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Buy Bigelow, Fight Bigotry

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Message Rory OConnor
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No, product placement hasn’t gotten to me at last. And if the truth be told, I’m a coffee man… several large cups of java just to get me going every morning. Tea just doesn’t do it…

Nevertheless, I’m going out tonight to buy a big batch of Bigelow Tea. While I’m at it, I’m going to pick up some staples from Staples as well. It’s the best way I know to fight hate speech on the Don Imus show, that longstanding bastion of sexism, homophobia and racism distributed by CBS and NBC.

MSNBC and CBS Radio took the wimpy way out after the aptly-named “I-Man” cracked wise again about jiggaboos and ho’s, merely suspending the bigoted broadcaster’s for two weeks while waiting to see if the controversy over his repugnant remarks blows over — and the cash keeps coming in. Meanwhile, however, an office-supply chain and a tea company stepped up and decided just to do the right thing and end their relationship with Imus.

Supporting sponsors who refuse to support Imus and his idiocy is the best way we can put an end to society’s acceptance of such stupidity masquerading as fun and frivolity. So three cheers, then, for Cindi Bigelow, the tea company’s co-president, who said in a statement, “the company does not condone or support in any way the unacceptable comments made by Imus with regard to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.” As Bigelow noted, her company “is a family company that prides itself on honoring and respecting all individuals.”

While we’re at it, kudos as well to Staples, and Miralus Healthcare, whose executives pulled their ads from the MSNBC simulcast of Imus’ syndicated radio program. A tip of the hat as well to Procter & Gamble for pulling all its advertising from MSNBC’s daytime schedule. P&G, one of the nation’s largest broadcast sponsors, spends more than a half million dollars annually on the Imus simulcast alone.

“We have to think first about our consumers,” a spokeswoman for the manufacturing giant told the New York Times, while explaining the basic elements of the marketplace thus: “Anyplace where our advertising appears that is offensive to our customers is not acceptable to us.”

Putting moral and financial pressure on Imus’ advertisers is working – so let’s not stop now. Consumer complaints to the corporations who continue to advertise on both cable and radio in support of Imus might well yield a similar response.

Sure, public relations personnel for Big Media players like CBS and NBC tell us they are “disappointed” in Imus’ actions and characterize his comments as “completely inappropriate” and “deplorable.” But let’s face the facts instead of the flacks: the leaders of our leading media don’t see the Imus flap as black and white — they only see green. Threatening their profits is the only sure way to force them back into the fold of civility. Letting corporations who advertise with corporate media know that you as a consumer as well as a citizen are offended by Imus – and by their continuing support of his program – is one of the most effective tactics around.

Sadly, it’s all about the Benjamins for just about everyone concerned, including the many Imus-enablers who gladly kiss the racist’s ring in exchange for his airtime and audience. They legitimate him, and he in turn promotes them, their outlets, their books and their campaigns for higher office. In exchange, they ignore his depredations, accept his apologies, and prop him up each time he “crosses the line.”

Imus won’t quit – and neither should we. His pals at the corrupt nexus of Big Politics and Big Media won’t stop supporting him unless and until we make them – so let’s force the issue further, and put them to the test. (Hello, Frank Rich, are you out there? John Kerry, why aren’t you blogging Imus on the Huffington Post?)

Nor will the I-Man’s corporate overlords at CBS and NBC fire him — unless they have to for financial reasons. So let’s bring it on –- support the sponsors who have pulled out, and lean on the ones who haven’t… yet.

The issue is bigger than one pathetic, drug-and-alcohol-addled shock-jock. If you’re as sick as I am over the seemingly unending vitriol on our public airwaves, owing to greedy, antisocial media corporations, join the battle to topple Imus and send a message not only to him but also to the rest of his ilk. It’s a fight worth engaging in – and one we can win.

Excuse me — I have to go drink some tea now!
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Filmmaker and journalist Rory O'Connor writes the 'Media Is A Plural' blog, accessible at www.roryoconnor.org.
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