June 18, 2021

Some years ago, an organisation called HHUGS was set up. It stood for “Helping Households Under Great Stress” — in particular the households of men being detained in Guantanamo Bay. But had the organisation called itself “Friends of Gitmo Detainees” or “Helping Households whose relatives happen to have been caught up in an all-male wedding party, with no bride, and an awful lot of Kalashnikovs”, then public sympathy may not have been so available. So the founders went with HHUGS, which sounds like a lovely thing, with a little stammer at the start for added emotion.

A similar trick was pulled off five years ago with the launch of Stop Funding Hate. It seems such a reasonable demand, doesn’t it? Who wants to fund hate? Everyone is against “hate”, aren’t they? But of course, the detail lies in exactly how you define it.

In the case of Stop Funding Hate the answer is straightforward. For this group, “hate” is the existence of any media or publication which leans — or can be accused of leaning — anywhere to the right of the political centre. Since its founding the group has targeted a range of conservative-leaning papers and magazines. Its modus operandi is always the same: it identifies a conservative outlet full of “hate”, and then lobbies its advertisers to pull their cash — thus eliminating one of the major revenue streams of the free press.

There are, of course, a number of things wrong with this; the most obvious being its mistaken presumption that to advertise in a magazine or newspaper is to endorse everything contained within its pages. If this is a category error, then it is one that Stop Funding Hate has been very happy to revel in — for the simple reason that it allows them to pursue their deeply political, targeted agenda. It is also, incidentally, a game that anyone with sufficient time and venom can play.

One could, for instance, set up a group called “Stop Funding Bigotry”, and target any company which advertises in a range of Left-wing papers. We could then pretend that all Left-wing papers are a source of bigotry and that advertising in them constitutes an endorsement of it. As I say, you could do that. But it would be a fairly maniacal way to behave, and inimical to the idea of tolerance or respect for a differing range of views that must exist in a free society.

But even by its own maniacal standards, Stop Funding Hate this week managed to excel itself. In the month running up to the launch of GB News, the group announced that it was planning to target every company that advertised on the channel. Indeed, Stop Funding Hate boasted in advance that it had engaged a crack team of researchers to find out who was advertising with GB News — presumably by tuning in and making a note of each advert during the commercial break.

Within days of the launch, their arduous work had clearly paid off. The group identified a number of advertisers who quickly folded under pressure. Among them was Ikea, which has since announced that it has “safeguards in place to prevent our advertising from appearing on platforms that are not in line with our humanistic values”.

What might those “humanist values” entail? We need only look to Ikea’s French wing for an answer; it has just been fined €1 million and its former CEO given a suspended two-year sentence for hiring private detectives to spy on the private lives of its employees.

Yet by talking about “safeguards” Ikea helped hand an additional victory to Stop Funding Hate. For such a term suggests that material on GB News is not merely “hateful” but also so dangerous as to require a type of safeguarding commonly associated with the language of child protection.

Yesterday, bosses at Ikea seemed to wake up to the absurdity of such rhetoric; the furniture retailer acknowledged that it “is simply too soon to make an informed decision as to whether advertising there is in line with our advertising policy and brand guidelines”. It was, in effect, an apology without the apology — though encouraging all the same.

It is yet to be seen whether other businesses follow suit. But even if they do, it is crucial we remember the remarkable rapidity with which they caved in to Stop Funding Hate. It was not the first time and it won’t be the last.

And if the past week’s corporate capitulation has taught us anything, it’s that there’s really only one driving factor: Stop Funding Hate’s intention to put out of business not just media organisations that it disagrees with, but those which it fears it could disagree with in the future. There is a name for that: “totalitarian”. If you can’t cope with any dissent — and Stop Funding Hate have consistently shown that they can’t — then you disavow democracy and sacrifice the principles of a free society.

So what is to be done? One possible solution would be to play in the game Stop Funding Hate is showcasing. In that world, a small group of us would single out Stop Funding Hate, pointing out that it is a hate-group — because it hates the free press, among much else. We could then go a step further, and target any and every company that has ever cooperated with such a hateful group. We could lobby, petition and harass them, while stressing that Stop Funding Hate is racist, homophobic, sexist, misogynistic and much more. At this stage, facts or details needn’t matter, for the winds of righteousness would be beneath our wings.

We might then add that, as a hate-group, Stop Funding Hate seems to be propelled by racism and sexism. Since the initial team who are presenting shows on GB News appears to be notably more ethnically diverse, and with a better gender balance than any competitor channel, we could say that there can really be only one reason why Stop Funding Hate is trying to rid them of their salaries. And that is a desire to return women to the drudgery of household chores and ethnic minorities to the era of Jim Crow laws.

Would these claims be outrageous? Certainly. Would they have any basis in fact? Only if you allow hysterics and catastrophists the right to decide that their interpretation of events is reality. But that is what Stop Funding Hate has been doing. It would be an irrational and blinkered approach — yet it is the logical extension of the world that this vicious hate group has chosen to instigate.