Boycotting the Once-ler

So like everyone else, you’ve been buying Thneeds from the Once-ler for years without ever hesitating to think about it.

After all, a Thneed’s a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need! It’s a shirt. It’s a sock. It’s a glove. It’s a hat. But it has other uses. Yes, far beyond that. …

But then one day you read an eye-opening, heart-rending piece of investigative journalism. You come to understand the awful ramifications of the manufacture and distribution of Thneeds. You learn about Gluppity-Glupp and Schloppity-Schlopp and what they are doing to the critical habitat of Bar-ba-loots, Swomee-Swans and Humming Fish.

Step 1: Abstaining from complicity

And then it dawns on you that you are complicit in this. Every penny you’ve spent over the years buying Thneeds has gone to support the Once-ler’s Truffula-destroying death-machine. And you decide you want no part of that.

“No more,” you say out loud, your jaw set determinedly, and you vow never again to spend even one penny on Thneeds or anything else the Once-ler might be selling.

This is a Good Thing. It’s also the right thing to do.

First, do no harm. By refusing to participate in the harm being done to the Bar-baloots and the Swomee Swans and the Humming Fish, you’re becoming a less harmful person and therefore a better person. You’re also making your money serve your morals instead of the other way around. This is all good and necessary. I would even say it’s obligatory.

But it’s also mostly about you — not in a selfish sense, but your decision to stop buying Thneeds will affect you more than it affects anything else. Your abstention may have some effect on the Once-ler and on the Bar-ba-loots, etc. By withholding your financial support, you may be very, very slightly reducing the Once-ler’s capacity to harm those creatures. And you’re contributing to market pressures that might persuade the Once-ler to reform his ways — if, that is, he is somehow able to determine that his infinitesimal dip in revenue is due to losing you as a customer, and if he is further able to guess at the reason for that loss.

You’ll probably want to encourage such reform by sending him a letter announcing your decision and explaining your reasons for it. It’s not terribly likely, but it’s possible that such a letter will help to nudge the corporation in a more positive direction.

But even after you craft a compelling, eloquent letter and fire it off to Once-ler HQ, the bottom line is that your decision to never again buy a Thneed won’t do much to change the Once-ler or to change the world. Mostly it will just change you.

That’s a Good Thing, but perhaps it’s also just a good start.

Step 2: Organizing a boycott

Having changed yourself, you’ve now become the sort of person who can’t bear not also trying to change the world. You realize that’s a much bigger job and that you won’t be able to do it alone. So you decide to start organizing and recruiting others to join you in a formal boycott of the Once-ler.

This changes what you’re doing. Before you were an individual, acting alone and vowing never again to buy a Thneed. But now, by organizing a boycott, you’re no longer just an individual acting alone. And you’re also no longer vowing to never again purchase a Thneed.

Boycotts are not about “never.” Boycotts are about “until.” (Or, to stick with our theme here, about “unless.”)

The point of a boycott is not to start a “No Thneeds” club, but rather it’s about leveraging your collective economic power as consumers to compel the Once-ler to reform his practices. If the only goal of your boycott is a cry of protest — a collective howl of “Yee-argh!” — then you probably will achieve that goal.

But that’s probably all you will achieve.

To be effective, a boycott needs to set specific goals and to make specific demands. You’ll need something concrete and measurable that you can demand the Once-ler do, insisting that none of you will buy Thneeds until he commits to doing it. Perhaps a Truffula-tree replanting program to ensure a sustainable Bar-ba-loot habitat, plus a commitment to stop dumping Gluppity-Glupp into Humming Fish ponds.

This approach is far likelier to have an impact on the Once-ler’s behavior, and is thus likely to be a more effective way of changing the world.

But note that this approach also once again involves you in the world of the Once-ler. You’re no longer abstaining. By shifting the focus away from maintaining your own impotent innocence, you may lose a bit of that innocence in exchange for losing that impotence. “Never again” becomes “not until,” and the promise of achieving some kind of individual moral purity recedes a bit.

Taking this step involves trade-offs because this step involves involvement. Involvement means caring more about changing the world than about abstaining from it to preserve your own purity.

And unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.

It’s not.

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  • Notes N Stanzas

    Someone on Christians Against the Tea Party Facebook page re-wrote the poems from this : )!/Christiansagainstea

  • Apropos of nothing in particular… this whole discussion of “Sweet Home Alabama” was really, really confusing to me until I realized that the song in my head is actually Warren Zevon’s “Play it all Night Long,” and “Sweet Home Alabama” is a completely different song.

  • Jurgan

    I don’t think so.  So I boycott the Onceler and demand he stop polluting.  But there’s still demand for thneeds, so people will keep buying them.  The Onceler agrees to install new scrubbers, water purification systems, and starts a truffula planting program to reduce his economic impact.  I have to pay a bit more for my thneeds, but I think it’s worth it.  Except that Onceler Industries is not a monopoly.  Now a new, smaller company sets up shop creating thneeds and not following any of the self-imposed regulations the Onceler has taken on, so naturally they sell for cheaper.  Self-imposed regulations can’t solve the problem, because there will always be a less scrupulous competitor ready to undercut their prices, and I’m thus punishing the more ethical companies by making them enact more expensive regulations with no benefit.  I doubt the extra business they get will make up for the costs.  So now I start boycotting the new thneed company?  I really doubt we can continue to shift the targets of our boycott to keep up.

    What’s more, most of the thneeds are not sold through direct sale stores, but through big box retail like Wal-Mart and Target, and they will buy from the cheapest source.  Do I also boycott Wal-Mart and Target?  Some people say yes, for any number of reasons, but those people are living in a privileged world.  It’s easy to have moral choices and good products if you can afford both.  In the end, though, many people can’t afford to buy from “moral” stores, and saying they should is demanding they be fined for trying to live a more moral life.  We can’t all afford to only shop at places that follow our personal codes.  I also find out that the poultry farm that sells to my grocery store uses thneed feed.  They use thneeds to humanely kill the chicken, as well as avoiding the overuse of antibiotics.  So now I have two conflicting moral goods and either choice will cause environmental damage.  It turns out that thneeds are integrated into the economy to the point where doing without them is impossible.

    The solution, then, is not to demand an individual company change its practice.  The solution is to demand that the government pass laws forcing all companies to use sound techniques so that every company is competing on the same playing field.  That’s what Ralph Nader did.  He publicized dangers of cars, but he didn’t simply demand Chrysler or GM make safer cars.  Rather, he demanded laws force the cars to be safer across the board.  Companies are far too intertwined today, and competition is too high, to reasonably expect boycotts to change the situation.  Getting new laws and regulations passed is probably harder, but it’s also the only way to fix the problem, rather than just shift it from company to company.

    Addendum: I make exception to this policy if the thing I am objecting to is unrelated to business practices and correcting it would not impose additional costs.  The most current example is Chick-Fil-A.  They are engaged in practices I disagree with, but opposing gay rights is not part of their business strategy.  There’s no practical reason why they need to continue supporting the Family Research Council, and other chicken restaurants do not do so, so it makes sense to shift my business in that case.  Trying to shift my buying decisions based on business practices, though, is not a practical solution in a world where business are so entangled.

  • Jurgan

    Yeah, I’m both a liberal Christian and white Southerner.  I’m embarrassed by our racist past (and, to a lesser extent, present) and our starting the Civil War.  I live practically in sight of Ft. Sumter, so I’m familiar with the apologia.  I’m also embarrassed by some of the backwards positions the church supports.  I speak out when I can, but I hate it when ideological allies online talk about “let the South secede, we don’t need ’em anyway.”  I’d rather not be ignored, guys, thanks.

  • Rhubarbarian82


    The fact that I don’t order from Amazon doesn’t do anything at all to
    Amazon and isn’t going to change anything at those warehouses, but it
    still matters to me that I not participate in that.

    Ordering from Amazon really, really tears me up, because I’ve tried using brick and mortar alternatives and it’s just not feasible anymore. My time is at too much of a premium to drive from store to store, hoping that one of them will just have the item I want in stock. Even trying to buy things that should be really simple turns into a huge chore, when I can just click a couple of times on Amazon and have it delivered directly to my apartment. I’m not sure what brick and mortar stores are trying to compete on, but it’s not inventory, price, or friendliness.

    Books I can make a point of buying from the local bookstore run by the kindly old couple, but for a lot of other things I find myself having to fall back on ordering from Amazon. I think Amazon is really starting to show troubling undercurrents, especially after the California sales tax initiative debacle and the stories of how warehouse workers are treated, but… I have a hard time finding alternatives.

  • olsonam

    I was wondering if Fred might have been referencing the Hyatt boycott, as that is going on right now but no one seems to be talking about it, even though it’s meant to help some of our most vulnerable.

  •  I speak out when I can, but I hate it when ideological allies online
    talk about “let the South secede, we don’t need ’em anyway.”  I’d rather
    not be ignored, guys, thanks.

    Yeah.  When I lived in Dallas I mostly hung out with non-religious folks.  Even the religious ones were very much on the liberal end of the spectrum.  The “let ’em secede” attitude leaves my friends, who I know aren’t part of that culture, on the wrong side of the line.

    Hell, there was a period when it would have left me on the wrong side of the line.

  •  Pretty much agreed with this, but it’s worth noting that if we’ve badgered Onceler Industries into adopting more truffula-friendly thneed manufacturing methods, we’ve also made Onceler Industries our ally in lobbying the government to pass laws mandating such methods, since it turns the playing field into one where they have first-mover advantage.

    Whereas if we ignore Onceler Industries, they are our opponent.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Sgt. Pepper: essential reading before this post, Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. The book, mind. Not the movie. Love interest what the fuck.

  • Victor Savard

    (((This is a Good Thing. It’s also the right thing to do.)))


    (((Boycotts are not about “never.” Boycotts are about “until.” (Or, to stick with our theme here, about “unless.”)))

    UNLESS WHAT sinner vic?

    STOP “IT” sinner vic cause me, myself and i know who you are and you are

    (((And unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.)))

    I can hear ya salvage, Where is your so called “Jesus” NOW Victor?

    GOD ( Good Old Dad) only knows!

    Go Figure! :)


  • JonathanPelikan

    (Long post ahead and I’m not sure I’m getting my point across well.) 

    (Also I know Disqis is going to fuck up the spacing on this big time. Apologies in advance.)


    I agree in specific with many of the points you make, particularly being from Missouri myself where It’s Complicated And Vaguely Southern Sometimes is pretty much the law of the land. Also, having ‘Southern’ be code for a whole raft of classist stuff and stereotyping attached to legitimate criticism of the past and current sins of Conservatives is really, really annoying, see: “trailer trash”, “poor white trash”, and other things which are aimed at people like Teabaggers and yet end up hitting a lot of collateral damage and spreading ignorance on the way in.

    Thing is, though, I worry because a lot of your points sound like what I hear of Centrism, that is, the main thrust of ‘well. your criticism may be difficult to argue against, but you’re flawed too and things are Complicated so let’s not go apportioning blame’. It’s basically one of the best covers Conservatism, either in the past or present, can ask for, as it allows them to continue without the scorn, ridicule, and hate they deserve.

    Our bigger national problem isn’t that Conservatives and Centrists and people who uphold corrupt and unjust systems are called out enough and hammered enough or too much; I’d argue it’s the other issue, where, well, you know, if somebody’s yelling at a racist Teabagger and the Teabagger’s yelling back about the Lying African in the White House, that’s a Debate and that’s two equivalent sides and who can really say?

    Boiling it down, what I end up hearing at first (and I’ll be very clear that”s not what I think you’re actually saying) is something like ‘well, there were racists in the north too, so we can’t really judge the south.’

    I’m not saying that you’re doing this but I just wanted to put in a big old plug for anti-Centrism and Both Sides Don’t. I’ll take allies wherever I can find them, still, but when it comes to the Southern History, we absolutely have Neo-Confederates and people who say Blacks And Whites Got Along Fine Until The Northerners… and those people get elected governors of states. We absolutely need to hammer them with everything we’ve got, provided we don’t end up hitting people who don’t deserve it, too.

  • Tonio

    Ironic since Matt Stone is Jewish. Not that Parker and Stone are the equivalent of Norman Lear, but Eric Cartman might have been created specifically as a straw man like Archie Bunker. While reactionaries adopted Bunker as a hero, I suspect many SP fans see Cartman as a reaction against “political correctness.”

  • Tonio

    I hear talk like that as well, sometimes in the form of “we should have them seced in the first place.” Seriously, if I had been Lincoln, I might have considered recognizing Southern independence in exchange for emancipation, just to see what the reaction would be. One strong argument against “state’s rights” then and now was that the Confederate constitution forbade any member states from banning slavery in its own borders.

  • The_L1985

    It doesn’t say that you’re necessarily buying a different brand of Thneed. If you don’t actually need the Thneeds, you can simply abstain from Thneed-buying altogether.

    Saying “I won’t buy IPhones” doesn’t automatically require you to buy a different kind of smartphone.

  • The_L1985

    What? The 2nd verse:

    In Brimingham they love the governor (BOO, BOO, BOO!)
    Now we all did what we could do.
    No, Watergate does not bother me,
    Does your conscience bother you?

    Boo-ing George Wallace, saying you “did what you could do” to keep him OUT of office, and implying that Wallace-supporters were in the wrong is pretty much the opposite of racism et al.

  • The_L1985

    Dear gods, they went Tea Party?


  • JonathanPelikan

    Immediately thought about Mass Effect 3. Specifically, that was the straw that finally broke my loyalty to Bioware and spurred me to boycott their stuff now. They’ll not get another dollar from me. A set of things just building and building and then the ending and the dustup over the ending… I’d reached a personal point where I couldn’t stand it any longer. And since BiowEAre collectively care far more for my dollar, as a statement of fact, I’m simply going to deny them the thing they want most from me, Mo’ Money.

    Yet at the same time, this was a deeply personal decision I made based on my own value system and my own this and that and I’m not even sure a ‘Bioware sucks now’ or ‘You shouldn’t buy Mass Effect stuff anymore’ is something I even want to say to other people. I supported efforts like Retake Mass Effect and demanded a better ending, but now that it’s clear that the Extended Cut is the end of the line and that’s it, that’s the end of the story on Mass Effect, (until 4, Gods help them.) then what? No point in lobbying them to change at this point, their reaction to the fan outcry was just terrible all the way down.

    So I’m not going to organize a boycott to try and take them down, and not just for my hopes now that they sink as the Titanic did, perhaps slowly, perhaps quickly, and that for their recent actions they will reap a rightful capitalistic return, that is, failure.

  • EllieMurasaki

    A cell phone pretty much is a necessity these days, and as far as I know every single one is either manufactured in or uses pieces-parts manufactured in somewhere they don’t pay workers shit. I’ll give you smartphones not being a necessity, but I don’t know of any moral reason to go with a dumbphone over a smartphone.

    (Excuse me why I throw a fit about cell phone carriers. My current plan is AT&T: I feed the phone $100 and that does me for a year or until I use enough minutes or texts to use up the $100, at the rate of twenty-five cents a minute or twenty a text. Last September I got lost downstate and couldn’t call or text my parents to Google Maps me directions or call or text the people I was meeting to tell them I’d be late, despite having like $30 still on the phone, because I’d forgotten that last time I’d fed the phone was the previous September. That is how much I use the damn phone. Any cell phone carrier that wants to tempt me away from AT&T needs to offer a plan that costs me less than $100/yr. CREDO Mobile wants to tempt me away from AT&T on the grounds that AT&T supports the Tea Party and other unsavory causes and CREDO Mobile supports the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and baby pandas. I would love to be tempted, but the cheapest plan CREDO Mobile has is $30/mo. It is much more cost-efficient to give AT&T $100, sulk about the fraction of that that goes to unsavory causes, and divide $260 among the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and baby pandas.)

    Anyway, Thneeds in the original are some sort of fiber creation. To replace a store-bought Thneed with one that has no taint of environmental unfriendliness or lack of adherence to labor standards, you’d have to do all your own knitting/weaving, all your own spinning, all your own arcane-magic-that-gets-fiber-from-the-plant-to-something-spinnable, all your own fiber-growing…wait, you’re not paying yourself a damn thing for this, so you better enjoy this whole process, otherwise it’s a thorough waste of time, because you’re lucky if you get paid enough per Thneed-substitute for enough Thneed-substitutes to cover the cost of materials and to hell with getting paid for your labor. Because we are collectively so damn used to being able to go to Walmart and buy a whole hell of a lot of Thneeds for what it would cost to buy a single Thneed if everyone involved in its production were being paid a living wage.

  • Tonio

    For years I thought the lyric was “they love the gum-nout,” assuming that the word referred to a Southern candy. The rest of the verse is very oblique – what did they do and what would the listener’s conscience have to do with Watergate?

  • MaryKaye

    There are cases where you don’t have to organize a boycott, because the customer base recognizes that something wrong is going on and departs en masse for an alternative.  But that requires (a) what is wrong is clearly visible to customers and affects them, (b) there is an alternative available.
    I enjoyed what happened to WOTC/TSR with the release of 4th Edition D&D (they lost a lot of business to a competitor whose practices I prefer).  But if WOTC had been putting out the same game, and had just taken to using sweatshop labor to make the books, it wouldn’t have played out like that.  It was the combination of WOTC putting out something that was not what (some of) the fans wanted, and also acting in ways that made (many of) the fans feel abused, that led to the mass flight.  I don’t even think these are boycotts, or at least only the fraction of fans who left *because* of the behavior and not the product were actually boycotting.  Don’t know what fraction that was–pretty small, I’d guess.

    When the bad behavior is not directly tied to a bad product it’s a lot harder to get consumers to notice.  For fruits and veggies, “certified organic” was a huge step forward because it gets (some of) the conditions of farming onto the vegetable where consumers can see them, rather than requiring consumers to figure out “Okay, Company X uses toxic pesticides–I’ll try to avoid them.”

    Hm.  One thing that would help, if legal considerations would allow it–I’m not sure they would–would be easier customer access to bad news about companies.  For years I subscribed to the Better Business Bureau’s Charity Ratings service, until I got broke enough that I figured the money had better go to charities directly.  They rate charities on financial responsibility and transparency, mostly.  It’s a good way to avoid the horrible “Fifteen cents on every dollar goes to the cause, the rest is fundraising” scams, but it doesn’t tip you off to, say, the difference between a “crisis pregnancy clinic” and a clinic that helps pregnant people who are in crisis.  Having info like this on the Internet, from a well-vetted source, could really help responsible businesses and hurt irresponsible or evil ones.  But how to get it up there without being sued, and how to keep it accurate?  I disbelieve in Yelp and its brethren because so many of the reviews of places I actually go seem unconnected to what I experience there.

    A Snopes for corporate behavior sounds great, but I think its socks would get sued off.

  • re: cell phones – my wife and I used Credo for a year.  The service was fine, but the bills were not. I think, if you’re out on the West Coast where cell plans tend to be more expensive, the cost is comparable. Anywhere else, you’re paying extra to trumpet your idealism. Instead, we have switched to the Virgin Mobil pay as you go plan, and donate some of the money we save to charitable organisations. 

  • Boiling it down, what I end up hearing at first (and I’ll be very clear
    that”s not what I think you’re actually saying) is something like
    ‘well, there were racists in the north too, so we can’t really judge the

    Thank you for giving me the benefit of the doubt.  I was saying that (I think) Ronnie Van Zandt was trying to say that and expanding on the thought.

    But, yeah, I have an odd perspective as a Yankee who lived in Texas and hung out with non-stereotypical Texans.  From my perspective you can’t say, “Everyone in [insert place here] is bad,” or, “Everyone in [insert other place here] is good.”  That’s really a shitty way to solve any problems, since nowhere are all people bad and no people are all bad, either.

    But, by the same token, we can’t judge The South, just as we can’t judge The North or The City of Denver, Colorado.  There are good people in The South.  There are bad people in Buffalo.  If you want to change Alabama, you need to go find those people in Birmingham and Montgomery and Mobile who reject all of that racist, chauvinistic bullshit that is called “Southern Culture.”

    There’s a brilliant episode of Sports Night that addressed exactly that, with Robert Guillame’s Isaac Jaffe getting on TV and giving a very Sorkin speech about how there are many great traditions in the South that should be preserved, but the Confederate flag is not one of them, since it stands for ignorance and bigotry and hatefulness.  That’s how we need to do it.  Separate the wheat from the chaff, work with the wheat, and don’t say, “Y’all are a bunch of back-assward failures of humanity.”  That’s not how things get changed.

  • Since quoting Solzhenitsyn when it becomes appropriate seems to be a standard role I play now: Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts.

    That said, it is neither impossible nor necessarily inappropriate for us to take action to limit the world-affecting power of a group that, statistically speaking, acts in ways that make the world worse on net.

  • Erl

     Boycotting them makes about as much sense as a fruit fly biting an elephant and thinking that will kill the elephant.

    This misconceives the point, I think. A boycot isn’t an attempt to wound or kill; it’s an attempt to shift the terms of engagement. If being openly pro-gay had lead to a 2% drop in profits relative to keeping mum, it’s not implausible that this could change behavior. It’s complicated because the executives are wealthy enough to take some hits for their principles, whatever those principles may be, but in general, a small detriment can be enough to incentivize a small change.
    This goes double for business practices, which are not matters of principle. (i.e., nobody at Amazon believes strongly in worst-possible-working-conditions) So the boycott would only have to equal or exceed the profit created by the abusive conditions, adjusted by the amount that the management cares. Which may be on your side, even! Probably most executives like to think of themselves as good people; if it can even look like good business sense to stop embarrassing, abusive practices, they may be excited to go for it. And if your target is non-monopolistic at all, you don’t need to make their profits fall to zero, just fall behind competing companies. This ruins the day of the people who can change policies, and they don’t like to have their days ruined.Long story short: boycotts have a real chance to be effective precisely because they don’t need to be overwhelmingly powerful to be successful; in many cases they can win just by shifting marginal incentives enough.

  • Chunky Style

    Guess I’d take “Sweet Home Alabama” as a stronger statement against racism if Van Zandt didn’t immediately go into a false equivalency with Watergate, and spend an entire verse getting on Neil Young’s case for “Southern Man”.  Like I said originally, “Sweet Home Alabama” is defending racism by attacking racism’s critics; even if Van Zandt was personally not racist (and I have no reason to believe he was), he’s still defending the racists — who, I might add, took it to the next level with lynchings, church bombings, segregation, voter suppression, and a century of terrorism.  Dan Cathy’s got nothing on Ronnie Van Zandt in terms of backing the bad guys.

  • Jurgan

    Good point, and one I hadn’t really thought of.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    This thread is giving me deja vu. A very similar discussion of “Sweet Home Alabama” was one of the first mutli-page threads I remember reading in the comment section of Typepad Slacktivist when I first started following it three or four years ago.

  • Will Hennessy

    Can I just say right here that one of my favorite parts of the show The Boondocks is that the rich white man who owns everything in the show is named Wuncler (Once-ler), providing both a wink and a nod to Dr. Seuss AND providing an appropriate initial for his idiot grandson who is a clear reference to a recent president (W.? Who on Earth could THAT be?!?).

    Man, Aaron McGruder is awesome…


    “South Park” has gone a long way to making anti-Semitism at least
    somewhat socially acceptable,

    Sadly, yes. I think the problem is, South Park’s brand of satire walks on that thin line where whether you recognize it as criticism of or celebration of a thing depends on whether you critize or celebrate that thing. Also, though they clearly have a “he’s an asshole, anything he does is something you probably shouldn’t do” character in Eric Cartman, whoa God is Cartman a popular character. Like, on T-shirts and crap. So you have a lot of unnuanced people who just think whatever bigotry Cartman is espousing on the latest episode is funny, and they imitate it without taking responsibility for it.

    At least, that seems to account for the behavior I’ve seen.

    and they’ve even made hassling gingers a

    Oh, is that where that came from? A handful of my league’s skaters were out at an Olde Main Street kind of function, on wheels and in full derby gear, promoting our upcoming bout. A couple of them had their kids along. One of the kids in question has bright red-orange hair. And these … pre-teen? early teen? …girls walked along with us for about a block yelling GINGER! HEY GINGER!

    I thought they were referencing Harry Potter or something. To my knowledge, calling a red-head “ginger” was more common in UK usage than in US usage.

    The red-head kid they were yelling at, by the way — and in the presence of his mother, too! — couldn’t have been older than five. Thanks, South Park.

  • I was wondering if Fred might have been referencing the Hyatt boycott, as that is going on right now but no one seems to be talking about it,
    even though it’s meant to help some of our most vulnerable.

    This has been preying on my mind lately. I only found out about the boycott after getting all my plans in order for attending ChiCon7 (World Con in Chicago… main hotel space is the Hyatt). Tiger Beatdown has the scoop on LGBT support groups joining in.

  • Guess I’d take “Sweet Home Alabama” as a stronger statement against racism if Van Zandt didn’t immediately go into a false equivalency with Watergate, and spend an entire verse getting on Neil Young’s case for
    “Southern Man”.

    After someone explained in a previous Slactivist conversation what Van Zandt’s actual intent with the Southern Man verse was, I wasn’t impressed. Claiming that by saying “Neil Young is criticizing us? Well, Neil Young can take a long walk off a short pier” you were actually trying to say “It’s more complicated than that,” makes you look either disingenuous or stupid. Or possibly both.

    Also, accusing Generic Southern Man of perpetrating lynching culture and segregation isn’t so far off. It’s not like corrupt sheriffs and business owners and governors could get away with half the amount of violence and social mistreatment without having a significant portion of the majority of their society going along with it.

    Institutionalized racism! It takes a village!

    …and now to go back and edit out all the superflous hard line breaks that Disqus insists on inserting inside every blockquote element.

  • Sadly, yes. I think the problem is, South Park’s brand of satire walks on that thin line where whether you recognize it as criticism of or celebration of a thing depends on whether you critize or celebrate that thing. Also, though they clearly have a “he’s an asshole, anything he does is something you probably shouldn’t do” character in Eric Cartman, whoa God is Cartman a popular character. Like, on T-shirts and crap. So you have a lot of unnuanced people who just think whatever bigotry Cartman is espousing on the latest episode is funny, and they imitate it without taking responsibility for it.

    I don’t know if that’s entirely fair to characterize it as “nuance”. Cartman isn’t “an asshole” who you should’t emulate. It’s not a *minor point*. Cartman isn’t a scamp or a rebel or a curmudgeon; he’s not Archie Bunker in the fourth grade.

    Eric Cartman is a murderer. He’s a sociopath.  I mean, what more exactly could Parker and Stone do to communicate “Don’t be like this guy”?

  • Chunky Style

    Uh, make him less fun?  Make him less funny?

  • The_L1985

    So….use your old cellphone until it is literally falling apart?  That’s what I do.  I can’t think of a single phone I’ve had for fewer than 5 years before replacing it, except for the time my parents switched us from Virgin’s pay-as-you-go plan to the Cingular family plan, and the phone wasn’t compatible with the changeover.

    You don’t have to buy a cellphone every year.  A lot of people tend to forget this.

  • I’d probably stick with Creedance. But, yes, I get the frustration. I have to remind my friends that the South isn’t all that bad and the North is no prize in terms of racism either. My home town, the Democratic stalwart Chicago, is the most segregated big city in the US. And often seemingly well-intentioned strikes at integration are really just well-placed efforts of gentrification – further alienating and dispersing of people of color in a city that welcomes them into white neighborhoods with bats and bombs.

  • Trixie_Belden

    You know, if a group is going to sing something in a lyric they think is meaningful, it helps if they articulate.  Not until I read your comment did I discover what they were supposed to be saying was “Boo, boo,boo”.  Any time I ever heard it on the radio, it sounded as if they were saying “Woo, hoo, hoo” and for years I just thought it was just some random non-lexical vocable.

    My dislike of the song isn’t becasue I think it’s racist. it’s because I object to the whole mushy “everybody does bad things, no one has the right to criticze us” rationalization.  WTH does Watergate have to do with Neil Young?

  • Eric Cartman is a murderer. 

    Granted it’s been years since I’ve seen it, but who did he kill? Other than Kenny, who pops back up like Wile E Coyote – and when operating in a universe where death is just a punchline it’s hard to take it as other than a joke.

  •  Mr. and Mrs. Tenorman, most famously.

  • Trixie_Belden

    A confession – I just remembered that my understanding of the lyrics is even worse.  For years, I though the lyrics were:
    In Birmingham they love the girls, now.  Woo, hoo, hoo
    I just assumed it was some sort of talk about being on the road, touring, and going to cities and playing to audiences filled with hard-partyin’ guys and the groupies who loved them.
    Now we all did what we could do
    And then they were euphemistically singing about trying to get as many of these girls as possible -that makes sense, right?
    Then they go on singing about Watergate and I still stay WTH did that have to do with Neil Young – or anything else, for that matter.
    What can I say – not much of a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan.

  • Lori


      I live practically in sight of Ft. Sumter 

    How nice. (Not sarcasm. I really think that area is nice.)  I enjoyed the time that I spent in Charleston and wish that I had a chance to go back. OK, not in the summer, but any other time.

  • Lori


    To my knowledge, calling a red-head “ginger” was more common in UK usage than in US usage.  

    It is. For some reason that I don’t understand at all it has caught on here recently. It seems to have started  as the latest thing that sort of pretentious people borrow from British English in order to make themselves sound cook or whatever, but then it hit Twitter and now it’s every damn where and it’s (at least mildly) annoying. (I also saw a British person say that it has some less than flattering connotations, but I don’t know if that’s true/how widespread it is in the UK.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    So….use your old cellphone until it is literally falling apart?

    I think I picked a model of phone that was free with any plan. I don’t need to replace it. I’ve never felt the need to replace my phone, except the time I switched from Verizon to AT&T. (I miss my first cell phone. It let me send texts, including texts with pictures or video attached, to email addresses. This phone doesn’t, which means I have no way of getting pictures and video off of it.) The yearly $100 to AT&T is for calls and texts, not a new phone.

  • Chunky Style

    Like I say, the recent popularity of the term “ginger” in the US — to say nothing of ginger-bashing — is entirely due to “South Park”.

    Well that, and peoples’ propensity for absorbing ideas like sponges, indiscriminately.

  • Tonio

    For any UK readers of Slacktivist, did the term “ginger” originate with anti-Irish and anti-Welsh prejudice? Unlike South Park, the Harry Potter books appear to condemn the term’s usage. 

  • Immediately thought about Mass Effect 3

    Because playing a video game that has an ending you don’t like is *exactly* like being marginalized and having your civil rights taken away.

    Huge Mass Effect fan here.   Original ending was mildly disappointing. Extended ending was perfectly fine.   The ending could have been Commander Shepard and Garrus flipping off the player and saying “thanks for wasting 120 hours of your life, sucker!” and it still wouldn’t  even approach the level of injustice of what Chick fil A is doing.

  • Lori

    South Park isn’t that popular so I think it may be a stretch to say that it’s entirely responsible for people all over the place using “ginger”. “Ginger” has stuck and spread in ways that other SP things have not, so there has to be some other factor involved.

  • JonathanPelikan

    That’s not even close to anything I actually said and you’ve set up quite a fancy straw-man over there. Let’s add the ‘there are starving children in Africa’ fallacy whereby if I’m not constantly focused like a laser on the highest levels of need/injustice/critical crises then I don’t give a shit about them at all. Sorry for going off-topic in a slacktivist thread, too, an unprecedented offense.

    Seriously, what the fuck got up your craw about my post so badly and what made you immediately interpret what I said through the worst possible lens?

  • Seriously, what the fuck got up your craw about my post so badly and what made you immediately interpret what I said through the worst possible lens?

    Your initial post. You implicity compared some (arguably) shitty writing by Bioware to CFA funding anti-gay groups. Maybe you didn’t mean to, but that’s how it came out, particularly with the moralising tone.

  • I don’t think that you have moral myopia and I don’t think you are incapable of seeing the difference between a video game franchise and human rights issues.

    I am quite an avid gamer though.   I listen to game podcasts. I spend lots of time reading about games.   Mass Effect is probably my favorite franchise ever.

    There are plenty of works of fiction that I love that have had endings that I didn’t like.  I think that it is rather silly and entitled to treat an entire company like they are the worst people on earth, because of it.   There was a poll recently that voted EA as the worst company in America, which is just silly. 

    There are so many companies that are doing things that actively hurt people and a bunch of people decided that the fact that they didn’t like the end of Mass Effect 3 was worse than any of those things.  Nevermind that practically the entirety of Mass Effect 3 was wrapping up the many different conflicts and story lines, all of which could have ended vastly differently.  I’m one of the only people that’s played it that I’ve talked to that managed to get the geth and the Quarians to play nice with each other.

    I apologize.  I probably could have worded that better, but I’m just really tired of hearing about that particular boycott.  At this point, I don’t think Bioware could make anyone happy unless they animated the exact ending that each individual player that protested wanted and sent it to them on a DVD. 

  • JonathanPelikan

    Sorry it came out that way.