The Problem with the Argument Against Protesting Tucker Carlson's Advertisers
I am sure that you are aware that Tucker Carlson has seen an exodus of advertisers during the last few days over comments Carlson made on his primetime talk show. He said that immigration makes the United States “poorer and dirtier.”
“As an economic matter, this is insane. It’s indefensible so nobody even tries to defend it. Instead, our leaders demand that we shut up and accept this. ‘We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor,’ they tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer and dirtier and more divided. ‘Immigration is a form of atonement; previous leaders of our country committed sins, we must pay for those sins by welcoming an endless chain of migrant caravans.’ That’s the argument they make.”
On Monday, Carlson doubled down on his statements, and the backlash continued.
The Murdoch family is a family of immigrants. Everyone’s family is a family of immigrants. @TuckerCarlson is a an idiot who doesn’t understand who we all are. How can anyone advertise on a show which spouts hate? What would it take for people to care? https://t.co/cgpjdElZh2— Judd Apatow (@JuddApatow) December 17, 2018
Dear Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson): I'm an immigrant. Irish Spring soap cleans my skin the same way it cleans your skin. My parents were poor. They worked hard and started a successful business. Now their son is in Congress.— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) December 18, 2018
So take your hatred of immigrants and shove it. https://t.co/I2cOv4nlLi
As of this morning, Tucker Carlson has lost 13 advertisers, including IHOP, Bowflex, and Jaguar. Several other advertisers, like Mitsubishi, Farmer’s Insurance, and Bayer have vowed to continue advertising on Carlson’s program. None of this, of course, is new to Fox News. When Fox didn’t fire Bill O’Reilly over his sexual misconduct settlements, the exodus of advertisers forced their hand. Similar boycotts were mounted against Sean Hannity after he pushed conspiracy theories about Seth Rich (he eventually apologized) and against Laura Ingraham over her comments concerning the high-school activists from Parkland (she, too, apologized).
Carlson, however, refuses to apologize, and Fox News continues to support him.
“We cannot and will not allow voices like Tucker Carlson to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts … Attempts were made last month to bully and terrorize Tucker and his family at their home. He is now once again being threatened via Twitter by far left activist groups with deeply political motives. While we do not advocate boycotts, these same groups never target other broadcasters and operate under a grossly hypocritical double standard given their intolerance to all opposing points of view.”
On social media last night, Nate Silver got into the fray about advertiser boycotts and took an unexpected side.
Jack is right. The logical endpoint of deeming advertisers to have endorsed the political messages of the shows they run ads on is that only milquetoast both-sidesism with a pro-corportate bent will be advertising-supported, if any political content is ad-supported at all. https://t.co/R5yrH0jN3o— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) December 19, 2018
I tend to agree that Tucker is a racist, or at least that he convincingly plays a racist on TV.— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) December 19, 2018
However, I don't want the PR department of Applebee's deciding for us all what's racist vs. legitimate/acceptable political speech. https://t.co/UetgQ4Ab9U
So they don't have to vet merit of the claims at all? Any time a vocal minority of consumers organizes a boycott, the advertiser should just pull itself off the show? That seems like a bad equilibrium, and one that can and will be gamed by people whose politics don't match yours. https://t.co/JXCfK4WrxR— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) December 19, 2018
I'm saying in calling for boycotts people should think more about the categorical imperative i.e. what happens if everyone behaves like they do. If you say boycotts won't have a chilling effect then…maybe? I'm less optimistic; a lot of advertisers already avoid politics content.— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) December 19, 2018
In fact, I am gay, and I'm just old enough (40) to remember when conservative groups urged boycotts of advertisers and networks who were seen as promoting LGBTQ or other "nontraditional" lifestyles. That strongly influences my views on this subject! https://t.co/iGGFGQeXWw https://t.co/jDrXGxizQX— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) December 19, 2018
I don’t agree with Nate Silver here, but I’m somewhat sympathetic to his argument, particularly that last point. It’s true — it wasn’t that long ago when organizations like One Million Moms and people like Jerry Falwell organized massive advertiser boycotts at television shows with gay characters. In fact, that’s exactly what happened to Ellen after she came out on The Ellen Show back in the day. Advertisers like JCPenney and Chrysler pulled their ads for an episode that was seen by 42 million people.
But here’s where I draw the distinction: It’s not “political” to boycott Bill O’Reilly for repeatedly sexually harassing women, unless your “political” position is that men should be allowed to sexually harass women. It wasn’t political to boycott Laura Ingraham for bullying grieving high school students, unless your “political” position is that bullying the survivors of a school massacre in which 17 kids were killed is OK. And it’s not “political” to boycott Sean Hannity for making up conspiracies about a man that was murdered. In some of those cases, the goal may have been political gain, but the statements and actions themselves are not “political.” They’re hurtful. They’re insulting. They’re mean.
As for Tucker Carlson’s statements? Again, the end goal may be political — to discourage immigration — but the words being used are not “political.” They’re racist. There are legitimate political reasons to curb illegal immigration in America, but to object because refugees fleeing from violence in their home countries might make the United States “dirtier and poorer” is not a legitimate political reason. It is bigotry.
After Ellen Degeneres’ show ended a season after she came out, she responded to those who suggested that the show was canceled because it had gotten too political. “When I’m accused of being political,” she said. “I’m showing love. How is that political? How is that political to teach love and acceptance?”
That is exactly right: It’s not political to show love, nor it is political to express hate. I strongly dislike Tucker Carlson’s politics. But I’m not objecting to his politics. I’m objecting to his bigotry.
Header Image Source: Fox News
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