A while ago mommybrain asked me for a post on some of the media and message strategies as well as techniques I use on right-wing media here in San Francisco. So from one brain to another here’s the post.

I’m going to explain what I did to impact the tea party/ faux town hall stories in the media in San Francisco. You might consider doing something similar in your home town. There are two parts to what I did:

1) Laying the groundwork for financial consequences to the corporations that support and promote violent talk This is part of my long-term strategy to defund right-wing media. My first step was making right-wing media unsafe for advertisers’ brands.* (See Spocko vs. Talk Radio hosts in the New York Times) The second part includes highlighting any activities that make them less profitable for their parent corporations.

2) Prepping the mainstream media with questions that can change the frame or narrative of the event

1) Laying the groundwork for financial consequences and potential violence


Alert their Bosses to Danger. Or "Danger Will Robinson!
Danger!"
When Brian Sussman at KSFO started actively promoting a faux town hall/ tea party I bundled all his violent rhetoric clips and sent them to his bosses at Citadel and asked them if their insurance carrier was aware of his calls to action in front of Pelosi’s office.

The letter was sent to the parent company’s chief operating officer. I titled it:

Will Citadel be Financial Liable for Town Hall Mobs Organized by Their Radio Hosts?(link)

I asked these questions:

  • What is Citadel Broadcasting’s experience in controlling mobs of angry people filled with "righteous indignation?"
  • Has your legal counsel signed off on sponsoring this protest rally?
  • Has your insurance carrier issued you a special event policy for any property damage, injury or wrongful deaths that may occur?

These questions were designed to make them aware of potential financial liability. Unless they could see a financial downside they might assume this was just another event.

Background: Show their History of Violent Comments and Actions
I knew the history of the violent comments from the hosts as well as the actions of a previous host (Melanie Morgan) in gathering mobs for her protests against people like Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin. I wanted them to see that this action had potential to spin out of control like the Code Pink Event did where Medea’s sign and microphone cord were slashed by a Morgan thug with a knife.

Interestingly the event ended up being moved from in front of Pelosi’s office to Justin Herman Plaza. Why? Was someone denied a permit there because of safety fears or was it just, "a scheduling conflict?" Either way it took some of the "X vs. Y" potential for conflict out of the event making it less attractive to the media (but safer for the Speaker and her staff).

Remember, the media loves conflict, sometimes removing the conflict kills the story. No bleeding, no leading.

Plan for Parallel Universes with Different Outcomes
I determined the media probably will come, even if there is no chance to shout at Pelosi. If they did I wanted them to know who was behind the event and to push the narrative in another direction. The direction was the logical conclusion of their ongoing calls for violence. The right wing love to hint at or promise violence for the media and then expect their mob to be a calm mob. They expect that their audience, revved up with anger, will leave their tempers and guns at home. These people bring guns to events, violence has broken out before. Why this is not considered inciting violence is confusing to me, but I know the FCC doesn’t care, I’ve checked. I didn’t want any, "Nobody could have anticipated an angry mob with guns would turn violent." comments after the fact. (Remember Bill O’Reilly calling Dr. Tiller, Dr. Killer and how that turned out? Brian Sussman called Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, Dr. Easy Kill Emanuel. transcript )

Alert the District Attorney

To make sure there was a specific link to the violent talk and potential violent action or property damage I also included the clips of Sussman’s previous calls to kill people and inciting violence toward others in a note to the San Francisco District Attorney. I also included the photo of him posing with his gun that the station used to run with his bio. Sussman and KSFO wants the credit for promoting these events, the DA should know who to prosecute and the public who to sue if property is damaged. For all their claims of, "This is grass roots! There are no corporate sponsors!" the right-wing media neglect to see themselves as a corporate sponsor.

2) Prepping the mainstream media with questions that can change the frame or narrative of the event

Finally, I included a list of questions that the media could ask of Sussman if they attended. I titled it

KSFO Town Hall Protests Pelosi on Health Care at Justin Herman Plaza (link)

Attention TV assignment editors: (KPIX, KGO, KTVU, KRON, KNTV) for Friday Aug 14, 2009 1-5 pm

Brian Sussman of KSFO is whipping his listeners into a frenzy before attending the faux town hall at Justin Herman Plaza Friday. Supposedly the topic is about health care reform so if you cover it, here are a few questions to ask him and his listeners about health care and what they are hearing on KSFO (just to see how many conspiracy theories they believe based on his comments and willful misinformation).

Brian Sussman will be there from 2-3 with his producer Eric Santos. (more)

Learn How the Media Work
Note the title of my letter. This was designed so that when the media search for the event they would find my blog or email when searching their own email. I don’t want to go into search engine optimization techniques, but keep in mind that the media use the Google to find things just like you do.

Questions, Questions, Questions
I wanted the media to have questions to ask of the organizers that would show just how extreme the host’s views are based on his actual comments. They simply needed to ask him about his views or his followers views on issues like "death panels", Obama’s birth certificate and his religious background. There were also some specific questions that I felt were so extreme that I thought they were laughable. They have since turned tragic. For example, one question was:

"Do you believe that Obama is using the Census bureau and ACORN workers to gather GPS data on homes so he can take your guns?"
(I heard this postulated on the Sussman show. This question was written before the Census worker was killed and before ACORN lost their census contract.)

I sent this alert to the mainstream TV stations and the local papers. I included contact information for myself in case they wanted more specific background information and complete context for the audio clips. I tried to provide accurate, verifiable info to the press to give them a solid starting place when doing their jobs.

Media Results. Or "How can you claim credit for a non-story!?"

They claim that 5,000 people showed up! (And as we know from the 9/12 event in D.C. their claims for crowd size are known for accuracy.)

Nobody from the San Francisco Chronicle or Examiner showed up. This is a decision the Chronicle and Examiner reporters made that included lots of factors like other events in the city, staff availability and other political news at the time. Maybe the right didn’t offer a compelling enough event. Maybe I convinced them that giving credibility to these people is like giving credibility to the crazy cat lady and the shouting shopping cart guy. (Especially since the things they say on the show bear a striking relationship to the things you hear from those two folks). Maybe they figured that KSFO has 24 hours to broadcast their invective so why should they give them attention with their limited space.

I do know that it drove Sussman crazy that they didn’t show up. And, based on their behavior the last time the Chronicle disappointed them, they will use this to hammer the Chronicle as too liberal and to demand coverage on their extreme views. They will probably demand that they dedicate a reporter to the right-wing craziness like the New York Times.

One of the problems with playing defense is that when you stop the other team from scoring the fans might not credit you. They like the touchdowns, I do too. That is why I prefer to go on the offense. I could have claimed a more specific success if they ran a story and included all their crazy views with new quotes. That is what I was hoping for, but the press ignoring the story entirely was fine with me. And I honestly can’t say I was responsible for the no-shows, I’m just one man with a plan and a pitch. But I know what I did and now you do too.

Supposedly two TV stations did brief voice overs of the event with no interviews, I only watched one station and they didn’t cover the event.

And now The Big Picture —–The Needs of the Many—-Blah Blah Blah—–

The Long Game — Negative Financial Consequences for Right Wing Media


What I’m trying to do is lay the groundwork for right wing media to take a financial hit with increased insurance rates in advance of the tea parties they sponsor.
I also want to help people with potential civil lawsuits if violence breaks out.

I do not want to limit their free speech or their right to peacefully assemble. I do want them to be held accountable when they cross the line into mob violence that leads to injury, death or property destruction.

I found out that public radio station KPFA in SF was told to stop "calls to action" partly because of their public radio status, but the big reason was the cost of and fear of liability. The right used this lever against the left. I decided to do it to the right. It’s the fair and balanced thing to do.

Reproduce These Methods in your Home Towns: Or. Listen Locally, Act Locally
Do you hear your local radio hosts revving up violence? Alert their bosses, ask them if their insurance carrier is prepared. If you give the District Attorney a "Presidential Daily Brief" telling them "Wing Nuts determined to Attack" and give them the time, location and sponsors, then after the attack they should have a fairly easy way to hold the sponsors responsible. (Of course this doesn’t always work…)

Apparently nobody has put the fear of liability into these right wing hosts. I don’t know if this will alert will work on the national level, they are a bit more careful in their hints of violence. Fox wants all the credit for these events they should have to be on the hook for liabilities. Does FreedomWorks bear some responsibility if violence breaks out?

We’ve seen over the last nine months the way the right-wing media runs the conversation in this country. Nobody voted them out of office. They will use the same methods and strategies against Obama as they did on the Clintons, and we can’t wait for the media to expose them because the media are the main consumers of the right wing efforts. We bloggers can help the mainstream media run better stories.

Why the Financial Focus?

As I said before, I do not want to limit their free speech or their right to peacefully assemble. But corporate sponsored violent rhetoric is not the same as someone stating their opinion on a topic in front of the federal building. Corporations care about their bottom line first and formost. I’ve found that to get them to listen and change their behavior you need to have a financial impact. To quote the wise words from the movie "Trading Places", "You know, it occurs to me that the best way you hurt rich people is by turning them into poor people."

Focusing on ways to make right-wing media unprofitable is very powerful. They might still have the Rev. Moon and the Scaifes to fund them, but in the corporate world losing money (that you can’t get bailed out from) is a cardinal sin. It also has a high potential for serious backlash. I had my blog shut down, threatened with a life destroying lawsuit and was slandered to the entire Bay Area. Hate Hurts America member CAIR was sued by Savage (since they followed my guidelines they won). You’ve seen what happened to Van Jones, Acorn and Ken Jennings. Bullies don’t just back down when you stand up to them, they hit back hard.

But I’m willing to hit back hard too. These people are AGAINST good health care! As my friend Interrobang said, "Being against good health care is like being against air." Of course she is Canadian, so she sees things clearly from up there.

I’ve hoped that some smart group would swoop down and give me a home or ask me to help them, I would happily teach others how to come up with better messages and media strategies but maybe my half Vulcan half human background puts them off. Maybe it’s my wordiness. My ears? Or, as Jane has found, people who control the money don’t always like boat rockers.

Why do I fight the right wing media? To quote John Stewart to Tucker Carlson, "You’re hurting America." We are all trying to do our part, this is mine.

Live Long And Prosper
Spocko
spockosbrain.com
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* For those of you who don’t know me, in 2007 my campaign to alert advertisers about the violent rhetoric from KSFO hosts resulted in the station losing 28 advertisers. Morning host Melanie Morgan did not have her contract renewed in 2008 because of the financial hit. I’ve cost them four more advertisers in 2009. I’ve taught the same techniques to a group Hate Hurts America, that used them successfully on Michael Savage, costing him 18 advertisers. Last month KNEW stopped broadcasting Savage in San Francisco. Recently Color of Change announced 100 advertisers have pulled their ads from the Glenn Beck show using these techniques. These techniques work.