than the “racist” label; and the fact that the label may be false and contrived for political gain makes no difference.
The Beck boycott is playing on the fears of major corporations that the failure to react to Beck’s alleged false accusation of racism may itself be used to generate a false accusation of racism against the corporation. This circle of fear demonstrates the power of the race card in American society.
The boycott of the Beck show is a becoming a defining moment in the use of the race card and racial politics. If the boycott does not succeed in forcing Beck off the air, or changing his speech, this will be a great victory not just for Glenn Beck, but for Keith Olbermann and the flame throwers at more liberal networks. Freedom of speech protects everyone, a concept completely lost on the boycotters and the corporate image makers.
Indeed, if Fox News does not give in to pressure, it will be a victory for anyone who believes that the answer to offensive speech is more speech, not censorship.
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