Free Speech, The Free Market And The Head-On Crash

June 5, 2010

Free speech, is the cornerstone of a free society, it has been said. The free market, meanwhile, is that which allows any consumer or entrepreneur to either spend or make some dough based on the capitalist principle. These two bedfellows sometimes can't sleep in the same bed when they both accuse each other of nasty goings-on that offends both parties.

So what does this have to do with car advertising, a subject near and dear to my heart? Well, I was recently alerted to a good article on ABCnews by a like-minded friend about New York Toyota dealers pulling ads from area ABC stations because the dealers didn't like the way the Toyota products were being bashed in the press. In short, the local news had been taking many a pot-shot at Toyota vehicles since the Toyota runaway firestorm kicked into high gear last year. And the folks who spend lots of ad dollars, the area Toyota dealers weren't none too happy about their products, and thusly their sales and profits, taking a direct hit from all the negative publicity.

So here we have the purveyors of free speech trying to cover a hot topic and possibly juice their ratings by focusing a lot of time and journalistic effort on exposing Toyota's vehicle problems, which genuinely seemed to have existed. Now, let's be fair, the press eats this stuff up and unbiased journalism is not what the major networks really thrive at. But it's their editorial choice to cover this.

And on the side of the free-marketeers we have dealers who say "I am taking my ad dollars elsewhere, because you make us look bad." It's truly the free market. Move your advertising money to where you think it will do best for you. These guys want to sell cars and make a living.

Are the dealers being childish and vindictive because they can't take the heat? Or are they just voting with their dollars since ABC news coverage went to great lengths to make Toyota look bad (or report the facts, depending on your point of view)? Should businesses be allowed to hold news outlets hostage if they don't like the coverage of their enterprise? Is that fair? 

As we have seen, the free market often wins out over free speech, but I think this will be a battle for all eternity. You can read the full article by clicking here.

Let the arguments begin!

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