Closing Your Eyes In The Dark

The current Olympics are plagued with allegations of Russian abuses: sexual rights abuses, animal rights abuses, health-and safety abuses. With each new allegation our social media channels gain a new call to boycott the Olympics. It is a noble sentiment, but for me at least, doomed to failure.

I am firmly against oppression of consensual sexuality. I am similarly against the destruction of both animals and their habitats for what is a transitory entertainment experience. So I am in favour of efforts to apply pressure on Russia not to do these things.

However, I am not boycotting the Olympics for two reasons.

First, a Boycott of watching the Olympics will probably not achieve anything; it might even cause unintended harm. Garrett Robinson, author and film-maker, makes this point well – if somewhat frenetically – in his latest vlog:

Second, I was not intending to watch the Olympics anyway. So, the closest I could get to a boycott would be to avoid any mention of it. In theory, this could be made obvious enough that my friends and family noticed I was making a statement; but that statement would, by definition, include no mention of the very issues I was seeking to protest.

Even the calls for a wider boycott, of not just the Olympics but everything Russian, are problematic. While I have no active desire to avoid Russia, it was not even in a mid-spot in my list of possible holiday destinations, so I am not really refusing to take a holiday there. I am not a frequent vodka drinker, so cannot change brands.

The only thing I could find in my lifestyle that is associated with Russia was my enjoyment of Russian science-fiction films and writing. But these books and films are often attacks on oppressive regimes; even if I somehow made a protest of not choosing to read or watch them, any impact it achieved would be against the people most likely to oppose the very things I was protesting.

This is not a blanket declaration I will not boycott companies or events in the future, but it does reveal a possible trend: instead of not supporting something that has a poor ethical profile, I am likely to support something that shares my values.

Do you use boycotts to express your displeasure? Do you feel boycotts are noise without real impact?


5 thoughts on “Closing Your Eyes In The Dark

  1. I do try to spend my money with companies that support causes that I think are worthy and avoid spending money with companies that support causes that I oppose. This isn’t always easy, since companies are not always forthcoming about what causes they support.

    I am far more concerned about the political causes that I have no choice in supporting, here in the US tax monies are frequently funneled to private groups that exist to promote a particular political agenda.


    1. The openness (or lack thereof) is a good point, and – unless you cut something out completely – you are still supporting the industry.

      I agree that expending tax revenues on promoting political agenda rather than public service is an issue; I am not sure how to perfectly distinguish between the public service of highlighting an issue and the political agenda of bolstering a belief.


  2. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes not. I would be happier if people would support businesses that do good things. Here in the states, the anti-corporate crowd tends to contradictory behavior, disdaining, for instance, Starbucks for just being huge, in spite of the fact that they implemented spousal benefits for same sex partners early on. In the end, the success of a boycott depends entirely on how widespread the sentiment against is. Boycott as a personal statement, I find uninteresting.


    1. Another good point: boycotts are a blunt instrument. How is anyone who cannot directly ask me going to know I am boycotting a coffee shop’s buying practices rather than their recognition of same-sex relationships.


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