Earlier this month, there was a bit of a fuss when the Co-op’s Twitter account said it would not be advertising in The Spectator due to our coverage of transgender issues. This is a pernicious trend in the media and The Spectator has a policy of refusing to deal with corporates who indulge in such cancel culture. It’s a firm principle of ours, but not one I expected to apply to the Co-op – which is one of the few outfits to have explicitly stated its commitment to diversity of opinion.
I emailed the Co-op to ask what on earth had happened, and tried (unsuccessfully) to convey how serious this was. As I suspected they had been targeted by a troll farm called Stop Funding Hate which goes after corporates who advertise in publications with which they disagree. The idea is to find 30 or 40 activists – sometimes far fewer – to target the corporation’s Twitter account and persuade the social media manager that there’s some kind of a national uproar. If this trick works, the terrified social media team cave to their demands and offer some kind of apology for advertising in the target – without realising what they have just dragged their company into. In this case, a Twitter account called ‘Lisa Fajita’ had complained and ‘Alice’ from the Co-op social media team replied with news of the ban.
The theory behind Stop Funding Hate is that publications get most of their money from advertisers, not readers – so pressure exerted via advertisers can work. If you get trolls to pose as customers, you can say “I was a happy customer, but dismayed to see you advertise with the hateful Daily Bugle with all of its hate – I won’t buy anymore! Boycott!”. And then, with any luck, you get the corporations to panic.