Hold the Corn Flakes. Dump the Raisin Bran. These are the new battle cries in the war of political boycotts. And they are welcome signs that the right is slowly learning to beat the left at its own game.
Two weeks ago, Kellogg’s announced it was pulling its advertising from the popular Breitbart News website because Breitbart isn’t “aligned with our values as a company.” Apparently believing that cereal and waffles have values other than nutritional ones, the breakfast food giant stated: “We recently reviewed the list of sites where our ads can be placed and decided to discontinue advertising on Breitbart.com.”
This move comes in tandem with the left’s vociferous condemnation of Stephen Bannon, who ran Breitbart before becoming Donald Trump’s top campaign strategist last summer and whom Trump has since appointed as his chief White House strategist. Leftists still shocked and outraged over Trump’s election have taken to tarring Bannon, a staunch supporter of Israel, as an anti-Semite and labeling Breitbart “racist and sexist,” with scant evidence to support either claim.
The capitulation by Kellogg’s to vengeful Democrats is consistent with the company’s kowtowing to left-wing activists; the W.K. Kellog Foundation, which maintains strong financial ties to the Kellogg’s Company, has given $930,000 to Black Lives Matter.
And Kellog’s is far from alone in the corporate world in its wish to appease liberal and leftist activists; it has followed the cue of companies such as AppNexus, Allstate, Nest, EarthLink, Warby Parker, and SoFi, in hoping to punish and marginalize a news site that helped propel populists to victory.
But the punishment seems to be working in the other direction. Condemning the “deplorables” has turned into a political food fight, and the deplorables seem to be winning. Kellogg’s decision to pull its advertising from Breitbart (with its 45 million monthly readers) was met with quick and fierce retaliation.
Breitbart responded to the blacklisting by initiating a blacklist of its own – a boycott for a boycott. The day after the Kellogg’s announcement, Breitbart launched a #DumpKelloggs petition encouraging readers to stop buying all Kellogg’s products. Within a week, 400,000 readers had signed a boycott petition, and the number continues to rise. Traffic to Breitbart is at an all-time high and Kellogg’s stock fell 3.6 percent in the days following the launching of Bretibart’s counter-boycott.
Kellogg’s should have consulted with Target to see how corporate meddling in cultural politics can go bad. Last April, after announcing it would welcome transgender customers to use any bathroom or fitting room, Target was hit with a retaliatory announcement.
Critics, who claimed the new policy literally opened the doors for predators of women and children, hit back with their own pledge to stop shopping at Target until it reversed its policy. Results were not long in coming. Target’s transactions fell by 2.2 percent in the second quarter and overall sales fell 7.2 percent.
Rather than reverse the policy, Target made a second announcement in the summer: In a counter-effort aimed at appeasing critics, Target announced it was installing single-occupancy bathrooms in all of its stores – to the tune of $20 million, demonstrating how irrational “social justice” sense is replacing market sense.
Liberals met with a similar defeat several years ago when they denounced and boycotted Chick-fil-A for its opposition to same sex marriage. Then, too, conservatives rallied and dined out on so many chicken sandwiches and nuggets that Chick-fil-A’s sales soared 14 percent.
The right is learning to fight back. And Republican victories in the presidential and congressional realms are motivating conservatives to update their weaponry to keep up with the new commercial rules of engagement.
While boycotts can be risky maneuvers in the crosscurrent between commerce and culture, they are a means to empower the individual to feel he can make a difference. And when conservatives use them to fight boycotts that liberals initiated against them, it’s purely a matter of fighting fire with fire.
The need for this type of offense is particularly glaring in the fight against the BDS movement, the most pernicious of blacklisters on an international level. Despite Israel’s standing as a world leader in the export of technology and medical advances, leftist BDS activists are happy to crusade against innovation if it means demeaning and delegitimizing Israel.
Israelis need to fight back in kind. And they are beginning to learn how. In addition to garnering support in the political arena, as they are doing on the federal and state levels in America, the notion of boycotting the boycotters is taking hold.
Days before the Kellogg’s/Breitbart debacle, former Israeli ambassador to the UN Michael Oren suggested that Israelis “think twice” before buying French products after France announced it would implement a policy of labeling goods from Judea, Samaria, and the Golan. And last week, Israel for the first time denied an NGO official affiliated with BDS entrance into the county, on the grounds of her involvement in “anti-Israel activity.”
These new approaches by Israel are long overdue and can be effective only if they become consistent and sustained. They can become even more successful if all lovers of Israel, in Israel and abroad, join together to enforce them.
Populist surges taking place around the globe attest to the power of the individual voice. And these successes are encouraging those individual voices to band together. The more that happens, the greater the chance of winning the fight against those who would boycott the right to have that voice.