Saturday, October 15, 2005

#203 - And Now for Something Truly Ineffective...!

By way of a homeschool news list to which we subscribe comes word of a falling out between American Girl™, and conservative activists. Interestingly, the article is published by "The Capital Times" which bills itself as "Wisconsin's Progressive Newspaper." This might explain why the headline reads "Conservatives diss American Girl" (emphasis mine). I would like to think that this is primarily why these "conservative activists" come off as pompous baboons in the article, but there's a fundamental truth that needs to be addressed in any case:

Conservatives make lousy boycotters.

The idea here is that American Girl, which creates and markets a line of dolls and the historical fictions that accompany them, is in league with Girls, Inc., which states that at least part of its objective is to promote the idea that girls should be allowed to choose what's best for their lives (read: abortion and lesbian rights). This, the conservatives say, is unacceptable. They're "not ready" to call for a boycott of American Girl products yet, but they'd sure like us to tell American Girl how displeased we are that they "support" this subversive group by sponsoring some of Girls Inc's worthier pursuits. In other words, American Girl indirectly supports abortion and lesbian rights by sponsoring Girls Inc's math and science programs for girls.

Okay, fine, I'm displeased. At the same time I see very little to get excited about in all this.

While conservatives (and remember, I consider myself to be such) talk themselves into a dither about liberal flag issues (abortion, gay marriage, etc., etc., etc.), they've done relatively little to protect their own positions politically and legally over the past several decades. It forcibly reminds me of a statement made in the play "1776!" when Robert Morris of New York describes a meeting of the New York legislature. "Everyone talks very loud and very fast, and no one listens to anyone else; with the result that nothing ever gets done. Beg the Congress's pardon." This perfectly describes the state of American politics today. Nothing ever gets done.

A prime example of this is every boycott ever called for against Disney and its theme parks. This happens every time the company announces "appreciation days" for diverse groups of people, or refuses to bar entrance to those people at the behest of whatever religious council is calling for it at the time. The council gets its collective noses bent out of shape and immediately calls for a worldwide religious boycott of all Disney theme parks and (by extension, of course) every Disney product ever created. Just as immediately, thousands of people who can't afford to go to the theme parks anyway boycott them, and Disney continues to make money hand over fist.

Think about it: what was the last successful boycott you ever heard about? The only one I personally remember was the boycott called for against California grape growers by Cesar Chavez to protest the working conditions of immigrant farm workers back in the early 70's. That one worked because it had an immediate impact on farmers' bottom lines. The workers were able to force better working conditions (at least in part), and organize themselves against future problems. Some might argue that the fight continues, but at least they won the right and ability to do just that.

Since then, however, I can't think of a single boycott that was called for that actually worked. Conservatives, in particular, just can't pull it off. I think it's because we're far too dedicated to capitalism to allow the flow of money in this country to be disrupted on mere principle. Smacks of anarchy, that does. If we boycott American Girl, we also impact the poor publishers, toy manufacturers, web designers, and other down-stream suppliers that support them. Chaos would ensue, and the terrorists would win. Can't have that!

For my part, I will continue as a parent to supervise my children's education. I will make sure they have a well-rounded understanding of the issues that they will face as adults when it's their turn to run the world. I will help them take full advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. I will continue my own boycott of Carl's Jr. because their advertising continues to be offensive and immature.

I will also continue to buy American Girl books because my girls like them so much. With apologies to the activists.

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