Punching Up Against Putin

In the past few days we’ve seen an unprecedented departure of Western corporations from the Russian market. First Facebook said they wouldn’t run Russian state backed ads, then oil companies like BP, Shell, and Exxon, then a bunch of others.

When Starbucks, McDonalds, Pepsi, and Coca Cola didn’t act fast, the social media backlash soon forced their hand. They have all declared they will close their stores and stop distributing to Putin’s Russia.

Similarly, Biden just announced the US would no longer source Russian oil after being pressured by Congress.

All of these choices are against the profit motive (although you could say reputational risk is directly related to the bottomline profit figures, especially once social media boycott campaigns started) and are pro-social.

In other words, they are motivated by something that is strictly outside the realm of capitalism, namely the pro-social attempt to punch up at Putin, to snub and shun him as a bad actor on the world’s stage, which he most certainly is.

The question I have is, why we couldn’t force Facebook’s hand before the Russian propaganda that they were running and profiting from actually aided and abetted Putin. Not that his propaganda completely worked, but it’s certainly true that he had armies of propagandists working tirelessly to spread lies in Ukraine before the war, and probably overestimated the success of that campaign.

In other words, punching up seems to have worked, but too late.


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