On Tuesday, December 4th, Puerto Rico’s infamous gossip puppeteer “La Comay” went on the air on her usual time-slot, and when she proceeded to talk about the recently slain (brutally) José Enrique, she alluded to whether or not his alleged bisexual lifestyle was somehow responsible for his brutal murder. Without missing a beat, Puerto Rican Carlos Rivera created a Facebook page called “Boicot La Comay”. Within a day, over 30,000 people joined the group and began calling on advertisers to withdraw their ads from the show, with tremendous success so far. Carlos was kind enough to answer a few questions for us at Politic365.
Your group, “Boicot La Comay” has grown exponentially immediately after you created it. Did you expect this response?
No, and in fact, we didn’t expect to lead such a movement – rather have a few friends join and continue a protracted movement. The explosive growth, however, was apparent the first day – more than 33,000 likes in 24 hours.
What influenced, positively or negatively, your expectations when you created the group?
The fact that people were using social media in disjointed and atomized ways – I have been on the internet for 20 years now, so I know the value of intentional communities versus individual opinion.
There had been many efforts before – we were successful due to a perfect storm, but most importantly, because we knew the zeitgeist was in our favor.
What made this incident with “La Comay” different from previous incidents which have been criticized by some, such as Pedro Julio Serrano?
I do not think it was any different. What happens is that when Pedro Julio Serrano went on the show and was apologized to, there was a sense that finally Kobbo Santarrosa knew his time was up.
It was a directly broken promise.
Have you organized a boycott before?
No, but I have been an activist before – on immigrant rights, LGBT/QUILTBAG rights, labor justice, and was a student activist in Puerto Rico during the General Strike.
How did you become aware of the first company who pulled its advertising?
Were you contacted directly by any of the targeted companies?
Only a few. The most direct communication was a letter by MAPFRE, the insurance company, which I uphold now as an example to other companies.
Some tried to contact us privately to request we declare them out of the boycott without making a public declaration. We told them that was not enough. Some of them remain on our list for this reason.
Have you considered securing a pledge from them to forgo the show, for good?
We feel their public commitment in the social media or via press release is enough. We are ready to ensure their customers know they are not keeping their word if it came to that.
Is the boycott aimed at all gossip shows?
No – although members as a matter of routine do discuss next steps. The boycott is narrow in scope. We are of course not wasting this reach once we win, but what our next steps are will have to be decided by the members.
What makes La Comay different from other shows, such as “Dando Candela” or FM morning radio shows that routinely make lewd comments?
It is a matter of opinion, and I will reserve mine.
One point of difference between SuperXclusivo and them is precisely the reach and the rating, as well as the longevity.
I will say that any similarities are due to a conventional wisdom that SuperXclusivo’s success is predicated upon is bad parts, and thus I do hope that when it gets cancelled – even at a ratings peak – it will have an effect on the rest of the shows that try to imitate them. After all, advertisers clearly have shown that ratings is not their only criteria.
So the problem isn’t that it’s a gossip show or vulgarity?
Well, for some of our members it is – and this is a valid view which we welcome as part of being a broad movement. There are also other members who do not agree with this.
As a whole movement, our point is hate speech – racism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. We think it is part of the things that need to change so we can begin to resolve our issues, which are many.
Yet La Comay isn’t the only show who been condemned for allegedly hateful or homophobic comments, television personality Luis Vigoreux was recently criticized for making fun of a gay boxer. Would your group consider expanding the scope of its boycott?
As I said, that will be decided by the membership. But right now our efforts and our reason to exist is to cancel SuperXclusivo. Nothing more, nothing less.
Some claim you are guilty of censorship, how do you respond to that?
We are not the State nor WAPA-TV. Thus, we cannot censor. We can however use our power as consumers to request our money be spent elsewhere.
When you chose a brand of toothpaste over another brand, you are not censoring the other brand, you are choosing.
Those who claim we are censoring, interestingly enough do engage in censorship – they have tried to get our group banned, they have provided no equal time to us in WAPA-TV news, they have tried to pressure other media not to cover us – not entirely unsuccessfully, I might add.
Should La Comay be free to say whatever distasteful comment she (he) wants in a free society?
Kobbo Santarrosa can say what he wants – but he has no right to profit from hate. It is that simple – we have the right to say things, but not the right to make ourselves rich on account of other’s suffering.
Free speech includes the right to tell someone they are wrong, and to spend one’s money elsewhere. He exercises this right, and we exercise this right – no one is against it.
Where do you draw the line then?
There is no line – the very question betrays a misunderstanding of what free speech is.