Ad boycotts are great. Boycotts are great. Jack Schafer is wrong, dead wrong. Ad boycotts or boycotts in general are democracy in action. It’s the people telling companies exactly what they want, and the companies responding in return.
Jack Shafer writing for Politico, defends Tucker Carlson (and even previously defended Bill O’Reilly) and his right to have a platform where people are allowed to express their views freely, and argues that if advertisers were only allowed to support shows whose political views they support, then the only shows on TV would be the blandest centrist shows which cater to all demographic. Cenk Uygur from The Young Turks doesn’t like the idea of pressuring advertisers either, saying that if a person doesn’t like a show, then just don’t watch it. Let it die a natural death.
The problem here is that toxic ideas, especially from those with a following, don’t die a natural death. Despite being deplatformed, if Alex Jones makes a controversial vile statement, his followers will still amplify it. But by the very fact that he is deplatformed, the extent and the damage he can cause is contained to a minimum. Ann Coulter doesn’t really have a regular media platform outside of her social network, but because she occasionally shows up on television, her celebrity status and her vile ideas remain. You can’t just “not watch” Ann Coulter and hope she disappears. It doesn’t work that way.
Jack Schafer and Cenk Uygur are wrong in thinking that companies, when they advertise in a show, are supporting the political message of the show. They might and they could but they don’t definitively do just by the virtue of advertising there. What they do however is enable shows to spread their message. Companies’ goals are to reach the audiences of the shows they advertise on. That is simply it. In doing so, they allow the shows to continue their programming. They want to sell things, not sell a political message or change hearts and minds. Some companies might be politically motivated, but by and large, that’s not how companies and advertising works.
Advertising keeps shows alive, and shows will remain alive as long as they have viewers and advertisers who are interested in said viewers. Tucker Carlson could turn his political show into a cooking show, but as long as viewers watch the show and support the advertisers’ products, the advertisers will continue to keep the show alive (not necessarily support the show’s views. Stop thinking this). But how do you let a show or a television station know that you are not happy with something when you don’t watch a particular show in the first place? Then you go to what you actually use or support in your real life, the advertisers. Bill O’Reilly survived years with seniors having his show on right after Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. People who are politically “woke,” are generally younger and couldn’t stand up against him and boycott his show when they don’t watch his show in the first place. And Bill’s hold with his senior audience is rock solid. So how does one act against him, go after his advertisers.
Boom. It worked.
And as much fearmongering there was about slippery slopes and threats to the free speech, Bill O’Reilly’s show has been off the air for a while now. People are still free to speak. Bill is still free to peddle his hatred on other platforms. The same goes for Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, and Gavin McInnes.
The whole free speech argument is a shell game. It is a way to distract from the vile things someone is saying in order to appeal to someone’s ego or righteousness. “Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech.” Sure. But notice how people who usually say that are hatemongers or conservative trolls? And as much as progressives will often defend the free speech rights of hatemongers when their advertisers are being threatened, it never really goes the other way around. Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was an attack on free speech and freedom of the press, and yet I don’t necessarily hear the loud voices on the right standing up for the dead journalist. What about Colin Kapaernick’s free speech? These people on the right are not playing it straight, folks. They’re simply not.
See, the right’s problem with ad boycotts and boycotts in general is that they usually don’t work when it comes to their causes. Remember the boycotts against Nike, Starbucks, NFL, Keurig, Apple, etc.? They simply don’t work. Wars against Christmas have been fought every year and there have been boycotts against companies, but yet most of these companies still stand. The right wing’s victories in these boycotts, if there even are, are often miniscule and symbolic, certainly nothing worth smashing your own Keurig coffeemaker over.
So yeah, Tucker Carlson is human garbage. It’s a shame that major networks keep giving him shows time and time again despite being human garbage. People are boycotting his advertisers right now because Tucker Carlson suggested that immigrants make the United States dirty, then later doubled down on the claim, stating that illegal immigrants produce about five pounds of garbage per person as they cross the desert. Someone tell him Americans generate an average of 4 pounds of trash per day and 1500 per year. Tucker Carlson is a white supremacist, nationalist turd. Advertisers on his show help keep his racist platform alive. Sure, they might not necessarily support his message, but they sure allow him to say them.