Lego and the Daily Mail: Before you get too excited …

A front page from the Sun, with the headline "Out on his Ears: Calls for BBC to fire Lineker as he peddles migrant lies"Lego ends advertising with Daily Mail after calls for companies to ‘Stop Funding Hate’ (from the Independent)

According to this report, widely shared by people I know on social media, Lego have announced that an advertising campaign they had been running with the Daily Mail has run its course and they have no plans for any more. This was in a comment to a post on Lego’s Facebook page from one Bob Jones, who said that he could not buy his son Lego for Christmas (which is what he wanted) while they advertised with the Mail. This has been taken as a victory for an online campaign called “Stop Funding Hate” which aims to pressure companies to withdraw advertising from newspapers such as the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express that demonise immigrants and lied to the public during the recent Brexit referendum. However, I believe the idea that this is a huge victory is premature.

First, companies have lied about taking ethical stances in the past, claiming to have cut links with, say, a sweatshop-based producer while in fact continuing to source product from them. In the film, The Corporation, an American labour activist named Charles Kernaghan said he and his team had met representatives of workers in garment factories in Honduras who passed them a tag bearing the name of Kathie Lee Gifford, an American entertainer who marketed a clothes line through Walmart. Wikipedia notes that Gifford then “contacted Federal authorities to investigate the issue and worked with U.S. Federal legislative and executive branch agencies to support and enact laws to protect children against sweatshop conditions”, and appeared with then-President Bill Clinton to support his efforts to counter sweatshops abroad. However, the film noted that clothes continued to be manufactured in such conditions for that line, and the activists said “we achieved nothing with Kathie Lee”.

Lego’s tweet only says that they have no current plans for more advertising in the Mail. This leaves open the possibility that they may develop such plans in the future. To find out whether Lego are really committed to not advertising with hate sheets, we need to look at whom they advertise with abroad — Britain is not alone in having popular newspapers which stir hostility to immigrants or minorities. Do they advertise with Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper which, for the sake of it, solicited and published the offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) in 2005?

We all remember how The Sun pretended to have terminated page 3 a couple of years ago, only to dramatically relaunch it days later. We need to be asking Lego some tough questions rather than accepting their platitudes at face value.

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