James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Boycotts

Poor Britney Spears is exploited by her record company, because it greedily markets and sells Britney's CD's when it should be more concerned with her personal life.

So says a group of Britney's ex-friends, who want a boycott of her newest CD until she cleans up her private life.

Boycott? What's next, an all-star concert to "raise awareness" about Britney's troubles? Countries imposing economic sanctions on Jive Records? President Bush ordering the Marines to intervene and "save" Britney? The Red Cross providing relief?

Talk about lowering the bar on virtue: "I don't help old ladies cross the street. I don't give blood. I surf porn sites even when I'm at work, and I gamble my kid's college fund on NFL games. But at least I didn't buy Britney's new album!"

I believe Gandhi led some effective boycotts, and Martin Luther King came to prominence with the Montgomery bus boycott. In those instances, the boycotters actually sacrificed something - they greatly inconvenienced themselves to further the cause they were fighting for. There were, for instance, thousands of African-Americans who depended on the bus system to get to work, yet they boycotted it anyway. That is making a point!

But if you boycott Sears when you can still go to J.C. Penney, or boycott Miller when you can still have Budweiser, or boycott Cadillac when you can still drive a Lincoln, or boycott Britney when you can listen to Shakira, you are not really sacrificing anything at all. You are, instead, just avoiding a particular business out of spite. Perhaps that's why boycotts don't work anymore. These days they are, at best, shallow and insincere gestures. Moreover, activists who call for boycotts tend to be repulsive characters themselves - either insufferably self-righteous or shameless publicity hounds - and so boycotts can lead to a backlash. And, boycotts tend to create more publicity for the target in question, which means they are likely to backfire.

So I say, if you like the music of Britney Spears, go ahead and buy her new album. Her personal life won't get better or worse either way, and in any case her life is not your responsiblity.

1 comment:

  1. In my view, the reason why boycotts don't work is because they simply don't make much of an impact anymore. I'm a member of many socialist/progressive groups as well as many organizations that fight for the rights of Palestinians. Both of these groups are now using boycotts as their "first means of resistance" and I've come to find that they fail epically. The thing about boycotts is - and I'm speaking from a leftist point-of-view, they play to the capitalist myth that corporations are far more democratic than the government and that it's easier to change the policies of companies that, for example, do business with Israel than it is to demand that the US government cut off all support to the Israeli government. By suggesting that boycotts are the "most legitimate form of resistance", as these people usually do, you are basically saying that the invisible hand of the "free market" is the greatest bringer of justice, even though you despise the capitalist system and everything about it. So it is basically a catch-22 from my perspective.

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