Vancouver's MEC "Buycott" to counter the angry scapegoaters who want Mountain Equipment Co-op to stop sourcing products from Israel was, from my vantage point, a success. I was only there for half an hour but saw many people stopping outside to sign the petition and have a chat with the organizers. Inside the store, there was a noticeable group of buycotters around the Israeli-made underwear and water bottles. I had a chat with Jonathan Narvey, at whose site earlier in the day I watched a video, reminding us of all the high-tech products serious Israel boycotters will give up if they aren't just self-righteous poseurs wanting easy ways to identify with (and hence further encourage the production of) putative victims of the only state in the Middle East that has yet readily adapted to the liberal values of the modern global marketplace. At MEC, I was glad to discover that Israel is not just a land of computer programmers, chip makers, and fruit growers. They also work at the other end of things. Here are a couple of snaps of my purchase which should keep me dry and comfortable in worship of Vancouver's Arcadian religion:
For photos and film on the event, Jonathan Narvey points us to Aha media. Jonathan also has blogged his own excellent write up.
Late notice, sorry, but I think I'll head down to Vancouver's MEC in a couple of hours to support the Israel Buycott
Vancouver Action Alert: BUYcott MEC Goods on Sunday, November 29! « BUYcott Alerts
Here's a photo from the Toronto event yesterday:
Here's some interesting discussion of the possible future of boycotts and buycotts from Adam at the GAblog:
The only real contribution made by the Left to contemporary politics has been in its pioneering use of boycotts—whether it be the strike, the Montgomery bus boycott, the boycott of South Africa in the 80s, and, more recently (and, of course, far less obviously virtuous), attempts to gin up shunning campaigns against “socially irresponsible” companies like Wal-Mart.
Whatever one thinks of any particular cause, one can’t deny that the boycott is a completely voluntary and non-coercive form of political action—it may be experienced as coercive by its targets, but that just means that a new set of imperative have been introduced into your “table.” If you wish to sacrifice sales in order to continue with practices you consider necessary and justified, that’s up to you. (You can market yourself as a company willing to stand up to unwarranted intimidation—buy our products and stand alongside us!) My point here, though, is that advertising, that practice wherein the seller presents potential buyers with a model of what it would mean to possess the commodity or, to put it another way, where the producer or seller thinks about how its products and organization take shape in others’ self-representations, is where boycotts would show their results. More commons and skillful uses of boycotts might lead to all kinds of economic “irrationalities” (according to what model of rationality, though?) but it might be that a richer sense of the assemblage of imperatives one articulates with each new sale and purchase would create a more rational system overall. When some powerful activist group targets a corporation, there appears to be a conflict between the company’s duties to its shareholders and to some notion of social responsibility, but if ignoring the demands of that group ends up reducing sales, those duties are no longer competing. Nor need things end there—other groups are free to weigh down on the other side, and the company itself is free to make its case to the public; others can propose boycotts of companies that cave into the noxious activist group, etc. Boycotts can get more sophisticated and targeted (new companies would spring up to consult on them), and companies will more and more market themselves as “pro-family,” “pro-community,” or anything else. Of course companies do this now, but given the kind of development I am proposing, these claims would come under closer scrutiny all the time, and branding become an activity carried out by consumers as much as producers.
The moral imagination might think it needs to discipline the market, but the opposite is likely to be the case more often—we will become more conversant in the economics of morality. Indeed, we could imagine getting to the point where no moral claim for reform will be taken seriously without the proposal, at least hypothetical, as a kind of metric, of a boycott that would likely do more good than harm.