The Wrath of Social Media


Open mouth, insert social media outrage.

It isn’t easy when your microphone isn’t as loud as Twitter.

Just ask Rush Limbaugh this morning.  The pugnacious conservative radio entertainer waded into dangerous waters this week when he attacked a Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke, for being in favor of public financing of contraception for women.

According to Politico:

‘Fluke is a law student who wasn’t allowed to testify at a congressional hearing in February that centered on the Obama administration’s contraception rule. Democrats convened a hearing last week specifically so Fluke could testify the need for easier access to birth control. On his radio show this week, Limbaugh used “slut” and “prostitute” to refer to Fluke and equated her advocating for contraception access to demanding to be “paid to have sex.”’

Limbaugh’s rather antiquated views on birth control and a woman’s freedom to have sexual relations on her own terms not withstanding, using a radio show to personally savage the reputation of a young woman is way over the line – even for Limbaugh (who clearly has his own personal problems with sexual relationships having been married four times).

But Limbaugh’s real problem is living in a media world transformed by social media.

Immediately following his incendiary remarks, social media channels blazed to life with outrage.  An organized effort on Twitter to target Limbaugh’s advertisers was successful within 48 hours when the Sleep Train Mattress Centers announced they would stop advertising on Limbaugh’s show.

The company announced the decision on Twitter with the following tweet:

“Thank you for your concern. We are currently pulling all of our ads with Rush Limbaugh.”

The firestorm on the social media channels has also pressured conservative politicians – usually loathe to criticize Limbaugh – into denouncing the radio host’s attack.  Everyone from House Speaker John Boehner to Carly Fiona, former Republican Senate candidate from California, have now condemned the Limbaugh’s slanderous remarks.

We’re at a moment when the masses can organize – and organize fast – because of social media channels.

Even the mighty can feel its weight.  Because in 2012 Twitter is louder than most broadcast channels.

UPDATE (3/3/12) – After a total of six of his advertisers threatened to dump him after a social media campaign to pressure them to do so, Limbaugh issued an apology on his website today.  It says in part:

“I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke… My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”

This, of course, after three days of attacking Fluke with insulting and slanderous language.  Likely Limbaugh is eating crow only reluctantly as a social media stream roller has knocked him on his heels as advertisers bail on him.  Not only that but condemnation from President Obama and a growing number of Republicans.

Links:

Politico post on Rush Limbaugh’s attack

Media Matters report on Limbaugh’s attack

Rush Limbaugh on Wikipedia

Politico post on Sleep Train bailing on Limbaugh

Limbaugh’s apology

New York Times’ Caucus blog on Limbaugh’s apology

4 Responses to “The Wrath of Social Media”

  1. This would never happen to a left leaning radio host, because no one ever listens to them.

  2. The issue isn’t left or right – although you’re free to see it that way. Limbaugh got in trouble for stepping across the bounds of good taste.

  3. You lost all credibility as soon as your wrote the following: “…Limbaugh (who clearly has his own personal problems with sexual relationships having been married four times).” You have an obvious bias. This is what’s wrong with journalism today.

  4. First, I’m not a journalist anymore. I’m a blogger. Second, anyone who has gotten married four times clearly has relationship challenges. Third, my post isn’t about Limbaugh’s politics but about the social storm that has forced him to apologize. That said I don’t agree with Limbaugh’s politics – or his tactics – and don’t try to hide it. Fourth, even Republicans and his own advertisers think Limbaugh’s remarks were outrageous and offensive (Limbaugh clearly thinks so as well because he apologized).

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