Maybe you are a business owner incensed over Georgia’s new voting law, but you don’t know how to transform your company into a vehicle for left-wing activism. Fortunately, CBS News is here to help.
On Friday, the news outlet promoted a report via CBS Money Watch reporter Khristopher Brooks with the efficient headline, “3 ways companies can help fight Georgia’s restrictive new voting law.” The article itemized the ways in which corporate America can join the fight, including halting donations to certain undesirables within the Georgia GOP, advocating against these and other similar laws with the imprimatur of a corporate letterhead, and backing the increased federalization of state-level elections.
The article was attacked for blurring the line between reporting on political outcomes and seeking them, and CBS soon edited the offending headline into something more passive. But the shame to which this outlet was subjected must have come as a surprise. CBS was only contributing to a project in which much of the political press has been engaged for weeks.
Despite activists’ claims that the law represents the return of de jure racial segregation—“Jim Crow 2.0,” they insist—there is now no longer any excuse for clinging to this interpretation as though it is beyond the realm of debate.
President Joe Biden’s regular claims to the contrary notwithstanding, we now know the Georgia law does not end “voting hours early so people can’t cast their vote when their shift is over.” It expands them. It does not limit the number of early voting days to an absurd degree—it extends them beyond even that which is allowed by many Northeastern states. It does not seek to limit the number of drop-off boxes—it codifies this pandemic-related innovation into law and provides them to districts based on their populations. It does not deny water to voters at a polling place (self-serve water receptacles can be made available by polling place). It prevents outside groups and volunteers from distributing any gift, including consumables, to voters within a certain distance of a polling place or a line to one, which is not unusual. What’s left are activist claims about the immorality of voter ID requirements and prohibitions against pop-up voting sites—two debatable propositions we’ve been arguing over for years.
The particulars of Georgia’s voting law are so banal upon examination that it’s hard to avoid concluding the speed displayed by the press in its effort to disseminate misinformation (inviting a number of embarrassing corrections in the process) was a tactic. Far from merely chronicling political conflict, media decided to prosecute it.
On Monday morning, the New York Times detailed the “frantic” effort by activists to marshal corporate support for a Georgia boycott. Instrumental to this activism, the Times reported, was the New York Times. The dispatch describes an effort to drum up support for a boycott campaign led by, among others, former American Express executive Ken Chenault. He and others penned an open letter that “appeared as a full-page ad in The New York Times,” and what followed were full-throated condemnations of the state from firms such as Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola.
But what about the entertainment industry? As the Los Angeles Times noted, “Hollywood studios have been largely quiet about Georgia.” Conspicuously so. “Disney, Netflix, Amazon Studios, and NBCUniversal all either declined to comment or did not respond” to inquiries about divesting from the Peach State. But “it may be only a matter of time,” the LAT continued. “If a major player comes out swinging in response to the voting law, expect others to quickly follow.” And while the film industry has sunk costs in Georgia, “Restrictive voting laws threaten to turn” the state into a “pariah,” Deadline Hollywood reported. After all, “democracy assumes a fair and democratic vote,” the entertainment reporting venue observed.” And it’s starting to seem clear that stubborn conservative lawmakers will not be turned back unless studios show solidarity and make the risk clear.”
Activists have enjoyed the most success in the world of sports. In the final week of March, Major League Baseball Players Association director Tony Clark told the Boston Globe that he was “very much aware” of calls to boycott the state. Though he had not spoken about that or the All-Star Game’s location in the state with the league, Clark said that “if there is an opportunity to, we would look forward to having that conversation.”
Somehow, ESPN Sports Center anchor Sage Steele translated that less than definitive statement into the claim that Clarke said he would “quote look forward to discussing moving the All-Star game out of Atlanta” in protest. When asked if he agreed with Clark’s apparent support for a venue change, Steele’s interlocutor, President Joe Biden, said he would. “This is Jim Crow on steroids what they’re doing in Georgia and 40 other states,” Biden said in a self-refuting assertion. “I would strongly support them doing that.”
What was MLB to do? The president of the United States had made his demand of this private institution plain. And within hours, MLB announced its intention to relocate the All-Star game out of the Atlanta metro area. “The move served as a warning to Republicans in other states who are trying to restrict voting,” the New York Times reported, “and is likely to put new pressure on other organizations and corporations to consider pulling business out of Georgia.”
It’s one thing to have your finger on the pulse, but it’s quite another to apply such pressure that it throttles all circulation. In its coverage of Georgia’s voting law, the press not only ran with a misleading narrative that suited one political party’s agenda, it actively and passively advanced that agenda with a style of reporting that is all but indistinguishable from lobbying. The incredible success of this campaign ensures that these tactics will be deployed again.