North Texas Daily

How internet activism ousted Bill O’Reilly

How internet activism ousted Bill O’Reilly

How internet activism ousted Bill O’Reilly
April 24
21:03 2017

Fox News’s star player, Bill O’Reilly, was forced out of their organization last Wednesday. The pressure for this move began earlier this month after the New York Times reported that he settled five sexual harassment cases since 2004 with an estimated settlement of about $13 million. Although the Times broke this information, it certainly did not end there.

Fox News was continually supporting O’Reilly during those settlements. This conveys a cycle within Fox to ignore and reward employees who are accused of sexual harassment. Last year, a similar situation with Roger Ailes took place before he was also kicked out. So while this cycle has obviously taken place for years, O’Reilly remained at his top spot. His situation needed the right kind of pressure to accomplish this victory: internet activism.

Post-electoral politics have noticeably, and uncomfortably, thickened. While activists and internet heroes spent the past year rising against President Donald Trump and his supporters, they continue to expand their reach on other issues. With O’Reilly, the opportunity to bring down a masthead of the ‘alt-right’ was a no-brainer. A proven liar who once claimed black activists attacked him during the 1992 race riots, and an unapologetic racist and sexist, was past due for a comeuppance.

Color of Change, an African-American civil rights group, immediately created a campaign, calling on advertisers to discontinue their work with Fox News because of the charges against O’Reilly. The group teamed up with women’s advocacy groups such as UltraViolet and the National Organization for Women to organize protests outside of the Fox News headquarters in New York City.

The group also worked with Media Matters, a media watchdog group, to pressure advertisers to pull their associations away from Fox. This resulted in at least 50 advertisers dropping their support, which did not go unseen. The decline exemplifies the large role advertisers play in media, as O’Reilly was eventually forced out through a $25 million payout. This also shows the type of waves that activists can make.

Another tremendous group was the anonymous internet entity Sleeping Giants. The group had previously focused on getting advertisers to discontinue their ties to Breitbart. They proceeded to take on the O’Reilly scandal, tweeting its followers on how to take action.

These groups claimed to be made up of marketing professionals who used their social media skills to spread awareness of the situation. It’s cases like these that often get thrown under the rug, along with victims who never receive true justice. The impact of social media amplified the cause and garnered enough attention to make a movement. Especially with the young and politically conscious audience on Twitter and elsewhere, the efforts were highly profound.

The role of ad revenue in media is no mystery but make no mistake, activists are who accomplished this. They and the power of the internet took on the seemingly untouchable Bill O’Reilly and Fox News, and they won. The groups knew that his firing wouldn’t be an easy feat to achieve, also due to some advertisers being difficult to shake. But once they got rolling, the momentum was unstoppable.

The groups also know that his firing isn’t the end. It is only a small victory in the larger fight against Fox News’s institutionalized misogyny and racism. Moreover, the groups know the fight against sexual harassment and racism in any institution isn’t over, but what is known is that the tools to take it on have now been tested successfully.

Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins

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Tori Falcon

Tori Falcon

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