Monday, August 3, 2015

Corporate Activism: The New American Democracy

What has become clear to me is that while representative democracy is a failed system in America thanks to greed and corruption, the little people still have a way to influence things.  And that is by not writing our Congressmen, but rather our corporate masters.

This became clear last month when after more than 50 years South Carolina took down the Confederate flag.  This of course did not happen because leaders there realized that a racist murderer had posed with the flag.  It probably wasn't even because of people protesting outside.  What I think really got their attention is that for instance Warner Bros was going to stop selling General Lee merchandise with the flag and TV Land was no longer going to show reruns of the Dukes of Hazzard and so forth.  I'm sure there were organizations saying they'd cancel events because of the flag and controversy surrounding it.  It finally got to the point where they had to do something to stop the hurting.  Because let's face it, protests will blow over when people get bored and move on to the next thing, but when our corporate overlords weigh in on the issue, that's when you know it's time to raise the white flag over the stars-and-bars.

Another recent example is Donald Trump made some extremely racist comments about immigration.  Could the law do anything?  No.  Would the Republican Party disown him?  No.  The real punishment came when everyone from Telemundo to Macy's to a mattress company told Trump, "You're fired."  Since Trump for the moment hasn't filed bankruptcy again he's not backing down, though eventually he probably will, if the bottom line hurts enough.

In the same vein when Paula Deen's racist comments were exposed, the law was powerless to do anything, but Corporate America sprung into action...for a little while.  She eventually got back on TV to offend again because apparently she's a fucking moron.

The new status quo is it's not so much the law you have to worry about so much as alienating your sponsors.  And the thing is, the law can take years and years to produce any results, but corporate justice happens in the time it takes to write and email a memo.  The Duggars, Jared from Subway, Bill Cosby, none of these guys might see any justice from the legal system, but they're already getting corporate justice.

Not that corporate activism is always a good thing.  When Starbucks wanted to put anti-racism messages on cups, people revolted.  With good cause, because when I go to get my frappe I just want my fucking frappe, not a fucking lecture.  If you're perky enough to want to listen to a lecture then you're probably not needing coffee in the first place.  Yes, racism is bad, but I don't think guys like the one who shot up that South Carolina church drink a lot of Starbucks so it's probably just preaching to the choir.  And really why foist responsibility for broadcasting your message on low-paid drones?  You're a multi-billion dollar corporation; buy some ad space on billboards or TV if you want to do social crusading.

The thing is, most of this is enabled by social media.  Jared from Subway gets busted for child porn or Donald Trump goes nuts (more so) and comments flood a company's Twitter, Facebook, etc. and 99% of the time a swift response occurs because the company doesn't want to look like they're in league with a pervert or a racist nut because then people might not buy the product anymore.  I think if the Bill Cosby stuff had come out 30 years ago when Cosby was on top he would have probably just got a slap on the wrist from corporate justice.  I'm sure there would have been some angry phone calls and letters but back before social media you couldn't instantly generate mass outrage.

Sometimes you don't need a bunch of social media outcry if the one outcrying is famous enough.  When Taylor Swift's people ghostwrote an op-ed on paying artists for music bought on iTunes during free trials, Apple backed down almost overnight.  Now see you and I could have gone to the Justice Department and filed a lawsuit or grievance or whatever and 10 years later we'd be broke and Apple would still not be paying people during free trials.  Or we could have wrote a letter to the editor in the Palookaville Times that maybe Tim Cook would see when his assistant was using the paper to potty-train the dog.  But when you're Taylor Swift and sell billions of tracks on iTunes and have millions of followers, then you're taken seriously.

That's the new status quo of justice in America.  No one gives a fuck about the little people, until they get someone big enough upset enough to do something.  So hey if you really want to solve climate change, don't write Obama; write your local big corporation--or Taylor Swift.


  1. It does seem some changes come about because mobs of people protest..mainly on Facebook and Twitter. An unknown person here or there has no chance. As for Donald Trump, I really don't think he's a racist. Yes he phrased things poorly, and people extended the meaning behind it for their own political reasons. It seems lately that some of these companies are now hyper about dumping anyone that isn't politically correct. They don't want to deal with any Facebook mob trashing them online.

  2. At one time I used to care, then I let my apathy tell me otherwise.
    Money rules the world.

  3. I'm not entirely convinced of the legitimacy of Taylor Swift's Apple exchange. I think the whole thing was actually designed by Apple to get publicity for their new Apple music thing, and it kind of worked brilliantly. The timing just seemed too perfect with the launch of a new product and Apple's capitulation was so instant that it made me take a step back and think, "This was planned."

  4. It's amazing the influence that social media has these days. It allows people from around the world to enact social change by boycotting or pressuring corporate sponsors. Of course, it also spreads funny videos of cats burping the national anthem. So it's win-win.

  5. Very interesting article. I certainly share some of your opinions and you sure know how to prove your point (loved the Starbucks reference).

    I also wanted to invite you to visit my blog (which is mostly about comics and films):





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