Yesterday, Twitter was dominated by two hashtags related to a sponsorship fight which suddenly broke out between “conservative” pro-Trump website Breitbart.com, and cereal giant Kellogg’s. #DumpKelloggs was the product of an effort by Breitbart.com to get their supporters to boycott Kellogg’s because the company had announced they would no longer be advertising on the website because of a lack of respect for their “values.” That sparked #BreitbartCereals as mostly liberals mocked the website’s attempt at retaliation via a petition.
All of this is clearly based in Breitbart.com taking a page out of their Messiah Donald Trump’s playbook. By fiercely attacking anyone who offends them, they are able to energize their base of support while claiming victimhood. They even went so far as to call Kellogg’s “Un-American” for dropping them as an outlet for advertising.
Sadly, it is very obvious that Breitbart.com, thanks to becoming a propaganda outlet for liberal conman Donald Trump, has now not only forgotten the definition of conservatism, but also is very confused about what it means to be “Un-American.” The reality is that in a free-market system there is nothing remotely “Un-American” about a company deciding that it is no longer in their self-interest to advertise on a media source.
Similarly, there is also nothing necessarily “wrong” with Breitbart.com trying to punish those who express their freedom of expression by no longer advertising with them. Just as Breitbart.com is not remotely entitled to have a company advertise with them, they are also allowed to have their backers stop their purchases as a form of economic retaliation.
However, the real problem here is that this boycott effort, while it may create some short-term pain for Kellogg’s, is very likely to create a long-term issue for Breibtart.com gaining future advertisers. Now that they have created the precedent of retaliating against those who pull advertising away from Breitbart.com in the era of Trump as president, why in the world would major sponsors ever join them in the future? Effectively, what Breitbart.com is telling the rest of the corporate world is: “This is likely going to end very badly for you, so why would you even bother to deal with us when there are so many other options for you to advertise?”
An ever larger issue is that not long ago, news organizations would never have considered so overtly calling for a boycott of a former advertiser. To simply do so because a cooperation no longer thought that it was valuable enough to appeal to a demographic which might end up causing them more trouble than it is worth would have been rightly unheard of. In fact, there used to be a “firewall” between advertising and news content in which news outlets would never dream of publicly attacking a corporation if they simply stopped giving them money in order to publicize their products.
Unfortunately, those days are now long gone. We currently live in an era where it is becoming increasingly impossible to separate “news” content from advertising income. Journalism cannot simply exist when most business models, even among major media outlets, are now so incredibly fragile that popularity dictates content rather than what is important or truthful. I strongly believe that once “journalism” becomes simply a business (as it has almost universally in this highly fragmented modern era) that such a relationship is completely incompatible with objective and meaningful new reporting.
Breitbart.com is hardly the only “news” organization which now acts the same way as an entertainment association which dictates all content based on what kind of advertising revenue might be created, or, at the very least, not threatened. But because they are pretending to be a source “conservative” news, it is especially hypocritical for them to fundamentally alter, or at least dramatically threaten, the separation between “journalism” and an overt business.
Further proof that Breitbart.com is now longer “conservative,” and doesn’t understand or respect the free market, is that they have simultaneously posted numerous articles praising President-elect Trump for supposedly salvaging 1,000 jobs in Indiana. They have consistently touted a deal cut with Carrier to stop a planned move to Mexico, which was negotiated by Trump and his Vice President-elect (and current Indiana governor) Mike Pence.
However, it is clear that all that really happened was Trump used the very same very liberal tactic once used by President Obama to choose which companies would be “winners and losers” by offering them government incentives in exchange for a publicity stunt. This not only creates an incredibly dangerous precedent for other American companies to threaten to take jobs elsewhere, but it is also hypocritical for a supposedly “conservative” outlet to praise Trump for exactly the same kind of ploy for which it once criticized Obama.
So we now have Breitbart.com claiming to be a premiere source for “conservative” news while also praising liberal policies to use tax money to manipulate a very small number of jobs for political gain, expecting corporations to keep advertising with them regardless of their political stance, and actively boycotting a company (while calling them “Un-American”) for having simply expressed their right to stop such advertising. None of that is remotely conservative and, in my opinion, none of it would have been approved of by Breitbart.com founder (and a former close friend of mine), the late Andrew Breitbart.
All of this shows that in the era of Trump all principle is lost in favor of the cult of personality. The irony of course is that the difference between Obama, who Breitbart.com criticized enormously, and Trump, who to them can do almost nothing wrong, is, in many ways, minuscule at best.