Update, March 4: Carbonite have changed their position and have now withdrawn sponsorship from Limbaugh’s show. Kudos to them for choosing the right path even when it means abandoning a very effective marketing platform.
I recently signed up for an off-site backup service called Carbonite. It’s a system for backing up your computer data but, rather than storing the backup on an external disk in your own home, it backs up to servers operated by Carbonite. The idea is that if you keep all of your data and backups in one place you’re at risk of losing it all at once. A fire or burglary could very easily leave you not only without your computer but also without your backups. Keeping the backups somewhere else, in this case in a datacenter, protects you in that kind of event.
Sounds great, right? I thought so too.
Unfortunately, some time into this initial backup but still quite a while from finishing it (the first backup takes a long time), I discovered a very compelling reason to cut it short and seek out an alternative provider.
Here’s why. Carbonite pays people to verbally abuse young women in public.
On February 29, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh had this to say about Sandra Fluke, a student who was supposed to speak at a US congressional hearing on contraception and religious liberty:
What does it say about the college co-ed Susan [sic] Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex—what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.
Charming. But, hey, not a huge surprise. This is American conservative talk radio. What do you expect?
The trouble is, Carbonite is one of Rush Limbaugh’s sponsors. He makes money saying this crap, and the precise mechanism by which he makes that money is that Carbonite, and other companies, give it to him.
Carbonite paid Rush Limbaugh to call Sandra Fluke a prostitute on the radio.
At this point a reasonable company, or at least an ethical one, would distance themselves from what was said and withdraw future sponsorship. Here’s what Carbonite CEO David Friend said:
The nature of talk radio is that from time to time listeners are offended by a host and ask that we pull our advertising. […] We do not have control over a show’s editorial content or what they say on air. Carbonite does not endorse the opinions of the shows or their hosts.
In other words, “We just pay him to say this stuff. That doesn’t mean we endorse it.”
He goes on:
I will impress upon him that his comments were offensive to many of our customers and employees alike.
Or, “I hope that a media personality who thrives off controversy will reconsider his abusive and degrading statements at my request, even while I continue to scribble out his next paycheck.”
Limbaugh won’t change his tune just because advertisers ask him to. The only way to reach him is to pull the sponsorship. Similarly, David Friend won’t change his position just because his customers ask him to. The only way to reach him is to stop giving money to Carbonite.