Boycott This

So the advertisers have abandoned TLC’s "19 Kids and Counting" en masse following revelations that no more than 18 of the super-Christian offspring managed to get through childhood without committing sex crimes.

Good for you, Allstate, Choice Hotels, Sherwin-Williams, Pizza Hut and the rest, for bravely taking a stand against molestation. You are so heroic. Likewise, Discovery Communications, for pulling the show altogether, just as it pulled "Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo" when the down-market mama star turned out to be dating a registered sex offender. The Food Network was just as quick to cut Paula Deen loose after she got caught telling racist jokes. Phil Robertson, duck commandant, outs himself a homophobe? Suspend him pronto!

Fine. The zero-tolerance standard for these things works for me -- except that the righteous indignation is, shall we say, dubious. When advertisers sign on for these “reality” freak shows, they know they are dealing at the fringes of society. Whether it’s duck dynasties or pageant parents or surgically enhanced housewives, the broadcasters and advertisers are depending on the characters to flaunt their quirks, excesses, stupidities, vulgarities and dark pathologies for our amusement. 



However manipulated into unreality by story editors and producers, the shows nonetheless populate an industry built on the spectacle of messy lives. And the messier the better. The more wreckage the better. "Oh my, officer," we say when we pass an accident scene, "I hope nobody was hurt." Yeah…no we don’t.

Ah, but when one of the freaks cuts too close to actual perversion, how shocked, shocked the purveyors are. And so they rush to distance themselves from the offender, lest anyone confuse them with enablers or condoners. Because, of course, they wouldn’t be parties to that. Especially when the p.r. benefit exceeds the financial penalty for bailing out. Which sometimes it doesn’t.

Paula Deen may have been insufficiently apologetic for her history of racial insensitivity, but mainly she was sufficiently replaceable. Phil Robertson, patriarch of the “Duck Dynasty” franchise, is a Bayou Taliban and a stone bigot, but his show is a billion-dollar franchise, so his suspension by A&E lasted all of nine days. Lately he’s been fantasizing in public about atheists being raped and murdered. Stay tuned for Season 8.

But, look, let’s agree that it’s within content producers' and advertisers' rights to work in high-risk, high-reward territory, and equally their right to determine when someone has gone too far. Let’s agree that advertisers in particular have not just a self-interest, but a responsibility to withhold their dollars from programs featuring predators. 

The question for the public is: how to know when such gestures are genuinely righteous, or merely calculated…and therefore cynical. And hypocritical. And grandstanding. And cheap.

Well, here’s how. There is a reality show that runs 20 weeks every season. It is called the National Football League. Periodically, a player is arrested for domestic violence. And in the few years, those players have mainly been cut from their teams. But then there is the case of Greg Hardy, the star defensive end convicted by a judge of battering his ex-girlfriend and threatening to kill her. He appealed and was awarded a jury trial, whereupon his victim vanished. Without her testimony, prosecutors were forced to drop the charges.

So naturally, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones signed him to an $11.3 million contract. Because everybody (with 34 sacks in four seasons) deserves a second chance.

Now, having been burned by the Ray Rice fiancé-knockout scandal, the NFL has minimally fulfilled its responsibility by suspending Hardy for 10 games of the coming season. He remains, however, on the Cowboys roster. At this writing, neither Pizza Hut, Choice Hotels, Allstate or any other advertiser has walked away from the Cowboys broadcast schedule. Not a one.

Surely they don’t want to condone and enable violence against women by putting money in Jerry Jones’ and Greg Hardy’s pockets. So if we are to believe their proclamations of righteousness, let the boycott commence forthwith.




6 comments about "Boycott This".
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  1. Philip Moore from Philip Moore, June 1, 2015 at 11:15 a.m.

    You're a brave man Garfield.  If Hardy and his people can make the girl disappear...probably ought to have someone check your car before you start it up.

    But seriously, you rock.

  2. David Mountain from Marketing and Advertising Direction, June 1, 2015 at 11:39 a.m.

    No reason to fear Hardy. As Roger Goodell and ESPN showed with the case of Bill Simmons, making a media pro go away is easy. (Anyone have the over/under on Keith Olbermann, seeing how he's also pointed out that Goodell isn't just dweamy?)

  3. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA, June 1, 2015 at 11:45 a.m.

    Great piece, but looks like Hardy's GF didn't "vanish"; she got bought off:

    Despite being a guy who once bled Giants blue, I stopped watching football three seasons ago during the referee lockout and haven't gone back. It's a drag to say, but the sport is a seriously corrupting influence on the country, which was never more obvious than during the 2014 season. 

  4. Joseph Portolese from Thrillist Media Group, June 1, 2015 at 3:25 p.m.

    Brave, indeed, but we should expect nothing less from Garfield. The opportunism he points out is certainly disturbing, but, sadly, not at all shocking really.  It's the way he pieces it all together that is so impressive.

    As a regular listener of On The Media and having read many of his columns over the years, this is easily some of his best work for me. It's writing like this that keeps me coming back. Bravo!

  5. Roger Darnell from The Darnell Works Agency, June 1, 2015 at 5:07 p.m.

    Thank you once again for the thought leadership, Bob. I'm with you one hundred percent.

  6. David Vawter from Doe-Anderson, June 1, 2015 at 5:15 p.m.

    Great piece, Bob.  Now how about a discussion of Prada and Roman Polanski?

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