Liberal groups have seized on a strategy I didn’t think would be effective, but has had some success, to go after advertisers of prominent conservative media personalities.
Media Matters explicitly seeks to bring down Fox News and investigate its executives, and Fox News advertisers have been targeted by groups like Color of Change, which has targeted Glenn Beck, Eric Bolling, Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan and Andrew Breitbart.
Now Rush Limbaugh advertisers are the target because of an analogy he used. As Jimmie Bise points out, Rush’s comments were overblown if one listens to what he actually said, but nonetheless, the use of “slut” or “prostitute” even in an analogy was inappropriate, as Rush has acknowledged. It also distracted from the attack on religious freedom which is the heart of the controversy.
As has become the pattern, Rush’s advertisers immediately were attacked and threatened, and several gave in quickly, like Quicken Loans and Sleep Number, pulling their advertising.
No advertiser was more associated with Rush than Carbonite, an online computer back up company. Rush often would read Carbonite’s ads himself, and would tout their service.
Carbonite initially took a principled position, asserting that it advertises on both conservative and liberal shows, and that its advertising does not constitute an endorsement of what any particular host says.
Indeed, Carbonite still advertises on the show of Ed Schultz, who makes unhinged attacks on the Tea Party and conservatives daily, and called conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham a slut (for which he later apologized).
In his initial press release, David Friend, the CEO of Carbonite, stated that he would be speaking personally with Rush next week to discuss the issue.
Then Saturday night, the CEO of Carbonite issued a statement withdrawing advertising from Rush’s show notwithstanding that earlier in the day Rush has issued an apology. The text is in my prior post.
The reaction among my readers and others on Twitter has been fast and furious, focusing as much on Carbonite’s hypocrisy as well as the way in which Carbonite so publicly injected itself into the political fight.
Make no mistake, the fight is not over Rush’s words, for which he has apologized.
This is not a question of promoting more speech, or alternative views. This is an attempt find something, anything, to force Rush off the air. Ms. Magazine has launched a campaign to do just that by going after Clear Channel Communications, whose stations carry Rush’s program.
Rush will survive this controversy, but most conservatives would not. It takes just one joke gone bad, one misplaced analogy, and a conservative talk show host could see his or her advertisers under organized assault. As Ed Schultz shows, a completely different standard is applied to liberal talk show hosts.
It is time to take a stand against the left-wing tactic of going after advertisers. Carbonite is the company on which to make that stand.
First, Carbonite is so associated with Rush that it must have a high number of Rush listeners as subscribers. Far more, I suspect, than those who love to hear Ed Schultz call the Tea Party names. So a reaction can be effective.
Second, Carbonite is a small public company, so it has to answer to shareholders. Carbonite’s share price has dropped preciptously in the last several months for reasons having nothing to do with this controversy. Going political and attacking a large segment of one’s subscriber base seems like a losing business strategy, and the CEO does not have the last word on the subject.
Third, Carbonite is in a weak financial position. That may be why it reacted to left-wing pressure as it did. But it also is why it may pay a heavy price for its political actions in taking sides.
In Carbonite’s most recent Quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Carbonite discloses that it loses money hand over fist, and is expected to do so for the foreseeable future [note: I broke the single long paragraph down into multiple paragraphs to make it more readable]:
Risks Related to Our Business
We have experienced losses and negative cash flow since our inception, and we may not be able to achieve or sustain profitability or positive cash flow in the future.
We experienced net losses of $17.4 million for 2008, $19.2 million for 2009, $25.8 million for 2010, and $17.4 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2011, respectively, and have an accumulated deficit of $94.3 million as of September 30, 2011.
We have not generally achieved positive cash flow from our operations or reported net income, and we do not expect to be profitable for the foreseeable future. We expect to continue making significant expenditures to develop and expand our business, including for advertising, customer acquisition, technology infrastructure, storage capacity, product development, and international expansion, in an effort to increase and service our customer base.
In 2011, we have incurred, and expect to continue to incur, increased expenses associated with the relocation of one of our data centers to a new facility, and with relocating our customer service operations from India to the U.S., which will adversely affect our operating results for 2011. We also expect that our quarterly results may fluctuate due to a variety of factors described elsewhere in this Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q, including the timing and amount of our advertising expenditures, which are seasonal, as well as the timing and amount of expenditures related to the development of technologies and solutions and to defend intellectual property infringement and other claims.
In addition, as a public company, we incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses, including increased costs for director and officer liability insurance that we did not incur as a private company. We may also incur increased losses and negative cash flow in the future for a number of reasons, and we may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays, and other unknown events.
For these reasons, we expect to continue to record net losses for the next several years and we may not be able to achieve or maintain positive cash flow from operations or profitability.
I am dead set against the tactic of targeted boycotts used as a means of suppressing speech, as I have said many times here. But simply speaking out against the tactic is not working.
People can criticize Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity, or anyone else. That’s okay. The answer to speech one does not like is more speech, not silencing others. Carbonite has joined the side of those who want to suppress speech.
It’s time to take a stand against those advertisers who succumb to the pressure. We should not expect advertisers to take sides, and I would not want Carbonite to stop advertising on the Ed Schultz show. Carbonite should return to its prior, politically neutral position.
We need to send a message that we will not acquiesce in the new left-wing tactic of trying to force conservatives off the air by targeting advertisers.
Carbonite is the place to start.
Later Updates: Kirsten Powers who has pushed back in the past against the sexualized attacks on Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell and other conservative women from those on the left, gets it right:
Did you know there is a war on women?
Yes, it’s true. Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher, Matt Taibbi, and Ed Schultz have been waging it for years with their misogynist outbursts. There have been boycotts by people on the left who are outraged that these guys still have jobs. Oh, wait. Sorry, that never happened.
Boycotts are reserved for people on the right like Rush Limbaugh ….
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