Seeking an advertising boycott of newspapers you disagree with is an illiberal way to promote liberal values


The Stop Funding Hate campaign strikes me as an illiberal way to set about achieving the liberal objective of less negative press coverage around immigration.

What right do a few hundred, or a few thousand, people on social media who don’t read the Daily Mail have to dictate the type coverage read by several million people a day who do read the paper?

And do we really want advertisers overtly seeking to influence editorial decisions?

Because once we make it ok for advertisers to make editorial judgments we could end up in a shady place. Today it is Lego in response to concern about the Daily Mail’s coverage around Brexit and immigration – tomorrow it could be banks and oil companies seeking to dissuade publishers from carrying out legitimate investigations.

It was one thing when the News of the World faced an advertising boycott because it was involved in serious criminality. But it is quite another to target The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express because you don’t like their point of view.

Advertising pulled from these papers would, in all likelihood, follow so much else brand advertising and transfer to Facebook.

The Daily Mail employs, at a rough estimate, at least 500 journalists. Facebook employs none.

The US presidential election may offer us some insight into what happens when a significant portion of the public gets its news from social media, rather than the old media. Facebook is a medium where users can choose their own truth and believe what they want to believe, untested by journalistic rigour.

Facebook and Twitter were certainly used to great effect by Donald Trump. On Facebook a candidate can make outlandish claims  in an echo chamber created by an algorithm which favours information from sources readers “like”.

Those seeking to silence the Daily Mail should perhaps also remember that in addition to its hard line stance on immigration, it has successfully campaigned to get justice for Stephen Lawrence, ban free supermarket plastic bags and to get the last UK Guantanama Bay inmate, Shaker Aamer, freed.


14 thoughts on “Seeking an advertising boycott of newspapers you disagree with is an illiberal way to promote liberal values”

  1. I actually think that asking advertisers to start taking responsibility for where they spend their marketing budget is entirely liberal and is a very good thing.

    Your point about banks or other companies withdrawing advertising in the event of negative coverage is no less true today than it would be if other companies started to stand up for their ethical values.

    I think the Stop Hate Campaign is a great, positive way for people to express to companies how important that firm’s social and ethical values are, and to encourage everyone to take more responsibility for how we might be indirectly funding or contributing to negative organisations that are damaging our society.

  2. John Lewis (for example) advertises in the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail demonises people like me (immigrant, even though I have a British passport now after 31 years in the UK). I would like my money not to go to the demonisation of people like me. So I tell John Lewis that as long as they advertise in the Daily Mail I won’t shop there. Am I being illiberal? I would rather call it rational. And I don’t think I am a loony left – quite the opposite, according to my daughters! -, the Daily Mail has simply taken things too far lately and a lot of righ-thinking people agree, Stop Funding Hate is just capturing the current mood.

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