Here's a bit from an article in the Jamaica Gleaner yesterday, which Michael Petrelis described as "factual and basically balanced":
J-flag deplores boycott
However, Jason McFarlane, programmes manager at the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG), said it deplored the boycott, particularly because Red Stripe had withdrawn support from entertainers - particularly of the dancehall genre - who promoted violence against gays.
"We had spoken to them not to go ahead with the boycott when they first contacted us last week, but they went ahead despite our response," McFarlane told The Gleaner.
It's amazing that apparently Jamaican LGBTQ people aren't allowed a vote when it comes to the gay boycott of Jamaica. It's not like they're going to be the ones primarily affected, right?
The point that I was trying to make in my other post about Boycott Jamaica wasn't that there isn't homophobia or homophobic violence in Jamaica. Homophobic and transphobic violence is awful, occurs too often, and must stop.
I was making several points, and one of them was that this action is potentially be counter-productive. I don't know of an instance in history when a foreign-originated boycott of an entire country produced any result other than giving the boycottees a foreign scapegoat for their economic woes (which I'm sure their government will appreciate in this economy), which could lead to increased violence against LGBTQ Jamaicans.
JFLAG has taken that position and asked for the boycott not to go forward. They denounced it on their website and now to the Jamaican press. And, frankly, it's their decision to make. It's not like the boycotters in the US are going to feel the backlash if there is one.
This boycott is directed at Jamaican queer people as well. There's been quite a bit of confusion on the part of supporters of this boycott as to whether Jamaican LGBTQ people are in fact Jamaican. Several comments from its organizers have suggested that they think that it's "us" and "our people" who are being attacked with homophobic violence in Jamaica.
(For instance, Wayne Besen commented here "Why should gay people subsidize their own discrimination?" A commenter on Michael Petrelis's blog said, "No, we're protesting and boycotting Jamaica because it's citizens by and large advocate harm to us." A commenter here at Bilerico said, "Our political movements, like our communities are ultimately international at their very root. The truth is that gay men in Mexico, lesbians in Egypt, bisexuals in New Zealand and transfolk in Ireland, irrespective of national and cultural differences have more in common with each other than they do with their fellow citizens.")
It's easy to read that "us" as simply meaning LGBTQ folk, but since that vision is only being articulated by American gay activists, it's hard not to read it as an attempt to erase the Jamaican-ness of Jamaican LGBTQ people, all to make this situation a cleaner "us vs. them" conflict.
But it isn't such a clean conflict. Supposing this boycott gets off the ground and actually decreases the amount of money Jamaica has, queer Jamaicans will also feel the economic loss. Whether we're talking about a gay hotel owner, a lesbian Red Stripe factory worker, or a bisexual accountant who will be out of work as the economic effects ripple, Jamaican LGBTQ's have a stake in Jamaica's economy too.
All this is to say that the people who are ostensibly being advocated in this action stand to lose, and lose big, if this action fails. Their concerns shouldn't just be brushed off as a group of people too afraid to come out in their defense without the American knights in shining armor descending on their country - their autonomy should be respected.
But when asked, repeatedly, to show why he thought this action would generate positive change in Jamaica instead of a backlash, Wayne Besen (one of the Boycott Jamaica organizers) responded:
Um, how can I prove anything in two days - the entire time the boycott has been in effect? That's as silly as asking me to predict who will win the Super Bowl on opening day.
As for Red Stripe
The article continues:
Meanwhile, Maxine Whittingham- Osborne, head of corporate relations at Red Stripe, said the company was surprised by the gay advocates' apparent random targeting.
"Over the years, by our actions and our policies, we have demonstrated that we do not advocate any bias or prejudice against any individual or group(s)," she said yesterday.
Whittingham-Osborne said Red Stripe had not had any consultations with the group, but did not rule out engaging them in discussions. She declined comment on whether the company was considering legal proceedings against the boycotters.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding earlier this year said his government would not repeal its buggery laws. Attempts yesterday to contact local police about whether attacks on gays had increased were unsuccessful.
Red Stripe is front-and-center in this action, with their logo being used at the top of BoycottJamaica.org. While this action is targeting tourism, Myer's Rum, and Blue Mountain Coffee, Red Stripe is taking the most heat from this as boycotters are trying to get it taken out of bars in San Francisco.
It doesn't make much sense, though. Red Stripe pulled out of sponsoring two concerts last year because they didn't want to endorse the homophobic and misogynist lyrics. They took a lot of heat in Jamaica for their decision:
Thumbing their noses at gay rights groups, some Jamaican dance hall stars have offered to perform for free at events boycotted by a local beer giant called Red Stripe.
Red Stripe withdrew its financing last month from the major live shows Sting and Sumfest, which it has sponsored for six and seven years respectively. The company said it launched its sponsorship boycott in response to the continued use of violent and anti-social lyrics during performances. The boycott stopped short of a total withdrawal of Red Stripe products from the events.
"We have noticed that there is a negative trend that has been creeping into some of the music. ... This is very damaging to our culture, the music and to our country as a whole," corporate relations director Maxine Whittingham told reporters.
Now some performers are portraying Red Stripe's action as an attack on dance hall reggae, dubbed "murder music" by gay rights activists for its explicit references to killing homosexuals. O'Neil Bryan, popularly known as Elephant Man, accuses Red Stripe of having a "hidden agenda."[...]
In the past few weeks, several well-known artists, including David Brooks, who performs under the moniker Movado, and dub poet Mutabaruka (formerly Allan Hope), have voiced their opposition to Red Stripe's decision during performances and interviews. Now, they say, they taking their displeasure to another level.
Anthony Moses Davis, also known as Beenie Man, and Bryan are among those artists who media reports say have begun lining up to give free performances.
Davis, who originally planned to perform free at the upcoming Reggae Sumfest, said he will now host a free dance hall show himself. "Jamaicans should stand firm together and let [Red Stripe] know we don't like what they are doing," he said.
Usually a company will engage in something we don't like, we talk with them, threaten boycott, take action if needed, and then, if they concede to our demands, we provide them at the very least cover after the fact because they're likely to piss off someone else by supporting us.
Again, to clarify, I'm not asking that anyone buy Red Stripe or any of the other boycotted items on the list. And I'm very much in favor of people learning as much about the products the buy and make an informed decision (especially going beyond sensationalistic headlines).
But Red Stripe here seems to have been targeted only because of its national origin, not because of anything the company did. In fact, Michael Petrelis says pretty much just says it:
The boycott has targeted Red Stripe beer, mainly because of the product's international prominence, Petrelis said. The group is bidding to cut sales of Red Stripe beer in gay bars and restaurants in San Francisco within 30 days.
Well, there ya go. It's the boycott of an entire people, regardless of the fact that there are many people in Jamaica who oppose this sort of violence. If they're Jamaican, they're part of the problem, not the solution.
The organizers of Boycott Jamaica defend their choice of Red Stripe as a target. Michael Petrelis blogged:
I wish to point out that it is nice of a Red Stripe spokesperson to offer a general condemnation against violence of all kinds, but notice that the word "gay" is missing from the quote. It's not enough for the beer company to occasionally cancel sponsorship of a music festival featuring singers who advocate murder of homosexuals, as it did last year. Red Stripe officials must start issuing statements opposing violence and stigma against gay Jamaicans that actually say "gay" or homosexual.
Well, what a very helpful demand! Because so many American beer companies are releasing statements with the word "gay" in them asking for homophobic hate crimes to stop. In fact, I can't even think of a single beer company that hasn't.
Wayne Besen said:
As for Red Stripe, they pulled out of one [sic] concert after pressure. Your expression of their support is greatly exaggerated.
Isn't that the entire point of this action, though? To apply pressure? If Jamaica accedes to Boycott Jamaica's demands, will this be the thanks they get?
Then again, they don't have any specific demands against the companies they're boycotting, which is another reason this probably won't be effective: they're targeting folks who aren't the source of the problem.
I'm just going to guess here, though, that they didn't even bother to look up the corporate history of any of the companies they're targeting. Because that would assume that some Jamaicans aren't homophobic, and we know that can't be true.
Thankfully LGBTQ Jamaicans have been excused from being Jamaican, or people's heads would be exploding at this point.
(I sent off a few questions to Boycott Jamaica yesterday afternoon, but they haven't responded by the time I posted.)