Showing posts with label Rush Limbaugh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rush Limbaugh. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 2

Paying For Politics: You And Me


“Thousands of active troops and veterans were subjected to Mr. Limbaugh’s unpatriotic and indefensible comments on your broadcast,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in his letter to Clear Channel Chief Executive Mark Mays, which mirrors his statements on the Senate floor.The Hill.

Yet, as far as I know, the only people subjected to Rush Limbaugh are people who listen to his show. But, nonetheless, so it begins. Tax dollars, yours and mine, are being spent this week on letters and speeches delivered in Congress to denounce, discredit, and censor. We might as well enjoy the circus, provided the price is nothing more than tax dollars and not free speech or the right to address grievances with our government.

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe he [Rush] was just high on his drugs again,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, (D-Iowa) as reported by Michelle Malkin. “I don’t know whether he was or not. If so, he ought to let us know. But that shouldn’t be an excuse.”

Taking time to record that comment into our Congressional records is so much more important than “providing assistance for poor and elderly families to afford to heat and cool their homes, and the need to continue our commitment to improve education for our nation's children."

This week is banned booked week. It’s sponsored by the American Library Association, American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Association of College Stores.

Hundreds of books are challenged every year. And those who aim to strike them from the shelf often use statements that sound dangerously similar to those of Sen. Reid’s … “This comment was so beyond the pale of decency that it cannot be left alone."

Indecent. Immoral. Impudent.

What are these books? You know the ones: The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier, the Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou.

All of them round out the top five most challenged books since 2000, but Judy Blume is still the most challenged author. In fact, there were more than 3,000 attempts to remove books between 2000-2005.

You might note that these challenges are not ancient history. On the contrary, they are alive and well today. Challenges to our civil liberties that unnoticed would silence our people. Challenges that aim at radio talk show hosts for talking about what other people already knew. Challenges that convinced me to lend some of my Sunday to The Gylon Jackson Show to discuss a few free speech concepts:

• Don’t allow the ignorance of others to have power over you
• The abuse dies in a day, but the rule of law lasts forever
• We have to protect free speech, even speech we find offensive
• The remedy for the abuse of free speech is more free speech
• Most people want free speech for “them,” but not other people
• Critical speech gives you an opportunity to gauge issue temperature
• Specific words that offend people tend to change over time

Today, given the controversy surrounding Limbaugh, we might remember those points. Or perhaps, maybe it would be best to remember the words of Dwight David Eisenhower …

”And we have got to fight it with something better, not try to conceal the thinking of our own people. They are part of America. And even if they think ideas that are contrary to ours, their right to say them, their right to record them, and their right to have them at places where they're accessible to others is unquestioned, or it's not America.” — Eisenhower

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Wednesday, July 11

Branding Public Figures: Tom Cruise


I’ve been working on a mathematically provable brand theory for the last few months and Nicole Sperling’s article on Tom Cruise that appears in the July 13 edition of Entertainment Weekly provided a pretty good public figure example of its most basic (but not complete) premise.

She points out that Cruise’s brand used to be all about his boyish charm turned “rugged good looks, flashy smile, and three Oscar nominations.” But then something happened, starting just prior to the release of Steven Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds (photo above).

Cruise’s increasingly visible dedication to the controversial beliefs that accompany Scientology has produced brand instability and disastrous results. Most recently, on June 25, the German Ministry of Defense announced that “it did not want him to film United Artists’ upcoming WWII movie Valkyrie at the country’s Bendlerblock war memorial” because, according to ministry spokesman Harald Kammerbauer, Tom Cruise is affiliated with a cult.

The ministry has since backtracked, now saying their decision has “nothing to do” with Cruise being a Scientologist. Likewise, Cruise has made the case that he is always an actor first and foremost. Hmmm… neither statement seems very credible and there is a very simple explanation that fits in within the aforementioned theory, which we might call the “Fragile Brand Theory.”

The Fragile Brand Theory accepts the definition that a brand is the net sum of all positive and negative impressions of the subject, Cruise in this case, and then breaks it all down into something that resembles an atom.

Imagine Cruise (the person, not the brand) is like a nucleus that represents the reality of Cruise. It doesn’t really matter what this reality is because people will generally accept realities regardless of what they are, which is why very, very different public figures usually succeed (whether you like them or not): Rush Limbaugh, Paris Hilton, John Edwards, John McCain, Al Gore, etc. Really, it doesn’t matter who any of these people really are because while the nucleus is related to and can be impacted by a brand, it is not the brand.

Unlike the nucleus, brands are reliant on the collective public’s perception about people, products, and companies. As mentioned, they are the net sum of positive and negative impressions. Using the atom illustration, they might look like layers of electrons that circle the nucleus, with the strongest, most authentic electrons being closest to the nucleus, and those that are “made up” or “stretched” being the furthest from it. When too many electrons are too far from the nucleus, the more likely a brand will become unstable, collapse, or be ripped apart.

In a case study of Cruise, the 1995 off-screen Cruise brand came close to mirroring the image of the much-loved character Jerry Maguire (and most characters Cruise portrayed before that). He was a somewhat private but daring actor who, despite being overconfident at times (the classic pride comes before a fall syndrome so many of his characters endure), always managed to better himself and triumph in the face of insurmountable odds.

That is a very different brand than the post-2005 Cruise brand we see today. Now, most of his impressions seem to suggest an arrogant and impulsive actor who frequently uses his fame to argue controversial topics if not create controversy while promoting beliefs grounded in Scientology. Actor first? We think not.

Regardless of how you feel about Cruise, Scientology, his relationship with Katie Holmes (including the Oprah brouhaha), or his war against certain prescription medication (which was at least half right as supported to the extreme by John Travolta), the Fragile Brand Theory suggests whoever the real Cruise is (1995 or 2005) doesn’t matter. What matters is that current public opinion is a reaction to the realization that the 1995 brand they loved is apparently very different from the reality that seems to be.

Generally, if the majority of all electrons remain close to the nucleus, they are more likely to remain in place, creating an extremely strong brand that can withstand anything. But when the majority of all electrons are revealed to be too far away from the nucleus (or in contrast to the existing brand), it becomes unstable.

In other words, if Cruise always acted like he has over the last two years, recent events would hardly be considered controversial let alone impact his career. But, since he has not always acted like this (at least that is the perception), he is suffering from brand instability.

Personally, I don’t really know whether the old Cruise or new Cruise is the real Cruise, but what I do know is that the Fragile Brand Theory demonstrates why a public figure like Britney Spears will always find public sympathy after countless train wrecks and public figures like Mel Gibson will always receive public scorn over a single drunken outburst. En masse, the public does not like it when public figures do not meet brand expectations. (Eg. the Paris Hilton brand can go to jail, but she’s not allowed to cry over it.)

Or perhaps this provides a better example: Rosie O’Donnell can run amok at the mouth because we expect it; Oprah, on the other hand, has to be a bit more cautious as she presents herself to be a grounded and trusted advisor.

In sum, one of the most basic concepts within the Fragile Brand Theory suggests it is more important to stick with your brand choice — whether you choose a halo or horns — than the choice you make.

Of course, you also might want to keep in mind that if your brand is more made up than real, sooner or later, it will collapse under the sheer weight of contrary actions or be pulled apart by unanswered accusations made by more credible sources. It also assumes you or your consultants know how to brand from the inside out; sadly, many say that they can, but most cannot.

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Monday, May 7

Panning Parodies: Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh has seemingly revived the Don Imus debate despite coming under fire for very different reasons.

Whereas Imus made racially insensitive statements that some consider bad humor and others call rampant radio racism, Limbaugh has been airing a parody song entitled “Barack the Magic Negro,” a piece about African-American Sen. Barack Obama’s popularity with many white voters. While Obama's campaign has dismissed the parody as dumb and not something "anyone takes this too seriously,” some Limbaugh critics are attempting to do just that.

“We take these things seriously because there’s a consistent pattern of them making their way into the mainstream media and then the mainstream consciousness,” said Karl Frisch, a spokesman for Media Matters, as told to the Chicago Tribune. “It’s important to shoot these things down.”

The parody, which began in March, is receiving more attention now primarily because of the recent Imus case as well as increased threats with racial overtones being received by Obama. Such threats have prompted a special security detail to be assigned to him on the campaign trail.

The parody seems to poke less fun at Obama than it does Rev. Al Sharpton. The comedian singing the parody imitates Sharpton, bemoaning Obama’s popularity with whites who will, the lyrics predict, “vote for him and not for me ‘cause he’s not from da hood.”

As difficult as it is to do, an objective view might find that the parody is neither funny nor racist. It seems to be insensitive (perhaps ignorant and certainly offensive to some people) in its attempt to draw attention to presumed differences between the two men (Sharpton and Obama). Obama's campaign calls it right: it is not to be taken seriously.

In fact, taking the parody seriously, as Media Matters attempts to do, seems to risk more tension than the parody might generate on its own. It also seems to add more weight to a revived "PC" argument that censorship works. It does not.

No, I've never been a fan of name calling (especially along racial, religious, and economic lines), but I am a fan of the First Amendment. As such, I am predisposed to look at such issues differently.

Although name calling and unwarranted labeling causes an emotional reaction in all of us, I also think it makes more sense to let such rants stand because the words say a lot more about the name caller than the person or people being called a name. And if we overreact to other people's mistakes, it might say even more about us.

Case in point: I like Limbaugh all right, but perhaps he lost a little credibility airing this parody for so long. I used to like Media Matters somewhat, but it is becoming more and more difficult to like them when they pay a disproportionate amount of attention to what "people they like" say vs. what "people they don't like" say. It's silly at best and hypocritical at worst.

More importantly, we best serve ourselves by not giving in to our own fears by overreacting to people who call us names or poke fun at our faith, heritage, values, politics, professions, or even the color of our skin. Anytime you experience anger over what someone says, it might be worth considering where that anger comes from. Are we afraid they might be right or that other people might think they are right? Hopefully not; but often, sadly so.

I'm not saying we should ignore name calling or hate speech, but rather suggesting that there are ways to address ignorance without labeling it as racist (unless it is on its face). That might be more effective than censorship.

You know, at the end of the day, I'll probably disagree with Obama on politics, but today I agree with his dismissal of the parody. It was smart on his part. As for his heritage, it's as irrelevant to me as President Kennedy being Catholic or President Bush being from Texas. Try as some might to prove otherwise, labels and other nonsense sidebars really don't mean that much.


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