What do you get when you combine a small group of angry people and the terrified PR departments of large organizations? You get a highly powerful group of people. This relatively small selection of individuals has a unique combination of two tools at their disposal that makes them absolutely terrifying to any person or organization with a reputation to uphold: a trigger-happy temperament and a unique ability to misconstrue.
I take you back to 2014 when the song “Blurred Lines” the most popular song for weeks on end. This lead one young North Carolina DJ to play this song during his shift at a bar. Now, you may think that the decision of a professional DJ to play the most popular song of the moment during his shift would be nothing more than standard, but you would be wrong. It seems the song by Robin Thicke was said by many to be encouraging and normalizing sexual assault, and after a small group of people complained about the song being plaid the DJ was fired. A DJ was fired for playing the most popular song of the year.
Now, to most people, the fact that this nameless DJ decided to play a highly popular song would be nothing no look at twice, which is where the highly offended minority, with their trigger-happy temperament and their unique ability to misconstrue come in. You see, it didn’t take a grassroots movement to get this small business owner to bend to the will of the highly offended minority, only a couple of angry individuals armed with incendiary accusations. Considering no business, big or small, will ever want to be called out for the normalization of rape the simplest thing to do is to defuse the situation by giving the tiny mob what they want.
Now you may be thinking that the ability to direct a small North Carolina bar to action is not particularly impressive. But what about bigger companies than that? What about being able to direct GAP, Budweiser, Nordstrom’s, Starbucks, Twitter, H&M and other large companies to a desired end? That’s quite a bit more impressive.
What does it take to drive a multi-national company with to its knees? A simple accusation of bigotry based on the misconstrued interpretations of the individual who calls attention to it. This is enough to get products pulled off shelves, advertising campaigns pulled, and public apologies from powerful executives released, all because of a small twitter mob and a terrified PR department.
Take H&M and their release of a kid’s hoodie that read “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” on the front of the garment. Now, nothing about the hoodie itself managed to get any person riled up, but H&M’s decision to show a black kid wearing the hoodie on their website sparked outrage. Why? Because historically “monkey” was a derogatory term for black people. Now, no one in their right mind would assume that the company was calling the child a “monkey” in a racially charged attack, but it doesn’t matter that no one in their right mind did, because people out of their right mind did. The product was pulled, and the company publicly apologize for what they claimed was “insensitivity.”
This is the path society is going down. A tiny intellectually inept minority of emotionally unstable ideologues have been endowed with the responsibility of arbitrating the virtue of corporations and individuals on behalf of the rest of society. This means that the rationality of more rational individuals with the emotional intelligence of adults are no longer take into consideration when deciding whether or not something wrong has been done or not. So, if an accusation of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, body-shaming, or anti-Semitism is seen as illegitimate by the majority of the population and contrary to the intention of those responsible an apology must still be issued and appropriate measures must be taken.
This shift has created a small group of people who have the ability to twist and direct the largest corporations at will. Any action, product, tweet, advertisement, and official statements can be misconstrued to mean something that it was not intended to mean, and as corporations continue to cave, we continue to see the growth of the power held by the highly offended minority.