Voting with our wallets against toxic messages

Voting with our wallets against toxic messages

We’ve reached a period of outrageous outrageousness. Or maybe extremes of extremism.

I read recently about an advertisement by a beer company that seems overtly racist.

Now, I’m not going to name the company because that might accomplish what it could have been attempting in the first place, which is to get its brand name in front of people.

This company has caused quite a stir by linking the color of beer to its quality, which in turn is linked to race in the ad.

What’s happening in the country? Have we reached the stage where all news is good news?

We live in a world of such polarization, so many shrill messages and such a rapid news cycle that you almost have to be outrageous and ridiculous to get attention and to remain in the public’s eye for more than just a moment.

It’s not an unprecedented phenomenon. Borrowing from the fictional world, poor Roxie Hart from the show “Chicago” is “the name on everyone’s lips,” as the song goes. But then, once the gripping trial ends, the newest crime of passion captivates the city’s attention, relegating Roxie to a less prominent place in the
dramas of the Windy City.

In our real world, which sometimes seems to require a reality check, people doubt everything. Why, just the other year, the current president questioned the national origin of the previous one.

Doubt and cynicism are all by-products of a shrill time where people shout alternative facts from
the rooftops.

And to bring matters up to speed, current politicians are questioning the motives of the Parkland
shooting survivors. Some suggest that left-leaning people who want to take away everyone’s guns are manipulating America’s youth. These students are not too young to die, but are somehow considered too young to have formed such an energized national movement.

Are people becoming more extreme with their time, with their emotions and with their donations? Yes, without a doubt. As the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates suggested, “desperate times call for desperate measures.” He was describing the response to life-threatening diseases and not to people who feel their lives are threatened leaving their homes.

As Long Island native Billy Joel sang in 1989, “we didn’t start the fire.” While that’s true, and people have lived through periods of considerable instability and uncertainty, we are living in a time defined by extremes.

At some point, We the People have to decide what we can accept and what we can’t. That beer advertisement seems to be a cheap ploy put together by a cynical advertising executive, who has now pulled the ad after it may have served its purpose.

Maybe this executive got his or her wish and more. Not only are people talking about it, but the company may also not have to pay as much for the ad, because now they’re not running it anymore.

How do we combat such unacceptable messages and decide when a company has crossed the red line? One possible solution is to follow the example of the United States government. When other countries create intolerable situations for their citizens or our citizens or the world, we start by hitting these nations in their wallets and refuse to buy their products.

Maybe a decline in sales at a company would send the kind of message that defeats the notion that all press is good press. Other cynical executives might get the message if the stock price or sales fell after such an advertisement polluted the company’s image. With our consumer decisions, we can send messages that it’s not OK to be offensive and outrageous just to sell another product or a toxic idea.

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