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?