Do As Russell Simmons Does, Not As He Says

iStock_000017551362XSmallRussell Simmons is mad for no reason.

Despite being a self-made businessman worth hundreds of millions of dollars, he seems oblivious as to how the free market works — even as he is making it work for himself and his cause.

Now that Occupy Wall Street — his last pet project — is in on the wane and unpopular, Simmons has taken up the cause of the TLC program “All-American Muslim.”  He’s mad that the Lowe’s hardware store chain stopped buying commercials on the show after the Florida Family Association declared the show to be “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values” and asked its supporters to convey their unhappiness about the program to its advertisers.

Lowe’s management issued a statement that the show had become “a lightning rod.”  They stopped advertising on something that was becoming controversial.  That’s business.

Simmons reportedly suggested calling for a boycott of Lowe’s, but apparently hasn’t yet chosen to complain about a boycott by calling for a boycott.  But he says that he has bought all of the remaining commercial spots for next week’s show.

Huzzah!  Problem solved.  Lowe’s is no longer a factor.  Crisis averted.  Guess next week we will see advertisements for the Def Poetry DVDs and Phat Farm aftershave throughout “All-American Muslim.”  Thank you, Russell Simmons.

But where was Russell Simmons a few months ago when advertisers fled en masse from NBC’s “The Playboy Club”?  A valid argument can be made that the show was just plain bad (cancelled after three airings with no plans to air the remaining completed shows), but the Parents Television Council also protested the content of the show and seven first-time advertisers didn’t come back after the first episode.

What about when the Van Jones-founded Color of Change group went after Glenn Beck’s show on the Fox News Channel?  I don’t recall any Phat Farm ads during Beck’s program.

Turning things around a bit, was Russell Simmons outraged when groups tried to get CBS and the NFL to decline Focus on the Family’s pro-life ad featuring then-college football player Tim Tebow during Super Bowl XLIV?  [Tebow, by the way, may end up playing a starring role in Super Bowl XLVI.]

Russell Simmons is entitled to his opinions, just like the supportrers of the Florida Family Association are entitled to theirs.  When Lowe’s stepped back, Simmons stepped in.  That’s how the market works.

The protests of the Parents Television Council may have doomed “The Playboy Club,” but advertisers also naturally don’t like to peddle their wares on a major network show that has a precipitously declining viewership.

Simmons, however, appears to think Lowe’s has a moral duty to support “All-American Muslim.”  That is not the nature of the market.  There is no such requirement — legally or ethically.  And don’t liberals already complain about big business selling people things they don’t need?  Is Simmons really mad because Lowe’s refuses to subsidize the program’s message — something Simmons is at least sympathetic to?

Then again, Simmons muddled thinking is of an individual — albeit a rich one with a following — and not of someone or something in any position to compel Lowe’s or anyone else to support “All-American Muslim” or any other program.

California State Senator Ted Lieu (D), who seems to feel there is a legal recourse, is in such a position.  He declared he was thinking of legislation to force the North Carolina-based chain to advertise on a Maryland-based cable network about Michigan-based Muslims.  As unlikely as this bill is to pass or survive a legal challenge, it still is unsettling to see how far some think they can go in manipulating power to get their way.

In the meantime, follow Russell Simmon’s example.  Don’t follow his politics, just his example.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.