Michael Savage: I'll sue if advertisers are pressured to pull out!

(Yes, I realize the overtones of the subject line, but I can’t figure out another way to put it!)

According to the March 12 edition of the IMDB Studio Brief (I can’t link any better because of daily updating, thus I give the date), Michael Savage has reacted to the pressure gay and lesbian groups have put on advertisers of his new MSNBC show with the threat of lawsuits.

Other than the fact that the tactics being used against the show are tried and true, as far as I know, my question is this: IS there anything inherently illegal (or even unethical) about what the gay and lesbian groups have been doing? Does Savage have a leg to stand on in court? If not, should he have one? And if he’s wrong, where the heck does he get the idea that there’s a federal law in place to prevent this? If there is, should it be changed? Should it even cover things like this?

Inquiring minds yada yada…

The short answer: He might be right, sort of, and “it depends.”

No one is compelled to support an enterprise to which they object. Boycotts of merchants or vendors (or, presumably, entertainers), by groups of like-minded people are quite legal.

However, there are laws to prevent coercion in arranging a boycott.

Thus, if the GLBT community announced, en masse, that they will not watch his show, (and they encouraged others who support GLBT rights to also boycott the show), they are perfectly within their rights to do so. If enough people choose to not watch, the sponsors will lose interest, and the show will go unfunded.

However, if a group exerts undue influence on the sponsors to withdraw funding, then Savage can claim that is is restraint of trade, rather than simply like-minded individuals protesting with a boycott.

This point gets tricky, however, as it is unlikely that the GLBT community sent around a couple of guys with guns to order the sponsors to withdraw support. At that point, the question becomes one of “What is coercion?” (which is why he is threatening a lawsuit and not threatening to go to the Attorney General to press charges). Over the years, many advertisers have withdrawn support for shows on the presumption that their support of a show will offend potential customers. Last year, a whole slew of sponsors pulled out of Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect, despite the fact that his ratings never dropped. However, they were simply letting their PR departments run in fear of a potential backlash, and there was no suggestion of coercion–although cowardice was indicated. Several years ago, GM pulled out of sponsoring a TV movier on the life of Jesus based on the rumblings among some Southern Baptists–who had no idea what was really going to be shown–but, again, there was no suggestion of coerciaon, simply a PR department running scared. Savage wants to claim–and if he goes to court, will need to demonstrate–that there is some sort of deliberate, undue, and illegal pressure brought by the GLBT and women’s rights groups that compelled his sponsors to withdraw when then they would not normally have done so.

(Of course, making a big deal of this is a convenient way for Savage to get more publicity for his show, but it would be cynical, (cynical, I say), to suggest that he is raising this ruckus in order to drum up free advertsing.)

Threadkiller. (very nice response, T&D ;))

The funny part about this is that it’s very much a double edged sword for Mr. Savage and his ilk. If Savage wins this lawsuit, there will be precedent for suing far-right organizations such as Focus on the Family and the Traditional Values Coalition when they pressure advertisers to avoid sponsoring gay-friendly material.

It’s fun to watch the bigots paint themselves into corners.

Longer Savage quotes and suitably Pit-worthy responses in this thread.

I wonder if I’ll ever see the day when people just don’t watch the things they dislike, instead of trying to get them off the air by scaring advertisers. I don’t have a clue what show is being protested, and others have decided that I shouldn’t even have a chance to see it and make up my own mind. Fuck 'em. I have no idea if he has a legal standing, but I hope Savage wins.

I despise all these groups who think they know better than I what I should watch. To hell with them all, whether they be lefties or conservatives.

tomndebb and Revtim, nice.

Thanks yme. These types of people are a pet peeve of mine. From what people said in the pit thread, sounds like I wouldn’t listen to this Savage guy anyway, but I still want him to win. I loathe those self-appointed censors even more than I hate rabid ultra-conservative idiots.

Oh, you might listen. If you are stuck in the middle of nowhere with No Doubt “Girlfriend” on every FM radio station. But, then, you will feel dirty. Very dirty.

I have an MP3 player in my car, and hence I am safe from Gwen Stefani.

I think you are taking it entirely too personally. It’s not about interfering with you or protecting you, it’s about making Savage’s life miserable. It’s about preventing him from having success, especially success which is a direct result of him spewing his venom all over the airwaves.

And that is a laudable goal.

But it is interfering with me. Maybe I want to see venomous programming, and the network wants to show it to me, but these assholes are trying to prevent me from seeing it. Who do they think they are, that they want to interrupt this voluntary transaction? How are they better to judge this transaction than those involved in it?

They just need to change the damn channel, and watch something else.

Note: This is not an endorsement of the show, I never saw it and likely never will. But that should be my choice, not these people’s.

It’s about silencing someone who disagrees with you. And that is not a laudable goal. It’s reprehensible. The proper response to someone who states opinion you agree with is to debate him, to air your opposing views.

And it would be different if there was an opportunity to debate, but there won’t be. I’m sure this will be more of the same right-wing shit, where you bring someone on to “debate” and then shout them down a minute into it. That’s not debate, it’s target practice.

If the silence can be acheived legally, using the freedoms that we have, then I don’t see much wrong with it.

No, silencing people is wrong. Although the advertising-scaring tactics are legal, they have the same effect as censorship. Someone wants to make a show, people want to watch it, and the people who don’t should just leave it alone.

These tactics may be legal, but they are wrong. Surely you don’t oppose censorship only because it’s illegal? Don’t you also think it’s wrong?

Freedom shouldn’t be only for the voices you agree with. I find it abhorrant that all it takes is legality to make the stifling of opposing opinions acceptable.

I think we define censorship differently. You seem to be under the impression that freedom of speech means that anyone should have a right to have their opinion supported by advertising and broadcast on television, and anything less constitutes censorship.

I disagree. I think Micheal Savage can say any damn thing he wants, and anybody who desire to is of course welcome to give him money to help him broadcast his opinion on TV and anyone is free to * take * his money to broadcast his opinion on TV, AND anyone is also free to speak * their * opinion that he is an evil asswipe, and anyone is also free to NOT give their money to anyone who gives HIM their money, and to tell them so before they do, in the hopes that this information will influence their decision to help him broadcast his opinion. And then the people who wanted to take his money and put him on TV are free to give a shit or not. Everybody in this scenario is pretty damn free.

“Censorship” in the evil sense would be the government telling MSNBC that they don’t really care much for Mr. Savage, and would frown upon his inclusion in their lineup. I would consider it censorship even if the government was not overt about it, but just did something like, for instance, fail to call on any MSNBC reporters in any news conferences, failed to give them access, or in any other way denied MSNBC it’s right, as a journalistic outlet, to gather information about the government. That would be censorship. That would be coercion.

But the public saying “Fuck you” to MSNBC for their abominable taste in commentators? No problem. It’s not like he’s being gagged or anything, check the bestseller lists and radio in the flyover states. Hardly censorship.

There are certainly instances in which the line between “coercion” and “attempts to influence” are fine, but this is hardly one of them.

The guaranteed freedom of speech is NOT a guarantee of * subsidized * speech.

I just love seeing the right wing loonies get all bent out of shape about the left using tactics that they’ve used for decades.

Don’t like it? You shouldn’t have done it to us for so long. But hey, if Savage manages to sue successfully, he’ll have done us all a favor by taking this despicable tactic off the table. And if he fails, well, it’ll be a shame to have to use this sort of leverage against the right, but it’s a genuine case of ‘they started it.’

Don’t like being marginalized? Don’t marginalize other people. Turnabout is fair play.

The problem with just letting this guy keep spewing out filth is that it feeds the ignorance of the people watching who might hold beliefs similar to him, and this indirectly harms the targets of his venomous speech (such as the GLBT). It is basically hate speech. His listeners likely already agree with many of his views, and seeing him on a major network backed up by important sponsors just adds legitimacy to their hate.

Just like Dr. Laura, I think the plug should be pulled on this monster.

First of all, I don’t consider it “censorship”, which I consider to be the gov’t taking people of the air. If I didn’t make that clear, I apologize. Although it is not censorship, it is clearly attempts to stifle views, which I find abhorrant. Yes, they are “free” to scare advertisers, but my opinion is that it is morally wrong. I never claimed it was or should be illegal, I just wish the general populace would see that these actions limit the marketplace of ideas.

If every controversial view is chased off the air through these means, how this good? Do you want only perfectly middle-of-the-road commentators? Where do you draw the line?

I said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. Mind your own business. Stop trying to be the unelected cultural police of the media. Don’t presume to know better that I what I should watch. You don’t know better.

The more I think about, the more I see how cowardly these tactics are. If the guy is so bad, it should be easy to debate him. Trying to shut down the show by scaring advertisers is like putting sugar into your opponent’s gas tank so they can’t make the debate. You win, but not because you are right.