Think you can’t sit on your butt and make a difference in the world? Think again! As shown with the recent boycott against Rush Limbaugh and the networks that are broadcasting his show, people really can make a difference by doing almost nothing. For anyone who considers themselves a feminist, Rush Limbaugh and his opinions are anathema to our worldview. His attacks on feminism are widely known, and if you don’t believe everything you read, feel free to check out this video of him doing his best to make himself look like a jerk:
It was just announced that Rush Limbaugh may be moving his radio show away from his current network, and 2,600 companies are apparently pulled their ads now, resulting in some very big losses for the company that continues to broadcast his drivel.
But how did all of this come about? Well, people sitting at their computers started up petitions. More people sitting at their computers signed those petitions. Those petitions were sent to the companies that were advertising with Rush Limbaugh’s network. Still more people created a browser add-on called ThinkContext, which allows you to see information about companies when you visit their pages, when you’re doing searches, and when you’re reading articles on news sites. This doesn’t just work with Rush Limbaugh, either.
What many people fail to realize, and corporations seem to have forgotten, is that the almighty dollar can speak very well even for the individual. Those dollars add up, and when there are thousands of people who refuse to spend their money on companies that are doing things people find morally reprehensible, companies lose profits. The company may go bankrupt, or it might just change its way of doing business. Ultimately, however, people have to continue boycotting. They have to continue their refusal to do business with these entities. If they give up and start making purchases out of convenience, the battle is lost.
One such instance of this occurred very recently with rapper Rick Ross and his contract with Reebok. About a month ago, Reebok dropped Rick Ross’ contract because of his rape-culture encouraging lyrics in the song U.O.E.N.O. and the public outcry they engendered. The public outcry included an online petition with over 50,000 signatures.
However, it now looks like this isn’t the end of the story. Since Rick Ross was recently noted as having a meeting with Reebok CEO, Uli Becker, who stated that Rick Ross was a “good guy” who had “stupid advisors,” maybe we haven’t seen the last of the Rick Ross/Reebok situation. Whether this is a case of the public being willing to forgive and forget, however, remains to be seen.
Reebok did listen to the voice of the people, albeit for a short period of time. Companies are listening to the people who want nothing to do with Rush Limbaugh, and who are willing to inconvenience themselves by boycotting companies that advertise with Clear Channel. Those electronic voices are making a difference, and if people continue to make their digital complaints known, companies will have no choice but to stand up and take notice. After all, they’re trying to reach these very same people and convince them to buy their products. If something they’re doing is turning people away, they want to know about it.
There’s more that can be done through so-called armchair activism, though. Blogs are posted, articles are written, and memes are created, all by people who see something they think is wrong. Videos are made that go viral. The odd celebrity will pick up on something, or their PR company will, and they jump on the bandwagon to promote a cause.
Awareness is always the first step when it comes to making a change. It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal issue, such as acknowledging substance abuse, or if it’s finding a flyer in your mailbox spreading messages of hate that you report to local authorities. You don’t necessarily have to be standing around with a picket sign in order to do your part to promote change.
When the Supreme Court Prop 8 hearings were going on the red and pink equal sign spread across Facebook like a rampant disease, it prompted an almost-constant discussion of marriage equality, and the support was not lost on the general public. It soon became clear that the majority of Americans supported marriage equality. Awareness of the will of the people can only help when it comes to making a change. It’s no guarantee that politicians and legislators will actually listen and vote accordingly, but it does make it more likely.
Many people can be timid about voicing an opinion they believe others do not hold, but once they see that someone else is expressing the sentiment they wish to express it makes it easier for them to find their voice. Knowing we are not alone in our views sometimes gives us the courage to act on them. Once we begin to act on them, it is much easier to continue to do so. We never know what will trigger someone to action.
Impatient Optimists, part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has created a site called Armchair Advocates, where people can go to learn about being effective activists from the comfort of their own homes. A big part of the reason for this site’s existence is to educate people in real ways that they can make a difference. After all, there are a lot of things promoted in ad campaigns and through social media that simply have no effect whatsoever.
There’s one other benefit to armchair activism that isn’t really mentioned, and it’s actually far more important than people might realize. When you show visible support for a cause, such as marriage equality, you might be surprised to learn that people you know personally are directly affected by the issue you support. They may not have spoken to you about it, unsure of your reaction. Then, when they see that you’re a supporter they suddenly open up to you, thanking you for that support. At a time when suicide rates are rising dramatically, this kind of acceptance from friends can make all the difference. Feelings that there’s no hope for them may suddenly be reversed when they see that there is.