The first rule of Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, and radicals know how to use it: ‘Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have’.
Twitter has a baleful influence fatal to sense and realism (and yes, I know ThomasHobbes autotweets), It just needs some organisation, maybe a Twitter-group or a botnet, and thousands of tweets can flood out to a commercial or political organisation demanding action and it will look as if the whole world has risen; not just one spotty student with an understanding of antisocial media. Companies do respond, and they do withdraw profitable lines of goods, or books, or articles; institutions withdraw invitations to speakers and apologise for things they have not done and would not in honesty be sorry for if they had. That is the power of power the enemy thinks you have.
The success of boycott threats is incomprehensible to logical analysis. As an example, a tiny organisation, ‘Stop Funding Hate’, has demanded of several companies that they stop advertising in newspapers that campaign opposes, and they have been successful simply by panicking those companies’ PR departments. The cost in loss of sales must be measurable; yet there is no evidence that ‘Stop Funding Hate’ could have any influence to harm those companies had their demands been made. In 2017 the campaign demanded that Paperchase withdraw from a joint promotion with the Daily Mail, and to apologise for entering it, all on the say-so of a tiny group with a botnet; that is when the campaign was exposed for its dishonesty, but it carried on and Paperchase later withdrew all advertising from the Mail, saying that they had “listened to customers”; which is doubtful.
The influence of hate-filled activists in backroom studio-flats over professionally run companies is astounding. Targeted companies may not even ask themselves whether a blackmail demand from a left-wing activist is a realistic threat, and whether complying will harm them more than ignoring it. Presumably they are afraid of the times when a threat has gone wider; but even then it may be more harmful to be seen to give in than to resist. In this, radicals have an advantage over conservatives: radicals will act as they wish, unafraid of any consequences: conservatives tend to be quieter, and we do have reason not to put our heads above the parapet, as we have families and jobs to protect.
There are more conservatives than there are radicals. Conservatives tend not to shout and threaten boycotts though. We have the potential power, but unseen, and therefore no power at all. To combat a boycott campaign would require an immediate response, not to the leaders of the campaign but to the targets, before the target has moved to yield. The resistance to the boycott should offer to give the target company comfort, to inform them of the reality of who the campaigners are and their relation, if any, to the company’s customer base, and to show with demographics that yielding to the demand may be more harmful to customer relations than ignoring it.
The problem is that there is no one who is in a position to do this. A commercial organisation, like a chamber of commerce or the Institute of Directors might be in a position to organise a ‘response unit’, but otherwise radicals without responsibility have free rein to impose themselves on society without opposition. u