Bil Browning

John Aravosis on Boycotts [Comment of the Week]

Filed By Bil Browning | May 20, 2012 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: boycotts, do boycotts work, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, John Aravosis, LGBT community, organizing tools

In yesterday's open thread I asked the question, "Do boycotts work?" I posited that the time for using a boycott as a serious tool of grassroots organizing has come and gone.

Whether it's rightwing Christians or the LGBT community, Thumbnail image for comment-of-week.jpgboth love to declare a boycott of some such company or another and then quietly let it fade away when nothing happens. Most of these kneejerk calls for boycotts don't consider the most important part - how do we declare victory?

John Aravosis weighed in on the thread and makes some good points. While we generally agree, I'd point out that - as he admits - the Dr. Laura campaign wasn't a boycott. Targeting a television or radio personality's advertisers is a completely different (and highly effective) method of waging war on an enemy's pocketbook.

John Aravosis · Subscribed · Editor at AMERICAblog
Boycotts often do NOT work, correct. And I too worry when people call for them, knee-jerk style, because they can make us silly if nothing happens in response to the call. Having said that, we were quite successful taking in taking down Dr. Laura, as Becky notes below, by targeting her advertisers until every big name company left her TV show and didn't come back. Now, we didn't call it a "boycott" of Dr. Laura, because even by the year 2000 the word was already getting a bit cliché. But it was effective.

As for Limbaugh, I think the campaign "could" have dealt him a knock out punch two months ago when they had a unique opportunity to take him on - all the forces were aligned with them. They didn't take full advantage of the opportunity presented to them - in part, by only targeting one city, NYC, rather than multiple US cities - and the campaign fizzled into obscurity.

Boycotts, or whatever you want to call them, "can" and "do" work. But like everything else in life, they take a particular kind of expertise to be done correctly, to "win," and most people calling for boycotts don't have that expertise.

So, you're not incorrect in expressing concern about the ubiquitous call for boycotts. But I think you have to keep in mind that the problem is the people who call for, and run, boycotts, not the efficacy of the boycott itself, or boycotts as a concept. They can and do work, when done correctly, and done at the right time (when the time is ripe).

So what do you think, folks? Is John right? Are boycotts still effective? What was the last boycott success that you remember? Feel free to check out the other comment thread too and continue that conversation as well.


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