Illustration by Bob Staake
With the launch of new boycott site http://stoprush.net - a database tool to organize the boycott of Rush Limbaugh, the right - and Rush himself - are stepping up efforts to dismiss and marginalize this movement.
But we know we've had great effect - to the tune of millions of dollars in lost revenues.
The Wall Street Journal published an opinion yesterday criticizing the movement by calling it a "secondary boycott," and dismissing the boycott as "harmful to civil society."
All these examples are what are called "secondary boycotts"—attempts to influence the actions of the target by exerting pressure on a third party....
But secondary boycotts have long been recognized as harmful to civil society. They rend the social fabric by making it difficult for people to simply live their lives. The boycott of contributors to the American Legislative Exchange Council, for example, came about because state lawmakers who are members of the council introduced bills requiring voters to present a photo ID before voting. Polls consistently show majority support for voter ID laws, but such laws are strongly opposed by some on the left, who argue that they disenfranchise voters....
Similarly, opponents of same-sex marriage—who appear to be roughly equal if not superior in number to proponents—could start boycotting companies that contribute to pro-gay rights organizations. Soon everyone is boycotting everyone, trade is restricted, political tensions increase, and life is generally unpleasant. Secondary boycotts create an environment in which political conflict, rather than peaceful trade, dominates our relationships.Below the fold, I'll dissect this opinion piece as utter nonsense, and why this movement is important and effective.
Harmful to civil society. Boycotting everyone. Trade is restricted. Political tensions increase. Life is generally unpleasant.
I'm sorry, Mr. Smith. Did we disturb your tea?
1. Corrections in society frequently result in a bit of uproar. That's just how it is. We'd all like it to be easy and painless, but history shows us otherwise.
2. Restricted trade? I guarantee you, everyone will continue to eat and go about their lives and continue purchasing the goods they need. However, our dollars are the biggest vote we have, and we will use them. In the spirit of capitalism, on which America was founded, companies will have to deal with the market conditions presented to them. Small businesses understand this intimately better than huge corporations, because they have to represent themselves in the community, and live or die based on local reputation.
3. Secondary boycotts don't work? I say ask Glenn Beck that question. I also remind Mr. Smith about a guy named Gandhi who brought the British government to its knees over a fabric boycott.
4. Boycotting everyone. This certainly could be possible. But as we've seen with other boycotts, if there isn't a strong enough boycott, business will continue as usual. This argument takes care of itself. Once again, we vote with our dollars. If enough dollars vote against our dollar vote, then we lose. What could be more democratic?
The interesting thing about Mr. Smith's article, is the nation's largest financial newspaper felt it worthy enough to include on their opinion pages. If these boycotts were just a nuisance as described, then why would the Wall Street Journal even bother printing this piece?
Even more interesting is his examples with the American Legislative Exchange Council, aka ALEC:
Many corporate donors to the American Legislative Exchange Council, however, are also corporate donors to the Congressional Black Caucus, which strongly opposes voter ID laws. If secondary boycotts become the norm, supporters of voter ID—whom, if we are to believe the polls, vastly outnumber critics—could decide to boycott these companies.Am I to understand the argument here is: don't engage in these boycotts because you will hurt the causes you believe in?
Corporate donors will contribute to whomever they want, unless it is unpopular. If a corporation is boycotted for contributing to ALEC, it does not follow the corporation would halt their contributions to the Congressional Black Caucus as a result. Logical fallacy.
This opinion piece exposes their real fear: they're terrified the same kind of boycott will materialize against ALEC. And one way or another, it will - because campaigns like stopbeck.com and stoprush.net are community efforts, by millions of people, and not a random activist or organization. But ALEC is a subject for a whole other diary.
I love this next argument:
Boycotts are particularly unattractive when intended to squelch speech. In each of the previous examples, boycotts were organized to harm the target economically so that the target would pressure the original speaker to, well, shut up. The power of ideas is abandoned for the power of economic coercion.How many times have I heard this completely nonsensical argument?
The Rush Limbaugh show is a commercial for-profit business. It is NOT free speech. Period.
Let me repeat this: The Rush Limbaugh show is a commercial for-profit business.
How many times had Rush himself said he's an entertainer and not a political operative? It is true his show is a product, and this is important to remember.
Ever been disappointed when a favorite show on TV get canceled? If the audience isn't there to sell ads, the show goes away. Ask any CPA how this works. By Mr. Smith's logic, we're horribly guilty of squelching the ideas and free speech of many directors, writers, and other would-be Limbaughs. Whether the content is humor, fantasy, or political commentary - it doesn't matter. We're talking about the life cycle of a commercial product.
A boycott is a very simple animal designed to effect an outcome.
In civil society, the people decide what is and is not acceptable behavior. Screaming "Fire!" in a movie theater isn't acceptable. Hitting another person isn't acceptable. Saying the F word on the airwaves isn't acceptable. Public nudity isn't acceptable. We correct uncivil behavior with fines, and other punishments such as jail time.
If my child spoke the kinds of words Rush Limbaugh does on a daily basis, he would be sent to the principal's office, and likely expelled from school. At a minimum, he'd be given time out.
As a mom, I do not tolerate this kind of behavior from my child - for his benefit, and for the benefit of civilized society.
But in America, we reward this kind of speech with a nationally syndicated radio show and millions of dollars.
If you read this as suggesting Rush Limbaugh is uncivilized, yes, I will go on record saying this. Rush Limbaugh is uncivil.
As a society, we can correct these kinds of imbalances with the tools we have available to us. Financially, we can put Rush Limbaugh in time out, or expel him from the airwaves all together.