In the wake of the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ rally last weekend, a large number of household-name brands have spoken out against white supremacy and hate crimes. From dating apps, to streaming services, to web platforms, the big bucks brands are putting their money where their mouth is–but why did it take such an explicit outpouring of Nazi racism to inspire these changes?
Many of the brands that have spoken up about Charlottesville have already begun acting on their promises; GoDaddy and Google have dropped domain registration for a white supremacist website, GoFundMe has taken down a fundraiser for Heather Heyer’s murderer, OkCupid booted Christopher Cantwell from its platform, and Spotify has removed hate music from its streaming service. All within a week of the horrific events of Charlottesville, which shows how quickly these global businesses can jump into action…when they want to.
Is anti-fascism the new activism in advertising? And if so, does their motivation for jumping on the bandwagon really matter if fascist groups are feeling the brunt of this?
“While this might not be a case of ‘too little too late’, it’s definitely a case of ‘okay start too late’.”
Regardless of whether companies are simply doing what they feel will boost the public’s perception of their brand, the results are largely the same. If these companies stay true to their word, and not just for the foreseeable future, white supremacy groups will find it more difficult to promote their bigotry online. And with Uber and AirBNB also vowing to ban these groups from accessing their services, they may even find it harder to organise in the real world as well.
Cracking down on bigotry groups and limiting the online tools they use to get their messages heard will hopefully go some way towards silencing their voice. But while this might not be a case of ‘too little too late’, it’s definitely a case of ‘okay start too late’. Why did it take this extreme consequence of allowing bigotry to breed to wake companies up to what needed to be done a long time ago?
“The only difference this time appears to be that it was a white woman that died.”
Up until now, these companies have remained complicit by allowing white supremacists to use their platforms to foster hate. They have always had the means to shut these activities down, but have waited until now to do so. It’s not even as if people haven’t already died at the hands of a society complicit in racism and bigotry – sadly, the only difference this time appears to be that it was a white woman that died.
Even before the era of Brexit and President Trump, racism, homophobia and sexism were an ongoing problem. The rise of the ‘alt-right’ (and the euphemistic way of referring to them as ‘alt-right’, rather than what they are – Nazis and bigots) has been building for a long time, and the evidence has been all around us. By utilising the very tools that have only just been taken away from them, white supremacist groups were able to organise and carry out the violent and bigoted rallies in Charlottesville last weekend – and various demonstrations before that.
“If we stay complicit, it’s only going to tell these brands that they can be complicit as well.”
As consumers become more socially aware, it seems logical in a capitalist society that companies will try to align themselves with their audiences’ values. It’s important to remember that our decisions can impact the way that large corporations behave, and by continually speaking out against hate crimes and white supremacy we can influence organisations larger than ourselves to use their weight against bigotry. But if we stay complicit, it’s only going to tell these brands that they can be complicit as well.
At the end of the day, we shouldn’t be praising huge brands for doing things they should have been doing all along. In fact, we shouldn’t be praising anyone for the simple act of denouncing white supremacy. Saying that Nazis are bad hardly makes you the epitome of morality, just a person with common sense and the most basic level of human decency (quick reminder that the US’s commander in chief is yet to denounce white supremacists, but that’s another story).
However, what we can do is acknowledge that it is the public’s outrage at events such as Charlottesville that influence companies to start banning those who partake in hate crimes and Nazi organisations. Individually we might not be able to change much on a large scale, but together we can cause a chain reaction that results in Nazis having fewer and fewer avenues to promote their hatred.
Right now, we need to listen to the minority groups in our communities. Use your privilege to amplify their voices, and add your own to those calling for change. If the last week in business news has proved anything, it’s that we can come together to force the hand of those with more power than ourselves.
Let’s not let anti-fascism be a passing fad.