Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Principles and Pocketbooks

A friend of mine recently posted a Facebook update that alerted me to an advertising boycott of Glenn Beck. Apparently, this is something that’s been going on since last summer, but I wasn’t aware of it until today.  I don't want to go into too much detail regarding my opinion of Beck because I think other people can do a better and funnier job of calling him an idiot. I do want to share my reaction to the boycott, because I really enjoyed reading about it today.

Last year, the grass-roots organization Color of Change launched a campaign urging sponsors to stop advertising on Beck’s show. The site is entirely devoted to this purpose. Their efforts over the past seven months have yielded impressive results. The site lists 116 companies that refuse to run ads during the program, and a recent update indicates that in the UK Beck’s show has aired for the past six days with no ads at all (commercial time is filled with spots for the network’s own programming).  For further detail, read the press release from here.

The list of companies who have agreed not to support his programming with their dollars is actually pretty remarkable. I find it amazing to see huge companies actually respond to this sort of feedback. On a personal level, I was pleased to see the underwriter of my employer on the list (not that I’ve ever seen them advertise at all, but still).

However, these companies (for the most part) still advertise on Fox News Network (please appreciate the constraint I exercised not putting quote marks around the word news). Hateful/full of hate as Glenn Beck is, if the network is better, it's fractionally so. It’s about as “Fair and Balanced” as a Michael Moore documentary. The difference is Michael Moore doesn’t pretend he’s not liberal whereas Fox News purports to be unbiased. (As an aside, people who call Moore’s films docuganda should probably take a close look at the history of documentaries and recognize that a documentary can be an essay that makes an argument, not simply a presentation of facts. But I digress.)

To get back to my point, I think Fox News has a negative impact on the world and thinking about its popularity is borderline depressing. Their programming is designed to instill fear and I would rather see people turn to horror movies for that. However, reading about the success of the boycott campaign does make me feel optimistic. It’s not often that I see organizations with power (money) making choices based on principle instead of their pocketbooks. I find it refreshing.

I also think it's great that this change has been created by a web campaign. Much as I love looking at lolcats and reading Wikipedia all day, I enjoy seeing the internet used to affect the world in a positive way.

1 comment:

  1. I can guarantee you don't want to get me started on either Beck or Fox news. Blegh.