Thursday, February 19, 2015

Social Media's Magic - Rudy Questions Obama's Love For America

The reach, power and value of social media may be debated in some circles even as it evolves, but the tangible impact it's had on grass roots progressive issues like wage inequality in this country is not in question.

The announcement that Walmart will increase wages for a half million workers, alter the way it currently haphazardly schedules employee hours and actively seek to overhaul it's brand as a crappy employer that systematically underpays it's workers, owes much to the various social media campaigns that have relentlessly targeted the nation's biggest employer for years.

Just think about the past few holiday shopping seasons.

News about Walmart's own employees (and supporters) picketing the stores around the nation over wages and worker's rights, or disturbing stories about the numbers of Walmart employees forced to seek public assistance benefits and food stamps, have made bigger headlines than news about holiday spending at the stores themselves - and the brand has suffered.

Walmart's decision to spend over a billion dollars to restructure it's employment policies and revamp it's image is a huge statement that could serve as a major influence on other large US companies finally moving to increase lower and middle class wages after years of record corporate profits.

Economic policies paid for by US taxpayers, including huge bailouts to banks and allowing companies to borrow at zero interest have pumped enormous amounts of money into the system and allowed American corporations to stockpile massive cash reserves overseas ($1.45 trillion and counting by spring of 2013...) without paying Uncle Sam his share, or worse; using it to expand hiring here at home.

Does Walmart deserve a measure of credit for making the decision to start paying it's workers more than the federal minimum wage? Sure. But if not for the relentless social media campaigns calling Walmart out, it never would have happened.

Plus I'd venture that Walmart execs recognized the long-term strategic risk of the company inadvertently serving as the spark for a resurgence in pro-labor union movements; which it wants no part of in it's stores.

Besides, a billion dollars is a drop in the bucket for a company like Walmart, even if they did anticipate the need to raise wages collectively across the board, kudos to social media for helping to make it happen sooner.

Social media is also proving to be an effective counterweight against the juggernaut of right-wing media channeled through mainstream media outlets like Fox News.

Limbaugh looses ground
As Time's Brian Rosenwald reported yesterday, social media is also having a tangible impact on the grass roots public backlash against hate speech broadcast on public radio airwaves.

His excellent analysis shows how multiple social media campaigns against Rush Limbaugh are steadily eroding his sponsors as well as the radio stations willing to broadcast his show.    

Rush doesn't like it, but the Constitution (like social media) is a complex creature that does not serve one master.

In the same way Limbaugh uses the 1st Amendment as a license to justify his using radio as a platform to spread his misogynist, racist, homophobic beliefs; millions of people are now using online petitions, e-mail campaigns and other online sources to raise awareness of what he says on the air.

In doing so they're making it increasingly uncomfortable for companies that sponsor his show to be associated with the kind of content he creates.

And like Walmart's recognition that it had become THE poster-company for greed, wage inequality and unfair treatment of workers, the cost to the brands of the companies that sponsor Limbaugh's show are starting to outweigh any increased market share or sales volume those commercials may have reaped.

America's authority on who loves America?
Finally I had to follow up my blog yesterday about Dinseh D'Souza's empty political rhetoric after hearing about another ignorant comment made about the president based not on any kind of fact or policy; but on his race.

Over the years it's been interesting watching Rudy Giuliani's metamorphosis from a politically centrist right-leaning mayor of a major northeastern urban city, to the divisive, quasi-delusional right-wing figurehead he's become.

As Justin Baragona reported on PoliticusUSA earlier today, when Giuliani stands up in a pricey Manhattan restaurant in front of a group of well-heeled Republican donors and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and says things like, "I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn't love you. And he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up in the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country." as he did last night, I'm not sure whether to laugh or just feel sorry for him.

Anyone who suggests that the same president who authorized US Special Forces to track down and kill Osama Bin Laden, risked his political legacy to fight for all Americans to have reasonable access to health care and is presiding over one of the most sustained periods of job creation on record does not love his country is not firing bullets out of the business end of the barrel.

The whole "He wasn't brought up in the way you were brought up" reeks of a weak attempt at the kind of coded racism that fuels the Republican Southern Strategy.

Worse it's classless and totally unprovable.

I lived in NYC for 15 years and though I frequently disagreed with Giuliani as a mayor, (particularly on heavy-handed police tactics) I generally respected him as a leader and you always knew where he stood on the issues.

So it's sad to see him relegated to appearances on Fox News to toss low ball cheap-shots at the president from the safety of the sidelines of the political arena where he once wielded influence.

A guy who once lead the greatest city in the world now reduced to referencing debunked birther theories and dredging up Dinesh D'Souza's discredited cornball ideas about Obama's issues with "colonialism" shaping his foreign policy decisions? Sad.

As Mitt Romney learned, in this day and age what's said in a closed-door dinner filled with wealthy Republican backers will be breaking on social media within hours.

Rudy should have known it wasn't just 60 Republicans in the room when he questioned the president's love for his country, there were millions of us listening - and holding Hizzoner accountable for what he said.

No comments: