Getting Spockoed: Why the nice guys are winning March 13, 2007Posted by Jeff in "Reality has a well-known liberal bias", Saving the Internet.
In January I posted about Spocko, a San Francisco blogger who’s sponsoring a letter-writing campaign aimed at advertisers on KSFO, a Disney-owned talk-radio station featuring right-wing “shock jocks” spewing hate speech of the Ann Coulter variety.
Spocko invited advertisers to go to his blog and listen to .mp3 files of some of KSFO’s more outrageous rants, pushing the limits of good taste and FCC rules. Spocko repeatedly urged letter-writers not to use the B word — boycott — but to take a cooperative, friendly approach.
His tactics worked almost too well. After both national and local advertisers started dropping their KSFO campaigns, Disney wrote a cease-and-desist letter to Spocko’s ISP which responded by taking down his blog (ironically, six hours after Spocko had removed the sound files.) Disney accused Spocko of copyright infringement — a ridiculous assertion on the face of it, as Spocko’s use of this material is a textbook example of the Fair Use Doctrine (which maintains, for example, that a publisher can’t sue you for quoting excerpts from a book in a negative review.)
The news of what happened to Spocko precipitated a blogswarm as thousands of blogs and websites crossposted the .mp3 files. Within days, Spocko’s blog was back up on a different ISP, one with the cojones to assure a different response should the Rat Factory try to repeat their bullying. The Electronic Frontier Foundation took on his case.
Since my post, KSFO has staged a predictably off-the-deep-end on-air “response” to Spocko’s “boycott”, at which blogger Mike Stark, who had taken up Spocko’s cause on his blog and on DailyKos, was shouted down when he tried to represent their case:
(Mike, incidentally, is the same guy who nearly got the crap beaten out of him for standing up at a George Allen rally last year and asking the soon-to-be-ex-Senator about the sealed records of his divorce.)
Meanwhile, Spocko’s blog, and his campaign, are going stronger than ever. He recently blogged about his “disappointment” that, after over a month, Disney has not responded to the EFF’s demand that they retract their copyright infringement allegations. (I could have told him, that’s about the standard response speed when Disney and their lawyers are caught with their pants down.) More importantly, Spocko’s thoroughness and attention to detail have paid off in the defections of several more KSFO advertisers. He promises that his collection of KSFO clips will soon include a recent soundbite of Lee Rodgers threatening advertisers if they dare to drop KSFO.
Why are Spocko’s tactics working? Disney’s typical heavy-handedness helped — these are the same guys who threatened to close down day care centers in Florida because they painted Disney characters on murals.
Spocko is smart enough to know that economic pressure is the only force that will make Disney sit up and take notice. He has also figured out an inconvenient truth about boycotts — they seldom work.
The term “boycott” was coined for the rebellion of nineteenth-century Irish tenant farmers against the raising of rents by their English landlord, Captain Boycott. The first boycott worked, but only because there was a direct economic impetus to the boycotters (and also because the consensus of English opinion was that the Captain had gone too far.) San Francisco radio listeners won’t lose their farms and their livelihoods if they don’t listen to KSFO — they can just turn the dial.
The boycotts of the civil rights era were only instituted after years of less confrontational protests. And it wasn’t the boycotts themselves that eventually brought down Jim Crow; it was the attendant actions and the resultant publicity. The Farm Workers boycotts of grapes and lettuce made a generation of us feel righteous about purchasing produce, but the UFW won its battles in the fields.
In crass defamation of the legacies of Chavez and Dr. King, those paragons of Christian virtue, the Right Reverends Dobson and Falwell, drop the B word at every sign of moral failing. Yet I doubt even they seriously believe their “boycotts” will have any effect. They’re just trolling for free publicity and attention.
Spocko understood that a boycott of KSFO would have been instantly self-defeating; it would have antagonized the very advertisers he was hoping to influence, while giving the KSFO/Disney hate-jocks the very weapons they sought to counter his strategy.
Spocko is running a free, non-commercial blog. Five minutes on his website will tell you he has no financial or ego-driven motive. It’s Disney, KSFO and their goons that scream “boycott”, not him. But Spocko’s tactics are working, and maybe someday — like in the next five minutes, at the speed of the Internet — the real fear of being Spockoed will be a greater incentive for economic and political justice than the false fear of being boycotted.