What are we to think of JPMorgan Chase pulling its ads on Megyn Kelly’s upcoming interview with Infowars' Alex Jones, who claims that everything from 9/11 to the shootings in Newtown Conn. and Aurora, Colo. are media hoaxes?
Who can argue with Kristin Lemkau, JPMorgan’s chief marketing officer, when she said on Twitter that as an advertiser, she was “repulsed” that Kelly “would give a second of airtime to someone who says Sandy Hook and Aurora are hoaxes”?
Or you can see the move as a major wuss-out and a bigger threat to freedom of the press than any self-righteous (and self-serving) concern about the World According to Alex Jones.
In this age of instant social media reactions, who can blame a brand for wanting to avoid "punishment" in some way for Kelly amplifying Jones' voice and perhaps bringing new converts to his smarmy way of thinking? But although she pretty much dropped the ball on Putin, Kelly's goal, I think, is to expose what a nut case Jones is and how dangerous it is that he has the President's ear.
For every firebrand who takes to social media to condemn a brand's underwriting a POV he doesn't like, there are countless many more (probably more in the profile of the JPMorgan Chase customer) who doesn't bother with social media, but quietly appreciates that JPMC has the stones to hang in there --and in the long view, help make sure probing journalism survives.
There is a disturbing trend in this country, especially on campuses, to acquiesce to the loudest and most threatening voices that use disruption as a form of censorship. So controversial voices are silenced -- but at the expense of learning. This posture assumes that audiences have no critical thinking skills and are vulnerable to points of view that they don't like or somehow challenge the status quo as the protesters would like it to be.
Combine this with the absurd notion that we should never as a society discuss issues that might be perceived as micro-aggression by this group or that, and we run the risk of crushing the First Amendment.
Does this mean I am OK with everyone having easy access to ISIS videos or speeches by white supremacists, or propaganda from the far right, which thinks there are only two sexual orientations? Well, yeah, I am. I am more afraid of censorship than being accused of promoting "hate" because I choose not to use every possible means to eradicate it.
My view is don't even go there if it offends you -- and if you read it or watch it, then make up your own mind if you think there's any real truth or value there.
Throughout history, societies have condemned or even banned and burned books they thought somehow inappropriate, only to have them surface again and do no lasting harm.
I hate to see brands act as functional censors because they are too thin skinned to take a little heat when they help promote freedom of speech.