Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rush Limbaugh and Ethical Consumption

In case you missed, well, the last however long he's has had a public outlet, Rush Limbaugh is a terrible person spewing terrible hatred. Most recently, he went on a multi-day tirade to call Sandra Fluke, a law student who testified about the importance of birth control access, a "slut" and suggested that he should get to watch videotaped sessions of her sex acts because he was paying her to have sex which made her a "prostitute." (Here is a transcript from his own website reacting to the "the left's" "conniption fit"). Apparently, he eventually realized it wasn't just the vilified "left" "freaking out" over his comments--it was pretty much anyone with a decent grasp over civil discourse (which does not seem to include Bill O'Reilly). After advertisers began to bow to social media pressure (check out #FlushRushNow on Twitter), Limbaugh offered an "apology" in which he admits his statements were out of line, but still maligns birth control as a precursor to "recreational activities."

As of the time I'm writing this, seven advertisers have agreed to pull their ads after social media pressure from consumers mounted: Quicken Loans, Sleep Train, Sleep Number, Citrix, Carbonite, Legal Zoom, and Proflowers.

I've found some of the statements from these companies particularly interesting.

Proflowers statement, posted on their Facebook page:
At ProFlowers, our mission is to delight our customers with fresh and long lasting flowers, and that is our singular focus each and every day. We do not base our advertising decisions to align with any particular political view or opinion as our employees and customers are as diverse as the USA. Mr. Limbaugh’s recent comments went beyond political discourse to a personal attack and do not reflect our values as a company. As such, ProFlowers has suspended advertising on The Rush Limbaugh radio program.
Sleep Number's Twitter statement was also simple and to the point:
Recent comments by Rush Limbaugh do not align w/our values, so we made decision to immediately suspend all advertising on that program.
Carbonite's statement was a little more personal:
A Statement from David Friend, CEO of Carbonite as of 6:45pm ET, March 3:“No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology, we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show. We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse.” 
 Since some of these statements have come after Rush's "apology," it appears that his attempts to salvage his sponsorship may be too little too late.

I've also seen some people questioning why now. Rush, after all, is no stranger to insulting and demeaning comments. Some have complained that people are only now speaking out because he has attacked a privileged white woman instead of a racial minority. I understand these concerns, but I don't think that's the full picture. Rush's comments fit into a kairotic moment of political tension surrounding women's health care and freedoms. With the Issa hearings and transvaginal probe legislation around every corner, I think that many women (and plenty of men) have been on edge surrounding this issue.

Also, I don't personally think Limbaugh matters so much. I think that most of his comments are part of an echo chamber, and he has every right to spew them. I've heard people claim that this campaign to get his sponsors to pull their funding was a free speech violation. Nope. This is capitalism in action. Rush has the right to be a vile puddle of hate, and I have the right to spend my money with companies that don't support his outlet to do so. I also have the right to tell those companies of my decision.

I'm glad so many people have made a similar decision, and I'm glad those companies are listening. This is ethical consumption in action.

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