Of boycotts and “intolerance”

Rob Christensen, a veteran political columnist with Raleigh’s News & Observer, devoted his weekly column this weekend to the hubbub that has arisen around Chick-Fil-A restaurant.

The point of the column was a little unclear, but it seems to have been that it’s ultimately futile for groups of consumers to boycott businesses whose politics they disagree with and that those who attempt such a thing are “intolerant.”

Christensen quotes Democratic political operative Gary Pearce at the end of the column as follows: “The lesson: Eat up. Enjoy the hotdogs and chicken sandwiches. Good Karma will come around.”

He also makes the following statement of his own: “The left’s intolerance of different views is matched only by the right.”

Christensen, it seems, is trying to give voice to the longing held by so many Americans — a group in which I certainly include myself — for a less-politicized time in which the country didn’t seem so divided up into warring camps; a time, for instance, in which people didn’t think so much about the politics of the companies they patronized.

Unfortunately, while lots of caring and thinking people sympathize with this sentiment, the hard truth of the matter is that there is no putting this genie back in the bottle. While we all might long for a time in which we could patronize whichever business we want with no thought as to whose pockets our money will end up in, such a time is simply not coming back anytime soon.

The current era of business boycotts is simply a reflection of how divided our country has become on some pretty fundamental issues. Christensen (and I gather, Pearce) may think that progressives are being “intolerant” to suggest not patronizing Chick-Fil-A because of the owners’ public stances against equality for LGBTQ people, but that says more about Christensen and Pearce than progressives.

Obviously, there must be some stance that a business owner would take that would make a boycott appropriate in the Christensen’s and Pearce’s eyes. What if the owner of Chick-Fil-A was an avowed racist who opposed interracial marriage? What if he was a supporter of Al Qaeda? Would either of those be enough to make it okay to oppose the man and the company that makes him wealthy?

If Christensen and Pearce say “yes” then it’s clear that their beef is really just with the cause of LGBTQ equality, not boycotts. And if they say “no,” well then I guess they’re being consistent but also amazingly oblivious and just plain wrong.

The simple fact is that boycotts of the kind we’ve been seeing lately are as old as the Republic and frequently effective and worthwhile. People have always put their money where their politics are and undoubtedly did so 200 years ago. Sure, it can be confusing and there are undoubtedly lots of gray areas and inconsistencies. A company with a good stance on one issue can be lousy on another.

But that’s just the way it goes. Over time, with enough information — something we have a lot more of these days — things will sort themselves out. Consumers will figure out who they want to patronize and businesses will figure out whether or not it’s worth it to them to take stands on controversial issues.

In the mean time, though, there’s absolutely nothing “intolerant” about the act of organizing a boycott — especially when the boycott itself is meant to call attention to genuine intolerance like that preached by the owners of Chick Fil A.   






  1. Sean D Sorrentino

    August 6, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    You know what made the “boycott” crash and burn? Rahm Emmanuel and Tim Menino.

    Had they said “Hey, we don’t appreciate the politics of Chick-Fil-A’s CEO,” there wouldn’t have been nearly the issue. What they did was threaten to use the power of the state to punish a business owner for his Constitutionally protected speech.

    It that sort of Stalinesque behavior what you want to be associated with?

  2. Frank Burns

    August 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Somehow I don’t believe the leftwing will pay any heed to author of this article. Attempting to control speech is what they do.

  3. James

    August 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    STFU Frank


    Just kidding … go ahead and keep talking. Every word you write reminds us all that free speech, specifically the right to say anything, no matter how uninformed and ridiculous, is sacred.

    No one on the left wants to infringe on Chicky’s free speech. We’re just doing what every good, red-blooded American is doing … saying what we think and using our money the way god intended – as political speech.

    And oh by the by, Christensen needs to get off his false equivalency horse. The way people on the right express disagreement is to kill a bunch of brown people with assault rifles and bombs. The left’s modest attempts to make political points involve not spending money in establishments run by bigoted assholes. Anyone who can’t see the difference isn’t looking.

  4. Frank Burns

    August 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    James is always good for nice chuckle, and very predictable. It’s really fun entertainment to see him talk out of both sides of his mouth. On one hand he tells me to stfu, then he says that my remarks are misinformed, as if only the left is informed, right? Then he makes the claim it’s ok for the left to boycott as political speech, then he says the author is on a high horse and shouldn’t say those bad things about the left.

    Christensen is right on target. All those high falutin boycotts from the left are nothing but noise and do nothing but make the left feel as if they were actually accomplishing something.

  5. Brandt Hardin

    August 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    If companies are people and people vote with dollars then the destination of the restaurant’s donations are open for public debate. It very well should be an issue as to where peoples’ hard-earned money goes after the chicken goes down their gullet. This issue has made our little feathered friend the modern martyr as Chick-fil-A laughs all the way to the bank. Watch the poultry be nailed to the cross and pierced by the spear of destiny at the hands of those devious cows on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/08/holy-rollin-poultry-on-cross-chick-fil.html

  6. Frank Burns

    August 6, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Ok, but I wouldn’t call that art. Most people call that cartoons.

  7. Stacie Borrello

    August 6, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    I don’t think the Left has any obligation to be “tolerant” of the Right’s intolerance of homosexuality. Looking back, should we have been more “tolerant” of slave owners? What about businesses that hung “No Coloreds” signs? Should we have been more tolerant of the men who sought to deny women the right to vote? There’s no good reason to be tolerant of the intolerant.
    Also, to me, boycotting Chick-Fil-A,is as simple as not wanting my money contributing to the anti-equality goals of the business. It is my right as a consumer to decide how my money is spent. To say otherwise (that boycotts are not justified) smacks of authoritarianism.

  8. Frank Burns

    August 6, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Did you read the article? Boycotts don’t accomplish anything. Do you think for one moment that your choice to not go to Chick Fil A will cause them to change their corporate position? Go ahead, knock yourself out and boycott, it will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something and make you feel superior to those who aren’t paying attention to your boycott.

  9. Sean D Sorrentino

    August 6, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    To be fair, there’s no reason for them to eat at Chick-Fil-A if they object to how the profits are spent. There’s also no reason for them to be quiet about the fact they refuse to eat there.

    The problem is that Rahm Emmanuel and Tom Menino managed to turn a simple boycott into a gigantic ball of suck and fail by threatening to violate the Chick-Fil-A CEO’s 1st Amendment rights.

    We can only hope that the Left has learned a valuable lesson. Sadly, I think that they will insist on sticking to their belief that everyone but them is some sort of hater.

  10. Gene Hoglan

    August 7, 2012 at 6:40 am

    I don’t remember Rob Christensen, or anyone else for that matter, making a big stink over conservatives boycotting JC Penney, Oreo, or Replacements Ltd. over their pro-gay stances.

  11. Mark Thompson

    August 7, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Sean, where was your outrage when the right was threatening to use the power of the state to keep a Muslim community center fromopening up 2 1/2 blocks from Ground Zero? Where was your outrage over the right trying to use the power of the state to keep a mosque from opening up in Tennessee? Or is that the kind of Stalineque behavior you DO wish to be associated with? Just wondering…

  12. Doug

    August 7, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    The fact that a sitting senator, and the Majority Leader no less, could engage in rumor mongering and innuendo at this level may be without parallel, at least since the era of Joe McCarthy. And as with then, this is behavior of which Sen. Reid, all those who support him, and even those who remain silent in the face of his egregious behavior, will come to be ashamed.

  13. Sean D Sorrentino

    August 7, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    I sure wasn’t supporting them bugging the Muslims about it.
    Nice try though.

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