10/12/2004 10:27:00 AM|W|P|PJ|W|P|OK, so if you're reasonably hep to the mini-controversies of contemporary American politics, you've probably read about a company called Sinclair Broadcasting, a company that owns a group of TV network affiliates across the country, is preempting regular programming to show, commercial-free, a documentary (mentally insert scare quotes if you need to) that purports to show how John Kerry betrayed his fellow Vietnam veterans by protesting against the war...basically, an hour-long ad arguing the same case as the Swift Boats Veterans For Truth (mentally insert scare quotes if you need to), which has proved to be one of the few arguments that the Bush campaign has put forth that has actually been effective at moving the needle in his direction.
(Let us, before we proceed, feast on the miniature irony of the fact that Sinclair was the same outfit that refused to carry a Nightline broadcast consisting of nothing but the names and photos of soldiers killed in Iraq. "Too political," they said.)
It has been said, by e.g. Matthew Yglesias, that this course of action -- for all intents and purposes a massive in-kind donation to the Bush campaign -- is a bat-shit insane way for a publically-owned corporation to spend its investors' money. On the surface of it, that makes a lot of sense. Public corporations are (very sensibly) obliged by law to act in a way that maximizes the stockholders' return on investment, and it's hard to argue that giving away primo airtime is a sensible way to improve the bottom line.
And yet...one cannot help but wonder if they really aren't doing the best thing for themselves. If you have some sort of idealized Adam Smith notion of a free market where everyone competes on a roughly level playing field and the best goods and services float to the top, giving away free stuff looks pretty dumb. But here on planet Earth, who you know matters at least as much as what you do, and kissing the right butts means never going hungry again. It is, in a way, a frightening thing to contemplate companies irrationally giving away thousands (millions?) of dollars in revenues out of ideological fervor. But I'd like to propose that it's even more disturbing for the long-term health of the country to consider that they're doing so out of financial self-interest.|W|P|109759733206541958|W|P|the problem|W|P|12/19/2004 09:13:00 AM|W|P|sequoit|W|P|"...a democrat. an atheist. a cubs fan. in short, someone who is almost congenitally unable to back the winning team."
I've been these three things since about 1960! It doesn't get any easier.