Saturday, March 29, 2014


Originally posted October 29, 2013

The Amateur Skeptics podcast has recently come under the umbrella of that skeptical empire from the North, Dumbass Media.  I recently listened to episode 094.  The podcast is a roundtable style show.  A panel discuss various topics where a panelist introduces a topic with some prepared thoughts upon the matter than then open discussion ensues. 
Such a style can rise or fail based upon the chemistry of the panel.  At least in this episode the chemistry of panel was pretty good.  Although the show has a rather large panel that might have adversely effected the cohesiveness of the discussion. To be fair, if one was a regular listener perhaps this might not be the case as one gains familiarity with the panelist.  Overall, this panel worked.  
The episode contained a highly engaging discussion of boycotts.   The discussion was a big and winding, but did give a good overview of the pros and cons of boycotting a company or a product.  Does boycotting a company makes sense to protest some related aspect of the company's dealings such company money being spent on a cause you disagree, or the company engages in environmental practices might not be to your liking, or the owner or chief officers of the entity might be a jerk (more on this later.)  Does a boycott have to effective to be worth it, or is it sufficient just to make a political statement.  No consensus was reach by the panel, and while it did make me consider my own boycott position I don’t think it altered my mind.
For the record I tend to not support most boycotts.  The latest example that comes to mind is the Barilla pasta scandal.  The President of Barilla Group, Guido Barilla, sharedhis bigoted anti-gay thoughts during an interview that Barilla Group would never have a gay couple in an ad as it is against their values. (I am paraphrasing.)  To me there is no doubt that Barilla and perhaps other officers of the company are jackasses.  Predictably the boycott flag was raised on social media.  If someone does not wish to buy Barilla because of some asinine statement that is fine, but I always wonder what an actual effective boycott will accomplish. 
Let’s say Barilla sales drop 20% in North America due to a concerted boycott effort to punish Guido Barilla for his statement.  My guess is that Guido Barilla despite such an impressive sting generated by the boycott will still be able to purchase a lovely Maserati Quattroporte to whisk around the Alps in the Spring while snacking on caviar.  His personal wealth is likely secure.   However, the downturn of sales is probably more likely to cause a Barilla owned facility in the U.S. Midwest to do something such as lay off a shift of workers.  By boycotting Barilla Group for a stupid statement by Guido Barilla, Guido is likely to do just fine while some person working in Ames, Iowa will be out of a job.  I understand the desire to get back at Guido Barilla and make him pay, but the pain of payback is likely to be felt by others.  I understand the desire to boycott, and at times it makes more sense than others, but I suspect most times against large institutions those boycotted against and those who feel the blowback are two different groups.  
Again I understand the sentiment behind many boycotts, but I also think sometimes those who engage in them do so without thinking through the likely ramifications.  Obviously, the Amateur Skeptics touched an unintended nerve with me, which to me a good sign in a podcast.  I plan to keep listening to AS from time to time.   

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