Hundreds of major companies are pulling their advertisements from the alt-right “news” site Breitbart due to the site’s racist, misogynistic, and Islamophobic content. The mass desertion of advertisers comes as a result of a grassroots campaign organized by two activist groups, Sleeping Giants and SumofUs. So far, a total of 818 companies, including giants like Kellogg’s, BMW, T-Mobile, Visa, Nordstrom, and Lufthansa, have pledged to remove their ads from Breitbart, sending a powerful message that calling the violent hatred you spew “news” does not make it any more acceptable.
The grassroots campaign presents an innovative way of targeting alt-right white nationalist hate speech, aiming to “stop racist websites by stopping their ad revenue.” According to Emma Pullman, lead campaign strategist at SumofUs, most of the 818 companies were pre-existing advertisers that are now pulling their ads from Breitbart, while the remainder have placed the site on their blacklist.
SumofUs is now working towards getting third party ad agencies like Google and Amazon to end their relationship with Breitbart, a move that would do even more serious damage to the hate site’s revenue. A petition for Amazon to cancel its relationship with the site has already amassed some 300,000 signatures.
The tremendous success of the campaign so far is particularly remarkable considering it was only launched about a month ago. Since then, according to Mrs. Pullman, the campaign has “reached fever pitch.” Clearly it doesn’t take much to convince advertisers to pull out of a neo-Nazi website. “The idea behind the campaign,” she said, “is if we can convince enough people we can interrupt their ability to expand. This is a really tangible way… to criticize the rise of the far right and the hatred, xenophobia, and racism that is coming out of Breitbart.”
Putting a serious dent in Breitbart’s revenue is more important now than ever as the “platform for the alt-right” grows more and more influential. Its former chief editor, Steve Bannon, is now an influential figure in the Trump administration who is consolidating control over foreign policy making behind the scenes. The site is also looking to expand into Europe, where the sort of xenophobic far right nationalism it espouses is even more developed than in the US.
Just last night a speech at UC Berkeley by Bannon’s replacement at Breitbart, the inflammatory Milo Yiannopoulos, was cancelled after violent protests against the white nationalism he represents. Donald Trump may have won the presidency, but it is becoming ever clearer. From the depths of despair has sprung a powerful new movement against hate. And one of the crucial targets of that movement must be Breitbart.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.