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Have you heard of the organization Stop Funding Heat? They are a UK activist group that pressures advertisers to stop funding media outlets whose ideas they don't agree with, in this case "climate denial."
It's kind of like Sleeping Giants here in the states whose mission is "A campaign to make bigotry and sexism less profitable." I can't say whether Stop Funding Heat's co-founder also pushed its other co-founder who is a woman of color out of the origanization but I do know they chose the wrong advertiser and magazine to pressure into removing their ads from the magazine Spectator.
In what was a very quick three-round row, Stop Funding Heat went after Co-op UK for advertising in Spectator. Co-op UK who has a roster of co-op owned businesses in food, legal services, and insurance are about as apolitical as you can get.* Moreover, the ad in question was for @coopukhealth, which is for online NHS prescriptions for home delivery. Last time I checked, we're still in a pandemic. Such an ad could be useful to people regardless of their political ideology. Speaking of, Co-Op UK made a commitment to the environment. But that didn't stop Stop Funding Heat's social media account from trying to apply a guilt-by-association tactic in order to put the pressure on them.
Yet despite their claim to be committed to tackling climate change, @CoopUK actively supports the Spectator, one of the UK's most notorious sources of climate misinformation and denial... It's time for @CoopUK to put their money where their mouth is and #StopFundingHeat pic.twitter.com/ojciAsct45
— StopFundingHeat (@stopfundingheat) August 30, 2020
Stop Funding Heat then went on to accuse Spectator of being transphobic and also spreading "anti-Muslim propaganda." What does this have to do with climate, you ask? Nothing, except for the fact that another group, Mermaids joined in the dog pile. The controversial political lobby group who has recommended the services of general practitioners, some who have been fined for operating without a license. While the backstory takes a moment to read, the episode didn't take long to resolve. At first, the person running Coopuk's Twitter account attempted to acquiesce to @Lisa_Fajita from Mermaid, insisting they would pull the ads in Spectator.
And in a now deleted tweet, Co-op told the Mermaids supporter it would stop putting ads in the "transphobic" Spectator. pic.twitter.com/hGBdIeXMC8
— Crone in a Million (@CroneInAMillion) September 4, 2020
The problem is that "Alice" had no right to speak on behalf of the company in that way. When Spectator Chairman Andrew Neil saw what happened, he preemptively told Co-op UK to take a hike. But in a more British way.
No need to bother, Co-op. As of today you are henceforth banned from advertising in The Spectator, in perpetuity. We will not have companies like yours use their financial might to try to influence our editorial content, which is entirely a matter for the editor. https://t.co/Iypkk9Pwrb
— Andrew Neil (@afneil) September 4, 2020
"Alice's" Tweet was quickly deleted, and Co-op attempted to set the record straight with the magazine.
That’s escalated quickly and we want to set the record straight. The tweet sent yesterday was incorrect and does not reflect our advertising position. Our policy supports editorial freedom and you can read more about it here: https://t.co/HgTFCKTxec ^Fi
— Co-op (@coopuk) September 4, 2020
Keep in mind, this row was created by one organization whose sole mission it is to force brands not to advertise on sites whose climate opinions it doesn't share, as well a one person who is affiliated with a controversial lobbying group. The problem (besides the UK's ever-increasing intolerance for free speech) is how much latitude you give the person running your social media account to speak on behalf of the company. I don't know whether it is run in-house or if it's from an outside company like say, Steak-umm, but if there are no guidelines in place as to how to respond to complaints or when to escalate the complaint to someone further up the ladder, the person running the @brand account that day becomes a potential sitting duck. What's also lost in all this kerfuffle is that Spectator's audience is highly educated and not all prone to groupthink. it is also important to remember the only thing Spectator was standing up for was the right to run its own magazine and print whatever it wants, which is how things should be. As CLLR Nine Killen (who works for Labour) pointed out:
Worst thing about @coopuk cancelling the @spectator (and then uncancelling) is this idea that people might read The Spectator and not be able to think critically about what it says, and even disagree with it. I enjoy the Spectator. Sometimes I even agree.
— Cllr Nina Killen (@NinaKillen) September 5, 2020
Some people are still debating whether cancel culture exists. These would not include people who have been on the receiving end of it. And it wouldn't include people who have noticed there is a cottage industry of organizations who have recently made it their mission to demonetize any channel, organization, or person whose opinions they don't agree with. It's nice for once to see a media outlet (and by extension, a brand) finally taking a stand against such dictatorial and undemocratic behavior.
* Correction: The Co-operative Group, the largest business in the UK Cooperative movement, is a major affiliate and supporter of the Co-operative Party, which fields candidates in elections on joint tickets with the Labour Party as Labour and Co-operative Party. It is a substantial funder of the Co-operative Party.
Images in tweets saved below