Thursday, August 8, 2013

Is Coca-Cola Killing Gay Russians? (A Misguided Call for Boycotts)

There’s a meme rapidly spreading via social media urging people to boycott U.S. corporations that sponsor the Olympics. The meme has the logos of Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Visa and Panasonic superimposed atop brutal images of violence being carried out against gays in Russia. It makes it seem as if these corporations are directly responsible for and condone anti-gay violence. That’s a pretty serious insinuation.

It’s dead wrong.    

The Olympics should be moved and we should all boycott the Olympics if they're not moved. Calling for an Olympic boycott is helping create much-needed awareness about gay rights and equality issues and the horrific discrimination, hate, violence and murder happening in Russia. We should not be holding the Olympics at such a terrible, backwards place.  

But U.S. corporations who sponsor the Olympics support U.S. Olympic athletes and help our athletes regardless of where they compete. They are not endorsing anti-gay discrimination, hatred and violence. The International Olympic Committee doesn't endorse discrimination, hatred and violence either. But moving the Olympics out of Russia would send a strong message of world-wide intolerance towards Russia's brutal intolerance and would, indeed, hurt Russia. Boycotting those who sponsor the Olympics would accomplish neither, and to insinuate they endorse anti-gay violence as the meme clearly suggests is borderline libelous.

What’s next? Are we going to call for a boycott of any company who supplies Coca-Cola with machinery, packaging, and raw materials for its products? Should we urge folks to boycott all the businesses who supply McDonalds with beef, sugar, straws and cups? Perhaps we should boycott Canada for being the primary source of corn syrup for Coca-Cola and boycott Gavina Gourmet Coffee, Lopez Foods, Keystone Foods and 100 Circle Farms for selling supplies to McDonalds. Then we can boycott businesses who sell farming equipment, fertilizer and other products to 100 Circle Farms because the farm supports McDonalds which supports the Olympics which is planning to hold events in Russia . . .  

How far do we go?  

Boycotts are unfortunately rarely successful even against corporations directly involved in and responsible for atrocities, never mind being several layers down the chain. Quite often boycotts hurt the wrong people. Yet calls for boycotts are popular on social media sites because its easy and they spread rapidly. But they just as quickly fizzle away when another popular meme comes along. It’s easy to feel like we’re doing something by clicking “share” but we should think before we click.

Many U.S. Olympic sponsors fully support and help fight for gay rights and equality. Coca-Cola consistently earns the highest score -- 100 percent -- from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)'s "Corporate Equality Index" and McDonald's consistently scores a commendable 85 percent. In fact, many U.S. anti-gay hate groups urge people to boycott these corporations because they score so highly with HRC. 

Five years ago a hate group called the American Family Association launched a boycott against McDonalds because the fast-food chain joined and donated money to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and placed an executive on the group's board of directors. McDonalds did the right thing and stood its ground. "Hatred has no place in our culture," McDonald's Spokesman Bill Whitman said. "That includes McDonalds, and we stand by and support our people to live and work in a society free of discrimination and harassment." 

Now we want to boycott McDonalds because they sponsor U.S. Olympic athletes who might go to Russia?  

Boycotting sponsors of the Olympics will accomplish nothing to help the situation in Russia. It could, however, hurt our U.S. Olympic athletes and, ironically, gay rights and equality efforts.  

If we really want to make a difference, let’s work to expose and spread more awareness about the U.S.-based anti-gay hate organizations and individuals who are exporting discrimination, violence and murder to places like Russia.  Learn more about them here:  "The Exportation of Hate: Should U.S. Citizens and Organizations be Held Accountable for Spreading Anti-Gay Discrimination, Hatred and Violence Abroad?"  

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Dave, for a well-thought out and written response to this terrible situation. I fear that it may be too late to actually move the Olympics, but I firmly believe that any and all pressure should be brought against the IOC to make them understand that they as an organization are complicit in the horror that is modern Russia if they refuse to take a stronger stand than they have thus far.