Rush Limbaugh made the right-wing talk-radio industry, and he just might break it.
Because now the fallout from the “slut” slurs against Sandra Fluke is extending to the entire political shock-jock genre.
Premiere Networks, which distributes Limbaugh as well as a host of other right-wing talkers, sent an email out to its affiliates early Friday listing 98 large corporations that have requested their ads appear only on “programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity).”
This is big. According to the radio-industry website Radio-Info.com, which first posted excerpts of the Premiere memo, among the 98 companies that have decided to no longer sponsor these programs are “carmakers (Ford, GM, Toyota), insurance companies (Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm), and restaurants (McDonald’s, Subway).” Together, these talk-radio advertising staples represent millions of dollars in revenue.
I don’t think they care about hyperpartisanship. They just don’t need the backlash that comes from creepy middle aged men behaving like barbarians and insulting half their customers. It’s not exactly an advertiser’s favorite image.
Of course the perennial question is what’s changed, since they’ve all been spewing hatred for ages. In my view, it’s mainly a combination of a weakly recovering economy and feminists, both men and women, who were able to mobilize via social media to stage an effective boycott. But there’s probably more to it than that. These things don’t just spring up out of nowhere. In this case, we had a series of events over the course of a few months that were staggeringly insulting to women so maybe it just reached critical mass. Or maybe it’s something else, some kind of a historical turning point that we can’t see since we’re in the middle of it. Or maybe not — it’s entirely possible that it’s another in the series of fits and starts that mark women’s progress in this world.
It remains to be seen if this will have any long term effect. But if it manages to break the two decade stranglehold of the right wing propagandists on radio, it will be a huge moment. These horrible people are a blight on the American political system and the path to a more civilized, decent society will be much clearer if their particular brand of rhetorically violent political “entertainment” is relegated to the past. The sentiments won’t go away, of course, but there’s no reason it has to dominate the airwaves of one whole media format.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I think these companies are motivated by common decency or an objection to such bigotry. Perhaps they are to some extent, but it’s really the bottom line that matters. And with society changing for the good, it looks like they’re finally getting the message and taking action.