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Hullabaloo


Friday, April 06, 2012

 
Why liberal boycotts work

Add Coca-Cola and Pepsi to the number of companies who are backing away from ALEC, the Koch-funded organization writing voter suppression laws and selling access to politicians to large corporations. Think Progress reports:

Prompted by a petition campaign by the progressive advocacy group Color of Change, Coca-Cola has pulled its support from ALEC, a right-wing corporate-funded front group which has been pushing voter restriction efforts around the country. The company released this statement moments ago:

The Coca-Cola Company has elected to discontinue its membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business. We have a long-standing policy of only taking positions on issues that impact our Company and industry.

Impressively, Coke’s retreat came just five hours after Color of Change announced its petition, which read: “ALEC has pushed voter ID laws which disenfranchise large numbers of Black voters. Along with the NRA, ALEC also pushed a bill based on Florida’s ‘shoot first’ law – which has shielded Trayvon Martin’s killer from justice – into two dozen states across the country.”

Not too dissimilar from the successful efforts against Beck and Limbaugh. Conservatives often complain and wonder why these sorts of tactics don't work for them. After all, remember that these are corporations backing away from supporting pro-corporate entities. Why can't they be persuaded to take similar steps against individuals and organizations on the left?

The answer is actually pretty simple: the right wing doesn't look very good when exposed to sunlight. Corporations have an interest in making money, and they can't make money if regular Americans think they're associated with voter suppression of minorities, or with the sort of garbage that comes out of Limbaugh's or Beck's mouths. The people who come out to vote every two to four years may skew older and more conservative than the general population, but the people who buy soft drinks and other products don't. Corporations know this, and the last thing they need is an public relations nightmare.

Why doesn't Bill Maher receive the same treatment, the right wants to know? Well, it's pretty simple: first off, when he made his infamous comment about the 9/11 terrorists not being cowards, he did get that treatment. But the general public also believes that Sarah Palin is a moron--and that Rush Limbaugh is also a jackass who apparently doesn't understand how birth control works. When Limbaugh uses offensive language to describe a Georgetown law student, it doesn't come off the same as when Maher uses similar language to describe the self-caricature that is Sarah Palin. The public understands the difference between these two situations, and corporate PR departments understand that the public understands.

Ultimately, the problem for conservatives and so-called centrists is always the same: the public doesn't really want what they're selling, and they have to push their agenda under secrecy, false pretenses and closed doors. They can't come out and say that they want minorities not to vote, or that they want to put Social Security money into the Wall Street casino, or that they want local religious officials to have control of every uterus in their diocese. When their agenda is exposed, corporations get very nervous about being associated with it. Especially since corporations crave the approval of younger, more open-minded market demographic segments especially hostile to conservative social and economic approaches.

Conservatives shouldn't wonder why boycotts of their media stars and secretive organizations work. They should thank their lucky stars that the same public that buys these corporations' products isn't the same public that shows up in the voting booth, or they'd all be out of power. As it turns out, ALEC is doing its best to keep it that way--and that's precisely why the pressure and the boycotts work.

The Fox News base does a great job of marching dutifully to the polling booth. But it's in no way reflective of the population that constitutes the American consumer base, and it's downright hostile to the interests and values of the demographics that create the cultural trends so important to corporate marketing efforts.

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