UPDATE 8/16: Wal-Mart joins 8 more advertisers who have dropped the Glenn Beck show according to the Color of Change. It's working!
UPDATE 8/30: GE has also dropped its support of the Glenn Beck show.
There is a not-so-fine line between editorial and hate speech, a line that networks like Fox News and CNN have been pushing in recent months, and as a result major advertisers like
GE and Walmart are losing credibility, their green and socially responsible images tarnished by the muck of racism and slander.
It's one thing to express opinion, but the big networks have a special responsibility to focus on issues rather than overtly biased propaganda. When the networks get too extreme and start inciting, even promoting violence, it then becomes the responsibility of the advertisers who fund those networks to pull out.
This responsibility has been shirked as hosts like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs hijack an otherwise open debate by lobbing out ever more outlandish claims:
• That Obama has a "deep-seated hatred of white people" (even though he was raised by white grandparents) -- Glenn Beck
• That the U.S. government is creating "death panels" to assassinate the infirm (even though health care reforms are designed to offer extended care benefits for the elderly) -- Sarah Palin
• That Obama is not a real citizen so his "regime" (alternately referred to as fascist, communist or socialist) should be overthrown in a new Boston-style "Tea Party" -- Bill O'Reilly
• That senators who do not agree with right-wing ideologies should be "terrorized" -- Dick Morris, Fox News
• That "mobs" need to be formed to block people from attending town hall meetings -- Sean Hannity
• That Nancy Pelosi should be served "poison" in her wine -- Glenn Beck
If you are a major brand that serves a wide variety of customers -- like GE, Walmart, Home Depot, Nestle, Bayer, JC Penney, Apple, Mercedes-Benz, Office Depot -- it's probably a good idea to steer clear of any type of highly polarizing political rhetoric, especially when that rhetoric suggests violence against fellow Americans.
But when you are a major brand that is strongly promoting corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives like GE and Walmart, both of whom have undergone massively successful green makeovers, you really need to think twice about what your advertising dollars are funding.
So why aren't they pulling out?
Several advertisers including GEICO, Lawyers.com, Progressive, Procter & Gamble, offered an example by pulling their ads following Beck's racist outburst two weeks ago, but despite plummeting ratings (Lou Dobbs lost an estimated 20 percent of his viewers in the past month) the advertisers (including GE & Walmart) who are funding this thoroughly un-American behavior are deciding to stay the course.
You may wonder why.
As it turns out, both GE and Walmart have been long-standing backers of an ultra-conservative political agenda, an agenda which historically has been opposed to all manner of environmental regulation. In 2006, they joined a list of advertisers (JPG) that asked ABC for an ad blackout on Air America, the first openly progressive talk show. They did not request a blackout for any conservative talk shows, and in the same year (2006) GE gave overwhelmingly to Republican PAC's (political action campaigns), a 2:1 ratio according to a recent piece by Megan Carpentier (via Alternet).
In 2009, both GE and Walmart have continued to support Glenn Beck, the worst of the racist, pro-violence offenders, both on radio and television. There's actually an online petition running to ask Wal-Mart to drop its advertising from Glenn Beck.
So I ask you, the readers, if there is a conflict here...
GE has almost miraculously reinvented itself (resting on the shoulders of that famous squiggly CFL lightbulb) as a planet-friendly corporation that wants to make the world a better place. And the strategy has worked in spades. Read Stephanie Roger's great article on the success of GE's Ecoimagination to learn more.
And Walmart, after contracting with green marketing firm Saatchi & Saatchi, has retooled its entire operation to become a champion of ethical and environmental stewardship, so much so that they recently won an award for sustainability from the Aspen Institute. Read my story on Walmart 2.0.
I don't want to diminish in any way the great strides these companies have taken. After all, they are huge. And when they make even small moves to become more resource efficient, it is very, very good news for the planet.
But at some point, we must come to a question of values.
Hate of any kind is at its core antithetical to the green movement, a movement which puts above all else the value (and sustained existence) of human life on Planet Earth. It's fine to have and express an opinion, but when a company is literally funding on-air extremists who promote acts of violence and mob-rule, it certainly detracts from that company's image of "doing well by doing good."
What do you think? Leave your comments below:
BTW if you want to see the whole list of current advertisers of the Glenn Beck show, which include other green image companies like Apple and Mercedes, visit the Daily Kos.