Opinion: Is 'Engage Responsibly' the most responsible way to combat hate speech?
Much of the advertising and marketing press covered Pernod Ricard's #EngageResponsibly initiative last week.
Though I support all efforts to reduce hate speech, I wonder if the solution offered adequately and fairly addresses the problem.
The press release described how a brand can calculate its "hate footprint," equating the initiative with corporate efforts to reduce carbon footprint—a measure of the impact a company’s activities has on the amount of carbon dioxide they produce through the burning of fossil fuels. Reducing the carbon footprint is a challenge involving restructuring processes run by companies and their supply chain partners, which takes years and costs a lot of money.
Reducing a company’s “hate footprint” can be done by changing the media outlet on a marketer’s insertion order.
If you're bothered by an outlet’s toxicity, advertise elsewhere; there are lots of media outlets happy to take your ad budget. Just find a publisher, a website, an app, a radio or out-of-home network that meets your standards.
A second issue I have with the initiative: It provides marketers with an excuse to do something they think is bad, knowing that they can atone for their sins by doing something good.
Imagine if we were to create an initiative called #StealResponsibly, which would allow thieves to steal up to $1,000 per week provided that they volunteer to work with juvenile offenders. We’d find it morally reprehensible, and rightfully so. And yet, that’s basically what #EngageResponsibly is doing.
This summer, during the #StopHateForProfit boycott, several leading marketers announced that they were stopping all advertising on social media, and I respect their integrity. If you’re going to talk the talk, then walk the walk.
Let’s be honest: Is social media the problem or is it society, which has accepted and shares ever-higher levels of vitriol?
And in few places is it worse than what’s coming from our politicians in Washington, because it’s being funded by taxpayer dollars given to people who were elected to lead the country.
The very politicians who have no problem finger-pointing at social media companies say little when their colleagues and partners make racially offensive and other toxic statements. They instead respond with: “He didn’t mean that" or “You misunderstood him” or “Look at what’s in his heart.”
Truth be told, it’s always easier to criticize than to say or do something constructive. I want to end on a positive and constructive note.
During the next week, say "Thank you" every day to five different people. And at night before you go to bed, write down the names of the five people you thanked. At the end of the week, did you say "Thank you" to more people than you did at the beginning of the week?
Individually and collectively, we all need to work together to responsibly reduce toxicity in our society.