Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Should you BOYCOTT? Probably Not.

Boycotts generally don't work, or they are not workable.  Combining politics with economics often results in poor financial choices.

In a recent posting, I remarked, somewhat sarcastically, that:
"Any liberal or Democrat who maintains a Facebook page is, in my mind, an utter hypocrite.  It would be like decrying global warming with a bumper sticker on your monster truck!"
Does this mean you should boycott Facebook?   No, and let me explain why.   A boycott means you refuse to do business with a company until they change their policies.   From my perspective, the only policy Facebook could change would be their decision to remain in business.   No matter how much Facebook promises - or actually delivers on promises - to squelch foreign interference in our elections, eliminate bullying of teenagers, debunk stupid conspiracy theories, or respect our privacy, it still will be social media.  And social media is incurably evil in and of itself.

If it weren't for Facebook, Myspace or some other company would be in the hot seat today - as indeed, many other "social media" outlets such as Twitter are.   It is the nature of the beast, and there is no way to fix it, anymore than there is a way to "fix" the gossip spread by high school girls.  And that's all social media is - gossip.

So to me, it is ironic that someone would take to Twitter or Facebook to denounce privacy invasions, or fake news, or conspiracy theories, or Russian interference in our election, or some poor teen girl bullied into suicide.   The revolution will not be televised.  Nor will it be on so-called Social Media.  Slacktivism isn't activism.

Even further, it is hilarious when people decry "income inequality" on their Facebook page, not realizing that they are making a very few people very, very rich, with each posting they make.   Facebook is selling their eyeballs to advertisers, one pair at a time.   The folks at Facebook became fabulously wealthy because your desire to share oh-so-scripted vacation photos with strangers.   They didn't take our money away, we gave it to them, willingly.

If you are OK with this, then fine.  Facebook away.   Blow your brains out.   But don't sit around and bitch about the "evil 1%'ers" while you patronize their businesses.

For me, it is mostly a non-issue.   Some of my friend chastise me for shopping at Walmart.   They believe it is more politically correct to drive an additional 15 miles out of their way to go over to rich people's island and shop at the upscale grocery store (itself a chain owned by a big international conglomerate).   They are making a difference, one artisan artichoke at a time.   Oh, and of course, it's mostly white people shopping there - which may explain their real preference for the upscale grocery store, although they never, never, ever would admit to this.

Myself, I shop at Walmart's "Ghetto Gourmet" on the corner of "Community" and MLK boulevards.  The prices are a lot better and the produce is generally fresher (the big Walmart has even better produce, usually).   And you meet people from all walks of life there, too.   And surprisingly, they have everything from gourmet foods, organic produce, and enormous bags of chitlins.

Am I resentful of the Walton family and their money (and their politics?).   No, not really.  They are doing what any company in their place would do - try to run a business as efficiently as possible, buy at the lowest prices they can get, take advantage of volume discounts, and sell in bulk to the masses - and make a hefty profit.   Like with Facebook, if there wasn't a Walmart, there would be some other company doing the same thing.   In fact, several are - all wanting to be the next Walmart, or at least take a chunk out of their business.  As the CEO of Walmart famously said, recently, "it could all go away" in a real hurry, if the company didn't try to innovate and constantly keep an eye on what the customer wants and needs.   The minute they take their eye off the ball, they are history.

Similarly, I have no hard feelings about Chik-Fil-A, other than I utterly fail to understand the appeal of the place.  It's just fast-food chicken sandwiches, not gourmet cuisine.  And the prices are anything but cheap.  We don't tend to eat a lot of fast-food, anyway.   On the few occasions when we are traveling (not in the RV) and want a fast meal, Chik-Fil-A is not at the top of the list.   Because the Baptists love to go there (because they skipped church the day before, and this sort of makes up for it) there is always a huge line at the place.   Even with all the "controversy" about Subway recently, I find that their foot-long (sans soda or chips) is still a better, healthier bargain, and usually a lot faster than waiting in line at Micky-D's or Chik-Fil-A.

But boycotting Chik-Fil-A?  Not intentionally.  And besides, there is sort of a reverse boycott in effect.   Gays should be careful about calling for boycotts, as they can backfire.  Here in the South, many Baptists will patronize Chik-Fil-A over other fast-food restaurants because of the politics involved.  Buying the type-II diabetes happy meal not only is yummy, it is a way of making a political statement just as a boycott is.   And like I said, a way of getting on Jesus' good side after you slept through church last Sunday.

My only beef (if you'll pardon the pun) with the place is that they want to open at airports and at roadside rest areas, like on the Turnpike.   That's fine, but those are publicly owned spaces, built to serve the public, seven days a week.   If you want to serve food at the airport, and want a concession, you have to be there when people are travelling.   And unless they close the airport on Sunday, that means you have to be open then.  Ditto for the Thruway rest stop.   Why do you think they call these leases "concessions" in the first place?   We are conceding public space to a commercial enterprise in order to serve the public.

Maybe we need to go back to government-run food stands, like they had on the New York State Thruway back in the 1960's.   Thruway coffee.  Ugh.  And those mashed up hot dogs and hamburgers wrapped in paper-backed foil,sitting under a heat lamp for what seemed like days at a time.   Pretty bad food - but they were open on Sunday.

Recently a lot of bruhaha has been made that Chik-Fil-A is "conceding" to the boycott by distancing itself from some charities viewed as anti-gay.  The founder of the company has gone out of his way to distance his personal beliefs from those of the company itself (nice try).  He also has perpetrated the myth that the stores are closed on Sunday "to give people a day off" and implied that Sunday was just a day chosen randomly.   Actually, if that were the case, a day with the least foot traffic, such as Tuesday, would make more sense, or at the very least, selecting the day off based on local sales patterns.

But I don't think these changes (or appearance of changes) in their practices are the result of boycotts per se.  The chain wants to expand out of the South, and the South is increasingly invaded by Yankees, Damn Yankees, and Goddamn Yankees.   It is hard to open a Chik-Fil-A franchise in a public space in New York City, with the politics involved.   It is not that people are boycotting the restaurant, but that the restaurant wants to open in new territories in the future.  Kind of hard to boycott a restaurant that hasn't opened yet, isn't it?

There are other calls for boycotts.  In our small town, we have a Michaels craft store, and way out of town, a Hobby Lobby, the latter of which has made much hay about their religion.   We went to Hobby Lobby once, and quite frankly, it was kind of creepy.  Michaels has a lot of the same craft items for sale, but not as many with Jesus on them.  It seemed like Hobby Lobby is going a bit overboard with the religious angle.  When you enter the store, there is a huge display about their "Museum of the Bible" in Washington DC, which is full of ancient biblical relics, a few of which are apparently even real.

It gets back to what the CEO of Walmart said.  Hobby Lobby isn't keeping its eyes on the ball - which is selling crafty crap to little old ladies at the lowest prices possible.   They are getting distracted by this religious angle, to the point where they are forgetting why they are in business.   But, as with Chik-Fil-A, there are some Baptists who will only shop at Hobby Lobby as a means of professing their faith.  Where would Jesus Shop?  That is, if he were in the market for a self-portrait made of yarn.

The best companies, I think, don't advertise their politics.   I am sure the folks at Walmart are pretty conservative and donate money to Republican causes.   And you can't really blame them for this, when the opposing party regularly trots out Walmart as an example of Everything That is Wrong With AmericaWalmart is the bad guy if they open a store, because that puts "the little man" out of business.  Walmart is the bad guy if they close a money-losing store, because they have created a "food desert."    And you wonder why the Walton family votes Republican. 

The "Freaknomics" people, who I think are blithering idiots most of the time, think boycotts don't work.   And to some extent, they have a point.  The Montgomery Bus Boycott didn't end segregation of buses - the Supreme Court did.   Urban bus companies generally operate at a loss to begin with.  If people stopped riding them, the city would likely save money.  But that is not to say the boycott didn't have any effect.  Well, not the boycott itself, but the lawsuit brought on behalf of riders arrested for violating the segregationist policy and got it in front of the courts.

Similarly, it isn't a lack of business at Chik-Fil-A that is causing them to change their business practices (again, with lines out the door, it doesn't seem the boycott is working).  But the publicity surrounding the company's policies is making it harder for them to do business in some Blue States, so they are slowly moving the company into a more apolitical direction.  And of course, this is pissing off some Southern Conservatives, who will no doubt now call for a similarly ineffective boycott of Chik-Fil-A.   Perhaps both groups of boy-cotters can share a Big Mac on the (nonexistent) picket line.

You see how silly this gets.

Are there some companies you shouldn't do business with?  I suppose so - if they are truly evil.   But history has shown that many companies are willing to engage evil, head on.  I mean, would you buy a computer from a company that sold punch-card machines to the Nazis, so they could keep track of how many Jews they killed?  Does a Jew have any business buying a Ford product (founded by a notorious anti-Semite) or a Mercedes (or indeed, any German car)?  Seems like an innocent question, yet I have a lot of Jewish friends who tool around in Fords and Mercedes.   Polish friends of mine born in a Nazi work camp have driven German cars - mostly Mercedes - exclusively for years.  Heck, they even had German Shepard's - the same kind of dog sic'ed on them in the camps.  I guess you can't hold it against the breed, right?

And where does it end?   There are so many boycotts out there today, that arguably you should never leave home.  Some on the Left argue that flying in a plane is destroying the world, which is nonsense.  Any act of consumption results in some sort of injustice, if you want to look for it.  The only real solution is to just kill yourself and be one less mouth for the planet to feed.

Maybe there is another way, however.  Maybe if you vote for a candidate that can actually enact change, change will occur.  Boycotts and "my way or the highway" candidates don't seem to be very effective, but in fact, little more than temper tantrums.

And we know what happens to children who throw temper tantrums.