At the end of my post about Bill O’Reilly’s dismissal, I wrote:
I very much doubt that the decision to fire O’Reilly was driven by the facts of his conduct. In all likelihood, it was driven by sponsor reaction. In other words, it was the product of corporate America — spineless and liberal as ever — and left-wing groups that exploit these weaknesses.
The link for “left-wing groups” was to a 2012 Media Matters document called “A Three-Year Campaign.” What kind of campaign? A campaign against Fox News.
It took five years, not three, but Media Matters has finally succeeded against its bete noire, Bill O’Reilly. William Jacobson writes:
The conventional wisdom is that after the NY Times exposed a history of sexual harassment settlements, and two new accusers came forward, advertisers “fled” the show, forcing the hand of News Corp and the Murdochs.
That conventional wisdom is only partially correct — advertisers didn’t flee, they were chased away by the same organized effort as was used against Glenn Beck once upon a time, and Rush Limbaugh in 2012.
The organized effort consisted of “a small cadre of operatives, who often used multiple proxy accounts to multiply their effect. . .harassing Limbaugh advertisers over a variety of issues.” Fortunately, Limbaugh was able effectively to fight back through twitter.
Jacobson shows that Media Matters employed the same tactics against O’Reilly. He cites this article:
The boycott exploded within days. A cadre of Twitter activists, battle-hardened from ongoing campaigns against the Trumps and Breitbart News, swarmed the initial New York Times story about the sexual harassment allegations and put pressure on advertisers to take a stand. They did—quickly and vocally. Within about 24 hours, over 20 companies— including major players like Allstate, BMW, and T. Rowe Price—pulled their advertising from the O’Reilly Factor and denounced his alleged behaviour.
“So many advertisers are not just removing their ads, but giving comments that they typically avoid, or would avoid. I mean, they’re making value judgments,” says Angelo Carusone, president of liberal watchdog organization Media Matters for America. That Carusone was caught off guard shows how unexpected the reaction was, as he’s long been planning for such a day. “I had the @StopOReilly [Twitter] account for seven years, and I just sat on it,” he says.
Politico confirms that Media Matters, working with a Democratic fundraiser, “spearheaded” an “advertiser education campaign” to get O’Reilly fired.
Thus, O’Reilly’s demise was not the product of widespread outrage over new, weak allegations of harassment and retaliation. It was the product of “a cadre of battle-hardened activists” influencing weak and, most likely, left-leaning advertisers.
However, it was also the product of O’Reilly. As Jacobson notes, the assault on Limbaugh was centered on the content of his commentary. The assault on O’Reilly centered on a pattern of behavior.
The behavior may or not have risen to the level of harassment, and Media Matters’ motive for the assault certainly was ideologically based. But if O’Reilly had behaved better, Media Matters could not have brought him down.
Not yet, anyway. And that’s an important caveat. Media Matters’ success against O’Reilly will encourage this outfit to unleash its “cadre of battle-hardened activists” against conservatives whose only “sins” are taking positions the left doesn’t like and reaching a mass audience.
It didn’t work against Rush in 2012, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work in the insane environment I foresee in the coming years. As Jacobson concludes:
The use of organized attacks on advertisers will continue, and will be used against conservative personalities who are not accused of anything near what O’Reilly was accused of. There’s blood in the water now.