Friday, December 2, 2016

Support Kellogg's and Fight the Bully

Photo: Eleven, of Stranger Things, from

If you're completely unfamiliar with the situation, first read this article by clicking here.

In a surprising move this week, Kellogg's pulled its advertising dollars from the website of Breitbart News. Many other companies have since followed suit. Breitbart is the ultra-right wing, conservative site that calls itself a "news organization." It's not. It publishes opinion, not fact, and it only publishes one type of opinion, rather than many. News organizations, of course, publish the news, which always involves facts. It also publishes all types of news, not just the type that pushes its own propaganda. The founder of Breitbart, Stephen Bannon, is essentially the man behind the strategy that won Trump the White House, and is destined to be someone of importance in Trump's machine. Think of Bannon as you will, but you can't deny that he has his own super-conservative right-wing agenda, which even Trump at times doesn't agree with.


The main idea of this post is to point out that, for whatever reason, Kellogg's pulled the plug on its advertising dollars on the website, which is more of a blog than a "news source." This is not unusual, as companies frequently pull its advertising from places that they feel don't (or won't) generate as much income, or reach a particular consumer group. Kellogg's insists that the withdrawal is not political, and I'm inclined to believe that. After all, one doesn't advertise on Breitbart to begin with unless one wants to reach white, super-conservative, right-wing readers. This was the case before Trump, and it's certainly the case now. If the withdrawal was political, the ads would never have been there in the first place. And since the site has generated more hits since election day, it makes sense that the company would've kept its ads there.

So what's the reason?

In an article you can read at this link, the point was raised that companies can reach Breitbart's type of readership more effectively via other avenues, such as any website of Glenn Beck's. But the main reason Kellogg's and other companies pulled the plug is because they may not have known that their ads were on the site to begin with. Apparently, ads that we see on the left and right of the screen online are not put there by those companies. They're placed by yet another company that gets paid to put ads on websites where they'll be seen. Since Breitbart's readership has grown, those companies put the ads of Kellogg's and other companies on that website. Some companies, like Kellogg's, and now like Vanguard, 3M and AARP, apparently didn't want to spend their ad dollars there, or they didn't want to reach the readers Breitbart's caters to, or, as Kellogg's said, because Breitbart's "didn't align with their values."

Fair enough. Happens all the time. From the linked article:

While Breitbart is billing Kellogg’s decision as “bigoted and anti-American,” it’s a well-established American business practice for corporations to shift their sponsorship to companies they believe will help bolster their brand. In the case of reaching conservative audiences, advertisers that exit Breitbart aren’t necessarily snubbing those consumers because other conservative-leaning outlets, such as Fox News or Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, have an overlap. 
“There are a lot of places advertisers can go to reach the same audience, and even maybe a bigger audience,” Wilkins said.
Hell, I've lost a few blog followers over the years because they may not have liked the thoughts I've espoused here. Whatever. To each his own. If I made money from this blog by putting ads on it (I've been offered many times, but I don't), that would hurt a bit because companies gauge a blog's hits and its numbers of followers when they decide what to advertise on. Blogger, in fact, may place some ads for companies that pay them to do so. If not, another company gets paid to do that, and they in turn probably give a cut to Blogger, since Blogger has an icon that I could insert into this blog which would run the ads that would generate money for me. After that, I get lost.

A Vanguard spokesperson maybe explains it better:

Vanguard said it removed its ads as soon as it became aware that they were running on Breitbart. “As a policy, Vanguard does not advertise on any overtly political websites, including the site in question,” a spokeswoman wrote in an email. She said the ads appeared as part of a “remarketing” program, which are ads that appear to clients and investors when they visit third-party websites because of their browsing history. 
“Our remarketing advertisements are limited to pre-approved sites (again, no political sites), however it was brought to our attention last week that this site was inadvertently included,” she said.
So the shocking thing here isn't that Kellogg's pulled its ads. The surprising thing is that Breitbart has pushed a boycott on Kellogg's for doing so. That's nuts! That's like me trolling the followers who have left the blog over the years. Won't do that. That's like a newspaper publishing an article against a company that decides not to put ads in that newspaper anymore. Wait--actually, it's not, because a newspaper actually is a news organization that publishes news and facts, and news and facts of different types, like local news, national news, world news, sports, money and finance, etc. Breitbart, which calls itself a "news organization," doesn't do that.

Instead, like Trump did, it declares war and attacks those people and businesses they feel have slighted or threatened it.

This is frightening for many reasons. As the linked article said:

Breitbart’s campaign against Kellogg’s is unusual on a number of fronts, not in the least because news organizations traditionally maintain a separation between their business operations and their editors and reporters so that journalists can operate independently from business interests... And whether the boycott will help Breitbart financially appears questionable, given that attacking a major advertiser isn’t likely to make the site more appealing to other brands. 

“Reporters don’t behave that way in the U.S., nor should they,” said Lee Wilkins, professor and chair of the department of communications at Wayne State University, who’s an expert in media ethics. “Most journalistic organizations have checks between the people who pay for your news work and the news work itself, so that you are as a journalist protected from those influences.”  She said she views Breitbart as a blog rather than a journalistic organization. “If you aren’t a journalism organization, then those safeguards are never in place.”
This is an important distinction. A "news source," which Breitbart isn't, cannot influence its news reporters about what news to print. It can't be seen as a bully to its own reporters, thereby creating a bias about what gets reported and what doesn't. But Breitbart can do that, as it is, solely because it's not a legit news source, but rather more of an opinionated blog. But a business of any kind can't declare war on another business because that company pulls its ads.
It's not personal. It's business. This is yet another example that shows that Breitbart, Bannon and Trump don't get that distinction. Politics and business are not personal. You can't bully and attack those who disagree with you or who don't support you. That's a tyrannical thing to do. In America, we don't bully or declare war on our political enemies, and we do not suppress the news, or only report one type of news story. That's not what a democracy does.
So, in the spirit of democracy, to fight back against the bullies, I suggest that next time you want some cereal, or some breakfast food, buy Kellogg's. Let's support the first company that in a democratic fashion pulled its ads from a very un-democratic site. Let's support the first one brave enough to take a stance.
My better half has Kellogg's Eggo's for breakfast a few times a week, and Eleven loves them. Good stuff.

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