Thursday, May 10, 2007

VCAST Your Vote for Verizon Stupidity

A lot of people think that Verizon Communications represents the epitome of cool these days, with its FiOS fiber-to-the-home service and its VCAST program for broadcasting and song downloads to mobile phones. Verizon's ads love to remind you how ultra-chic they are, sponsoring all that is trendy in music and culture.
But oops, they've gone and pulled money from the Gwen Stefani tour! Now, I could care less about rich pop icons like Stefani and her tour opener Akon, and whether or not Verizon sponsors them. It's also inaccurate to call the yanking of the sponsorship "censorship," since Verizon, like a private citizen, can boycott whatever or whomever it wants.
However, the company may have jumped the gun. It wanted to express its distaste for Akon, who was captured in a video in Trinidad simulating a sex act with an underage preacher's daughter. But there's a lot of evidence that Akon was caught unawares by many factors here. And let's face it, Akon is a lot more respectable than two-thirds of the R&B and hip-hop acts out there these days.
Besides, why is Stefani paying for Akon's so-called sins? Guilt by association was wrong in the McCarthyist era and wrong now. The pushback Verizon is getting from customers, as cited in the May 10 New York Times article, indicates the company has lost its cool cachet. When CBS fired Don Imus, enough people were sick of him that protest was muted. When Verizon dropped Stefani and Akon, the case was tenuous enough to probably cause Verizon more damage than it anticipated.

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