In the years that I’ve been blogging and writing professionally about business and marketing, I almost never talk about politics–certainly not partisan politics. Sure, I’ll get involved in debate about regulation and policy issues, like do-not-call lists, marketing to children, and overseas outsourcing. But partisan politics and religion is something I like to save up for bars, dinner parties and long airplane trips.
But Bill O’Reilly launched a hit piece yesterday on JetBlue for its sponsorship of a political event, and at the same time took a dangerous swipe at social media. JetBlue is sponsoring a gathering hosted by a left-leaning political site called DailyKos. I’ve been tracking DailyKos for more than a year as one of the most successful examples of online community development. Like many online sites, political or not, DailyKos has it’s fair share of blowhards. In the annonymity of online debate, passionate arguments sometimes include vulgar insults, and yes, even hateful comments. Free speech can be a mosh pit.
But while sensational comments come from all sides of the political spectrum, O’Reilly has picked out just a few vulgarities from thousands of threads of more rational dialog to paint JetBlue as endorsing hate. Some anonymous idiot on DailyKos posted a nasty comment about the pope, and O’Reilly’s team ambushes the CEO of JetBlue demanding to know why he endorses such radical hatred.
Now, mainstream media doesn’t provide any kind of forum for open discussion. They pick and choose who has an opportunity to be heard. But if they did actually support public dialog, the analogy here would be to videotape two people angrily arguing over something sensational Bill O’Reilly said on his show, cutting out a soundbite of the worst insult hurled in the argument, and taking that to a FOX advertiser and demanding to know why they endorsed such hatred.
The reason I’m taking up this otherwise political argument, is because it’s a direct attack by mainstream media against social media. It’s a distortion of social dialog branded as "the worst kind of hate in America." If O’Reilly were standing up and calling for more civility in public forums, using his cherry-picked comments from DailyKos to shine a spotlight on crude and disrespectful debate, I wouldn’t writing this post. Instead, he’s entirely emasculating public dialog–neatly cutting out the outraged public responses to those crude remarks–and representing a social forum as a fascist pep rally.
This is one shining example of the ongoing struggle that we can expect as mainstream media continues to buckle under the weight of its own expense, lack of innovation, and desire for control. Mainstream media personalities like O’Reilly have long enjoyed a position as preists of our social dialog, telling us what to think and deciding who gets to have a voice. Imagine what will happen if we start to talk amongst ourselves!
Check out the analysis on DailyKos for yourself.