Wednesday, February 1, 2017

#BoycottStarbucks: Companies and Politics

Starbucks has once again been caught in political controversy.  

After Trump’s executive order, Starbucks stated they planned to hire “10,000 refugees over five years in 75 countries.”  The news became a heated discussion on Twitter, where those in support of the ban accused Starbucks of taking away jobs that could be given to American citizens - specifically homeless veterans.  #BoycottStarbucks became a common hashtag.  

Such anger towards companies has been common surrounding Trump’s actions--like the controversy over the hashtag #DeleteUber.  Leslie Gaines-Ross, from the public relations firm Weber Shandwick, was cited in a Washington Post article stating “I’ve never seen anything like this before, where companies find themselves so open to attack for their points of view or their speech [...] Companies are now much more in the fray and seen as political targets.”

Starbucks especially has found themselves under attack for their supposed political statements.  In 2015, people were angered by the simplistic Christmas cups as they appeared to be a “war on Christmas.”  The chain reacted this past December by including more festive styled cups.  But Starbucks was criticized yet again this year after a viral video reportedly showed a barista refusing to serve a Trump supporter.

As Gaines-Ross conveys, companies are in the public eye now more than ever; any sort of action is scrutinized as being an attack on others’ beliefs.  The “culture wars” Starbucks has been involved in seem to have their origins in media like Twitter and Youtube.  When posts or videos become viral, there can be a lot of misinformation and a lot of emotionally fueled reactions. #BoycottStarbucks caters to our pathos as people share pictures of homeless veterans who are shown to be more deserving of jobs than refugees. However, Starbucks' statement of hiring refugees applies to its stores all around the world--not just America. Moreover, Starbucks already has a program specifically intended for veterans.

Rather than raise awareness of those who are struggling, the hashtag reinforces an "us" vs. "them" mentality and causes more polarization. In other words, the statement seems to say Starbucks can't support both homeless citizens and refugees, they need to choose one or the other.

With the ability to publicly post about any complaint we have with a company, social media has allowed us the ability to warp the intentions of a company's actions.


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