On Monday, the editor of left-leaning political satire site Wonkette wrote a piece titled "Greatest Living American: A Children’s Treasury of Trig Crap On His Birthday." The piece lampooned what's known as the "cult of Trig," the rabid fans of Sarah Palin's Down Syndrome youngest child, and accused Palin of using her now three-year-old son as a prop.
Needless to say, many readers were offended by Jack Stuef's post and an online movement started to defund Wonkette by targeting its advertisers. The problem is that Wonkette has a lot of contextual ads, creating a headache for brands targeted in the boycott.
Under the Twitter tag #wonkette and #TrigsCrew, tweet after tweet has been demanding that brands including AT&T, FedEx, Coca-Coca, REI, HP and others pull their Wonkette advertising.
The movement was initially sparked by the right-wing Daily Caller and Big Government media writer Derek Hunter. Hunter has even been tweeting some brands' phone numbers.
And the movement has had some success. Conservative blogger Rick Moore tweeted that Coldwell Banker is pulling its ads. Papa John's and Huggies also announced that their ads would be removed. Huggies tweeted ""All -- We do not support the @Wonkette story & have taken action 2 pull r ads, effective immediately. TY 4 bringing this issue to r att'n!" Papa John's also tweeted its intentions.
But much of Wonkette's ads are banner ads served by a contextual ad network, meaning that any one of a huge number of brands could show up on the site, depending on the visitor. So when an activist tweets a demand that calls on FedEx to remove its ad with a link to the piece, most who click on the link will never see the FedEx ad in question. (Hence Hyatt's confused response to Moore via Twitter.)
Will the relentless campaigners keep refreshing Wonkette until every brand removes its ads from the ad network serving Wonkette?
For Wonkette's part, it has retaliated against Papa John's, tweeting to its fans "Boycott Papa Johns, spread the word! (Your waistline, heart and tastebuds will thank you.)"
For what it's worth, Stuef's piece now features an updated "apology," showing that Wonkette is acknowledging poor judgement in using the word "retarded" (a memo that Lady Gaga didn't receive either), while at the same time refusing to back down from the core criticism of the piece:
"UPDATE: I regret this post and using the word “retarded” in a reference to Sarah Palin’s child. It’s not nice, and is not necessary, but I take responsibility for writing it. For those who came and are offended by this post: I’m sorry, of course. But I stand by my criticism of Sarah Palin using her child as a political prop."
With the increasingly polarized and uncivil nature of political discourse, Wonkette will certainly retain a large portion of its audience. Indeed, its defenders are already pointing to incidents such as Rush Limbaugh's mocking of Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's disease, and the lack of advertiser boycott that followed.
Formerly under the Gawker Media umbrella, Wonkette is now a relatively small site and the loss of top-shelf advertisers will certainly hurt and make the editors reconsider future satire bits involving Palin's children.