Delta discovers the perils of PC

Delta Airlines opened Pandora's Box when it caved in to a wave of complaints – likely the result of a sophisticated operation to turn a handful of activists into what looks like tens of thousands of individual emails, tweets, Instagram messages, and Facebook posts – and ended its program of discounts for NRA members.  

Angry Georgia legislators worried about their constituents being dissed passed a bill stripping a $40 million a year in sales tax exemption on aviation fuel, a move that will directly impact the airline's bottom line if the governor signs the bill (update: he signed it) and it becomes law.  Delta operates America's  largest airline hub (over a thousand flights a day) at Atlanta Airport, where it buys oceans of jet fuel.  In theory, it has the ability to funnel some connecting passengers and their flights through its other hubs in Minneapolis, Detroit, and Salt Lake City if the costs at Atlanta rise too much.  In practice, constraints in gate availability and runway capacity limit the short-term ability to escape the tax change by operational adjustments.  

According to USA Today, only 13 passengers have ever used the NRA discount, which reveals how trivial it was.  Airlines, car rental companies, and other firms in competitive industries hand out discount offers like Halloween candy to groups with large memberships.  But the well organized gun-grabbers saw an opportunity to embarrass the NRA by pressuring companies to shun the discount arrangements they have made with it.

In other words, this is entirely a symbolic battle, but one with real-world consequences.  Delta has gotten the message:

"We are in the process of a review to end group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature," [Delta CEO Ed] Bastian said in a note to employees.

My expectation is that Delta and many other companies will now end their affiliate group discount programs for every organization, from AARP to Planned Parenthood to the Girl Scouts.  The only way to avoid taking sides is to have a blanket withdrawal from any involvement with any group that could antagonize a significant number of people.

In the end, I think that that by weaponizing these affiliate discount programs, the Progressives have done themselves harm.  First of all, the nonprofit sector is dominated by Progressives.  O'Sullivan's Law, first formulated almost three decades ago, has proven accurate: "All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing."  So, as affiliate discounts end, it will hit the coffers of progressive-dominated groups that take the heaviest damage.

The second level of damage could be even more of a hit against Progressives, because one of the core techniques for intimidating its enemies – the use of bots and other technology to make a small group of activists appear to be a mass movement – is being exposed.  The left tried this technique against Rush Limbaugh, trying to get his advertisers to dump the show, based on waves of digital communications demanding they do so or else mass boycotts will result.  Facing a mortal threat to his broadcast's survival, and possessed of extraordinary intellect and guts, Rush fought back:

September 23, 2014 – The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee''s newest email spam, asking their recipients to sign a petition calling for sponsors to end their relationship with The Rush Limbaugh Show, is based on the two-year-old Stop Rush political protest as it's [sic] inspiration.  After an investigation, The Rush Limbaugh Show has discovered a far darker story to Stop Rush, and is today releasing the hidden story of the people and motives behind the Stop Rush conspiracy.

The Stop Rush group claims to be made up of ordinary consumers unhappy with Rush Limbaugh's comments.  The group claims to be "grassroots," just concerned consumers who won't shop at businesses that advertise with Rush Limbaugh.  In truth, however, there are no potential customers here, just a small number of hardcore political activists founded by Angelo Carusone, EVP of Media Matters for America.

It's remarkably tiny.  Only 10 Twitter users account for almost 70% of all StopRush tweets to advertisers, amplified by illicit software.  In addition, almost every communication from a StopRush activist originates from outside the State of the advertiser.  Thus, these activists are not and never would have been customers...their only role is to harass small businesses in an attempt to interfere with their operations, as long as they are advertising with Rush.

A small number of politically motivated out of-state [sic] activists are distributing target lists indiscriminately, and annoying small businesses until they give up the advertising deals that help them grow, or risk being unable to conduct business at all.  ["]It's not even's blackmail," according to Brian Glicklich, Rush Limbaugh Show spokesperson.

The rest of the media and corporate America largely ignored this investigative work because they cannot credit Rush for anything.  But now Delta has very publicly learned the expensive lesson that caving in to such campaigns is folly.  Perhaps an understanding of such astroturf campaigns will spread in corporate America, and the left will lose a valuable tool.

If so, the left loses. Again.