Nike, Starbucks, and Home Depot. What do these companies have in common? They’ve all been the subject of calls to boycott in the past week alone. Nike ditched the Betsy Ross flag sneakers, Starbucks had an employee kick out police officers, and one of the founders of Home Depot committed the grave sin of donating to President Trump’s re-election campaign. As of late, boycotts have become the go-to method of defiance against disagreement. Private companies holding a cultural or political viewpoint (or in some cases refusing to take a side) has become a point of contention to the level of calling for the destruction of those companies.
Boycotts can certainly be a useful tool. It served as a pivotal weapon in the civil rights movement. However, using your consumer power to deprive a company of business in the name of racial integration is not the same as refusing to buy from Home Depot because their former CEO likes Donald Trump. Boycotting is the right of an individual . It is perfectly within a person’s purview to boycott Nike as it is in my purview to continue to wear my Nike hat. Do I support Nike’s decision to pull the Betsy Ross flag shoe? No. Am I going to burn my black Nike leggings and hat? Absolutely not, they fit me like a glove and ladies know how hard that can be to find.
I bring up the Nike example because I did have some backlash from fellow conservatives over a picture I posted in support of the Second Amendment while I was wearing my Nike hat. Boycott culture has put a referendum on ideology. If we don’t participate in a boycott we are seen as lesser in our convictions to a degree. As a conservative, I believe private companies and business owners have a right to take a political stance. And I have the right to act on my own accord. In some situations, I do believe a boycott is necessary for peace of mind in my convictions. However, I will not shame those who do not share the same sentiment.
We have developed an intolerance of opposing ideas. Diversity of thought is not seen as a net value in society, it’s seen as an obstacle. Striving for homogeny of ideals is the true driving force behind boycott culture. Not boycotts in general as they are situational, but the obsession behind the movement. We also see this in the form of harassing advertisers to drop sponsorships for certain shows. Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and Dana Loesch are a few of the personalities that have had their advertisers come under heavy fire for their political viewpoints in the past year.
Politics has crept into (or crashed into) every aspect of our lives. We used to be able to purchase from companies regardless of their political beliefs because we didn’t punish people for having an opinion. Now, we have created a culture where we refuse to associate ourselves with anything or anyone that counters our own perspective of the world and shame those who don’t do the same. It has even gone so far as actual state ordinances preventing flights to Alabama and Georgia due to their abortion laws.
There is a fundamental difference in individualism boycotting and mob boycotting. The mob attacks those who don’t comply, attacks advertisers, and attacks forces outside of the business. Individualism uses the power of consumerism and liberty of choice to create a personal effect; it respects autonomy and decisions of outside forces. Mob boycotting leads to a resentment of the opposing side which usually aids in the opposite of its intended effect. For instance, Chick-Fil-A has seen a massive increase in business since its maligning of being anti-LGBT and Nike’s stock went up after the Betsy Ross flag incident.
I am not against boycotting as a tactic. But I am a staunch critic of what it has done in creating an intolerant culture. Destroying a business shouldn’t be the consequence of thinking differently. We live in a country where the free-market flow of goods, services, and ideas is not dependent on an ideology. We are all free to boycott, we are all free to support or not support who we choose, but do so in the name of individualism. We respect diversity of ideas as well as the autonomy of others to react on their own accord. Boycotting can be a useful tool, but boycotting culture has watered down yet another concept of political discourse.
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