Boycotting is a perfectly legitimate form of behavior within a democratic political structure. A group of individuals strongly object to the way a business or other entity is using its profits or its public profile to promote ends of which that group disapproves. Knowing that this entity is able to exert public sway, or to influence public opinion, precisely because, or to the extent that, it has been afforded a prominent voice by its popular and financial success, the group chooses to do what it can to lower the entity’s profile and influence by deliberately withdrawing their own financial support, and perhaps trying to persuade other individuals to join them in this withdrawal.
Like any legitimate form of expression or quasi-political action, boycotting can be abused, usually by taking the judgmental aspect to absurd extremes, effectively destroying all proper boundaries between the personal and the public by maliciously sifting through the private opinions and decisions of a company’s executives or representatives in search of any slight divergence from one’s own idea of right thinking, and then using that divergence as grounds for condemning the company outright. In this case, boycotting becomes little more, in principle, than a means of actively punishing any person who holds any opinion with which you disagree, even if that opinion has no bearing whatsoever on the way that person runs his business, or how he uses his profits.
To demonstrate the difference between what I intend, very broadly, by my distinction between legitimate and illegitimate instances of the boycotting mentality, compare the example of refusing to knowingly support corporations that willingly use cheap products and labor made possible through the Chinese Communist Party’s genocidal enslavement of Uyghur Muslims on the one hand, and on the other the example of refusing to by a car from a particular automaker because you have learned that one of that automaker’s vice-presidents voted for Donald Trump (or, alternatively, for Joe Biden). The first example is a reasoned decision, by responsible adults, to withdraw their financial support from the global normalization of slavery and genocide; the second, meanwhile, amounts, in principle, to a desire to force every person in the world to think exactly what you think, as a condition of engaging in voluntary economic activity with any of them. And to clarify what I mean by “the boundaries between the personal and the public,” I might note that one’s attitude about the second example might understandably slide somewhat closer to one’s attitude about the first example if one learned that the automaker’s vice-president had used millions of dollars of company profits to support the political candidate you despised. In other words, it is precisely in a case in which one finds that financially supporting the company is tantamount to directly supporting a political position or party that you dislike that boycotting shifts into the category of legitimate forms of expression.
And then there is the case, as alluded to above, in which a prominent entity seeks to exploit its popular appeal as a means of swaying general opinion on important matters of public interest in a direction that you find disagreeable or dangerous. This case is much the same as that of a company using its profits to support political causes you find objectionable, since there are many entities that, due to the kind of relationship they enjoy with the general public, can have an even more profound effect on public discourse through their overt statements or decisions than through any direct financial donations. Such is the case of prominent entertainment organizations or sports leagues. When the leadership of such entities is deliberately and manifestly choosing to take sides in matters of public debate — as Major League Baseball did this past week by cancelling the All-Star Game in Georgia to protest that state’s new voting law — an individual patron is perfectly within the bounds of reasonable moral choice to ask himself whether he wishes to continue supporting that organization. That is, he must decide whether the benefit he receives through that organization’s product is worth more to him than the desire to assert his opinion on the organization’s efforts to influence public opinion in objectionable ways.
I must note, however, that boycotting per se is not, and has never been, my cup of tea, primarily because I do not like acting in coordination with others on any matter. In general, I neither agree with, nor trust my reputation with, any large group of disparate individuals firmly enough to align myself with them as a collective agent. Thus, I tend to operate on my own private model, “boycotting” on a personal basis, as I see fit, and without deference to or interest in any public “movement.” Hence, to cite an example relevant to today’s headlines, I no longer watch any of the prominent team sports, and have not done so for years, partly due to the way those organizations have turned themselves into little more than progressive propaganda machines — the “circuses” half of our decaying civilization’s “bread and circuses.”
And in this private boycott of mine, I know I am almost alone, because we now live in an age that is rarely ever able or willing to forego one moment of pleasure for anything so trivial as a mere principle, such as liberty or limited government. Today’s armchair objectors are more than happy to condemn things in which they have no interest, to reject products they would never use, or to rally against companies that provide none of their preferred comforts or toys. Beyond that, they will shout and complain about the sports leagues and Hollywood organizations that are actively seeking to destroy their world, but in the end, when it’s game time or movie night, they will turn off their rational judgment and their dignity, and grab the beer and popcorn.
Here, for your amusement, is what I wrote about this topic at American Thinker, back in the days (2017) when I still vaguely fantasized there might be a hundred or so people on this Earth prepared to put their money and their lives where their mouths were — a fantasy I have since surrendered for good. I conclude the article below with a final note about where things stand today.
Freedom or Football?
Originally appeared at American Thinker
February 17, 2017
The National Football League has officially put the State of Texas on notice: if that state persists in denying men with peculiar sexual proclivities access to public rooms full of young girls with their pants down, then Texas may be denied the privilege of hosting any more Super Bowls.
To be precise, as you probably know, Texas lawmakers are proposing a law similar to North Carolina’s, restricting access to public bathrooms and changing rooms to people of the actual biological sex for which those facilities were designed. In response to this brazen challenge to the progressive denial of common sense, the NFL has issued a statement, as described by CBS News:
The NFL sharpened its warning to Texas on Friday about a “bathroom bill” targeting transgender people, suggesting for the first time that the football-crazed state could miss out on hosting another Super Bowl if the proposal is enacted.
“If a proposal that is discriminatory or inconsistent with our values were to become law there, that would certainly be a factor considered when thinking about awarding future events,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said in response to an email question about the Texas bill.
So Texas is “targeting” (very objective reporting!) transgender people by suggesting that only biological females should use bathrooms designed for biological females. Why is this controversial? Because it is “inconsistent with [the NFL’s] values.” Really? And when was this great table of NFL values etched in stone? Would the NFL have taken up this issue as a matter of principle at any time prior to, say, five years ago? A decade or two ago, the idea of the NFL as a public defender of transgenderism — insofar as anyone would have known what that was — would have been the premise of a comedy sketch. Furthermore, no mainstream comedy troupe would have hesitated to perform that sketch, whereas today, of course, the concept would violate “SNL values,” or whatever.
That is to say, the NFL itself, if looked at over a ten-year period, is inconsistent with “NFL values.” These supposed values, in other words, are no deeply held moral position; they are nothing but another corporate entity’s kowtowing obeisance to the radical progressive zeitgeist. Transgenderism in general, and transgender bathroom access in particular, are (ersatz) issues that were on almost no American’s radar just a few years ago, but which are now suddenly, supposedly, so clear cut and unambiguous that anyone who has not immediately embraced the one and only correct side of the issue deserves public shaming, boycotting, punishment.
A notion we laughed at when the very liberal Monty Python troupe joked about it in 1979 is now an absolute truth — an unquestionable “value” — the denial of which warrants a public stoning. And no less than the most popular sports organization in America, the NFL (Nothing but Frilly Lingerie?) has joined the battle as a defender of the “right” of men who wear dresses to use the same bathroom as your daughter.
Yes, that’s right, football — the domain of manly violence, steroid-enraged tough guys, O.J. Simpson, and the most gruesomely infamous case of sports-related serial pedophilia in our time — has taken to dictating sexual ethics to the citizens of America. Do the sport’s kingpins suspect they have a few more skeletons in their closet, and hope to get ahead of the curve by normalizing men invading girls’ bathrooms before it becomes another awkward scandal for them?
In any case, my real question about all of this holier than thou humanism from the NFL is this: How many Americans are prepared to give up watching football in order to take a stand against corporate bullying?
For years, various institutions of mainstream America have actively contributed to the progressive avalanche burying conservatives, religious people, and in general all those obsolete men and women collectively dubbed “traditional Americans.” From the corporate world to Hollywood (i.e., the corporate world in designer gowns), and from the educational establishment to the music industry (i.e., the corporate world with no clothes), ordinary decency, piety, privacy, and self-reliance are continually under threat of moral condemnation and social shunning.
From Google and Facebook to the NBA and the NCAA, prominent fixtures of everyday American life have declared themselves opposed on principle to any tenet from the Bible that cannot be recast in secular, neo-Marxist terms; to any use of language not approved by the Frankfurt School descendants who regulate public education and public discourse; to any attitude about race or sex that falls short of the very latest leftist consensus on historical revisionism and affirmative action (what is “affirmed” by the act of societal self-flagellation, by the way?); and to any attempt to preserve a common sense view of human nature against the onslaught of politically correct doublethink that is intended, both in high-flown theory and in thuggish practice, to wipe common sense and nature off the face of the Earth forever.
Conservatives tend to get all riled up about these outrages within their own echo chamber, but many do next to nothing to combat them in practice. “After all,” they tell each other by way of mutual support, “what are we supposed to do? Give up watching sports?”
Imagine that: Giving up a transient pleasure for the sake of a principle — who woulda thunk it!
Remember, this is not a simple case of political disagreement, where boycotting one’s rival might seem tantamount to condemning pluralism per se. No one is suggesting you stop visiting your sister’s house for Thanksgiving because she votes Democrat, or even that you stop eating at your favorite fast food restaurant because its CEO supported Hillary Clinton. We are not talking about simple disagreement, but rather a concerted effort to silence you, to exclude you from normal society until you agree to conform, and ultimately to delete you and your unacceptable views from the social and intellectual landscape altogether. It is the progressives, such as the NFL, who are refusing to break bread with those who disagree with them.
Your country’s noblest traditions and philosophical foundations are being eroded by what amounts to an organized national defamation campaign. You are being publicly branded an immoral holdout from a reactionary past, a racist, sexist, phobic obstacle to equal rights and human dignity. The NFL, an entertainment group which exists entirely at the mercy of your patronage, has officially designated you an enemy of freedom and tolerance — “tolerance” being today’s euphemism for progressivism’s absolute intolerance of the West’s moral, religious, and political traditions. So sure are these corporate entertainment moguls that you need them more than they need you that they have no reservation about insulting you to your face by threatening your elected representatives with reprisals, effectively taunting you: “What are you going to do about it?”
If it isn’t high time for American conservatives, constitutionalists, patriots, to forego a pleasure for the sake of a principle, then I don’t know when that time would be. This is a simple test of the resolve of people who claim they “want their country back.” Saying, “I won’t watch another Meryl Streep or Ashley Judd movie” is no great stand for people who might never have seen one in the first place, and certainly wouldn’t lose anything by so depriving themselves. Giving up football might actually hurt a little for a lot of American conservatives, including many Texans — but doesn’t giving up freedom hurt a lot more?
The NFL is using its presumed social indispensability as leverage to twist the arm of a state’s politicians to comply with its “values,” i.e., with the politically correct agenda to which the league has sold itself, probably in exchange for being left alone by the progressive establishment that has long demonized football for its “war-like” nature. The surest way to shut them up is to shut them down — turn off the TV, stop buying tickets, tell them where they can stick their Super Bowl.
If “traditional Americans” can’t give up football — mere entertainment — as a more-than-symbolic stand in defense of their liberty, their moral traditions, and their daughters’ safety, then how can they be expected to show the fortitude required to win the multigenerational culture war that looms?
The signers of the Declaration of Independence pledged their lives, fortunes, and honor to one another and to their cause, risking far more than their immediate pleasures in search of their dream of a free republic. Now, many of the most prominent beneficiaries of their courage, and the courage of many subsequent generations of warriors, have banded together in a brotherhood of decline, vowing to undermine the family, civility, and private conscience — necessary conditions for the survival of the republic as conceived — in favor of a dream of the void: “progress” into a moral and intellectual dissipation that serves only the interests of an entrenched establishment, such establishments always benefiting most from a population drained of higher purpose and spiritual strength.
The NFL, at this moment, is serving as the progressive death cult’s canary in the coal mine. If a year without football proves to be a higher price than Texans, and all Americans, are willing to pay for the sake of their children, their reason, and their right to say “two plus two equals four,” with or without the Super Bowl, then what hope is left for a nation that, more than any other, rises or falls on the character of its private citizens?
Afterword in 2021:
The NFL and its progressive allies won that fight against the government of Texas in 2017. And just today, I see leftist media headlines lamenting the fact that almost 40,000 baseball fans without masks have attended a Texas Rangers game during the Pandemic That Ate a Planet. I am also lamenting their attendance, but not because they are maskless. In my view, what those 40,000 lack is something considerably more fundamental than a mask. Their patriotism and bravery, on the contrary, are all mask — all public show devoid of substance.