Who Profits from Violent Rhetoric? Can We Reduce The Profit?

Following the shooting of Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford there have been thousands of stories asking, “What does it mean?” As my readers know, I’ve been concerned about violent rhetoric and what it can lead to for years.

The next question that gets asked is, “What can we do about it?” Here are my thoughts and suggestions based on how I successfully fought violent rhetoric on right-wing talk radio.

First, two questions:

  • What are the positive financial rewards to the people and corporations who use violent rhetoric?
  • What could be the negative financial consequences of violent rhetoric to these same people and corporations?

When I focused on violent rhetoric at right-wing talk radio I wanted to ensure there were negative financial consequences for this kind of rhetoric. Historically right-wing radio only received positive financial rewards typically in the form of higher ad rates and salaries based on higher ratings. We live in a corporate world where the financial bottom-line results drive attitudes and actions. Right now a CFO or CEO can safely say, “I don’t care what he says, as long as he makes money.”

Make Violent Rhetoric Less Profitable

Sadly, violent rhetoric is not only tolerated in corporate America, it is often rewarded financially. My idea was to make calling for the death of liberals, Muslims, journalists and Democrats less profitable to the corporation, thereby reducing the return to the shareholders.

The corporate world sees that they can make money on violence in movies, tv, books and video games. Right now they often make money from the radio and TV hosts who call for violence directed an individuals and groups.

One of the reasons that I took this defunding route was that even when I posted the actual comments of the radio hosts calling for the death of Muslims, liberals, journalists and Democrats some people on the left would push back on what they thought of as an attempt to limit what anyone said under the theory that you should never limit anyone’s free speech.

People would sometimes even incorrectly say, “You can not limit Melanie Morgan’s First Amendment right to say, “Hang ’em” (Which is what she said about reporters from the New York Times writing stories about the financial tracking program of suspected terrorists. Note she did NOT say, ‘if tried and convicted and found guilty by a jury of their peers’. Morgan just went straight to, “hang ’em”. )

I like to remind people, I’m not the government. It is the government who are not suppose to be “prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech” of the hosts (although interestingly We the People, via the FCC, have decided that profanity and obscenity need to be limited on broadcast radio). Secondly, corporations can provide guidelines and rules for their employees and vendors as a condition of their employment. For example, the guidelines from Citadel Broadcasting’s Code of Ethics.

From Citadel Broadcastings Code of Business Conduct and Ethics

When Melanie Morgan said, “We’ve got a bull’s-eye painted on [Pelosi’s] big, wide laughing eyes.” She didn’t get fined by anyone. It was also not a firing offense. She was supported and defended by her management.

(Note: She did NOT say she wanted to assassinate Pelosi. She simply used the terminology of someone who is setting up a contract kill. Any talk of it as “just a metaphor” would be a lot easier to swallow if it wasn’t for the non-metaphorical conversations she had with other people where she talked about hanging people or hog-tying them and setting them on fire. Audio link)

KSFO/ABC/Disney/Citadel, as employers, can tell their hosts not to talk about killing people on the air as a condition of their employment, just like they can tell them not to swear. Management doesn’t like swearing because swearing earns them fines up to $500,000. However saying:

We’ll trace you back, run you down and kill you like a mad dog.” (audio link)

–Lee Rodgers about a Ron Paul supporter

Had no instant effect on Lee Rodgers’ finances. Rodgers eventually was fired. Part of the reason was he wasn’t generating as much revenue via advertising as he had in the past — before my advertiser alerts.

This appeal to corporations to enforce their own guidelines on violent rhetoric won’t work for everyone. Sara Palin is nobody’s employee anymore. She can’t be fired. What kind of financial consequences did she face for her bulls-eye targets or other violent rhetoric? Is it current standard practice for people in the media or politics to pay a financial price for this kind of talk? No.

A few question about the future following the Gifford shooting:

  • Will producers say, “We can’t book X because he uses violent rhetoric”? We know guests are rarely challenged in real time by supportive hosts. Could after the fact emails to producers suggest violent rhetoric as a criteria for not booking someone in the future, just like swearing or being obscene?

Marcy Wheeler said the word blowjob on MSNBC and wasn’t invited back. Some MSNBC producer made that decision. The same standard doesn’t apply to violent rhetoric–yet.

My friends at Color of Change and Angelo Carusone of Stopbeck.com used the same techniques that I did on KSFO to reduce the number of advertisers on the Glenn Beck show. Now he has nothing but house ads and Goldline ads. Over 300 advertisers refuse to advertise on the Glenn Beck show. This technique could be used on all people like Beck. After all, it’s “the market” at work.

If we are to have an impact on violent rhetoric we need to make it financially toxic to corporations.

When violent rhetoric becomes a money loser, corporations can fire people for failing to produce positive quarterly results. Eventually both Morgan and Rodgers were fired by Citadel Broadcasting. The firings were blamed on financial problems. They would not have been fired if they were still generating revenue at the same rate before they lost 32 advertisers. You do not get rid of high-revenue producing shows following a bankruptcy. Another benefit to this approach is that, Melanie Morgan or Lee Rodgers couldn’t become martyrs to “free speech”. Morgan and Rodgers simply were assets that became liabilities.

When we show corporations that employing people who use violent rhetoric is a money losing endeavor, they will act in their own financial interests and ask people to modify their speech, or, if they refuse, fire them.

Cross posted to FireDogLake

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