Saturday, March 18, 2006

March madness continues...

When I first read Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette response to an American family saying they were boycotting a vacation to Canada because of the hunt, I had kind of mixed feelings. On the one hand, you know, good for her. She spoke her mind and she did so aggressively. We're often very polite in the defence of the seal hunt. Very Canadian. So maybe after one too many of these letters or criticisms over something so minor as the hunt, she lost it and snapped off a letter. A particularly cutting and nasty letter, but I guess if your patience is done, you go "to hell with the consequences, full speed ahead."

Which leads to all sorts of recriminations the day after. News Google has 37 stories as of this writing regarding Hervieux-Payette's letter and the reaction to it. Liberals are distancing themselves, the Conservatives are saying "that's not what's needed," there is fear that it might damage U.S.-Canada relations (oh whatever, we have oil, they'll put up with more crap than this) and, of course, the anti-hunt groups are outraged.

You know, it can't be good for the blood pressure...all that outrage. I at least hope those organizations set up good health plans for their employees from all their fundraising. What's the stroke and heart attack rate in these organizations anyway?

Should she have done it? I cheered when I read it, but in retrospect, probably not. It's perhaps one of those letters you write to blow off steam, walk away from the computer for 10 minutes and then hit delete.

Do I think the American family in particular are stunned? Sure. "We are outraged. Therefore, we are staying home. We hope that shows you."

My god, there are so many worse things going on in the world than the seal hunt. And you will be hard pressed to find a better neighbour, if you're Americans, than Canada. The family is entitled to their opinion; I just wish it was a particularly intelligent, well thought out and informed one. Not coming to Canada because of the hunt? OK. I'd advise you to never leave your house then, because there are much, much, much scarier, nastier and more repulsive things happening in the world, your country, your state and probably your city than the hunt. Wouldn't want to accidentally be seen to be supporting them.

And, oh yeah, I'd advise you to cut out the meat and chicken. Or just try really hard not to think about how they got to your supper table.

I've been involved with my share of boycotts. I was with The Muse and we would do this annual bullshit boycott list. Three or four hour arguments (sometimes they went over two days) saying who we would or would not accept advertising from. No pro-choice or pro-life groups, nothing from GM (I think they did crash tests on animals), nothing from Nestle (dumping powder formula into third world countries, I believe), nothing from cosmetic companies (animal testing again) and I think there were attempts to boycott beer companies (because they were sexist).

And so on, and so forth. I grew to hate boycott lists and tried to, well, boycott them. Because they were dumb. They had no impact. Most of the groups didn't even try to advertise with us. It just seemed foolish, ineffective and a waste of time. I'm convinced that 99.9% of all boycotts have zero impact.

Just like I'm convinced the seafood boycott organized by some animal rights groups is having zero impact (Newfoundland can screw up the fishery just fine without the help of outsiders) and really, who cares if the family cancelled their vacation. It's going to make no impact. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Canada will not go bankrupt because they didn't spend a week in Toronto.

I appreciate her rant, but all Hervieux-Payette did was at best pick on the ill-informed. And worst she lowered herself to the level of idiots who think boycotts and letters to Canadian Senators made a difference and gave fire to animal rights groups.

Yeah, she should have walked away for 10 minutes and then deleted the letter. Oh well...

Hmmm, that was longer than I thought. One last link for this evening. This poster has been making the rounds throughout Iqaluit in the past week or so. The local paper ran it on Friday. It's kind of cute.

Currently Playing
Very Best of... - Dire Straits


dups said...

I disagree with you Craig about boycotts. While I do not believe that boycotts and opinions should be forced down anyone's throat, boycotts are a perfectly valid form of self or group expression.

By boycotting something for personal reasons, such as not agreeing with the company or government in question, you at least are not being a hypocrite. Arguing that Walmart treats its employees poorly and continuing to give them money is hypocritical.

Now do I agree with the family's boycott of Canada? Sure, that is up to them, why not, let them boycott whatever they bloody well please. Do I agree with the senator's statements, sure, they are valid counter arguments. I do not agree with moves to censure the senator or distancing away from her.

Boycotts do work. Sanctions against South Africa during the height of Apartheid were in essence a form of boycotting which worked remarkably well. You can argue in every case that boycotting does no good, poor people suffer and they are the ones to suffer not those that are running the governments etc. For instance boycotting a company like GAP essentially hurts GAP sales and puts thousands of poor workers in third-world countries out of jobs. That is one side of the argument.

However, if we did not speak up and say something then nothing will change. Boycotts do work. The Muse boycotting was interesting, but it amounted to taking a stand for our ideals, I did not disagree with that at all. Our job as a student paper (and yes my ideas have changed a bit in the intervening years) was to fight and promote those ideals. The problem eventually comes in the fact that not everyone agreed on those ideals, at that point the boycotts failed.

Oh yeah, and by the way, a strike is essentially a boycott of a company. Unions have successfully made sure that most people in developed nations have good working conditions (I do agree that some unions have gotten greedy). If you don't believe me, go spend a few months in a developing nation where unions have yet to have that kind of success.

Jason.Bartlett said...

I must say I agree with Dups on a few points.

1. Sanctions against South Africa did work. And heck it was Mulroney so you can even say boycotts work for evil people too.

2. Senator was right to say what she said, its her opinion. Liberals disavowing her, disappointing but not surprising. The Liberals are in a rush to disavow anything they touched over the past year.

However I disagree with the old Muse boycotts.

I was there for one or two, I forget the exact number as my therpist was able to remove most of my memories of that time.

I do remember it being less about ideals and more about this is what I think and I'm right, deal with it. Miliant piousness. I also remember we wouldn't acccept funding from the military, because they used guns or were in Nato. So not only did they fail they also didn't make a lot of sense. "Hi Canadian military here can we put an add in your paper for recruitment?"

Sensible boycotting yes, idealogical rants disguised as boycotting no.

As for the bloody seals doesn't anybody remeber Denis Leary's wise words on the subject. (Too long for me to recap here, I believe its on the Cure for Cancer album)

Ed Hollett said...

Boycvotts are wonderful things.

In my day - before the flood - The Muse would proudly print its list of boytcotted advertisers, including of course defence manufacturers and the Canadian Forces.

There wasn't much advertising in the campus rag in those days, as a consequence.


Each week there'd be a full-page, sometimes a full back pager, advertising Texas Instruments calculators.

Texas Instruments made guidance systems for various types of missiles, in addition to making those hand-held things the size of a paperback that would calculate cos, sin and tan for you.

Seems someone at The Muse missed that little tidbit of information, but the self-righteousness of the editorial boycotts still gave some of us a chuckle every week, courtesy of TI.

Jason Bartlett said...

Just a addition to what I said earlier, I also remeber when the rant came up against accepting money from the Canadian Forces, Sue told of how the forces helped her brother build a better life for himself and she thought it was an evil organization. Boy I remember the looks! "Hello Sue getting our hate on, kinding of bringing it down" That kind of look.

John Mutford said...

Why don't we all agree that some boycotts work and others don't? Does anyone remember when Coca-Cola pulled its bottling plant out of Newfoundland? We were all going to bring Coca-Cola to its effervescent knees with our sad boycott which lasted oh about a week. That one definitely didn't work. Hmmm. That reminds me. How's the Coke plant in Iqaluit doing Craig?

towniebastard said...

The coke bottling plant is doing just fine, John, judging by the number of disgarded coke bottles you see lying around town...

Your story of the coke boycott reminds of an uncle. He had long boycoted Pepsi because he discovered that the odds of winning their contests was worse in Newfoundland than anywhere else in Canada. Then Coke pulled out of the province so he boycotted Coke. I think he was drinking Big 8 cola, but hated it, so he caved in and started drinking Pepsi again, feeling it was the lesser evil.

It's why I dislike boycotts. Yes, in rare instances they work, but I think they don't in most cases. If you don't want to buy something from a place because you disagree with some aspect of how they do business, fine. But don't get all moral and pious and start telling people "well, I would never buy stuff from them." It's just annoying and most people end up changing their mind once their boycott become inconvenient. "I would never shop with them (but it's a really good sale this week, so I'll make an exception)."

I'm not saying you do this, Dups. But we all know people like it.

And like Jason, I have lingering memories of horrific Muse boycott meetings. I think that's where my dislike from them comes from. God, the sanctimonious that came from those meetings still makes me ill.