NPR.org Promotes 'Geek Socialist's' Boycott of News Corp.

NPR's Sam Sanders gave some free publicity on Wednesday to a boycott organized online targeting Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp. Sanders spotlighted the efforts of self-described "geek socialist" Chris Coltrane, who "wants people to vote against Murdoch" due to his supposed "unaccountable power." The writer also failed to include any quotes from supporters of the media tycoon.

The radio producer, who also recently worked for The Washington Post, began his NPR.org article, "Boycotting Murdoch Could Be Harder Than You Think," by briefly touching on the current News of the World scandal. He then noted that "Facebook users organized a handful of groups aimed at exacting revenge by boycotting Murdoch and his British newspaper publishing company, News International, a subsidiary of Murdoch's behemoth News Corp."

Sanders also highlighted the efforts of anti-Murdoch protesters on another social media site, despite admitting that the cause has yet to take off: "On Twitter, a BoycottMurdoch account launched before the hacking scandal is drawing more followers. (The effort is still small — it has fewer than 800 followers and 125 tweets so far.)."

After acknowledging that "Murdoch's vast holdings, especially in the United States, make it challenging to carry out a boycott in a way that truly hurts his bottom line," the NPR writer quoted extensively from his "geek socialist":

Some protesters realize it may be tough to exact real financial pain. Chris Coltrane, a comedian and self-described "geek socialist," has staked out the domain www.boycottmurdoch.com, where he plans to launch a full-fledged site soon.

Coltrane remains pragmatic about its goals. As he put it in an email to NPR: "In practice, Murdoch's empire is so vast that we know this [a Murdoch boycott] isn't always practical. In fact, we dare say that it's almost impossible, without relentless dedication. ... Because of that, we are asking people to boycott Rupert Murdoch as much as possible. Do as much as you can to not give Murdoch money."

Coltrane says he's been planning the campaign for a while to protest what he calls Murdoch's "unaccountable power," but the recent hacking scandal pushed him over the edge. He wants people to vote against Murdoch with their wallets now, even if a total boycott may never happen:

"If we can convince people to boycott Murdoch completely, we'll be delighted. But even if we can only get people from 40 percent to 80 percent, that will still be a definite victory."

Near the end of his article, Sanders listed several "things you couldn't do if you were engaging in a complete boycott of all things News Corp." (including being unable to "watch any of your favorite sitcoms on the online video site Hulu.com, which is a NewsCorp joint venture with NBC Universal and Disney;" as well as a total ban on "any book published by HarperCollins since NewsCorp owns that company as well. So forget picking up an extra copy of a J.R.R. Tolkien book."). Despite his wide-reaching list, the NPR producer added that "there's one bright spot for would-be Murdoch boycotters who also happen to be Super Bowl fans. Fox, which frequently broadcasts the big game, and did so this January, isn't scheduled to broadcast a Super Bowl again until 2014. So, you can get your pigskin fix and stick it to News Corp. at the same time, at least for a few more years." In reality, a would-be boycott participant isn't actually "sticking it" to News Corp. if they don't have the rights to broadcast the big game in the first place.


Only months earlier, NPR promoted another left-leaning online campaign, when correspondent Tovia Smith spotlighted a homosexual activist's income tax protest on the Morning Edition program on April 12.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center