Corporate Boycotts Put Free Speech in Danger

More proof we live in a world where a vocal minority can bring big companies to their knees as nearly 50 advertisers distance themselves from Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly.

Instead of policing the The O'Reilly Factor directly, Media Matters and others are using harassment allegations against the host to go after advertisers -- a move that potentially changes the content of news programming entirely.

“We've turned over free speech to Twitter, Facebook and others that are technically media companies and we're allowing them to tell us what our rules are and what we're allowed to say,” says Dan Gainor, vice president of business and culture at the Media Research Center.

“What they consider controversial content is significantly impacted by a bunch of whiny people on Facebook or social media who try to ban certain types of thought.”

Generally speaking, Gainor says the vocal minority has become so powerful; it drove Pepsi to pull its controversial Kendall Jenner ad.

“They tried to make a left-wing protest ad, but they didn't want to go far enough to placate liberals, and so all they did is offend pretty much everybody,” he says.  “They have a right to do that, but they don't have any right for people to turn around and not buy their product.”

And United Airlines will likely be impacted for the foreseeable future after video of security removing a passenger went viral.

“Now they're going to have to really worry about their own PR and what they do and where they appear,” he says.  “Can you imagine United as appearing in places where they talk about police or talk about travel right now?  They're just going to want to hide.”

As one scholar wrote, “if we demand every advertiser avow allegiance to every social, economic or political position taken by news commentators, we’ll end up with crappy advertising and worse journalism.”

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