“This is the same group of people who were marching [during the Women’s March], the same group of people who demanded their senators oppose [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions, the same group of people who have resisted Trump’s agenda when it’s clear that it’s endangering women,” said Thomas. “They are part of a really loud, effective campaign against leaders in politics and media who are undermining women.”
“This presidency has given a sense that for individuals—it’s up to them to act,” said Carusone.
Advertisers, the lynchpin to O’Reilly’s demise, understood this. I spoke with Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color of Change, one of the groups that orchestrated the successful behind-the-scenes effort to pressure advertisers to abandon The O’Reilly Factor—that weeks-long cascade of dollar departures undoubtedly added certain urgency to the argument for the host’s dismissal.
Corporations, Robinson explained, usually have the option of removing their ads in the immediate and waiting to see “what the climate is going to be like,” with the option of returning to a program once the proverbial smoke has cleared.
But this time, Robinson said, “We wanted to make clear that we weren’t going away, that this wasn’t just a vacation they could take from The O’Reilly Factor.”
Activists made their intentions explicit, in part, he said, through the use of social media. “Everyday people can now bypass filters that corporations have, to speak directly to the brands,” he said. “For many of [the corporations], it became too hard to ignore the people who were engaged. People are willing to stand up and fight back and use their voices.”
O’Reilly, long a Trump ally (and vice versa: the president was one of the very few in recent days to publicly offer a defense of the controversial host), is unlikely to be the last casualty of the fractious divide that has emerged in the wake of a resurgent white populism.
An energized, activist community—possessed of renewed clarity as it concerns its values and goals—is not solely the byproduct of last year’s American presidential election: 2016 had consequences elsewhere, too. And in places that may equally threaten the fortunes of the Murdoch empire. At present, the clan is in the process of trying to complete a takeover of Sky News in the UK, an estimated $13.9 billion deal that dwarves whatever dollars O’Reilly was hauling into the family coffers.
British regulators are currently trying to determine whether 21st Century Fox passes what’s known as a “fit and proper” test to takeover the U.K. television station (O’Reilly’s fiasco was a potential complication in this test, and it remains to be seen how his dismissal will be interpreted by the Brits).
As with the Fox battle here in the U.S., many of the same forces may be at work to scuttle certain Murdochian goals: Grassroots groups, including Avaaz, have been petitioning members of Parliament to reject the deal, pulling many of the same levers that were used here, including public petitions (there are 70,000 signatures and counting) and direct email engagement with the powers-that-be. Their motivation, moreover, is not unlike the that of the activists the U.S.: In the wake of 2016’s Brexit vote, England is divided as to what kind of country it is, and what kind of country it wants to be.