Slumbering no longer
The modern face of Canadian grassroots activism is a Twitter account.
Sleeping Giants Canada (SGCA), known online by their Twitter handle @slpng_giants_ca, is a group of Canadians who aim to eliminate “racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and homophobic news sites by stopping their ad dollars.”
Created in the wake of success the original American Sleeping Giants group found, the Canadian offshoot is keeping up the brand. Their focus is on two sites they see as most concerning, namely the extremist conservative websites Breitbart and its Canadian cousin The Rebel Media.
Sleeping Giants claims more than 2,000 companies have stopped advertising on Breitbart and roughly 160 have done the same on The Rebel Media. Those companies who have dropped The Rebel Media include 7-11 Canada, Freedom Mobile, KIA Canada, PetSmart, Whistler Blackcomb, and various cities, municipalities, and provinces.
SGCA is not one person, in fact, the account monitor I spoke with doesn’t know how many there are. While those who run the Canadian account are Canadian, the point isn’t who they are. Being the 10th geographical offshoot of the Sleeping Giant activist incarnation, they see themselves as bigger than just one account.
“Our personal identity isn’t really of any importance to what we are doing,” an SGCA monitor says. “It’s not about us, but the entire movement. There’s over 135,000 people participating and making what we do work.”
Originally starting with their sole focus being Breitbart, SGCA then added The Rebel Media at the request of their followers.
“Sites like Breitbart and The Rebel Media aren’t likely on most of the companies radars as sites to block or blacklist,” says the SGCA monitor. “Most people have no idea they exist. They are fringe sites. But lately they come up more and more in the [mainstream media] so people are starting to understand what they are about.”
Both Breitbart and The Rebel Media make it easy for SGCA to point out why advertising with them isn’t brand positive for most companies. Story titles like “10 Thing I Hate About Jews,” “Feminism Kills Women,” “#BlackLivesMatter Stokes Global Chaos,” show a penchant for intolerance. While the sites have offered defenses by saying some of these stories are in jest, the underlying sentiment is one of anti-immigration, pro-white doctrine, and overall discrimination.
SGCA points out they wish no harm to the businesses. In fact, they see their efforts as more of a public service. SGCA enables their followers to tweet and tag the ads from the sites as well, making this not just about themselves, but all online activists.
“We don’t think there is any reason to boycott any of these companies,” the SGCA monitor says. “For the most part, they don’t know where their ads end up. They know when they sign up, the usual sites like gambling and porn will be blocked automatically and their ads won’t show up on those types of sites.”
SGCA has even been thanked by a few of the companies they notified about their ‘wayward’ ads. Some even went so far as to ask SGCA to suggest other sites that they should pull from their ad-buys. This is something they see as a success.
“Getting confirmation that the Province of Alberta blacklisted The Rebel Media was pretty great,” the monitor says. “Canada Post as well. Hearing back from [Edmonton City Councillor] Michael Oshry was awesome as well. Government agencies generally don’t reply. They are pretty quick to pull the ads though.”
Oshry commented about the city blacklisting The Rebel Media in their ad-buys in a recent CBC article.
“Not only are we sending our dollars to those websites but I’d argue, almost more importantly, we spend a lot of time and effort demonstrating that we’re an inclusive city and then when you go and put our advertising on websites that are the opposite of that it really undermines the work that we’re doing as a city.” he explained.
Some SGCA critics have said they’ve been pressuring companies to pull their ads. The SGCA monitor doesn’t think so.
“We are just pointing out the ads and asking them to consider blocking The Rebel Media from their ad campaigns,” says the monitor. “The company has the choice to pull or not. Pressuring would be like if we were telling the company ‘pull your ads or we’ll boycott you.’ We aren’t about boycotting. We’ll leave that tactic to The Rebel.”