Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Sleeping Giants

The Omnivore has talked about these guys before: An anonymous group waging a one-account Twitter war against Breitbart.  Their method is relentless and effective: They politely inform advertisers their articles are appearing on Breitbart and suggest that they remove them as Breitbart "promotes racism." It works--a lot. Daily, the followers of the account do the same--tweeting at the corporate accounts with screenshot of their ad--sometimes with one of Breitbart's more egregious articles--often just the ad, maybe with the BB header.

Here's what one of Breitbart's editors said--wondering why more people in the media weren't taking their side:
Marlow seems, you know, concerned that the rest of the media isn't complaining about this. They're, you know, afraid it could spread.

This quote alone might be enough to get The Omnivore to do the unthinkable and buy a Sleeping Giant's shirt.

Why Is The Omnivore Okay With Stiffing Free Speech?

Doesn't The Omnivore believe in free speech? Yes. But isn't that a lie? A reader of The Omnivore thinks she can sniff out the lie because The Omnivore supports the Sleeping Giants approach. So, its time to do some education.

Ladies and gentlemen--and other non-gentlemen readers--behold --

Exhibit A:

Yup--Breitbart, champion of no-consequences-for-muh-freeze-peach, launched their own digitally successful (at least in the trending sense) against Kellogg's. Is someone going to try to sell the bullshit that it's okay to boycott Kellogg's because they're not a media company? Anyone? The Omnivore is here to tell you: if they'd driven Kellogg's out of business they would still be grave-dancing.

Net-Net: Live by the boycott, die by the boycott (not that what Sleeping Giants is doing is a boycott--but still).

Exhibit B:

This is Milo Yiannopoulos--a provocateur, self-promoter, and con-artist. He was a common byline writer with Breitbart during its rise. He isn't a great thinker--he's just really good at pissing off liberals. When you hire someone like him you want to alienate the "right people." It worked--but it also alienated advertisers--who might want some of those "right people" to buy their stuff.

But Omnivore, you say, Milo was fired long ago--ancient history. Right? Not so--he was let go due to exposure of what sounded like a defense of pedophilia--not for doing is best to create offensive media spectacles. If that was all he was doing, he'd still be at it.

Net-Net: Hire bomb-throwers, make a lot of money--but please look up the origins of "hoist by his own petard."

Exhibit C:

This is one of many Breitbart articles that are, well, kinda racist--or misogynist or what have you. Might advertisers object to being associated with this stuff? Sure they would. Everyone agrees with that.

But Omnivore, you say, smirkily, you're just cherry-picking. That article is from some distant past and has no relevance today. That's what you say--okay, let's do the easiest thing possible--let's find some racist comments from tonight. How? Oh, that's easy--look for a home-page ad about black people and then go to some of the most liked comments.

The Omnivore is sure there's a lot more--but how long you gonna spend down there.

But Omnivore, you say, thinking you've got him--that's the comments--that's not the articles. Breitbart isn't responsible for what people write. Why would an advertiser object to what comments people leave??

The Omnivore will educate you: The problem here is not what's in Bannon's heart--it's what in his media property. If his articles are attracting racists like [ you know ] attracts flies, perhaps the charge that Breitbart is promoting racism has some valid grounding. Breitbart could certainly clean up its comments section--or even close it.

But it won't. Those are Bannon's people. He knows it. We know it. Advertisers know it.

Read that again: Advertisers know it. They know they can find a story about race, go to the comments, and see "monkey." Easy peasy. That's enough for them to pull their ad right there.

Net-Net: Out-and-proud racism might be getting more popular in America--but it isn't popular yet.


What The Omnivore is relentlessly hammering home is:

  1. Breitbart is a special case in the media. They have a ton of traffic--but their brand is inflammatory and controversial. That is not guaranteed to be a sustainable business model--"inflammatory" and "controversial" are seen, by ordinary companies as brand damage.
  2. Breitbart is actively trying to piss people off. Absolutely trying--just the "right people." That's also a formula for losing the average advertiser. Sure--every media outlet either makes mistakes that upset people--or publish the overly-honest story revealing their liberal prejudices--but they do not make that part of their business model if they want to be mainstream and attract mainstream advertisers.
  3. The charge that Breitbart is promoting at least a kind of racism is, at least arguable. You can spin conspiracy theories about liberal posters sabotaging them--or say that the comments people are just .00000000000001% of the population and that it's a weird kind of racist who reads/comments--whatever. What you can't deny is that those comments are there. If that's enough for an advertiser--and it is a legitimate line to draw--then you're done on the first count.
In short, no one is coming to Breitbart's defense because this is a situation of their own making. They have worked hard to get to the point where their brand was pretty toxic to run-of-the-mill advertisers--and eventually someone 'called them on it.'

Rather than being against free speech, this is EXACTLY what free speech is: Breitbart can publish offensive articles and draw racist comments--they can engage in boycotts and then whine about it if they lose ad revenue. They can do all that stuff--and no one is stopping them or censoring them

It's just that some people don't want to associate with them over it. That isn't a problem--after all, as conservatives have long held, the answer to bad speech is more / better speech: like this.

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