Wonder how the left was able to mobilize so quickly on the Rush Limbaugh boycott? According to the architect behind it, Media Matters online strategy director Angelo Carusone, the project was actually created in 2009, but stayed inactive until the Sandra Fluke controversy boiled over (via Legal Insurrection):
I started Stop Rush in 2009, 2010, and when I went to register the domain, I saw that Rush owned StopRush.com….
The Beck work was working, and I kind of froze the Rush work, and experimented with it a little, to get a sense of who Rush’s advertisers were and what their comfort level with him was. It was definitely valuable, and I am glad I spent some time doing it. It has informed the work I am doing now.
Legal Insurrection’s William Jacobson connects the dots on the story most of the media missed: that the entire Limbaugh boycott was pure, undistilled Astroturf.
The secondary boycott of Rush Limbaugh advertisers is portrayed in the media as a reaction to a groundswell of public outrage. In fact, the secondary boycott was initiated by and driven by Media Matters, which had a “Stop Limbaugh” campaign on the shelf waiting to be used, and was executed by Angelo Carusone, Director of Online Strategy for Media Matters.
But while Carusone depicts his campaign as a response to the Fluke controversy, it seems obvious from the timeline that Media Matters played a large role in creating the controversy. According to the New York Times, the dormant “Stop Rush” twitter account run by Carusone snapped to life on Wednesday, Feb. 29, the day Limbaugh made his now-infamous comments. Media Matters also appears to be the first media outlet that reported on Limbaugh’s remarks, with Think Progress picking up on the story a few hours later, and the Huffington Post following up that evening.
This is a really useful case study of how the left coordinates to create a full-blown media uproar. Democrats in Congress don’t typically rush out to respond to every insult from conservative radio hosts. But Rep. Nancy Pelosi managed to round up six other female congressional Democrats to release a joint statement condemning Limbaugh’s comments within hours of the broadcast:
“When Sandra Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee after Republicans attempted to silence her, she courageously spoke truth to power. As a result, today, she has been subject to attacks that are outside the circle of civilized discussion and that unmask the strong disrespect for women held by some in this country. We call upon the Republican leaders in the House to condemn these vicious attacks on Ms. Fluke, which are in response to her testimony to the Congress. Democrats will always stand up for women’s health and women’s voices.”
According to Carusone, he began reaching out to Rush’s advertisers the next day to put the boycott campaign into action. Two days after Limbaugh’s comments, a Friday, President Obama put in a call to Sandra Fluke, which fanned the flames of the controversy and kept it going through the weekend.
Something else worth noting: Tucker Carlson recently reported that Media Matters representatives have weekly meetings with the White House, and the activist group is in close contact with the administration. Was anti-Rush media strategy ever discussed? Was the White House aware that Media Matters had a “Stop Rush” boycott campaign teed up and ready to go? After all, top White House officials have spoken openly about their 2009 campaign to use Rush Limbaugh to attack the Republican Party.
The anti-Limbaugh boycott may not have been the wild success Media Matters wanted it to be, since at this point it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any long-term fallout for Rush. But they were able to dominate the news cycle with their message for weeks and during a contentious primary race – a pretty impressive feat. Ruthless conservative political strategists out there would do well to take notes.