With boycotts becoming the protest-du-jour for many social media users, Quartz is wondering if the impact of a historically effective agent of change might be diminishing.
Noting the “recent explosion in boycott activism” — last week it was Nike and In-N-Out Burger, for those who aren’t keeping track at home — the story cautioned that “people on the right and left should be wary of defaulting to [it] as their go-to option — lest the boycott lose its power as a tool of political protest.”
“The stakes of what can be called ‘boycott fatigue’ are high” the article continued, arguing that “the boycott’s efficacy as a weapon of the weak or disenfranchised is lessening in our increasingly polarized world, further reducing the limited power of those who feel that their voices go unheard.”
And though the story does concede that a well-orchestrated boycott can still “influence companies’ behavior,” it also notes that the data shows “they have very little economic impact on the companies they target,” and should therefore be deployed strategically (which is exactly how they’re not being deployed today).
From 1990-2007, Quartz found that “only 213 boycotts were mentioned in the six largest US newspapers,” but in a timespan of just 200 days, “the anti-Trump #GrabYourWallet campaign alone… launched boycotts against over 50 companies,” plus the high-profile (low-IQ) backlashes against Nike, Keurig, and the other right-wing offenders.
As the story sums it up: “the key to any boycott’s success is the attention it attracts and sustains… [and] the proliferation of politically-motivated boycotts targeting [things like] fast-food chains might encourage consumers not to take them seriously.” And if consumers aren’t taking them seriously, the companies being targeted won’t either.
You can read more about it at Quartz.