On Boycotts

July 29, 2010

I’ve been sent two articles in particular this week from several sources– one is a call to boycott Target because a congressman who opposes gay rights has received some of their money; the other is a call to boycott Home Depot because they support community organizations who champion gay rights.

Do we still not get why our economy is so ass backwards? I’m aware of boycott charges against WalMart for using evil business practices, or Starbucks for being too aggressive, or Hallmark for monetizing our culture. I get those boycotts. But to infuse politics into two of the most apolitical organizations out there is ridiculous. It’s selfish, it’s egomaniacal, and it’s just plain mean.

There are certainly times when a company has a definite political bent. Don’t forget that NewsCorp and Universal are both businesses. Whole Foods made that whole weird stink last year about health care. There were a few companies in 2008 who got in trouble for telling their employees how to vote. Those are times when one might be expected to reach out to their local companies and say ‘cut it out, or I’m taking my business somewhere else.’

Target, though? Target has a rating of 100% from the HRC. They have very progressive hiring practices, and even if they didn’t, they have no record of any unfair business practices, which is exceedingly rare for a budget chain. Now they have donated money to a pro-business PAC, which has donated money to a pro-business candidate for Governor of Minnesota (they’re based in Minneapolis), who among other things is a very religious man who opposes gay rights. Target has already come out in an attempt to be perfectly clear—no, they do not agree with the candidate’s view on gay rights. Yes, some of their money did make it to his campaign. But they donated the money to an organization which has a reputation of helping businesses. They’re a business.

Home Depot’s connection to this ridiculous charade is that they have but up promotional booths at gay pride parades, and put on workshops for children. In other words, they’re advertising at a place where there are going to be a lot of people who see their name. I give you a guarantee that Home Depot also has tents in many more festivals which have a more chauvinist, homophobic slant, but not because it has anything to do with politics—a majority of do-it-yourself, lumber and power tools type customers have a more conservative slant. Now Home Depot—who, incidentally, have a less than impressive score of 85% with the HRC—are being boycotted as gay-lovers.

You know who’s getting business out of all this, who’s benefiting from this culture war? Competitors who have done nothing for anybody. That’s the message we’re sending to these companies. Keep your advertising to billboards and obnoxious television commercials. Don’t support any causes. Take all that extra money and just funnel it into your stockholder’s pockets.

Your decades-long track record means nothing to us. If you do one thing we disagree with (and both companies are patronized by both ‘sides of the aisle’), we’ll drop any support for your store. So just don’t bother. Let’s go back to an age of huge companies with no social responsibilities at all.

The only solace I have from all this is that the same knee-jerk reactionaries who call for these boycotts also lack conviction. They’ll be shopping there again soon enough.


The Silly Season Begins

May 9, 2010

TVMI’m starting to enjoy the political season as much as college football season, if only because it’s the only competition more detached from reality and reason than the BCS. The mass exodus of incumbents is fucking fascinating. Not only Republicans– while the Democrats are resigning en masse out of disgust for what passes as a constituency these days, but all the Republicans being pushed out by Tea Party candidates.

Now, I am not one of those people who believe that Tea Partiers are stupid or racist. But they are ignorant, and this proves it for two reasons:

1. If you want someone representing you in Congress, regardless of ideology, buy off an incumbent. Not only do incumbents have a staggering re-election rate, but Congress is not a Democracy- seniority is everything. This concept of throwing out 20-year veterans and replacing them with random businessmen who promise to spend money on anything just doesn’t work. They go into the general election with no wind at their backs and the animosity of the huge contributors that had invested millions of dollars In the candidate that just got pushed out, and the few who win will accomplish nothing for two years and get voted out in 2012.

2. Polls only reflect the opinions of the people who were polled. A poll of 1000 people could produce unanimous results and still only prove that .0003% of Americans agree with something. There is one statistic that people tend to ignore, and it’s staggering: 80% of Americans don’t respond to polls. Add to this that many polls are done by phone, and you’re already limiting the demographic to people who still own a home phone. In 2010, that’s an overwhelmingly conservative and denialist group. But all those people who don’t give the time of day to questions like “does Obama’s Muslim heritage lead you to believe that American churches are at risk?” will still vote. In huge numbers. Especially if the leading candidate has ads on TV promising to cut funding for schools, infrastructure, and police. People do vote out of fear, but they’re far more scared of Anarchy than they are of Socialism.