The land of the free has a long tradition of strongly held views and getting
square. They love a boycott. Who knows when it started? Reds under the bed?

Recently it’s been the poor battling
retailers who are the target.
In the past few months we’ve had:

  • The Concerned
    Women of America
    and Baptists wanting a boycott
    of Starbucks for quoting Armistead Maupin on their coffee cups, and promoting a
    gay lifestyle. It’s a nice, very caring,
    touch by the Baptists to blackout the word “damn” in the
    graphic.

  • The Traditional Values Coalition
    boycotting Victoria’s Secret because of their tawdry window displays and smutty
    marketing
    and their promotion of group sex and
    lesbianism.

  • The American Family Association boycotting
    Wal-Mart because they are selling DVDs of Brokeback Mountain. The film is a story about ranchers and meat
    that is presumably a bit too anti vegetarian.

US markets, and retail in
particular, are becoming more politicised.
Consumers are choosing – or avoiding – doing business with companies
according to what lobby groups put on the agenda. There is a bit of mob
rule here. US boycotts are run by both sides of politics, but the right
wingers seem to be dominating the agenda. Ordinary folk start to feel
powerful and it terrifies companies. They cannot win. The land of the
free needs also to be the home of the brave if you are a retailer. All
they can hope for is to limit the damage.

The shock jocks of
Australia will soon get onto this, although I
can think of at least one who might not be anti gay.

In the
US, there is a small fightback going
on, evidenced by this Age
piece. The
article quotes American Reverend Jim Wallis: “The Bible has
several thousand verses on poverty. Clearly, it matters to God, and much more
than some issues that the religious right prefers to talk about”. Wallis charges that the religious and
political right gets the public meaning of religion wrong, focusing on sexual
and cultural issues while ignoring justice. The left, meanwhile, tends not to
get the meaning of faith for politics at all, but dismisses spirituality as
irrelevant to social change.

The agenda is still religion, just a
little less right wing. Now if anyone wants to call for a
boycott of Starbucks because of the hazelnut
decaff-soy-white-mocha-no-whip-macchialatte with a twist (or some other robusta
beaned abomination the Americans pretend is coffee) they will have my full
attention.

Peter Fray

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