Live from the 2021 Battle of Ideas in Westminster, Peter Whittle addresses whether boycotting companies (be they GB News, Gillette or Ben & Jerry’s) as a form of political activism against their corporate stance on political, social or cultural issues can be equated with censorship.
The excerpts in this clip are taken from a live session at the Academy of Idea’s annual “Battle of Ideas”, which this year was held at Church House, Westminster. The other panellists were: Nick Buckley, MBE; Jodie Ginsberg; & Fraser Myers.From GB News to Ben & Jerry’s: Boycotts or Censorship? Peter Whittle Speaks at The Battle of Ideas – YouTube
Official Session Description: “As a tool for political activism, boycotting has a long history. The term originated from the name of one Charles Boycott, a land agent for an absentee landlord in Ireland in the nineteenth century. When he tried to evict peasants from the land following a poor harvest, local workers and traders refused to cooperate or do business with Boycott, leaving him isolated. The local postman even refused to deliver his mail. “Boycotts continue to be used, from the anti-Apartheid movement of the late twentieth century to the modern day, when activists call for boycotts of goods from what they see as another Apartheid regime: Israel. Earlier this year, ice-cream brand Ben and Jerry’s announced that it was suspending all sales in Israeli settlements in Palestine, prompting accusations of anti-Semitism. “The media can be targeted for boycotts, too. Ever since the Hillsborough disaster, ‘don’t buy the Sun’ has been the rallying cry of those outraged at false reports about what happened on the day. Recently, new media outlet GB News also faced a boycott campaign when activist group Stop Funding Hate encouraged social-media users to pressure advertisers to pull their ads from the network. While GB News lives on, the results of the campaign sent a clear message: if enough people take action online, businesses will pay attention. “Boycotts aren’t exclusive to the political left, of course. A quick Google search produces numerous lists of companies for conservatives to steer clear of. ‘Go woke, go broke’ is a slogan thrown around on Twitter to call for boycotts of brands that typically voice liberal-left opinions on issues of race or gender. Remember the reaction to Gillette’s adverts referencing #MeToo and toxic masculinity? Or what about those conservatives who refused to watch England football games at the Euros if the players took the knee for Black Lives Matter? “For some, boycotts are childish. For others, they are downright intolerant. But for those of a more libertarian tendency, they are simply an expression of consumer choice. People vote with their feet when it comes to price and quality, they say, so it makes perfect sense that they do the same based on political allegiances. What’s all the fuss about? “If boycotts are simply legitimate expressions of preference or political opinion, can we complain about them? Or, if they stray into the territory of suppressing political debate, do they then become more of a threat? Are boycotts an attack on free expression or a weapon for those fighting for accountability? How has the use of boycotts changed over the years, and why have they become so contentious?”