Who seals doesn't profit: does boycotting work?

The same day the US Supreme Court ruled there was no constitutional protection for abortion and handed the decision back to each state to legislate on its own, allowing conservatives to create laws to protect the unborn , banks, technology and entertainment companies such as Disney, Netflix, WarnerBros, Airbnb and Meta (formerly Facebook), announced that they will fund travel for employees who want to access abortion services in other states. It is common for the initial reaction to news like this, when companies set aside their goal (offering good products and making a profit) to take political positions, is to suggest the cancellation of subscriptions, the search for conservative alternatives and the need to avoid consumption. of products from woke companies. But to what extent is it possible to boycott all companies that support and disseminate progressive ideologies to overcome corporate militancy, since many of them dominate their sectors in an almost monopolistic manner?

Obviously, there are situations in which the boycott works very well. Disney’s not-so-veiled bet on a strong gender agenda, for example, has had a negative impact on the audience and even on the company’s actions. The worldwide box office failure of the animation “Lightyear”, banned in several countries for featuring a gay kiss scene, is concrete evidence of how the production company’s entry into the culture war has alienated families seeking entertainment free from ideology.

The power of consumer choice was also felt by Netflix, which, after losing subscribers, backtracked on racial justice projects and refused to cancel the Dave Chappelle special, despite protests from employees who considered the content “harmful”. Another streaming platform that realized that it would not be advantageous to surrender to the demands of political correctness was Paramount, which chose not to remove old productions currently considered “inappropriate” from the catalog.

In Brazil, last week, toy retailer Ri Happy faced the reaction of parents outraged by a video posted on their social networks, in which they encouraged genderless play. “Play doesn’t have to have a gender, play needs to add to the child’s life,” commented influencer Luke Vidal in the video. Using the hashtag #BoicoteRihappy, consumers protested on the networks against the gender agenda promoted by the brand and promised not to buy in the store anymore, which led the company to delete the content.

Boycott, divestment and sanctions

One of the defenders of the boycott of what he calls “American Marxism” – the title, by the way, of his most recent book – is the conservative presenter radio and TV broadcaster Mark Levin. For him, it is not enough to vote for conservative candidates, there needs to be a national campaign to boycott companies, sports teams and social media that seek to cancel dissenting voices and institute controversial policies, such as critical race theory (which defends that the US is a racist nation). To this end, Levin advocates that “American patriots” adopt operational elements similar to those used by the BDS movement (which stands for “boycott, divestment and sanctions”) against Israel.

” We used their tactics. Not violent ones. We learned from the BDS movement…. We need to have a BDS movement against Big Tech and if it’s not Big Tech, then their advertisers. They can’t survive without their advertisers. They take our data, steal from us, sell each other sell to commercial entities. We need to find out who these commercial entities are. We need BDS on the main television networks, just like the left does,” said Levin, in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom.

“I abandoned Twitter and Facebook on their own. . I gave them about a month. I brought as many people as I could to Parler. (…) I told everyone: ‘Let’s go to the Parler.’ I will not be censored. No more scarlet letters. I don’t need crazy left-wing billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg or bearded goofball Jack Dorsey [ex-diretor executivo do Twitter] telling me what to do and putting all these conditions and censorship,” he said, referring to the alternative platform used by Donald Trump followers and by conservatives around the world, which was suspended by Google, Apple and Amazon last year.

Admitting that “one of the relief valves is speech”, Levin believes that this movement of silencing promoted by social media should provoke a reaction from citizens. “You can’t keep treating 100 millions of people in this way and expect there to be no response. That’s why I say to the left, ‘You talk about incitement? You’re pushing people to a point that scares me so much’.”

For most ordinary people, leaving Facebook or Twitter can mean no longer having a place to express themselves. your opinions and communicate with friends. “My advice is just give it a year. And then other companies will appear,” says Levin. “Water always finds the cracks. Freedom always finds the cracks. We’re going to find the cracks and we’re going to use and exploit them. We’re going to compete against these people once and for all. What we reject is their attempt to make us crush, and your attempt to use the government to benefit them. That’s what we need to fight. So either you’re in this fight or you’re not. Get the hell out of here. Try other sites. We still have more ways to communicate than there are 20 years”, he assures.

Boycott the bridge by swimming across the river

For the conservative US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, there are potential abuses in the legal protection of technology companies, which allows platforms a wide patrol of speech in your domains and even canceling accounts. “Applying old doctrines to new digital platforms is rarely simple,” pondered Thomas, in a Supreme Court ruling on Twitter’s blocking of former President Donald Trump.

Boycott these social networks, in this case, would have a limit, since there are no comparable alternatives on the market, which occurs with many other services today. “It doesn’t change a thing that these platforms are not the only means of distributing speech or information. A person can always choose to avoid the bridge or the toll train and instead swim in the Charles River or walk the Oregon Trail.” , wrote Thomas, referring to the fact that it is not as simple to boycott such services as many claim. “But when assessing whether a company wields substantial market power, what matters is whether the alternatives are comparable. For many of today’s digital platforms, nothing is.” More than not using the services, therefore, the way out would be in government regulation. That is, for the judge, social media companies should be regulated like a regular telephone operator (which cannot prevent a person from making a call, regardless of content), since they are “sufficiently similar”.

Survey to boycott

A survey recently promoted by the online lending market LendingTree found that a quarter of Americans are boycotting a product or company in which they consumed in the past. The motivations range from political differences to positions on social and environmental issues and the treatment given to employees. Among the segments most likely to boycott companies and products are six-figure earners (37%), Gen Z (32%), Millennials (28%), Democrats (31%) and Republicans (24%). Tourist destinations are also targets of boycott: 24% said they exclude places from their itineraries due to political or legislative differences.

The problem is that a consumer who decides to boycott all companies and products that promote or support political and social issues to which he disagrees may not be able to buy anything at the supermarket or mall. The level of information needed about the companies with which you do business on a daily basis is also a limiting factor in the boycott strategy, since keeping up to date on this requires time and effort not always available.

“We are all so exhausted and overwhelmed with all the problems that come up every day, so I would say pick one or two problems that are near and dear to your heart. You cannot do everything at once. So, what are the issues that make you aware? So look at the products and services in your life, the ones you come in contact with on a daily basis, and notice the alignment between those products and those issues,” advised Adrianne Wright, founder and chief executive of Rosie (a storytelling agency for non-profit organizations), in an interview with the Reuters news agency.

Scientific studies show a downward trend in the number of people participating in a boycott over time. Little is known about which type of consumer is most likely to abandon boycotts first and why individual participation declines, but research suggests a warm-up and a cool-down phase, with different hypotheses about promoters and inhibitors of participation (such as distance time, potential for change in company behavior, subjective costs, quality of service and friendly behavior of frontline employees).

Loss of privileges

“Boycotts may or may not work, but what will work is to identify all the unique benefits these woke companies get under the law and remove them and require them to operate like all other companies in those states,” says Russ Vought, who was director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget from July 2021 to January 2021 , president of the Center for Renewing America.

In fact, in American states led by Republicans, “anti-woke” legislation has been growing, in an attempt to pressure Wall Street against the corporate militancy. According to a survey by the news agency Reuters, this year alone, there are at least 44 bills or new laws, in 17 US states led by conservatives, penalizing business who bet on identity. Last year, there were about a dozen such measures.

The states of West Virginia and Arkansas, for example, have stopped using BlackRock for certain services due to their climate stance. , according to West Virginia Republican Treasurer Riley Moore and Arkansas media reports. “They are using the power of their capital to push their ideas and ideologies to the rest of us,” said Moore.

The world’s largest fund manager and responsible for popularizing ESG , BlackRock leverages its financial power to force the companies in which it invests to pursue an aggressive climate change and diversity agenda in their operations.

Texas Republican lawmaker Briscoe Cain, also plans legislation to prohibit coverage of travel costs for abortion and to prevent companies that provide it from entering into any business or contract with the state of Texas. “No corporation doing business in Texas will be allowed to subsidize abortions or abortion travel in any way,” he told Reuters.

The new restrictions are expected to make a number of businesses more difficult. between finance companies and states, such as underwriting bonds and managing state funds. At stake are several million dollars in each contract. Last year, for example, JPMorgan underwrote $3.2 billion in Texas municipal bonds, up from just $100 million so far in 2022. On the other hand, Bank of America, which last year underwrote US$ 3.7 billion in municipal bonds in that state, has not yet left zero this year.


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