Monday, August 17, 2009

They've Lost Wal-Mart

Glenn Beck, the raving lunatic who not too long ago called President Obama a racist and then contradicted himself two minutes later, has lost yet more advertisers, according to Think Progress:

Eight more companies — including Allergan, Ally Bank, Best Buy, Broadview Security, CVS, Re-Bath, Travelocity, and Wal-Mart — have agreed to stop advertising on Glenn Beck’s Fox News show.

Eight More Companies Stop Advertising On Glenn Beck

When you're too much of a reactionary for Wal-Mart, you're really reactionary.

I'm of two minds on this boycott. On the one hand, it's nice that gross stupidity and arrogance can have consequences once in a while. On the other hand, the guy is speaking what passes for his mind. One of the great things about television is that anyone can tape it. When some clown like Glenn Beck says something stupid, and then tries to walk it back a minute or two later, it's there for anyone to see. As The Daily Show did a few days later, it's possible to make such things known well beyond Beck's audience. Showing the vapidity of what is said on these shows is instructive.

There's a danger that anything that's unacceptable speech to a large number of people will be squelched. It's bad enough that you don't hear views that aren't acceptable to the people who run these networks. When any large, well-organized group can also prevent views from being expressed on the air, it's time to worry. YouTube has recently had a spate of people complaining about any video that criticizes religion, claiming the videos insulted their faith. The videos were blocked pending review. Fortunately, YouTube realized that the videos in question were merely criticism, and made them available again. Suppose they hadn't been so discerning, though, or worse yet, that they actually had been insulting and YouTube declined to keep them on site. Why shouldn't a video insulting a religion have the same right to be aired as a video extolling that religion's virtues?

Similar complaints have come from some right wingers. I don't know the eventual disposition of these complaints, but if this is happening on one of the premier places for people to express themselves in video form, it is discomfiting, to say the least.

Freedom of expression means that people are allowed to say things you don't want to hear. That's how it has to work or it isn't freedom.

The just end for many of these videos, certainly the stupid ones, is obscurity, not banishment. I'd feel a lot better about the future of the human race if that was how it usually worked out, in fact. Whether they want to, or they're just trying to avoid trouble, communications media that filter what appears at their sites limit the opinions and works that the rest of us can be exposed to.

So, while I think Beck is getting his just desserts, I wonder about the rest of us.

UPDATE: Added a couple of links about YouTube pulling or banning videos, and a bit more in the conclusion.

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