Diagnosis for Democracy
Insights into the State of Our Union
A Blog by Rob Tenery, MD


Meaningful Dialogue is Being Strangled Out by Corporate Sponsors

By Rob Tenery, MD on April 10, 2018

Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.

Television host Laura Ingraham stirred up a complicated situation with a Twitter post mocking Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg, one of the students who has spoken out about gun control prominently since a Feb. 14th shooting incident at the Parkland, Fla. school that left 17 people dead. Her tweet referred to a report that Hogg had been rejected from four California colleges, and also said Hogg “whines about” the rejections.

In response, Hogg tweeted a list of advertisers on Ingraham's show and called on followers to contact them. At least 15 companies so far have pulled their ads from Ingraham’s show that include Bayer; Ruby Tuesday; Liberty Mutual Insurance; The Atlantis Paradise Island resort; Office Depot; Jenny Craig; Hulu; Nutrish; TripAdvisor; Expedia; Wayfair; Stitch Fix; Nestlé; Johnson & Johnson and Miracle-Ear.

 “We cannot and will not allow voices to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts,” said Jack Abernethy, co-president of the 21st Century Fox-owned cable outlet, in a statement. “We look forward to having Laura Ingraham back hosting her program next Monday when she returns from spring vacation with her children.”

Ingraham’s situation drew parallels to another Fox News host who came under fire. Last April, Bill O'Reilly annonced a pre-planned vacation just before Easter weekend in the midst of an even greater controversy. Advertisers moved commercials elsewhere on the network after a New York Times report detailed accusations of sexual harassment levied against the host who was at the time the linchpin of the Fox News primetime lineup. He never returned to the air, fired eight days later in a letter signed by the three members of the Murdoch family. 

This also goes back to a ThinkProgress internal memo from March 12, 2012 by Judd Legum to Premiere Radio Networks listing 96 national companies that have “specifically asked” their advertisements not be played during the Rush Limbaugh Show. Premiere is the distributor of Limbaugh’s program. The advertisers have also requested to be excluded from other right-wing hosts including Michael Savage, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. According to the memo, the listed companies’ advertisements should be excluded from these programs because they have been “deemed to be offensive.”

A search of efforts to pull adds from the liberal media was not as productive. Upon hearing that LegalZoom.com has decided to pull their ads from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, Melanie Morgan, Co-founder of the Media Equality Project said,  “We’re fighting fire with fire and we’re winning! It’s so gratifying to hear LegalZoom.com understands how Rachel Maddow’s dishonest and biased reporting doesn’t resonate with their customers.” 

Co-founder Brian Maloney added, “When left-wing smear organizations attempted to remove opposing voices from the airwaves, they should have known it would compel a strong response. While we’re not for censorship, we do believe moderates, conservatives and independents can choose to patronize businesses that correspond to their own values. LegalZoom has recognized this new environment.”
 
The Stop the Scalpings (STS) online effort launched in April 26th to counter the Media Matters campaign against Fox News host Sean Hannity’s advertisers. In a matter of days, tens of thousands of volunteers coalesced around the effort, persuading some of Hannity’s advertisers to rejoin him. Using social media to disseminate advertiser contact information, volunteers have turned their efforts to include corporate supporters of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow; CNN’s Kathy Griffin and Don Lemon; and the Public Theater in NYC. STS has been successful in persuading sponsors of the mock assassination of President Donald Trump during the Shakespeare in the Park series not to fund the production. Delta, Amex and Bank of America pulled their sponsorship after the campaign began.

Want to make Al Sharpton pay for the blood he has on his hands over the three dead cops this past weekend? His racial grievance mongering is what pads his bank account, along with MSNBC. You aren’t going to be able to cut off all of Sharpton’s funding, but you can begin with MSNBC who lets this monster Sharpton spew his anti-cop crap daily on CNBC”, requested by the Kelly Truth Squad in an article List of MSNBC Al Sharpton Sponsors That Need to Be Boycotted.

In response, the Rev. Al Sharpton's four-year weeknight run is over: MSNBC has canceled his 6 p.m. series and will instead slot the civil rights activist as host of a Sunday morning program, effective Oct. 4.

Freedom of the press is part of the First Amendment in country’s Bill of Rights. But does that allow the press and media to run roughshod over those they oppose? Does the opposition have the right of retort? The answer to both situations should be yes. The problem is that the ‘playing fields are not set up equally, that is until social media came along. President Trump’s negative news coverage on the major media outlets varies from 77% to as high as 89% on conservative Newsbusters.org. To circumvent some of that negative press, Trump has turned to Twitter with 34.1 million followers as reported in Newsweek on July 19, 2017. Incidentally, That same reference listed former President Obama’s Twitter following was 15.4 million followers. 
 
What has also occurred recently is to the threat to corporate sponsorships by consumers. The first that gained national recognition was a groundswell movement for sponsors to boycott the nationwide Rush Limbaugh radio show in 2012, when it was reported 36-39 advertisers dropped their support. The latest is by a high school student encouraging sponsors to question their sponsorship of the Laura Ingraham show. 
 
In July 2016, the Pew Research Center reported that 57% of U.S. adults get their news from cable, local and the nightly networks, while 38% from the social media, websites and applications. Radio comes in third with 25% and newspapers at 20%.

While talk radio is clearly holds sway with the conservative audience, the largely liberal media of television and newspapers dominate the rest with over 75%. That leaves the growing influence of social media to try to close the gap between the divisive mindset between the liberals and the conservatives. 

The latest threat is by selective editing on social media sites such as Facebook, when two black female Trump supporters, Diamond and Silk’s D&S brand page, have been discriminated against because the content was labeled as ‘too unsafe for the community’. CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress should be revealing.
 
All of this discussion revolves around the intrusion of the biased media that has now metastasized into what has been labeled the industrial/media complex. First, it was the discordant voices from the far left, attempting to drown out discourse that was in opposition to their own. Now it is rampant in many institutions of higher learning, where backed by socialist-leaning professors, opposing voices are shouted down, or not even heard, on many college campuses. 
 
The media is supported by advertising revenue. Thus, this influx or lack of funding goes a long way when the industrial complex looks at the bottom line. The result is a perverse effect on open discourse when both sides are not heard. Currently, the voices on the far left are winning this battle as seen by Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Riley and Laura Ingraham. It’s too bad that Rachael Maddow and Al Sharpton are not held to those same standards!




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