The depraved soul of Comcast, and the actions of heroic girls

May 20, 2011 | By | 6 Replies More

If you haven’t heard enough about Comcast to disgust you yet, check out the stunt Comcast pulled regarding a non-profit summer film camp for girls. Comcast displayed raw vindictiveness when one of the girls showed disrespect by criticizing FCC Commissioner Meredith Baker Attwell for taking a high-paying job lobbying for Comcast only four months after approving the Comcast-NBC merger.

The details of the story are shocking, and these girls have become my heroes. Here’s the account from a letter I received from Free Press today:

When Seattle’s Reel Grrls – an award-winning program that teaches teenage girls to make their own media – criticized Comcast on Twitter for its outrageous hiring of FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker, Comcast came after them. A Comcast VP immediately fired off an email saying the company was cutting off $18,000 in funding it had pledged for a summer camp teaching filmmaking, editing and screenwriting. Without those funds, the Reel Grrls camp won’t happen. We need to stand up to Comcast’s censors – and show these young media justice activists we’ve got their backs. Can you give $25 to Reel Grrls to keep their summer camp going without Comcast’s cash? Reel Grrls didn’t back down or delete their tweet. They didn’t let Comcast silence them. Instead, they called their allies and alerted the media. And once the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Associated Press got hold of the story, Comcast suddenly changed its tune. It claimed the threats were “unauthorized” and said it wouldn’t yank the funds. But Reel Grrls are sticking to their principles. They’re telling Comcast to keep its money if it’s going to try to censor what they say.

Here’s yet another account of this story that includes the Tweet that started the troubles. After reading these accounts tonight, I was so moved that sent the girls $100 to help them carry on with their education. If you’re interested in helping out, click here.

This story illustrates the vast power the big telecoms have and the fact that they are all-too-willing to abuse that power. This is an illustration of what the telecoms have in mind for all of us with regard to net neutrality.


Category: Journalism, Media

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (6)

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  1. Erika Price says:

    The boldness and integrity of these girls is very inspiring. It's great that they brought this incident to the fore; even greater that they are sticking to their guns.

    I hope Comcast's petty, over-reactive response to the girls is a demonstration of fear that they are losing the Net Neutrality battle. But more likely it reflects their overall desire to control and monopolize their market- including the dialogue about it. Sad.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Erika: I suspect that for the telecoms "it's all about money." They aren't attempting to do anything but make lots of money and anything that gets in their way has to be knocked out of the way. The girls looked like little bugs and Comcast simply swatted them away. But then, thank goodness, some bigger media outlets ran the story, causing Comcast to sustain some pain.

      This story also illustrate the critical point that if only the media were aggressive and high-minded, they would bring so very many crappy things to light, and this identification of problems is the first step toward solving them.

      To come full circle, net neutrality is something that keeps the telecoms from making even bigger profits, so it must be savaged. And having obscene number of lobbyists is a way to make more money, so they simply must hire them. Is this immoral? I used to think that this thoughtless relentlessness should have its own category: amorality. I'm less convinced anymore. Now I think of amorality as merely a special form of immorality. Hence Hannah Arendt's term: the "banality of evil." A failure to think; I would add a "failure to empathize."

      The corporate mentality quickly becomes immoral unless carefully regulated, because all it is, at bottom, is the craving for money even at the expense of lives and even at the expense of bona fide democracy.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's some good news I learned when I received an email from Reel Grrls:

    Thank you so much for taking a stand with us in defense of free speech. Never in the history of Reel Grrls have we felt so strongly supported by people all across the country. In the last week we received over $22,000 in donations from more than 600 people. Because of you, we can offer our 2011 summer program – we can’t thank you enough!

    The Reel Grrls teens put together a video expressing their thanks in their own words. We wanted to share it with you.

    In light of the events with Comcast last week, we've decided to change the focus of our summer apprenticeship program. Participants will now produce short films exploring media reform and media justice issues. We are also grateful to our friends at Free Press and the Center for Media Justice for bringing attention to our story, and we encourage you to join their networks.

    In the coming weeks, we will be in touch with personal acknowledgment of your donation. As always, your gift to Reel Grrls is tax deductible.

    We look forward to sharing our summer projects with you.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!


    Everyone at Reel Grrls

  3. Tim Hogan says:

    Lo, behold the power of the neutral net!

  4. Margaret Robbins says:

    It’s worse being an employee. At the Lynnwood, WA call center a supervisor sent an email requesting off the clock work. We are winning a class action lawsuit against them. Our lawyers are experienced and successful at winning this kind of case and we have the evidence. Comcast thinks that hiring a Perkins Coie lawyer will intimidate us. It just proves that they know they are going down and have a lot of money to waste.

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