Special Report

Mark Stevens: A Profile in Courage

Threatened for sticking with Rush, defiant advertiser declares "Battle for America."

By 4.5.12

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In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of his conscience -- the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men -- each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient -- they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.
-- John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage

Mark Stevens was 17 years old when his father died.

A self-described "lower middle class" rebellious kid from Queens, when Mark went about the task of ordering his father's affairs, he discovered his father's bank account -- containing $84. He was told that his best option was "to go on welfare."

Marks Stevens had another idea. Said Stevens in an interview with The American Spectator: "I knew then at 17 I wasn't going on welfare." If Mark was going to achieve anything in life, he would have to be responsible for making that happen.

He made it happen.

Today the suddenly fatherless 17-year-old with an $84 dollar inheritance is a highly successful businessman and bestselling author of 25 business books, the very embodiment of the American Dream. His marketing firm, MSCO, is "a business-driven, entrepreneurial-minded marketing and business advisory firm relentlessly driven to accelerate the growth of our clients." The company, located in Rye Brook, New York, has 40 employees, and -- since health care is very much in the news -- yes, Stevens pays for their health insurance.

Life was good for Mark Stevens. Minding his own business, literally and figuratively, he got up every day and went about the business of business. Part of any business, of course, is advertising. And as a routine part of his business, Mark Stevens spends a considerable dime advertising MSCO in the expensive New York media. MSCO ads have appeared on CBS, Bloomberg, ABC, WINS radio in New York and even, where doable in the format, on NPR.

Then one day last month, out of the seeming blue, Stevens arrived at work to learn the startling news that his office was "getting actual phone calls" from people using (he eventually realized) phony names and leaving phony numbers. What were the callers saying? They called his female executive assistant a "slut." Another employee, also a woman -- a lawyer and like Stevens an up-by-her-bootstraps professional -- was taking calls from hostile strangers telling her she was "anti-woman."

What was this?

It didn't take long for Stevens to find out.

One of the places MSCO was advertising was on The Rush Limbaugh Show. Mark advertised MSCO there for one reason -- and that reason had nothing to do with politics. Simply put, Rush has a huge audience, an audience of precisely the kind of potential customers MSCO wants to reach.

Rush, Mark was aware, had generated controversy with a joking description of the leftist Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke as a "slut" -- following a Limbaugh tradition of illustrating the absurd by being absurd. Mark thought it a mistake and he disagreed. In fact, Rush himself was shortly out there saying that his "choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices."

No matter.

MSCO was now being targeted because it was an advertiser on The Rush Limbaugh Show. The calls and now an increasing volume of hostile e-mail were pouring into MSCO.

Mark Stevens is a smart guy -- and he quickly realized he was being targeted by somebody using a highly skilled, highly organized campaign that was deliberately designed to make the target feel besieged. When in fact marketing expert Stevens understood he was on the receiving end of a campaign involving a tiny handful of people extremely skilled in making others think dozens were tens of thousands.

Mark was right.

What he did not know, could not know at the time, was that this was a campaign being directed by the far-left Media Matters. As detailed here in "The Plot to Get Rush," Rush's advertisers -- and Mark was decidedly not alone -- were being targeted by a campaign that had been set up years ago waiting -- just waiting -- for Rush Limbaugh to make some sort of "mistake" that would then be leveraged to try and remove the conservative champion from the airwaves altogether.

Rush's Fluke mistake provided that moment.

Crowed Angelo Carusone, the Media Matters "Director for Online Strategy," of what swung into action after the Limbaugh Wednesday broadcast:

"I started talking to advertisers on Thursday, and got a lot of feedback on Friday, and I knew a lot of movement was taking place. This was important to think about from a business perspective."

A lot of movement was taking place.

Indeed.

The leftist MoveOn.org enlisted, sending around a missive saying flatly that they were going "station by station" where "outraged listeners are organizing to get Rush off the air…"

AT MSCO, Mark Steven's employees were being assailed as sluts. Threatening e-mails arrived from senders calling themselves a "Citizen of the Internet" or "Policeman of the Internet."

Mark was astounded at first. Then he got mad. He was not going to be bullied --period. 

So Mark Stevens stood up. Which in 21st century America means he accepted an invitation to appear on Stuart Varney's Fox Business show, Varney and Company.

Sitting calmly in the television lights he let it rip. This wasn't a boycott, he said, this was "an organized terrorist attack." Part of "the war on business." He recounted tales of being told he and his company were "under surveillance." With "every move" being watched. There had been threats of physical violence. The attacks -- coming from all over the country to a company that advertised in the New York media -- were "insidious" and, tellingly, they were "all the damn same." "You hate women," they said to the man whose female employees out-numbered males. He kept going: "I'm saying here publicly, if you're a liberal and don't want to do business with my company -- MSCO -- please don't. Don't ."

Then he laid down his response. Mark Stevens was not simply going to continue advertising on The Rush Limbaugh Show. No not after this. No, now Mark Stevens was going to "...double down…triple down."

And the dam burst.

Now, the public had heard. Furious Americans got it. The lid blew off a political pressure cooker, and Mark Stevens was inundated with support from Americans around the country. Invited to discuss the reaction with Megyn Kelly on Fox's America Live, Mark sat down to update.

He had received tens of thousands of e-mails. The bullies -- the terrorists --had ramped up. Now they were threatening to send busloads of people to his house, threatening that his personal safety was in danger. "This is crazy," he said to Kelly. Does this cause you concern, she asked? Replied Mark: "Absolutely no concern. Let them come. Let them come!"

"Something is going on here that has to be, you know, addressed. Because the country is at risk," he added.

Asked about advertisers who had pulled their ads, he said that "I think the failing to take a stand in defense of America" is a mistake. He had no sense he was going to be swept up in the middle of this firestorm, but now that he was, he said: "Bring on the buses!" He was going to advertise more heavily, and he was going to stand his ground to try and be a bulwark against the bullies.

By the time I spoke with Mark Stevens this week he was not only still determined to fight back -- a fight he now saw as a fight for that cherished American value of free speech -- he had spent the last several days reflecting on what he was seeing in America. He was not happy.

Mark told me that he was "not a Pollyanna or naïve." But what really bothered him was that in the flood of tens of thousands of e-mails he had received, overwhelming in support of him, what stood out "was the concern people had for my well-being." He drafted a response to answer his fellow citizens who had written him with such passion. He sent it to me, and it deserves an audience, so it is reprinted here in full:

Subject line: The Battle for America

Ever since I appeared on the Stuart Varney show in response to the "terrorism" -- Rush Limbaugh advertising boycott -- directed at me and my company, my team and my clients, it has set off a chain reaction of emails being sent to me from citizens across the country:

* Seals have volunteered to protect our offices.

* Retired police officers are asking if they can help in anyway.

* Citizens want to play a role, join the stand and contribute to the cause. They are thanking me for having the courage to stand up for free speech and for the American Dream.

Thousands upon thousands are writing, calling --frightened that their nation is slipping away.

Sad, angry, suffocated, they no longer feel as if they live in a democracy.

They are tired of the talking heads. Of the politically correct. Of the minority rule. Of the loss of the meaning of the Constitution. Of the weakening of our armed forces. Of the war on business. Of the ass-kissing of America haters.

They are the real Americans. They work. They send their children to war. They pay taxes. They want nothing for free. They are tired of being ignored.

My message helped them see that "they" have the real power. Peaceful but over whelming power. They will use it. We will do so together. We will prevail. 

The battle for American values is beginning and we will win.

Mark Stevens
CEO
MSCO | The Art and Science of Growing Businesses 

www.MSCO.com
www.YourMarketingSucks.com
www.twitter.com/mark_msco
www.linkedin.com/in/markstevensmsco

All his life Mark said he had been taught that a "healthy debate " was "how you learned." But he had come to wonder: "Why debate with these people?" he asked rhetorically, "these people" meaning those who had threatened his employees and himself. He compared the task to a line he had once heard -- "turning the tide back with a hammer." The people who had set their sights on intimidating him were "a small number of people" -- of that he was certain -- but they were intent on "throwing jello."

All those thousands of e-mails he had received in the days after going on the Varney and Kelly shows were overwhelmingly positive in his support. Not one of his clients, he said -- not one -- had objected to his speaking out.

Talking over the phone, Mark was still overwhelmed at the response, and the nature of it. "In the USA," he mused, here were "ordinary people concerned about my being hurt physically" for the simple act of advertising on Rush Limbaugh's show. It was almost, he said, as if they feared he were a target of a "Mafia protection" racket. Either he did what his critics demanded -- or else.

"More than that," he added, was the sense that all of his supporters in this outpouring were frightened that he "has violated the rules of a totalitarian society." Some e-mails came from professionals, accompanied by photos of badges or official ID with police forces as far away as Los Angeles. Mark understood. He too had developed this uneasy feeling that standing up in today's America was "like being an outspoken critic of the government under a totalitarian regime." He paused. "We don't have it yet," he mused, "but it's too much like that."

I thanked him for his time. And wondered.

Only this week the President of the United States -- the man who led the charge for mandated health care -- had attacked the Supreme Court of the United States, a co-equal branch of government, as nothing more than an "unelected group of people." An attack many saw as an attempt to intimidate the Justices themselves.

The Attorney General of the United States had earlier this year dismissed the idea of prosecuting Black Panthers armed with nightsticks at a Philadelphia polling place as an attack on "my people."

This came not long after former Department of Justice lawyer J. Christian Adams came out with a book called Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department in which Adams details the transformation of DOJ from the citadel of American justice into "a base used by leftwing radicals to impose a fringe agenda on the American people."

These being but a handful of the latest incidents in an ongoing surge of political correctness that, as we have previously noted, has focused on attacking the free speech rights of radio or television personalities and commentators Don Imus, Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, Pat Buchanan and now Rush Limbaugh. With Sean Hannity and former Alaska Governor and Fox commentator Sarah Palin next in line.

And guess where the startling story of Mark Stevens has not appeared? You got it. He hasn't heard boo from the Mainstream Media. Meanwhile, over there at NBC News, the network has finally been forced to own up to the fact that it doctored a 911 call from the Trayvon Martin killing suspect George Zimmerman, an "edit" that cast Latino Zimmerman as a racist when in fact his identification of Martin as black was in response to a specific question from the 911 operator.

Taken together, is it any wonder Mark Stevens picks up the urgent sense from his admirers that America is slowly descending into totalitarian depths.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) makes a point of tracking free-speech issues on college campuses. What they have found is not a pretty picture, as detailed in this interview with Fire's senior vice president Robert Shibley when the group released a report citing the top 12 colleges or "Censor-U" institutions in the country. From Ivy League institutions (Harvard and Yale) to places like the University of Cincinnati, Syracuse, and Michigan State, FIRE illustrates in chapter and verse just where and how the American Left schools its budding followers on just how to go about shutting down the First Amendment.

Is it any wonder that the Georgetown Law student who launched the Rush episode -- Sandra Fluke -- was herself found to be front and center as a Cornell undergrad in shutting down the free speech rights of a pro-life group scheduled to speak on her campus? As reported in this space in "Rally for Rush," Breitbart's Charles Johnson had opened a Big Government story on Fluke by reporting:

As a student at Cornell and treasurer of a pro-choice organization at the school, Sandra Fluke, helped shut down a pro-life speech on Cornell's campus by counter protesting. She argued that a pro-life organization at Cornell was about "manipulating [students'] emotions" with misleading statistics about abortion. But when it is her turn to speak on Capitol Hill, the third-year Georgetown Law Student demands she gets her say in a hearing that has nothing to do with birth control.

Or, more simply put, free speech for me -- but not for thee.

As we have noted here repeatedly, from the French Revolution and its guillotines, to the Russian Revolution and the lists of "enemies of the state" on down through the years to the Nazi's forcing Jews to wear yellow stars (with still worse to come) and Mao's Red Guard forcing dissident's to play "Chinese Roulette" (where a group of dissidents are gathered together but only a random few shot -- leaving the survivors with a "bullet of fear" imbedded forever in their mind, guaranteeing their terrified future cooperation) -- fear and intolerance are at the very heart of the Left.

A relative handful of American leftist political terrorists just tried to play the 21st century American version of Chinese Roulette with Mark Stevens. They tried to intimidate him into withdrawing his advertising from The Rush Limbaugh Show.

They not only failed, they made a mistake. Just yesterday he was back on Stuart Varney's show after his conversation with The American Spectator

Mark Stevens isn't going to sit quietly after this. In his own words?

"The battle for American values is beginning and we will win."

There was another quote that came to mind after to talking to Mark. A famous line from Andrew Jackson: "One man with courage makes a majority."

Mark Stevens says he doesn't think he's a hero.

His fans do not agree.


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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.