By Stephen Tuttle | Nov. 30, 2019
We are in an epidemic of boycotts, or at least attempted boycotts. These are bipartisan efforts, with both the left and the right mightily offended about something, offering up a long list of targets. The strategy is simple: Don't buy these products, don't shop at these stores, and don't invest in these stocks.
The issues that generate boycotts are varied but the three most popular these days are President Trump, guns and issues impacting the LGBT community.
The left would like us to boycott everything that could be considered even remotely favorable to President Trump, including at least one company, Louis Vuitton, whose crime was that an executive at the luxury brand had his picture taken with the president. Add any company that might be against stricter gun control efforts. And those companies who have not yet included benefits for members of the LGBT community and their spouses and children. A particular flashpoint seems to be public restrooms and transgender people.
The right is precisely 180 degrees opposite on all three issues. They would like us to boycott any company whose executives have criticized or opposed the president and even stores that stopped selling Ivanka Trump's clothing line. For them, add any company executive favoring any kind of additional gun control. And they are quite obsessed with the whole transgender restroom thing, so we should boycott stores like Target because of their restroom policy.
(The word boycott comes from an actual person, Captain Charles Boycott, an English land agent overseeing property in Ireland. In 1880, after a year of crop failures, local farmers could not pay their rent. When Boycott began evicting people from their homes and land, local residents shunned him completely. They would not speak to him, acknowledge him, sell goods or services to him, and wouldn't even allow him to receive his mail. In today's parlance, they boycotted Boycott.)
Some of this boycotting erupts quickly, and it doesn't take much to precipitate an online call to demonize another company. Sometimes we get the rare double boycott. The left wants you to boycott companies that advertise on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show, and the right wants you to boycott any company that stopped advertising on the same show.
The left targets the usual suspects: companies they allege pollute, mistreat, or underpay workers; fail to offer protections for LGBT employees; have salary equity issues; lack ethnic diversity; or openly support the president. They have, at various times, targeted Walmart, Amazon, a number of banking institutions, the National Football League, and their two favorites, Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A.
The right is equally afflicted but with a longer list and more difficult task.
A website called www.investingadvicewatchdog.com provides a list of stocks and their products conservatives should avoid. Let's see ... Grubhub, Ancestry.com, Ben and Jerrys, Nike, Starbucks, Marriott, Hertz, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook ...
It all starts to get a little tricky when there are so many things for both sides to avoid. This is especially true for the right, who organize their boycotts online and through social media, which means they’ll probably have to use one of their own targets to do it. And when it comes to LGBT issues, they'll soon have to boycott every company.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) prepares an annual report called the Corporate Equality Index (CEI) evaluating corporate policies as they apply to fair treatment — hiring, promotion, benefits for partners and families, etc. — of LGBT employees. They found fully 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies now have gender identification protection as policy, up from just three percent in 2002. And 97 percent of all companies now have non-discrimination policies for LGBT employees, up from just five percent in 2002.
Among those scoring perfect marks on the CEI were Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Apple. If you have to boycott them, organizing the boycott will certainly be troublesome.
Boycotts have a long and sometimes successful history. The Birmingham bus boycott of the early 1960s brought attention to the Civil Rights fight. The grape boycott of the late ’60s and the lettuce boycott of 1970 led to improved labor conditions for farm workers and the first recognition of their unions.
Those successful boycotts have in common a sympathetic cause and a singular focus. Current boycott efforts, on both the left and the right, are targeted so broadly against so many companies and products it has become daffy. For example, if your cause is boycotting companies and their products because they offer equal benefits to the LGBT community how do you avoid nearly 90 percent of all American companies?
And if you're on the left, going after Walmart or Amazon, how's that working out?
Pick a target with a righteous cause instead of just a political difference and maybe we'll follow. We can't boycott everything.