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Update:

Verizon has apparently dropped 1938media’s content from its Vcast service and the distribution deal is off. Some people are happy with the decision while others think it is hypocritical. What do I think? Obviously, Verizon is a private company that gets to do whatever it wants, and this kind of controversy isn’t good for business. But those who argue that this isn’t a free speech issue are making a mistake, I think. It’s easy to stand up and defend speech when we agree with it — harder to do so, but just as important, when we don’t.

Original post:

A video that controversial video-blogger Loren Feldman of 1938media did almost a year ago has come back to haunt him, it seems. Several civil-rights groups and media watchdogs are protesting a decision by telecom giant Verizon to add 1938media’s video clips to its mobile Vcast service, saying Loren’s “TechNigga” clip is demeaning to black people. Project Islamic Hope, for example, has issued a statement demanding that Verizon drop its distribution arrangement with 1938media, which was just announced about a week ago, and other groups including the National Action Network and LA Humanity Foundation are also apparently calling for people to email Verizon and protest.

The video that has Islamic Hope and other groups so upset is one called “TechNigga,” which Loren put together last August. After wondering aloud why there are no black tech bloggers, Loren reappears with a skullcap and some gaudy jewelry, and claims to be the host of a show called TechNigga. He then swigs from a bottle of booze, does a lot of tongue-kissing and face-licking with his girlfriend Michelle Oshen, and then introduces a new Web app called “Ho-Trackr,” which is a mashup with Google Maps that allows prospective johns to locate prostitutes. In a statement, Islamic Hope says that the video “sends a horrible message that Verizon seeks to partner with racists.”

The TechNigga routine (which was actually a series of videos) apparently led to Loren’s distribution deal with Podtech being dissolved, and also caused problems with The Huffington Post — which 1938media was also working with — after founder Arianna Huffington was quoted as saying she was offended by the clip. Loren also said recently that a proposed deal to make videos and write columns for CNET was on hiatus, although it wasn’t clear exactly why. Was the company concerned about possible offensive content, given the TechNigga incident and the series of videos taking shots at social-media guru Shel Israel? Possibly.

On some level, I can understand the protests against Loren. Some of his content is in pretty poor taste. That said, however, a lot of it is also pretty funny. Does it cross a line sometimes, or at least come right up to the line and stick its tongue out, or give the line the finger? Yes. Lots of good comedy does. There are plenty of people who don’t think TechNigga was funny, and for the record, I am one of them. I get the point that Loren was trying to make (or at least I think I do), but to me it just didn’t work. Loren’s friend Prince Campbell — who is black, and considers Loren a friend (as I do) — has said much the same thing.

But does that mean his content shouldn’t be allowed on Verizon’s mobile service? No. I think when it comes to comedy and critical commentary of all kinds — satire or otherwise — we have to offer a lot wider latitude than we might otherwise. Freedom of speech shouldn’t be just a flag that we wave from time to time whenever it suits us. It’s an important principle. Loren should be free to make and distribute his content, and others are free not to watch it. Somehow I doubt that a mega-corporation like Verizon is going to see it that way, however.

About the author

Mathew 2431 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

74 Responses to “Protests over Verizon deal with 1938media”
  1. Written like a typical TechHonkey !

  2. Written like a typical TechHonkey !

  3. M-Dog, the more I hear about this guy, the more I like him.

  4. M-Dog, the more I hear about this guy, the more I like him.

  5. I don't really think his videos should be excluded from a deal because he did some really horrible ones earlier.

    However, I thought the technigga videos were not only in bad taste, I didn't think they were even slightly funny, which is why I stopped watching his videos long before he started playing with puppets.

    I guess I'm not much of a genius, because I just don't see a lot of what Loren does as funny, even though others think he's hysterical. Steve Gillmor considers him a comedic genius. I think he's inconsistent, and resorts to the easy slam to make the joke.

    But that's me. I'm not a fan of humor at others' expense unless the 'other' is a willing participant.

    Beyond that, I will not pay the kind of rates the cell companies want to watch video content that they decide is suitable to cross their network. The big companies are getting greedy with these 'extra charges', and I think it will come back to bite them and their content providers in the days to come.

  6. File under: inevitable.

    And if this news ever goes mainstream I think that everyone outside Web 2.0 and the racial grievance industry will be wondering: Who is Loren Feldman and what is Project Islamic Hope?!?!

  7. You know what, you're right — Loren has the right to say whatever the heck he wasn't about whomever he wants. But he also owns the right to accept the consequences of his actions. Some may argue the punishment doesn't fit the crime, but that's the risk you take when you act before you think.

    Karma.

  8. i think it is great that loren has a deal with verizon and that he will reach a wider audience- because then more people can determine for themselves whether or not they consider him funny or not- and if they don't then there can be a greater force that will squash him down to size.
    i personally do not find him funny, nor do i think howard stern is entertaining, but there is a large segment of the population that does – so maybe there is a chance for loren to be appreciated by the same sort of people who like howard, in fact, the technigga video seems like it should be on howard's show, it fit s that whole unenlightened buffoonery perfectly..

  9. Matt, I'm a huge fan of Loren and I hadn't seen the TechNigga video until today. I can see where Loren was trying to go with it, but he really, really, REALLY missed his mark. I also don't by the “social media experiment” bit either, but I digress.

    Does it make him a horrible person? No, I don't think so. An err in judgment perhaps. What the Internet viewing public must understand is that history lives FOREVER on the Internet and just because the content exists and is still viewable by the public doesn't mean that we should judge the content creators each time it surfaces.

    At some time or another, many of us have produced “unfortunate content”. I use the term “content” loosely here. Imagine having half naked drunk cottage pics out there that your “friends” have uploaded, viewable by a prospective employer.

    Maybe the Internet needs a statute of limitations…?

  10. That's exactly right. I care about free speech a lot, but this is anything but a free speech issue. It's not a free speech issue when a sit-com gets canceled because people think it's unfunny or offensive, or because something better comes along. The first amendment applies to the government's actions, not Verizon's. I mean, theoretically I guess, I could make a webcam video tonight in my living room and send it to Verizon, and then blog about the violation of my right to “free speech” when they didn't put it on VCAST. But who would care?

  11. Okay, I'll bite. Where's it written that just because he has a right to say it, Verizon should distribute it?

  12. This guy should have the right to distribute his crap…uh…content wherever he wants. This is America, for God's sake. He can post it any place he pleases. The point is, nobody else has to.

    I don't understand how it would be a big deal if Verizon sends him along his merry way. It's not like they are preventing him from distributing his racist…uh…radical ideas elsewhere.

    They have not pulled his books of the shelves or removed his CD from the record stores. If there is a huge protest against Verizon carrying his content, why would they want it anyway?

    If you're music is crap and there is no demand for it, are they forced to carry it in a record store? Does a movie theater absolutely have to play your bad movie that nobody really wants to see?

  13. […] Ingram asked if that means his content shouldn’t be allowed on Verizon. But does that mean his content […]

  14. Wow. This is a big issue. I think Loren is funny. I even thought TechNigga was funny. But as a veteran of the Lenny Bruce days, I know that this is not fare for large networks. It's a niche product, and I am amazed Verizon would have even considered it. Companies like Verizon MUST go to the least common denominator. Has nothing to do with free speech. Of course Loren can do this, but he should be signing with The Onion.

  15. Issue over.

    “We regularly review and refresh content on our service, V Cast. Clips from 1938 Media were removed from our service this morning.” — Jan Morris, Verizon spokesperson.

    Personally I don't see it as a free speech issue, either. I wouldn't expect that any yahoo can just shoot some video and expect Verizon to carry it.

    So the Cnet deal's in the dumper, Verizon throws him overboard, and the clock's reading 14:59…

  16. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Immature and tasteless behavior might be popular with cocooned techies that climb over themselves to stroke Feldman in hopes of becoming part of the Feldman/Arrington/Calcanis trifecta – but he sacrificed the mass market.

    I wonder how amusing he would have found “Tech Kyka”…not very considering his reaction to Guy Kawasaki for stating he learned to sell from his Jewish friends in the jewelry industry – which is actually a hat tip if you ask me. If a guy told me he learned the best restaurant management techniques from his Greek friends, I'd be fine with that. It's commerce, it's a good thing.

    The good news, according to him, is that he doesn't care what anybody thinks as long as clients supposedly keep paying him to provide consulting work.

    I personally doubt that. The guy thrives on attention and clearly has aspirations of grandeur that won't be fulfilled outside of the comedy circuit. The only place that might accept his brand of whatever he does.

    Yes, I do agree that his content should be accessible from anywhere, at anytime. Just don't expect corporate America to help push distribution for him on their dime.

    Live by the sword, die by the sword.

  17. […] what’s your opinion? Is the video racist? Should Verizon have stood by Feldman? Tell us in the comments. CrunchBase Information 1938 Media Information provided by […]

  18. […] Built up grief over old Verizon deal with 1938Media. […]

  19. I agree with the freedom of speech argument. But, with that freedom, comes a huge responsibility. If people fail in that responsibility, they should face the consequences. Freedom to hold gun doesn't mean freedom to shoot others. Similarly, freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom to insult others. I am disappointed with your line of argument.

  20. Couldn't have happened to a nicer fellow. Loren likes to publicly spread his hate on everyone: sometimes it's mildy funny (ALWAYS at someone else's expense), more often than not it's highly obnoxious.

    One moment he's on Shel Israel like a pitball, Andrew Baron of Rocketboom the next second. What an exhausting waste of time it is to gain a rare chuckle or two.

  21. […] know he does so well. The problem, at least for Loren, was that he was too good at it, and wound up losing distribution deals with the Huffington Post as well as the PodTech […]

  22. You wrote… “Loren should be free to make and distribute his content, and others are free not to watch it. Somehow I doubt that a mega-corporation like Verizon is going to see it that way, however.”

    Verizon exercised their right not to be associated with Loren's idea of free speech. Just like “others are free not to watch it,” Verizon is free not to associate themselves with it and the activists are free to protest what they felt was offensive.

    As far as I can see here, everyone has exercised their rights quite effectively.

  23. Verizon didnt do their homework first.

    Who would want to deal with them after this? Not me.

  24. I read on Loren's blog somewhere something about “Michael Arrington was taking on old media publishing, Jason Calacanis was taking on video and Loran was taking on TV”… well Loran I guess TV won but at least you might get a chance to be an intern at TechCrunch.. I hear McDonalds are hiring as well.

    There is no place for racism in the world… pretending that its comedy is like putting lip stick on a pig.. its still a pig and its still raciest.

    There is no place for racism and there is no place for you. Please go away and do something good and stop existing on demeaning other people.

  25. I doubt Feldman was dropped based on a one day protest by small groups yesterday. I imagine that Verizon is finding that outside of the small sphere of webloggers, Feldman really doesn’t have much of a following. Certainly not enough to justify keeping his material when seeing the racist video he created.

    As for freedom of speech, Feldman still has the same forum the rest of us have. If Verizon does not carry my text, does that mean my freedom of speech has been abrogated? No, and neither has Feldman’s. Frankly, I’m amazed that anyone watches any of his stuff, he really isn’t very good.

    But he has gotten some publicity from this event. So have others. Again.

  26. I doubt Feldman was dropped based on a one day protest by small groups yesterday. I imagine that Verizon is finding that outside of the small sphere of webloggers, Feldman really doesn’t have much of a following. Certainly not enough to justify keeping his material when seeing the racist video he created.

    As for freedom of speech, Feldman still has the same forum the rest of us have. If Verizon does not carry my text, does that mean my freedom of speech has been abrogated? No, and neither has Feldman’s. Frankly, I’m amazed that anyone watches any of his stuff, he really isn’t very good.

    But he has gotten some publicity from this event. So have others. Again.

  27. Please don’t compare what happened with Feldman to Lenny Bruce. There is a difference between losing a corporate contract, and being arrested every time you appear on stage.

  28. Please don’t compare what happened with Feldman to Lenny Bruce. There is a difference between losing a corporate contract, and being arrested every time you appear on stage.

  29. […] him problems today. Matthew Ingram captures the latest fallout from that controversy in his post Protests over Verizon deal with 1938media where he […]

  30. […] Verizon se pravdÄ›podobnÄ› zalekl negativní publicity a případných protestů a s Feldmanem se rychle rozloučil. Podle nÄ›kterých sebral rozum do hrsti (shegeeks), podle jiných je to rozhodnutí Å¡patné a pÅ™edstavitelem fanatismu je tu pÅ™edevším Najee Ali (tomtechsblog či Mathew Ingram). […]

  31. That's right. It's a distribution thing. And Loren isn't being put in jal; he is being denied a “cabaret carfd,” which is access to a spcific venue or platfor,. Shelley, you are right. And as for whether Loren is funny. he's really funny some of the time. But he's not a valuable commenter on society like Bruce was, or George Carlin. They excoriated us all, not just one of us.

  32. Mathew, since you still maintain that this is a freedom of speech issue: White supremecist groups produce lots of videos mocking minorities. If they send them to Verizon for inclusion in the V Cast network, should Verizon feel obligated to make them available? How about neo-nazi groups? NAMBLA?

  33. Loren is getting more press for getting kicked off of verizon than he got for signing up.

    Do you that's an accident?

    Adding 1938 media was a non-event for Verizon. They do lots of content deals with web video. Verizon media relations only got involved when Loren got booted.

  34. “But does that mean his content shouldn’t be allowed on Verizon’s mobile service? “

    The people who found his content unfunny, racist, and inappropriate exercised their free speech rights by letting a corporation know they wouldn't be customers if they disapproved of the content.

    Loren Feldman's supporters are free to exercise their free speech rights as well, to contact Verizon and let them know they do want his content. As opposed to just visiting all the blog comment sections and accusing everyone who disagrees with them as being “politically correct” or “humourless”.

  35. Maybe Don Imus and Kramer can give Loren some advice !

  36. This isn't “freedom of speech,” which is a Constitutional right, but rather “access to a corporate deal,” which has to be earned. It's a business decision by Verizon.

    Someone at Verizon thought that having 1938media on the roster would earn money for them. Now someone at Verizon has concluded it would be a net loss. That's business.

    Loren's videos are freely accessible on his site and on YouTube. He's still free to make more of them.

    Anyone who thinks this is free speech is what Loren would call, “a dope.”

  37. I read Corvida's post and was trying to remember when Loren had been all pissy about a Jewish stereotype. For anyone who is interested in the link:

    http://www.1938media.com/guy-kawasaki-is-an-ass

  38. I don't think it has anything to do with freedom of speech. Its not like they are censoring him. All they are doing is saying they don't want invest in racist content.

  39. Well said. I think that free speech issues are going to start cropping up left and right as two things happen simultaneously:

    a) bazillions of people start, for the first time since towns were small enough that everyone knew and could talk to everyone, really *using* their right to free speech on the internet and on future systems of digital distribution.

    b) companies and services that have scale and built in audiences (and therefore are focal points for free speech) realize how much leeway they have, and consequently how carefully they have to tread, with what goes up on their services.

    At the end of the day, I agree that free speech has to be free speech whether you think it's funny/agree with it/or hate it, but Shey is right in his comment that Verizon isn't obligated to broadcast something they disagree with.

  40. I am not normally a fan Loren Feldman. I just don’t think he is that funny, but in this case I did think he had it going for him. It is Humour/comedy and that have a tendency to push the limits, and I am sure that it where what Loren indented here.

    And as he himself is saying: ” It’s not insulting an ETHNIC group, but a SOCIAL group, in this case: rappers/ganstas.” I am in a complete agreement with him here, and have a hard time understanding where the racism comes in, or is it just the fact that a white man used the ”N-Word” and that where not social accepted? Well if that is the case then we are not talking about racism but just different standards of what people is ”Allowed” by the social norms to do, and as I said before it is the comedians job to push the limited of that social norm.

  41. Free speech over a telecom's private network services? Just because your Mom if great at cutting your hair, does that make it a “free speech” issue that she wasn't allowed on Sheer Genius on Bravo?
    You're just a scumbag offering apologies for some semi-notable Jew racist.

  42. […] fall-out has been dozens and dozens of passionate, well reasoned, and telling posts on both sides of the fence. Some say that Feldman is a genius and others think […]

  43. […] Protests over Verizon deal with 1938media » mathewingram.com/work | “Freedom of speech shouldn’t be just a flag that we wave from time to time whenever it suits us. It’s an important principle. Loren should be free to make and distribute his content, and others are free not to watch it.” (tags: video race free+speech business TCC) […]

  44. who cares what you think?

  45. who cares what you think?

Comments are closed.