Competing Boycotts

Checking out the fall TV line-up, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia when I saw that the Walt Disney Co. had cross-fertilized with its subsidiary, ABC, to revive The Wonderful World of Disney. This incarnation will feature broadcast premieres of such movies as Toy Story and Pocahontas, as well as a few original family films.

But who will be watching? With a plethora of competing boycott efforts, will anyone be tuned in?

First, boycotts are an important strategy in our "nonviolent arsenal." Although boycotts do not normally achieve immediate economic ends, they can affect public perceptions and build a strong and organized movement. But such actions should only be taken with considerable deliberation, because movements can also be derailed by such efforts, especially if support is weak.

Competing boycotts against one company further confuses the situation. Potential allies can become enemies, and the target company can play one group off another.

Disney is currently in this position. And many good people are left scratching their heads.

The Southern Baptist Convention's well-publicized decision this summer to encourage a boycott of Disney centered primarily on the corporation's decision not to exclude gay and lesbian organizations in outreach efforts for "group days," its commitment to provide spousal benefits for people in same-sex relationships, and its subsidiary's broadcast of Ellen's coming out. For the SBC, this demonstrated a move in an "anti-Christian and anti-family direction." Thus, the SBC asked its members "to take the stewardship of their time, money, and resources so seriously that they refrain from patronizing the Disney Co. and any of its related entities."

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1997
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