Column: Boycott overload

By Todd Swiss

Bob Riley, Governor of Alabama, held a press conference on Nov. 8 in which he called for a travel boycott of Aruba in response to the botched investigation of the fate of Natalee Holloway, an 18-year-old American who has been missing since May 30 while vacationing in the Caribbean island. Holloway’s mother, Beth Holloway-Twitty, was present at the press conference and asserted that the Aruban authorities are not doing everything in their power to get pertinent information from suspects and people of interest.

It certainly seems that the governor and Natalee’s mother have a point. The investigation, which has been going on since early June, has been prone to missteps. The main suspects have been released from jail and are not being actively pursued, despite the fact that they have changed their stories many times. One of the island’s most powerful judges is the main suspect’s father and he refuses to let authorities search his land even though he has angrily stated that he has nothing to hide. Many investigators admit that if a crime is not solved in the first few weeks, there is very little chance of a conviction.

Basically, the only thing that will bring an end to the current investigation is a confession, which at this point seems very unlikely. The whole situation just does not seem right.

However, even with the mistakes made by Aruban authorities, this “boycott” is not only ridiculous, but it also will never work in practice.

Are we going to boycott every nation that bungles an investigation involving an American? If that is our new foreign policy, we are going to run out of vacation destinations rather quickly. This move by Riley might seem to be more of a publicity stunt than a true threat, but he seems completely sincere. But threatening to boycott Aruba would accomplish nothing besides showing that we could potentially ruin a nation’s economy single-handedly.

The people who the boycott supporters want to punish are the elected officials and members of the Aruban law enforcement. However, it is the common man who will be hurt the most. The police officers will keep their jobs and many of the elected officials are independently wealthy. The people who would suffer are the ones who work in hotels and the service industry. If people refuse to go to Aruba, the first people to lose their jobs are the poor. Crippling the island’s economy is not the answer.

The American people are not going to boycott a favorite vacation destination unless something completely awful had occurred there. While it is sad that Natalee Holloway is still missing and most likely dead, it will not keep the average American from their pursuit of pleasure and relaxation. People disappear mysteriously on vacation all the time without news coverage. The only reason that people care about this specific case is because the news outlets hyped the story beyond its newsworthiness.

This boycott call is the kind of knee-jerk reaction that almost always occurs after a tragedy. About a month ago, this same type of reaction was seen on campus. When Sarah Channick was hit and killed by a bus, the entire campus was shocked. Everyone reacted differently to the tragedy, but the mindset of a specific group of students stood out. This group of angry students called for a boycott of the bus system. Just as an Aruban boycott would be utterly ineffective, so was this call for action. Boycotting buses would just put more students on the streets and create more problems instead of solving the existing ones.

Some people like Bob Riley just have delusions of authority. While most of these people are rightfully written off as reactionary nuts, some penetrate the mind of the public. It is important to understand that while we may have the right to boycott Aruba, it is not the right thing to do.

Todd Swiss is a senior in LAS. His column appears every Tuesday. He can be reached at [email protected]