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It was reported yesterday that 16 more companies have pulled their advertising dollars from Glenn Beck’s talk show, including Airware Inc. (makers of Brez anti-snoring aids), Ancestry.com, AT&T, Blaine Labs Inc., Campbell Soup Company, Clorox, Ditech, The Elations Company, Experian (creator of FreeCreditReport.com), Farmers Insurance Group, Johnson & Johnson (makers of Tylenol), Lowe’s, NutriSystem, Sprint, The UPS Store and Verizon Wireless. That brings the total number of companies that have stopped advertising during Glenn Beck’s show to 36. And today it is being reported that UPS has pulled its advertising dollars from FOX News entirely.

Yay?

Look, Glenn Beck is awful. The fact that a company ever felt comfortable associating their brand with his red-faced blowhard nonsense is strange. You would think companies would want to associate their brands with people who weren’t ill-informed reactionary crybaby monsters. And FOX News is also terrible. I would like to think that even people who are politically sympathetic to the FOX News position can recognize that they are often offensive and inflammatory and always borderline-retarded (much the same way that I often find myself Laughing Out Loud at the caricature of itself that NPR can be at times [always?]).

But somehow I can’t get behind the frothy left-wing excitement over these advertisers pulling out.

The thing is, Glenn Beck isn’t any different than he was before these advertisers started pulling out. Sure, he said that Barack Obama was “a racist” during the whole Henry Louis Gates Jr. thing, and I guess that’s kind of incendiary (to people who didn’t already think he was a fucking idiot?), but it’s certainly in-line with his general tone and rhetoric and tendency towards saying whatever pops into his head whether it even makes sense or not. If those advertisers had never agreed to support him in the first place, that would make sense, but to pull out as soon as he says something that the advertisers find distasteful (because clearly there was plenty that the rest of us found distasteful that didn’t bother them in the least) sets a dangerous precedent.

If the point of Glenn Beck’s show is to provide people with Glenn Beck’s unvarnished opinion, and that show does well because people want to hear what he has to say, and advertisers want to pay for the show in order to reach that audience, then those have to be the rules of the game, right? It can’t all come crashing down as soon as Glenn Beck says the one thing the advertisers don’t truck with. Because then we are baldly being fed information according to the whims and desires of corporations. (I know that none of this is new, by the way, it just happens to be the boldfaced instance of dangerous corporate manipulation of the media for the week.)

Because the left is celebrating now, but this is clearly a sword that cuts both ways.

Let me give you an example from my own life: a couple of weeks ago there was a really funny promotional clip for the movie Paper Heart featuring Rob Huebel and Charlene Yi that I genuinely liked despite having not been particularly interested in the movie up until that point. When I first went to post the clip I wrote “we have all gone on IM to chat with our friends about how much unicorn dick (the twee-est dick in all the Shire) Paper Heart is going to suck.” And then I went on to say that maybe Paper Heart didn’t suck unicorn dick (the twee-est dick in all the Shire) after all because that clip was so funny.

But, at the time, Paper Heart was an advertiser on this website. Now, Videogum doesn’t take ANY direction from advertisers, and editorial is completely independent from ad sales, but I chose, on my own steam, to remove that joke, because it seemed impolite and ultimately unnecessary, even though I, personally, thought it was funny. And so the world missed out on my unicorn dick (the twee-est dick in all the Shire) joke. To put things in perspective: we are just talking about a tossed-off unicorn dick (the twee-est dick in all the Shire) joke on a pop culture website with a modest ad-buy from a low-budget independent movie whose lead star’s biggest role to date was a supporting character’s girlfriend in Knocked Up. (And in the end, I still got criticized in the comments for posting the clip as if I was doing it because of pressure from the Paper Heart people. It is almost as if you are damned if you do and damned if you do not, sometimes.)

I don’t know. I guess I am just saying that as soon as you give corporations the ability to dictate free speech, then something something 1984 Minority Report.

That being said, Glenn Beck is the worst. Fuck that guy.

Comments (52)
  1. mike  |   Posted on Aug 25th, 2009 +50

    Someday you will self-awareness yourself into a wormhole.

  2. I just got back from vacation. We stopped at my fiance’s grandfather’s house. All he watched, all day, was Fox News. Then, Glen Beck came on. Gramps turned to Sci-Fi. (Sy-Fy, now–kewl.)
    You don’t like Glen Beck? I asked.

    “That guy is a jack-off.”–Gramps.

    Way to annoy your target audience.

  3. dafs  |   Posted on Aug 25th, 2009 +5

    I can’t log in right now, but woo to you Gabe. WOO.

  4. “It was reported yesterday that 16 more companies have pulled their advertising dollars from Glenn Beck’s talk show, That being said, Glenn Beck is the worst. Fuck that guy.”

    Yep, that was about all that was needed to be said on this matter.

  5. I see your point: the left wants to see this as 733t PWNAG3 toward Glenn Beck and Fox News. But clearly Fox News isn’t really hurting from this: they’ll get their ad money from some other companies with lower (fewer? tinier?) scruples, even if they become a public network and solicit subscriptions.

    I’m happy with Beck losing advertisers, too, but lost ad money doesn’t get health care reform passed.

  6. Truer words, never spoken, all that. Beck says such sad, sad things on his show, I’m not sure how this qualifies for the crap-storm it has created. Sure, it’s a bad/wrong thing to say, but other people say it all the time, including Rush Limbaugh, who I’m sure shares some of the same advertisers, and Beck has said much worse, much more insane things. Part of me would like to believe that the advertisers just realized what a crazy man Glenn Beck is with this comment, but the whole repertoire is really what made them leave him in force. That is my hope. That is the only thing I hope.

    I mean, here I am defending the man a bit though. His comment was an absurd, over-the-top exploitation of a situation in which he was asked his opinion on a real-world even (Obama’s comment about Gates-gate). I don’t like advertisers pulling out and saying its because of this man’s opinion. He has tons of other segments when he takes five minutes and plays Nazi footage and draws giant trees “connecting” Obama’s policies and ideas to Fascism and Nazi Germany. How is it that *because* that insanity is so clearly made up, advertisers over look it, but one terrible opinion about a REAL event, and suddenly they’re squeemish? I disapprove as well. Good job Gabe.

  7. You totally should have used that unicorn dick joke. That shit was gold. But yeah yeah, you control the money you control the spread of information. We all know it and it sucks. But isn’t new media perfectly set to counter this thought control. Like isn’t that the point of new media among other things? If its not I need to find a new movement. If people are going to start telling me what to write on my Bj Penn is a vampire blog I’m going to be pissed.

  8. Are you sure Glenn Beck doesn’t have the twee-est dick in all the Shire?

  9. Now, the headline led me to believe the article was going to be about Glen Beck – a stupid person – and his opinion about something too complicated for him – like Jewel lyrics. But then it was all about Gabe and his views on corporate soft power in the media.
    DOUBLE MEANING TWIST!
    This is like in Face/Off when Travolta and Cage are FACING OFF on different sides of the law but then they also take each other’s FACES OFF!!!!

  10. Well, Noam Chomsky has explained all of this countless times. In our so-called “free press” it is really the advertisers that determine the outer limits of acceptable content, not the public. Wonder why don’t see more balanced anti-war commentary on tv? Well, NBC is owned by GE-Westinghouse, which is a military contractor. Or why don’t we see more pro-single payer, universal care advocates on the nightly news – could it be that pharmaceutical and insurance companies are major ad-buyers on broadcast and cable stations? Chomsky’s argument is that your self-censorship, like those of countless news reporters and anchors, is based on a tacit understanding of where your revenues come from. It might not make much difference if you insult advertisers once or twice, but a repeated pattern will probably get them to pull their dollars. If these aren’t replaced quickly, your job might disappear.

    Clearly this is hardly free speech or a free press. It doesn’t even get into the issue of propaganda and socialization into corporate-culture that we get from the time we are children because of this problem. Although I hardly care about Glen Beck, I do think that if we are to fully democratize our society we need to find a way to de-link news reporting from advertising revenues.

    • Aren’t such sources also subtly censored by their audience? It would seem that sources are equally unlikely to consistently publish content that alienates their readership, even if such content by-all-rights deserves to be published.
      For example, even should gabe – god bless his tasteful heart – change his mind about the merits of Family Guy, he would be unwise to consistently publish content to that effect. Cuz we’d all be peeeissed . And confused. And disenchanted. And less likely to continue spending too much time here. Which would defeat much of the point of videogum.
      As the consumers of content, we exert much the same influence as the funders of content. And there’s nothing to be done for it.

      • And audience and advertisers are also connected, of course. If you piss off your audience, they stop watching, leaving your advertisers to wonder where the demographic that will purchase their hearing aids and/or the latest Jonas Brothers album and/or unicorn dick went. They go “Wait a minute! I’ve got all this unicorn dick to sell and nobody to sit here and watch the commercial that will convince them it’s the twee-est dick in all the shire! I’m getting out of here!” So if part of your audience is reasonable people who are like “Fuck that guy, he sucks.” and they go elsewhere for their ill-informed opinions that at least aren’t tinged (saturated?) with blatant racism, then more power to them and the advertisers that follow with their bags of money.

    • Friendly Giant  |   Posted on Aug 25th, 2009 +1

      Exactly. I would only add that the Glenn Beck pull-out is actually a good thing in that it makes corporate control of the media public and manifest (explicit pressure on Fox) as opposed to behind the scenes (Gabe, sitting alone at his computer, wondering whether to include the unicorn dick joke).

      • Friendly Giant  |   Posted on Aug 25th, 2009 +1

        And just to be clear, by “control”, I mean indirect control – media outlets need advertisers to stay in business, and keeping advertisers happy affects how the media outlet does its job.

    • YES! It is a testament to Videogum and us Monsters in general that we can discuss Chomsky as opposed to BLARGH FREEMARKET BLARGHECONOMYSOCIALISMBLAHHH. Thank you, Bubbles!!

    • noahpoah  |   Posted on Aug 25th, 2009 0

      Yes, it’s a shame there isn’t a venue for strong anti-war or pro-universal health care points of view.

      Freedom of the press and freedom of speech don’t guarantee (nor should they) that any particular message will be broadly distributed. They (are supposed to) guarantee that the government cannot regulate political press or speech.

    • Isn’t the interesting irony of all this, though, that with the companies pulling their ads and influencing the show etc etc etc it’s really all in line with Beck’s super-duper free market ideals? He’s always going on about how we shouldn’t hamper corporations and let them act of their own free will. I think, if he responds, it will be interesting to see who he blames? The free market? Capitalism? Or those socialists that are hiding in our big businesses? Stay tuned!

  11. “something something 1984 Minority Report” is the name of the new Oliver Stone film, starring Sean Penn, coming out in 20never.

  12. no one is trying to control what Beck is saying, these companies just don’t want their name attached to it.

    it would be as if you had run the unicorn dick joke (very funny) and then paper moon had decided to pull advertising.

    say whatever you want, just be wary of the consequences.

  13. don  |   Posted on Aug 25th, 2009 -1

    I disagree, advertising dollars have nothing to do with free speech. If Beck loses all of his advertisers, he is still allowed to speak his mind- he just can’t do it on television and get paid millions of dollars.

    If you want to make “Glenn Beck money” doing anything; being a political pundit, being in a band, making movies- you have to be “mainstream”- it sucks, I know, but that’s just the way it works. Corporations aren’t going to want their brand associated with some experimental music, transgressive film, or potentially offensive political comments, so people who make experimental music, transgressive film, and potentially offensive political comments have to do so without the help of millions of dollars in corporate sponsorship.

    • Lyle  |   Posted on Aug 25th, 2009 +3

      Ummm…unless those potentially offensive political comments are shared by 4 million right wing followers…then you get all the advertising dollars.

  14. Way to go, FreeCreditReport.Com!! I was worried about your scruples while you were advertising on a show I’d never seen.
    If only those goddamn fascists at Cash4Gold would follow suit… Until then, I’m keeping my gold.

  15. All smarminess aside, I sincerely hope I live to see the end of the 24 hour news cycle. It creates a need for viewer friendly news that sells ads. So stories are distorted, made up, censored, what have you. I only trust Jon Stewart.

  16. Kiril  |   Posted on Aug 25th, 2009 +2

    Glen Beck has been saying a lot of really inflammatory things for a while now. I would guess that when one of those idiots bringing guns to Obama’s speeches finally takes a shot at him or someone else, advertisers don’t want to be in the position of having bankrolled a guy that was encouraging it.
    That being said, this is where this post fails: “If the point of Glenn Beck’s show is to provide people with Glenn Beck’s unvarnished opinion, and that show does well because people want to hear what he has to say, and advertisers want to pay for the show in order to reach that audience, then those have to be the rules of the game, right? It can’t all come crashing down as soon as Glenn Beck says the one thing the advertisers don’t truck with. Because then we are baldly being fed information according to the whims and desires of corporations.”
    If advertisers don’t want to pay for the show because it is severely alienating a larger group of people, that is also a rule of the game. It’s called protecting the brand. But no worries, we will still be baldly fed information according to the whims and desires of News Corporation.

    • Yeah, it doesn’t seem to be about just anything he says, it seems to be about the fact that he’s bringing racism into it, and not in a polite or suitable for public tone, which frightens advertisers and people in general, and it’s not OK because of the sincerity the guy has for everything. While he’s incouraging a group- however small- of people who are afraid of Obama for all the wrong reasons (…skin tone…) and then you get into a situation like we’re in now, with town halls and health care, and then you get him to say Obama’s a racist and by being that, he doesn’t care about you, Beck’s constituents….it’s not about Beck’s views, it’s about being labeled as black fearing. at least, it really seems that way to me.

  17. To be fair to the billion dollar corporations( ))< $>(( ), the Fox talking-head millionaires have NEVER been too shy about boycotting any given company under the bus (Hannity, Giant Fuming Head) in reactionary, blowhard ratings grabs that they feel their audience can easily get behind with lynch mob-esque mentality.
    not the same but sorta maybe. (boycotting an advertiser’s competing brand? boycotting a lost sponsor?)
    the gist is that these guys aren’t so chill themselves and STILL have more ad money than god and ill-informed people will still follow and these advertisers will one day come back bc time heals all and the circle of life.

  18. I guess The Elations Company weren’t elated with Glen Beck’s rhetoric.

  19. Gabe, you ignorant sellout.

  20. Not that Gabe totally missed the target here, and not to get all Schoolhouserockgum, but this conversation and others like it in the media have made me realize that very few people understand the First Amendment.
    Networks can jam whatever MeganHauserman-Olbermann-O’Liely crap they want down our throats. Or shut it all down, if they don’t like what said host or show is doing. We may be talking about a ‘chilling effect’ at some point, but just because advertisers pull out of Fox/Beck because they finally realized what an asshole(s) he/they are doesn’t mean we’re necessarily destined for VforVendettaville. It just means that some day we may have glennbeckgum.com and not 60 more daily minutes of corporate-sponsored, red-faced, dishonest, oversimplified cable fearmongering. Just because Imus got booted didn’t mean they couldn’t find another asshat to take his place, n’est-ce pas?

  21. Judy  |   Posted on Aug 25th, 2009 0

    What’s a “Toe Date?”

  22. Please excuse my (kinda) off-topic comment, but is it just me or does Glenn Beck look like Divine?

  23. Advertisers buy bulk time on cable networks. They have their ads spread out in chunks of time. None of these advertisers bought time on Glenn Beck they bought time on Fox News, some of the advertisers pulling out never had an ad run on Beck’s program. So the they got what they paid for argument only goes so far. They knew their ads would run on Fox News but they didn’t necessarily know it would be running on a red faced delusional paranoid’s show.

  24. First off let me express how pleased I am to be hating on Glenn Beck more during my otherwise dull workweek instead of having to drum up contrived outrage at the immature shenanigans of Seth Macfarland. So but anyway, I’m not really overly concerned about the news networks’ dependence on corporations and advertising because in my opinion all of the big, 24-hour news networks have always been commercial entities. They are actually businesses themselves, their product is “news,” and by “news” I mean the semblance of news, which is a product marketed with floaty red-white-and-blue graphics, suits and heavy makeup, faux conference tables, sparkly lighting, and deep newsy voices. We consume their product by watching. I think it goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that a network that puts out inflammatory ideas via incendiary news personalities is more likely to have substantial commercial backing than one prone to level-headedness and impartiality because, simply, more people will watch it. We live in a society of bread and circuses and it’s mere entertainment. I don’t watch TV news networks when I actually need information, but I am still guilty of hate-watching Fox News from time to time.

    So, to wrap up this comment, it’s naive to expect these networks to be dispensers of information rather than subjective, contrived corporate mouthpieces. The whole thing is money-driven, the advertisers are just a component of it. C.R.E.A.M. (Did I do that right?) Even less flashy news sources like NPR have to keep ratings up by pandering to their audience to some extent. It takes a cynical mind to keep everything about our society in perspective, to take it with a grain of salt. Ultimately, I’m glad Beck is losing his financial backing. And frankly I would be wary of a company that had no scruples about associating its brand with comments that senseless and unthoughtful.

  25. Jay Leno ain’t NEVER losing his advertisers. HOORAY!

  26. Gabe, you equated NPR to a left-leaning FNC, then immediately linked to HuffPo? Whoops. That’s your understanding of media bias.

  27. The comments section has gotten large, so I will just say “It’s too bad Glenn Beck’s father didn’t pull out.”

  28. AP  |   Posted on Aug 25th, 2009 -2

    if you go to sleep with the dogs, you will wake up with fleas. you think these companies got ad time on the show because of free speach? please. they got it beacause the show had high ratings. thats it. if these are the people you get your financing from, than you cant be surprised if they leave once things get problematic.

  29. It’s not like this is the first time Glenn Beck has done this shit. Lest we forget, he got fired from CNN for his interview with the first Muslim Congressman, wherein he asked him (and here I’m paraphrasing) “I know you yourself are not a terrorist, but you do not support those types of things, right?” UGGH SHUT IT DOWN. And with the way these Healthcare town hall meetings are turning into gun shows, plus the fact that his insane 9/12 Project rally in D.C. coincides so closely with that huge Muslim march, I honestly would not be surprised if this guy legitimately has blood on his hands very very soon. Ahh, the 24 hour news cycle!

  30. Hmm!

    But I doubt that the advertisers ARE concerned with the content of Beck’s speech. They’re pulling out because they perceive that consumers are offended by Beck, and don’t want their name attached to him in case his crazy reputation loses them money. All Johnson & Johnson want to do is sell more Tylenol, or whatever. They think they can do it best by not putting money into Beck. But I think its a stretch to give them credit for taking moral issue with him (and therefore having THAT kind of editorial control over media).

  31. my dad watches glen beck.
    it makes me :( every time i walk in the tv room and it is on..

  32. Oh, man. I just read that Glen Beck is a recovering alcoholic. This all makes so much more sense now.

  33. It seems to me that the issue isn’t so much that advertising companies are attempting to affect Beck’s free speech, It’s that they are responding to the outraged consumer base. In truth, both the left and right wing have used this trick countless times to get shows, consumers, etc to fall in line. The very reason we have censored TV in the US (no cursing, nudity on network television, and only during certain hours on certain cable channels, then 24/7 on pay-only channels) is because the right wing has held fast, these decades later, in their attempt to police content. They use similar tactics to squeeze in certain laws.

    However, I do see your logic point, in that, if the side of “wrong” becomes a vocal majority at any point, the ability to effectively pressure advertisers to support/not support certain types of content puts any medium that depends on advertising to survive potentially at their mercy, such that at a certain point, only the rich elite of the dissenters would be able to access that content at a premium price. The right wing could effectively manipulate Oprah into not giving away cars if they had enough of a simultaneous voice.

    So yes, the knife cuts both ways. But it also relies on a zero-sum notion of power and/or wealth and/or advertising – the idea that because he loses advertiser A, advertiser B won’t stick around, OR that advertiser A won’t quietly come back when this all blows over and he gets a better deal.

    We all know that there are plenty of other advertisers that will advertise on Beck’s show now or eventually. And that even if ALL his advertisers pulled out, he has enough outraged supporters who can afford to pay for his podcast like Rush Limbaugh’s supporters do. And if the same thing happened to Oprah – she now has enough power and influence to fight back.

    Now, that brings it back to people like you, who may now be deciding whether or not you should put this or that joke on your site due to who is advertising on it. I run into similar issues, and I think the answer is two parts.

    1- Never rely solely on advertising to survive. Newspapers should have known better, and especially small business should too. If your biggest fans want your most valuable information, they should pay for it. Books, videos, audios, a paid section, charge at a micro-level if you’re not comfortable with putting some of your content behind a premium walled garden. Only a small minority need pay, and you’d be surprised at how many of your fans would be happy to if you make it worth their while.

    2- Get involved in the process of getting advertisers. I understand the decision that UPS made from more of an airplane standpoint: you want to send a certain message with your brand. You can’t, on the one hand, say you’re an equal opportunity employer, and then sponsor the activity of propaganda that may fuel the power to inhibit those rights. They (mostly quietly and internally) champion that as part of their company identity. They probably never should have been on the network in the first place.

    Still, it’s hard to keep your hands 100% clean. Most of the cash in the US supposedly has traces of cocaine on it. All money at some point is dirty. But, as owners of a company who spends advertising money, I also see a chance to keep that money as clean as I can as long as I can. As a woman I wouldn’t advertise on channels that degrade or disenfranchise women – at some point, that could limit my profit IF there weren’t hundreds of other places I could go. And advertising in those places is probably not the best bang for my buck anyway – that may not be the best atmosphere to get my company hired, since it’s about 51% female.

    Anyway, this has gone on long enough. I just wanted you to know that I see your point, but I also think that Beck, Oprah, you and me have other options.

  34. I hate to be dad here – and Chomsky Dad at that. But what you describe – especially the self-censorship side of things, which is far more powerful, effective and prevalent than direct censorship – is neatly summed up in the propaganda model. If anyone’s remotely interested in how the mainstream media are incapable of serving up news that *isn’t* beneficial to commercial and political elite interests, I recommend they read ‘Manufacturing Consent’ by Herman and Chomsky. It’ll change your life. Unless you happen to be Chomsky, and then it’ll just be a nice reminder of what an amazing book you wrote 30 years ago.

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