There is one fundamental truth in modern society: there is far less privacy now than there was five years ago, and far, far less than ten or fifteen years ago, when the internet was just coming out of its adolescence. The sudden explosion that took place was that public figures, as well as corporate heads, local politicians, amongst others, could suddenly find themselves in the national spotlight for one speech, or hell, just one comment.
Case in point: the CEO of Chic-Fil-A recently came out against homosexuality, something that boiled over in terms of public anger and resulted not only in calls for a boycott, but as a result of Facebook and social media, those calls echoed and bounced millions of times. Conservatives railed against the calls for boycotts, but ignored the one fundamental truth about such things: they work both ways.
You had conservative, “traditional” family organizations who were against Oreo when they came out in favor of marriage equality; not as badly, and not to the same extent, but in a different environment, they may have called for a boycott as well, and they would have been well within their rights to do so.
Let’s get one thing straight: a boycott is a strictly voluntarily act. I do not patronize places that I know contribute to organizations that conflict with my personal beliefs and values. That is my right as an American consumer. I’ll put it another way.
Imagine that you have a circle of friends (assuming you don’t have one already). Now, if one person there suddenly makes a snide, nasty comment about someone you care for, like your mom, or girlfriend, you may not want to spend your time with them anymore. You wouldn’t object if your friends did, but you wouldn’t.
A boycott works in a similar fashion: you spend your money at a place that you like, that you feel comfortable in. If that place adheres to values different than yours, and contributes to causes that conflict with them, you are less likely to spend your money there.
Now, let’s also get the obvious out there: conservatives, including Bill O’Reily, have called for boycotts as well, and they are not likely to think of the employees who could lose their jobs, as many right-wingers said when the Chic-Fil-A boycott began, when they boycott. All the arguments that can be made against a boycott come out when either side wants to, and the other invariably start to use them.
I discuss Chic-Fil-A for two reasons. The first: it’s recent, and we all know about it. The second is that it truly encapsulates the economic freedom I am discussing; conservatives rallied to Chic-Fil-A after the CEO came out against gay marriage, just as several friends and I began giving preference to Pepsi after it supported the “No on 8” campaign in 2008.
Joe Rogan, on comedy album Shiny Happy Jihad, points out that the people we associate with boycotting are usually annoying, tactless people who don’t have a full grasp of reality. Fortunately, the rise of the internet and social media means that you can spread the word about a suggested boycott by posting online and having people spread the word for you; it’s what’s forced Chic-Fil-A into reviewing, and according to news reports today, reversing their anti-gay marriage policies.
Again, though, even I am talking about boycotting like it’s a group activity; it’s not. It’s an individual choice about where you are going to spend your money. It’s why I don’t patronize a lot of places; it’s a choice. People who condemn boycotts, and by extension those who boycott, are actually condemning the freedom to spend your money where you want to. People who pester you endlessly to boycott are doing the same thing too.