Just Say "Non!"
Date Added: Mar. 28, 2003
French officials were the most vocal opponents to the U.S. military campaign in the Middle East that began in the days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Once the U.S. declared war on Iraq, many Americans felt the time for tolerating international opposition has passed and some citizens were looking for grassroots ways to strike back.
Mean-spirited French jokes have been the rage since they originally opposed a U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to depose the Taliban ruling party and disrupt the Al-Quaeda terrorist network. The anti-french humor grew more popular (and more mean-spirited in late 2002, as they continued to loudly oppose U.S. and British plans to invade Iraq.
On March 17, 2003, U.S. President George W. Bush held a press conference in which he announced that he and British Prime Minister Tony Blair would try once more for a United Nations resolution to order Iraq to disarm, but that they planned to move ahead, with or without it. That's when the first "Boycott France" chain letters became popular.
One week later, Bush went on International TV to announce that he and Blair had given up on a U.N. resolution and that Saddam Hussein had 48 hours to step down or Iraq would be invaded. The "Boycott France" chain letter genre ballooned as millions of Americans, energized by the impending war, sought a way to punish those countries who did not support us. The old rallying cry "if you're not with us, you're against us," became a popular notion.
There are so many different iterations of the "Boycott France" chain letter going around that I can't comment on each of them. Instead, I'll offer some general advice for determining their value, based on the appropriateness of e-mail chain letters for spreading information.
The first step for evaluating these letters is to put them through the Five Tests of Armchair Activism for boycott chains:
Here's one more thing to consider. Every war, whether military or economic, has the potential for collateral damage - innocents who are harmed by attacks on a target. Many of the French companies identified to boycott employ thousands of Americans who manufacture, ship and sell their goods.
Please think critically when you receive one of these boycott chains. Don't just jump on the wagon because it is a popular sentiment. E-mail is an unreliable medium for spreading information of this type and is open to a variety of abuses. If you have doubts about anything, never forward it "just in case." To paraphrase Johnny Cochrane: when in doubt, throw it out. Break the chain.