The pernicious actions of a news organization morphing into an activist crusader were on display this week when NBC News did everything in its power to shut down two competitors using Google to do their bidding.
A reporter from the network gathered information from an obscure left-wing activist group in England called the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which suggested that news sites The Federalist and Zero Hedge were “racist.”
In the group’s page called “Stop Funding Fake News” are screenshots of news sites it has deemed as racist. “Fake News and racist narratives can cause real-world harms,” the page reads. “dehumanising black people and whipping up fear. Stop Funding Fake News is fighting back: we’re calling on advertisers to blacklist these 10, U.S.-based, racist Fake News sites.”
Two of the sites listed were the Federalist and Zero Hedge.
The reporter, based in England, took the information from the website and brought it to the attention of Google executives.
It didn’t take long for Google to react and the NBC headline a short while later was this: “Google bans two websites from its ad platform over protest articles.” The article went on to say that the two sites would “no longer be able to generate revenue from any advertisements served by Google Ads.”
It was that easy.
A fringe left-wing website reaches out to an NBC reporter who, rather than write a story about the ads, uses the information to scare Google into defunding the two companies, lest it be seen as funding racism.
It is classic intimidation and vile activism but it is definitely not journalism.
The reporter, Adele-Momoko Fraser, was so pleased with the results she got that she took to Twitter to celebrate. She thanked the left-wing group for their hard work “and collaboration” and added the Black Lives Matter hashtag to her post.
We learn about activist reporters and editors on an almost daily basis but it is not a completely new phenomenon.
In 2018, a columnist for the Boston Globe made it her mission to punish a radio station she found offensive.
“Advertisers need to step up and take their money elsewhere until the culture changes,” Shirley Leung tweeted of the sports radio station WEEI.
“This week I’ve been listening to WEEI just so I can track down its advertisers — one by one,” she wrote in the paper.
She then went on to list a handful of businesses who ran their commercials on the station.
“But defections are on the rise, especially after I contacted advertisers to explain themselves,” she boasted. “On Tuesday, three more organizations — Citizens Bank, the Massachusetts State Lottery and the Massachusetts Health Connector — cut ties with WEEI.”
“For too long, WEEI drove ratings by spewing hate and vitriol disguised as sports talk,” Leung declared. “Finally, some advertisers have had enough.”
“What about the others? Let me know if you still want your name associated with the station,” she warned.
What Leung did was repugnant, malicious and toxic and harmed journalism and our discourse. Now her practice of using her platform as a battering ram against its target is becoming more commonplace and newsrooms find convenient utility in it.
It is akin to a journalist committing an act of arson so that her colleague can report on it. She then can opine on the larger lesson of the conflagration.
We must reject such irresponsibility, loudly. “Shock Jock” radio stations and conservative websites are not the end of the hit list, they are the beginning. No institution is safe from the flame thrower. Especially not now.