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The Grand Rapids Press and the BP Boycott

June 19, 2010

On today’s front page of the Grand Rapids Press Business section there is an article headline, “Targeting BP at the pumps: Experts say Boycott Misses the Mark; Hurts Local Owners, workers.”

With that kind of a title one might think that the Press spoke with people who have knowledge about the effectiveness of boycotts or how targeted boycott campaigns work. Instead the Press relies just one person whose credentials do not qualify them to address the effectiveness of boycotts.

The “expert” that the Press relies on is Mark Griffin, president of the Michigan Petroleum Association/Michigan Association of Convenience Stores (MPA/MACS). The MPA/MACS is essentially a business association that lobbies state legislators for the benefit of their members, which hardly qualifies Mark Griffin as an expert on this matter. He is merely defending his members, much like any business association would.

Griffin is quoted in the story as saying, You’re just hurting the little guy. People are somewhat misguided by their attempt to hurt BP.” With such a statement one would think that the Press reporter would talk to someone who is actively involved in the boycott, at least providing readers with some balance.

However, the only other people that the Press cites in this story is a BP gas station owner and three consumers, none of which know anything about the organized boycott and therefore do not support it.

This article is another example of how the Press defends corporate and business interests, in addition to practicing poor journalism. The Press failed to report on the Grand Rapids BP boycott rally that took place yesterday in Grand Rapids and more importantly they spoke to no one who would have provided a counter perspective to Mark Griffin.

The Effectiveness of Boycotts

If the Press had bothered to practice journalism they could have found plenty of people who have participated in and organized boycotts in the past. For example in recent years the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has conducted boycotts against a variety of fast food chains in the US, like Taco Bell. Their boycott campaign was successful because it targeted locally owned restaurants.

Did these boycotts impact those individual owners and did they hurt workers? Of course they did, but that is the reality of any boycott, local business owners and workers will be impacted. However, this kind of pressure has historically forced local business owners to also pressure the corporation that is being targeted, which is the whole point of a boycott, to get consumers and other sectors of society to pressure the company that is the target of the campaign.

Other historical examples have been the grape and lettuce boycotts organized by the United Farm Workers, the Woolworth boycotts during the Civil Rights and the anti-Apartheid campaign against businesses making a profit in South Africa in the 1980s. All of these boycotts targeted local businesses that sold the products of the companies that were being targeted, which is why they were successful.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2010 4:43 pm

    Back in 2000, TIBETmichigan and other global Tibet support groups started to put pressure on BP, including a Boycott, for another issue …

    http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/bp-sells-controversial-petrochina-shares

    … and the pressure eventually worked.

  2. June 19, 2010 4:50 pm

    Thanks for providing another example Glenn…..

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