Despite all their idealistic rhetoric about “tolerance,” liberals are among the most intolerant individuals. Their blatant attempts to suppress free thought and speech are regularly found in the public school classrooms and on the college campuses of America, where social change agents masquerading as teachers and professors attempt to impose a rigid standard of politically correct leftist orthodoxy on their impressionable students.
But sadly, the thought police have now spread their influence beyond the realms of academe and into the broader world of media and business. Consider the recent campaign of extortion waged against Staples, the giant office products supplier, and Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest single owner and operator of television stations in the United States.
You may remember that Sinclair first raised the public ire of the Left by announcing plans to air the film “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal” in the weeks just prior to the November election. That film was highly critical of John Kerry and his true war record, both in Vietnam and afterward. But a massive outpouring of liberal protest, fueled by the sympathetic mainstream media, forced Sinclair to back off and air a less-offensive (to the Left) hour-long documentary on POWs instead.
Basking in their perceived success, the Leftists decided to go for the jugular. Sinclair services 39 media markets that reach about 24 percent of U.S. television viewers, so the stakes are high.
In December 2004, a left-leaning outfit called Media Matters for America, a coalition that includes the anti-Bush group MoveOn.org and liberal producer Robert Greenwald, launched the website SinclairAction.com. Their stated goal was to use economic pressure to force Sinclair into providing a “progressive” counterpoint to a two-minute conservative editorial segment called “The Point,” which airs daily on Sinclair’s 62 affiliate stations at the same time as the local news.
“We do not believe political statements should be disguised as news content,” the Sinclair Action website piously proclaims. To protest this alleged ideological sin, Sinclair Action uses the Internet to encourage its constituents to contact the network’s six major advertisers: Kraft Foods, Target Stores, McDonald’s, GEICO, Sprint and Staples. They claim to have generated more than 35,000 protest e-mails to advertisers as of early January 2005. And they claim their campaign is working.
On January 3, Media Matters issued a press release taking credit for Staples’ decision to pull its ads from all of Sinclair’s local news shows, effective January 10. The “Staples ad pull” story made the news nationwide in the Washington Post, LA Times, Baltimore Sun, and Chicago Tribune.
Problem is, it wasn’t true, and Staples immediately announced that its position had been “misrepresented by an organization with no affiliation with Staples,” and denied that Sinclair Action had anything to do with their ads.
“We do not let political agendas drive our media buying decisions,” said Paul Capelli, Staples vice president of public relations. He called the decision part of Staples’ “routine and seasonal media buying process” and indicated that overall, Staples would spend more ad money with Sinclair in 2005 than it did in 2004.
Sinclair Broadcasting, meanwhile, calls itself the victim of “an ongoing Internet-based campaign of harassment” by “several organizations with far-left leaning political agendas.” The broadcaster has rightly threatened to seek damages for “trade defamation” in court if Media Matters’ campaign of extortion continues.
Sinclair insists that “The Point” is clearly labeled as commentary and does not “attempt to disguise opinion as news.” Sinclair lawyer Barry Farber pointed out that the editorial segment is free speech protected under the First Amendment, and the company has no legal obligation to air opposing views.
Still, Farber said, the broadcaster’s critics do have one viable option: “If you don’t agree certain programming should be on the air, don’t watch it.”