There’s been much mischief made of late by critics of the “Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Dissent” statement that I and other nonleftist gay writers (among others) recently signed, linking it to a supposed defense of all manner of anti-gay or otherwise scandalous misbehavior.
The statement argues, among other points, that it’s wrong to pressure companies to fire executives because they don’t personally support marriage equality. It was a response to boycott threats against Mozilla that led to the forced resignation of CEO Brendan Eich over a $1,000 contribution he gave several years ago to support California’s Prop 8 initiative (through which a majority of Californians banned state recognition of same-sex marriage, until the Supreme Court ruled otherwise).
That doesn’t mean boycotts are never justified; some certainly are, while others are an overreaction, or may be purely unjustified. And some are arguably justifiable but still very bad strategy if the goal is to build a broad majority consensus for gay legal equality.
From what I’ve read, for instance, I wouldn’t give my business to nor oppose the boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel, owned by the Dorchester Collection, which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei. The sultan, who is dictator over his realm, recently moved to institute Sharia law there, which calls for stoning to death gays and adulterers, among others.
The sultan’s ownership is a few steps away from direct, but the nature of his evil actions is so great that it calls for a strong response. If enough pain is exerted, the Dorchester Collection may sell the property, or the sultan might even sell the Dorechester Collection. It’s probably folly to think that the sultan will stop persecuting gays and others, however. Also, we should at least be mindful that hotel employees, through no fault of their own, could be out of a job while the point is being made.
Of a different magnitude altogether is the ginning up of a boycott threat that led HGTV (the home and garden network) to cancel an upcoming flip your house show with the brothers David and Jason Benham, over their conservative faith-based opposition to the homosexual “agenda” and abortion.
This is somewhat akin to the recent “Duck Dynasty” controversy, which engendered such a backlash that family patriarch Phil Robertson was restored to the show despite his faith-based opposition to homosexuality. That show is all about the Robertson family and its personalities, so I didn’t have an issue with people telling A&E they no longer wanted to watch the brood (if they ever had). Whereas the Benham brothers show, “Flip it Forward,” was to be about helping “lower-income families purchase fixer uppers and transform them into dream homes.”
That’s a difference. And even if you think the brothers’ views are beyond the pale, they’ve gone from being just two of the many, many, home fixer-uppers and house flippers that populate HGTV to being a culture war cause celebre, “swamped with media requests for interviews.” CNN being just one example.
Recent weeks have seen former Secretary of State Condolezza Rice’s withdrawal as commencement speaker at Rutgers University following protests by leftwing faculty and students over her role in the Iraq War, and Brandeis University’s decision to cancel Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s honorary degree because leftwing faculty and students protested her impassioned criticism of Islamic brutality against women. As Ruth R. Wisse notes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “those who admit no legitimate opposition to their ideas feel duty-bound to shut down unwelcome speakers.”
These actions by universities surrendering to activists of a totalitarian bent who want to keep students from hearing viewpoints with which they disagree (legitimate opinions, even if debatable) is the company with which gay rights supporters are now being compared.
More. With hindsight, I’d now say the “Duck Dynasty” boycott call was inappropriate and, ultimately, counter-productive. Exposure, criticism, and the resulting plunge in ratings would have been a more judicious and adequate response than pressuring A&E to order Phil Robertson off the show, and would have avoided the network’s subsequent retreat in order to placate socially conservative viewers and fans (which many/most of the protestors never were).
Boycott threats work both ways, and often backfire by turning their targets into victims of the politically correct thought police. And thus do rightwing ideologues become free-speech martyrs (Chick-fil-A being another case in point).
Furthermore. As if to demonstrate the above, when the controversy erupted SunTrust Banks pulled all of its listed properties with the Benham brothers—provoking a predictable backlash that led to the bank’s reversal, announcing: “SunTrust supports the rights of all Americans to fully exercise their freedoms granted under the Constitution, including those with respect to free speech and freedom of religion.”