I know the last few weeks have been very confusing for you. There was Rush, speaking truth like always, not saying anything different than what he always says about sluts and feminazis and socialists and whatnot. But suddenly, advertisers started pulling out like crazy? WTF? I mean, what did Rush say that was any different from what hundreds of shock jocks say on the radio every day on Morning Zoo shows around the country -- but with fewer fart sound effects? And it wasn't nearly as awful as what that Bill Maher said about Sarah Palin somewhere sometime ago, so there!
Yes, it is totally arbitrary and unfair. But, oddly enough, it is not another liberal conspiracy. It's something you've heard about, but never really understood before. It's called the "free market." Here's how it works, and why bad things sometimes happen to good conservative pundits on the mass media whose only crime is to love America and speak the truth.
When you make your living selling advertising, and you say something that makes folks not want their products associated with you, you have a problem. It's called a "free market." It does not have anything to do with what's fair, or about free speech. Markets don't care. They just care about money. I know, shocking -- especially since so many of you seem to think "The Free Market" is a benevolent god who will give you the good life if you smite "socialists" and repeat the Fox catechism. But the sad truth is markets don't care about anyone -- even Rush.
Companies buy advertising on popular shows like Rush because they want people to buy their products. But not everyone who buys the products does so because they listen to Rush. A lot of people buying the product -- and you will be shocked to hear this -- don't really like Rush. As long as these people don't care about the product being advertised on Rush, it doesn't matter, just like you don't care if the products that advertise on Rush also sponsor "All Things Considered" on NPR buy ads on MSNBC.
But if a celebrity or a spokesperson says or does something that makes people stop buying products -- you know, like saying "Happy Holidays" or showing Moslems as normal people rather than as terrorists -- then the advertiser has a problem. You have gone from being a net positive to costing the company sales. In that case, the company will drop you faster than you can say "boycott." It's not personal. It's just business. That's how profit-maximizing firms in free markets work. It's not that the advertisers think Rush did anything wrong or bad or even unusual. It's just that this time it appears to have pissed off so many people so much that people who used to buy the advertising don't want to be associated with Rush Limbaugh's show anymore.
If it's any consolation, it's not just Rush or conservatives. Remember when Whoopie Goldberg lost a huge advertising contract from SlimFast for saying obscene things about W? That was markets again. Remember when Charlie Sheen lost his contract for 2 and a Half Men for acting all crazy? Remember when Tiger Woods lost his endorsement deals for a little extramarital spat? Markets, markets, markets. In all those cases, the companies decided that the person in question had offended enough of the target market for their product that they had become an actual liability. So they cut and ran, even without the threat of a boycott, because that is how markets work.
Now about that Bill Mahrer thing you keep bringing up. turns out Bill Mahrer is on premium cable, so he doesn't worry about advertisers. See, that's markets again! It's not that there is someone out there setting rules and keeping score. It's that markets don't give a crap about anything but making money. The economics of premium cable are different from advertiser driven broadcasting. It's also why Howard Stern went to Satellite Radio. No advertisers, different economics, different rules.
There is a bright side. If people don't get pissed off at folks advertising on Rush, then he can continue to say whatever he wants. As we all know, Liberals don't have the spine to stick with a boycott, and Socialist progressives don't believe in free markets. So you're probably golden. Unless you keep reminding people by whining about it.