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Limbaugh Kick’s a Hornet’s Nest and creates a Social Media test

March 7, 2012

Lord knows the world doesn’t need another article about Rush Limbaugh’s comments regarding Sandra Fluke. But I can’t help noting what might be a major test case for the power of Social Media.

Sandra Fluke testifies - Rush Limbaugh pontificates

A quick recap for those who somehow missed this controversy: On February 29, 2012 Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, testified before a Congressional committee in support of mandated health coverage for contraceptives. Later that day Limbaugh described Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute.” The following day Limbaugh suggested that Fluke make a sex tape in exchange for contraceptive funding. A few days later he apologized, saying, “I chose the wrong words in my analogy… I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.” By March 6, several of Limbaugh’s radio sponsors, including AOL, The Sleep Train, and Citrix, had withdrawn their commercials from his show and two radio stations had dropped the program.

Here’s what I find interesting and new about all this. The conventional wisdom holds that this reaction would not have happened so quickly, or perhaps at all, without Social Media technology and ideology. Social Media (think Facebook and Twitter) is easily accessible and by its very nature incredibly scalable. This technology allowed the backlash to Limbaugh’s comments to spread like wildfire. In addition, the very nature of Social Media discourages anyone from standing idly by. Its ideology is interaction. All that was needed was for someone to bridge the gap between the echo chamber of Limbaugh’s loyal listeners to Limbaugh’s show and the larger echo chamber of offended netizens.

So, how far will the power of Social Media take this? It remains to be seen whether this controversy is just a bump in the road or sets a new precedent. To me it’s clearly a test case. Will Limbaugh weather this storm? Will a backlash to the backlash emerge as the dittoheads launch a counter offensive? What do you think?

What I think about Rush Limbaugh’s comments themselves is secondary to my fascination in watching this thing play out. To me his comments bring to mind the Farmer and the Viper tale from Aesop’s Fables. Limbaugh is paid an exorbitant amount of money to say mean and outlandish things. Why is anyone surprised when he does?

From → MarComm/PR 101

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