Lady Gaga has called off her deal with Target for an exclusive special edition of her upcoming album, The Advocate.
Says the a source close to Gaga, “she and Target didn’t see eye to eye on Target’s policy of political donations and how they affect the LGBT community.”
Great! Right? Hit ‘em where it hurts! Yes, in a sense, the ubiquitously cited pocket-book is “where it hurts,” but how does one assess the damage of the blow and who is getting hurt?
In July, we learned that Target’s Political Action Committee had made donations which found their way (through the great machinations of our political system) to Minnesota State Rep. Tom Emmer, who was campaigning for governor—the sort of deal where the money goes through so many hands, at so many places, with so many acronyms that one has to have both patience and a degree of masochism to follow the trail.
The ideological trail is easier to follow. Emmer is a hardliner who opposes gay marriage and has been linked to what has been described as “a ministry that advocates killing gay people.” So, applying some transitive properties of finance and ideology, Target gave money to advocate killing gay people, therefore Target hates gay people.
Here’s what else Target does.
Says The Awl,
Target extends domestic-partner benefits to gay and lesbian employees. It has also openly sponsored Twin Cities Pride and other gay and lesbian events in the state. Target puts its name on Minnesota AIDS Walk, a move that many corporations, worried about religious consumer terrorism, are far too cowardly to even consider.
Target’s been deservedly rewarded, receiving a top rating of 100 percent on the 2009 and 2010 Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index and Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality, the 2009 Rainbow Families Award and the 2009 Lavender Pride Award–and a reputation amongst the LGBT community as a “good” big box retailer.
Wait, what? So, Target doesn’t hate gay people? Maybe only Target’s Political Action Committee hates gay people. Wait, why the hell does Target have a Political Action Committee? I buy socks in bulk there, and that is where the relationship should end.
Now, I’m no Pollyanna. I understand that anytime you get enough money in the same place, the next step is to form a Political Action Committee. Otherwise, what’s that point of having all that money? Buying socks individually?
The reason Target, like all of the other major corporate players, has a PAC is because it learned that you can succeed as long as there are enough acronym-laden institutions to get your money in the hands of people who will help you succeed without the world watching you write a check. Target clearly deserves its progressive reputation when it comes to LGBT Equality, but it is naïve to think that it sees this reputation as anything more than a perk of its existence. It helps with PR, and Target’s board may even support the LGBT community emotionally. They might have gained their reputation by simply operating in a way that they feel is moral. They should be applauded for this, but let’s not forget that Target’s desire to do well for the community is second to its desire to continue operating in an upwardly trending position of power.
Following the July revelation, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel apologized and promised Target would more closely oversee its donations. In December, it was discovered that the company’s PAC had donated over $30,000 to anti-gay rights politicians, 3/4 of its political spending in 2010. We were supposed to ignore that, right?
Lady Gaga didn’t ignore it and neither should we! She nixed her deal with Target and the PR blow plus the loss in projected revenue must have really stung. Now, let’s pile on and let them know that we won’t be addled by acronyms and that our dollars will be going elsewhere! Sure seems like a dumb move on Target’s part to have continued those contributions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
It is always in the best interest of those in power to allow their detractors to voice their opinions with the almighty dollar, because the playing field is so uneven that the consumer may as well not exist. Even when somebody as visible and financially powerful as Lady Gaga takes a stand, it serves only to convince the concerned that something monumental has occurred. Through its contrition, Target spreads this misinformation. We all get to bask in the glow of a job well done. We write articles about it and pat Lady Gaga on the back, sharing in the vindication of seeing evil thwarted.
What we miss is that the game we just won is a game which isn’t Target’s main focus. My money means less sock sales. Target’s money means political influence. You and I, and even Lady Gaga, play checkers, while Target plays chess. The only thing activism on our part might do is deprive Target the necessary capitol to remain invited to the game of chess they would like to be playing. But as long as it has enough to sit at that table instead of ours, the fluctuations of PR and sock sales fly well below its radar.
Target says it is “very surprised and disappointed” and that it remains committed to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. That will be enough. It will continue to give money to whichever politician will keep them at the chess table (whatever his or her values may be), and will probably find more acronyms to help them get it there. Target does not hate gay people, it seems like it might even like them, but that is all a part of the game of checkers. Gaga hit them “where it hurts” as best she could, and her actions are far better than no action at all, but unfortunately I think this is where the story ends.