On the same day Rush Limbaugh darkly hinted that some day conservatives may find it necessary to use violence against liberals, an industry executive declared that Rush Limbaugh's ostensible targets were "very frightening" to her.
Clear Channel (parent to Rush Limbaugh syndicator Premiere Networks) announced the promotion of Julie Talbott to President of Content and Affiliate Services for the company's National Media Groups on September 12. On October 3, Radio Ink published her comments about the tens of thousands of volunteers seeking to hold Limbaugh accountable for his hate speech.
Eight months to the day after Rush Limbaugh first began to realize that his "slut", "prostitute", and "sex tape" comments about law student Sandra Fluke necessitated an apology to protect his lucrative advertiser income, Talbott argued that "we really need to quit thinking about it, about what happened with Rush. I view this as more about special interest groups who are really trying to put a limitation on what listeners can hear."
Limbaugh made his repeated abusive references to Fluke throughout his three hour shows on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of that notorious week. Already on Friday, advertisers began to pull their sponsorship from his show in the midst of what Huffington Post called a "media and political firestorm". Ultraviolet, one of the first women's rights organizations to oppose Limbaugh, called for tweets, emails, and petitions to let Limbaugh's sponsors know that women would not tolerate Limbaugh's hate speech.
It is no great surprise that Clear Channel wants us to "quit thinking about it". Limbaugh's three day tirade has resulted in two other radio networks that carry Limbaugh, Cumulus and Dial Global, losing millions of dollars and being forced to revamp their advertiser traffic management systems. Dial Global's costs increased by 250 percent. Even Clear Channel's Premiere Networks was forced to suspend all national advertising for two weeks.
The impact on Clear Channel — a corporation privately held by Mitt Romney's Bain Capital, and already more than $21 billion in debt — has been unmistakable, in spite of corporate secrecy. Limbaugh's once-legendary "clout" has been weakened, with talk radio expert Holland Cooke observing that "voters are, increasingly, ignoring Rush Limbaugh". Limbaugh's audience numbers have been demonstrated as a mere fraction of the twenty million listeners he once asserted, and still does claim. At least since Limbaugh's advertiser troubles were found to be afflicting music formats as well as talk radio, the entire radio industry has been struggling with advertising rates that industry insiders describe as "seven percent quicksand", with many voices lamenting that advertisers currently have too much ability to drive hard bargains in a weakened industry. Some speakers at a National Association of Broadcasters Panel argued last month that Limbaugh's three day rant has all but killed off talk radio as a viable radio format, and advocated replacing Limbaugh specifically, and talk radio more generally, with an all news format. What began as ten sponsors boycotting Rush soon became 45, then 140, then five hundred. Many of us estimate that Limbaugh has now lost more than a thousand sponsors, large and small.
One of the reasons for all of this chaos in the radio industry is the number of volunteers who have flocked to organizations such as Ultraviolet, StopRush, and Flush Rush, all in the hope of finally holding Rush Limbaugh accountable. UltraViolet spurred "100,000 signatures online in two days for a petition asking just one company to boycott the show," with the first ten thousand signatures gathered in just an hour. Facebook was inundated, and so was Twitter. Credo Action counted more than 450,000 messages sent by outraged citizens to Rush's sponsors. Variously described as an "amazing pushback", a "storm", or a "firestorm" of community outrage, the backlash was immediate and entirely spontaneous.
Limbaugh ridiculed the effort and insulted the intelligence of the protesters by declaring the loss of sponsors no more an inconvenience than losing a couple of french fries at the drive-thru. Tens of thousands vowed to stay with this newly adopted cause until they were successful in actually holding Limbaugh accountable, rather than simply slapping his wrist. Of these volunteers, Julie Talbott says,
The way they're doing that is to overwhelm our advertisers. I think that is a really scary place to be. I don't care which group it is. I don't care what side it is. These very special interest groups are very frightening to me because there are not a lot of them, but they sure make our advertisers like [sic] there are. It is an issue that we need to continue to explore with our advertisers, so that they really understand how many people are actually making this kind of noise.The anti-Limbaugh effort is growing, week by week. As one example, Facebook is a hotbed of anti-Rush activism. Some anti-Rush congregations, such as the one sponsored by Left Action, count more than 200,000 supporters. I participate in the much smaller Flush Rush, which (in my view) is one of the most active and best organized of these volunteer groups. Flush Rush broke 2,000 in membership more than a week ago, and has increased by another 220 in the past seven days.
—Julie Talbott, RADIO INK: THE RUSH/FLUKE ISSUE WAS "FRIGHTENING."
What Clear Channel executive Julie Talbott either does not understand, or perhaps chooses to ignore, is the simple fact that all of the more than a dozen anti-Rush groups on Facebook are entirely comprised of unpaid volunteers. I expect the same is true of anti-Rush volunteers on Daily Kos, Democratic Underground, and the dozens of other places where anti-Rush activism has found fertile soil. Many — possibly even most — of these volunteers are entirely new to activism, motivated not by "trying to put a limitation on what listeners can hear", but rather, trying to limit what bigoted, misogynistic, right wing blowhards are able to spew on the public's licensed air waves. In so doing, they are using their own, constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech, in an effort to convey information ("Hi, did you know that your ads are running during the Rush Limbaugh Show?") in an effort to help Limbaugh sponsors make an informed, free market decision about their sponsorship. Many sponsors appreciate the information, because radio stations often conceal from them the fact that their ads have been moved into the Rush Limbaugh Show to replace other fleeing advertisers.
Wealthy and powerful allies of talk radio's shock jocks may have defeated the once-viable fairness doctrine in the congress which once limited the maxi-megaphone insanity of their medium. But they haven't yet found a way to muzzle the free speech of the people, as organized and expressed via social media. Flush Rush!
|Rush Limbaugh's talk radio career is in a slow downward spiral in part because of the activism of consumers, volunteers, and activists who seek to hold Rush accountable for his hate speech. One very active group in this cause is Flush Rush on Facebook. Flush Rush and other, similar groups use the StopRush Database to inform advertisers about where their ads are appearing.
Please consider joining. Small donations are also accepted to fund data storage; visit StopRush for more information.