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[politics] Boycotts, argument and free speech - Lakeshore
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Jay Lake
Date: 2012-08-03 05:28
Subject: [politics] Boycotts, argument and free speech
Security: Public
Tags:books, culture, food, gay, politics, publishing
I find the Right's reaction to opposition to the words and deeds of the Chick-fil-A corporation and its founder Dan Cathy laughable. I've seen some of my own conservative friends crowing online about their bravery in standing up for the company's free speech rights and opposing politically correct bullying by buying a chicken sandwich. As if gay hate and legalized discrimination were Christian virtues, or family values, or, really, anything to be proud of whatsoever. Besides which, speaking out against Chick-fil-A and refusing to buy from them is no violation of anyone's rights.

Given how often the Right, especially the Christian Right, boycotts movies, books and businesses, that they should call out a liberal-progressive boycott as a form of oppression is just bizarre.

With occasional rare exceptions, I've never been moved to discuss my boycotts at any length. For all that I'm as political as I am, it rarely seems important enough to spend time on. And I don't put much if any effort into convincing others to join me in my decisions on such things. But I have a few.

Other than one or two dire emergencies, I haven't bought gas at an Exxon station since the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Not because of the spill itself. Accidents do happen. But because of Exxon's handling both at the time and later.

Likewise BP and the Deepwater Horizons accident in the Gulf of Mexico. Again, not because of the spill itself, but because of the chronic mendacity, deception and coverup with which that episode began, and from which it has suffered ever since.

I have not ordered or knowingly eaten Domino's Pizza since I learned of founder Tom Monaghan's commitment to forced pregnancy through the so-called "right to life" movement, and the fraud of "Christian" education through the Ave Maria School of Law. While I am aware that Monaghan sold the pizza chain years ago, I refuse to support anything connected to him.

I do not read books by Orson Scott Card, nor will I submit to the short fiction market he sponsors, because his repeatedly well publicized views on the civil and legal rights of my gay and lesbian friends. I won't say more about Card's motives or words, because my real thoughts would constitute a personal attack. But he is an author whose work I once loved and revered. And while I know very well the author is not the story, I also know I don't want to contribute to Card's good name or fortunes even to the value of one book I might buy or one story I might recommend to someone else. There are plenty of other authors whose personal views I disagree with, some of them vastly. Some of them are also my friends. But none of them have managed to trigger me into such a state of revulsion and disgust that I simply couldn't live with myself if I did support them.

I do not buy from or link to Amazon.com ever since they took their blatantly anti-author steps during the Macmillan ebooks pricing dispute. When Amazon.com pulled the Macmillan print lines from their Web sites over an unrelated dispute concerning a separate contract on a different business line, they punished individual authors deeply while having virtually no effect on Macmillan. This is the moral equivalent of me beating the crap out of your kid brother because you and I are arguing over the merits of tax policy. That profoundly anti-writer business practice is only one portion of Amazon.com's history of abuse of their market power, and I simply won't contribute any more.

In none of these cases am I violating anyone else's First Amendment rights to free speech. First of all, I am not a State actor, and cannot violate someone else's First Amendment rights. Second of all, my right to call attention to or oppose anyone's market presence or public actions is just as much my own free speech, and in no wise an infringement of theirs. Despite Sarah Palin's recurrent whining, the First Amendment does not guarantee anyone freedom from the repercussions of their own protected speech.

Criticism, even in the form of boycotts, is not oppression. It's not a violation of free speech. It's a basic expression of democratic values. Just as I'm free never to eat at Chick-fil-A again in my life, my conservative friends are free to eat there every day of their lives. I don't really care what they do, any more than I care who will join me in my boycotts of Exxon, Domino's, Amazon and so forth.

I just know that I don't ever need to have anything to do with Chick-fil-A again. And I know that in boycotting them, I'm standing up for freedom, equality and justice for all. Unlike my conservative friends, who in gleefully supporting Chick-fil-A and founder Dan Cathy are taking an outspoken stand against freedom, equality and justice for all, at least in any America where "all" includes my gay and lesbian friends.

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ericjamesstone
User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2012-08-03 12:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Jay, I have no problem with you (or anyone else) boycotting Chick-fil-A. I have a problem with government officials threatening to block Chick-fil-A from their cities on the basis of Dan Cathy's views (something you failed to mention while building your straw conservative friends). Do you have a problem with that, or do you feel the First Amendment only applies to freedom of speech you agree with?
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Jay Lake: politics-sideways_flag
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-08-03 12:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:politics-sideways_flag
To one of your points, my conservative friends are not straw men. I quite literally saw almost that exact text in one Facebook feed, and similar remarks in others. I just declined to link to them in order not to embarrass them. (Which has happened more than once in the past, in that I've upset a friend by linking to their Facebook statements. That's why I'm sensitive to the issue.) They are free to link to themselves in comments.

To your main point, you are absolutely correct. As it happens, I do not agree with government officials threatening to block Chick-fil-A from their cities. I don't find that appropriate. It's also not what I was talking about. In point of fact, I could construct an equivalency argument for such action, given that zoning ordinances and other rules are routinely used by conservative public officials to block adult businesses on moral grounds.

I find the actions and words of both Cathy and his company far more immoral than any sex-oriented business could possibly be, given that sex-oriented business only cater to consenting customers, while Cathy and Chick-fil-A are engaging in enthusiastic support for wholesale denial of rights to an entire class of Americans. That being said, I wouldn't stand behind such an argument, as much like you apparently do, I disagree with that kind of obstruction regardless of the political perspective involved.

You'll also note I was pretty careful to frame this in terms of personal views, not state actions.

Edited at 2012-08-03 12:57 pm (UTC)
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ericjamesstone
User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2012-08-03 13:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
> You'll also note I was pretty careful to frame this in terms
> of personal views, not state actions.

Yes, I did notice, but in leaving out the threat of state action against Chick-fil-A, you made it sound like conservatives were only responding to boycotts. Since such threats were actually made (and applauded by many on the left, although I was glad to see opposition to those threats from the left, too), isn't it possible that's what was being referenced in "standing up for the company's free speech rights and opposing politically correct bullying"?
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Jay Lake: politics-sideways_flag
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-08-03 13:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:politics-sideways_flag
You may in fact be right about that, though I honestly doubt the glee was that nuanced.

My fundamental point still stands, though. Gay hate and legalized discrimination are not Christian virtues, or family values, or anything else to be proud of.

What I see right now is a lot of conservatives proudly standing up for inequality and injustice.
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russ: quo vadis
User: goulo
Date: 2012-08-03 14:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:quo vadis
FWIW (as anecdotal data), the main progressive writer I read who mentioned the Chick-fil-A thing was Glenn Greenwald, who clearly states that the state shouldn't block a company merely because of its repugnant political views. He also gives links to plenty of others who say the same thing.
http://www.salon.com/2012/07/30/free_speech_and_donations/

Greenwald:
As I noted the other day when writing about the Chick-fil-A controversy, I was happy to see that almost every liberal commentator condemned the actions by city officials in Boston and Chicago to punish that business due to the distasteful views on homosexuality expressed by its President (see, for instance, Mother Jones‘ Kevin Drum and Adam Serwer, The American Prospect‘s Scott Lemieux, Digby, The Nation‘s Richard Kim, John Cole, Amanda Marcotte, and Atrios). Today, though, The Nation‘s Lee Fang became the first progressive writer I know of to defend these state actions against the restaurant chain.
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2012-08-03 14:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Most of the people on the pro Chick-fil-A side aren't bothering to make the distinction between a boycott and threats from government officials -- at least, if headlines like this one are any indication.
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Tim Lieder
User: marlowe1
Date: 2012-08-03 15:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Actually, cities block businesses from building in their cities all the time. In Minnesota, there's a municipality (Excelsior?) which used to make it a point of not allowing corporate chains to operate in their borders. It's a suburb of Minneapolis so people can drive a few miles to get their Starbucks or Caribou if they really wanted, but it made an entire ad campaign out of not doing this so that the local businesses could thrive.
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Jay Lake: politics-sideways_flag
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-08-03 16:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:politics-sideways_flag
Just to pick up a nuance here, Eric and I often disagree on, um, a lot of things, but if I'm interpreting his point correctly, I agree with him. Blocking businesses for political reasons seems like a bad idea.

Your example of Excelsior is more a case of blocking business for policy reasons. That is the proper function of government, at least so long as you assume that zoning laws are a proper function of government.

A lot of the reason Oregon cities are so charming and green and lovely and livable is because we have some pretty strong zoning and development rules. Which conservatives often chafe against as a 'taking' of their land value when they want to develop, but that's the trade-off for our excellent quality of life here, enjoyed by people of all political persuasions.
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andelku: Apu
User: andelku
Date: 2012-08-03 19:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Apu
I cannot speak for Boston or San Francisco.

What happened in Chicago went like this: CFA (which already operates a store downtown) expressed a desire to locate a store in a neighborhood with a lot of gay residents. The alderman said they needed to be sure that CFA will follow Chicago's non-discrimination policies in hiring and serving GLBT folk before CFA could get the go-ahead.

Then Rahm Emmanual, our resident big mouth, weighed in. Rahm gets to do this, but there are no legal consequences to the Mayor Having an Opinion. It's not the opening scene of Red Dawn or anything.

Nobody is banning CFA in Chicago. I'm pretty sure they are facing scrutiny about their policies that other restaurant chains wouldn't face, but given their very open stance on gay rights, and given that they want to move into a gay-friendly neighborhood I'm sure you agree a little extra scrutiny is called for.

This meme of CFA being banned in Chicago is nonsense.
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houseboatonstyx: smaller-healing-buddha
User: houseboatonstyx
Date: 2012-08-04 08:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:smaller-healing-buddha
Thanks for the info about the alderman (Moreno?). Can you tell more, with a cite?

I've been collecting facts on what these mayors were actually quoted as saying, and posting the results at my LJ. None of them said anything about denying permits or using their office for anything except as a 'bully pulpit' to organize boycotts etc.

Apparently the non-mayor-friendly Chicago Sun Times and the Boston Globe saw a chance to misrepresent their respective mayors' statements. What a concept! I'm disappointed in Glenn Whosis at Salon for falling for the shallow paraphrased version instead of checking the actual quotes.
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Dave O'Neill
User: daveon
Date: 2012-08-03 20:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I must ask, does the same apply to Mosques and Community Centers?

Because I do detect a smidgen of a double standard here with some of the stuff I'm reading online.
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2012-08-04 15:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
A double standard? From the right? How shocking!
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Nicosian: dutch flag
User: nicosian
Date: 2012-08-03 13:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:dutch flag
The cry of "you're infringing on my free speech" from CFA supporters makes me wonder if people truly understand what that concept means. As you point out, you know and I know it means "not free from repercussions of said opinion, not free from it being challenged or questioned" but people use it as a "my thoughts are precious and sacred!"

We don't have CFA here. Fortunately of the many US chains that make their way north of the border, I don't see them getting here any time soon.

I don't entirely agree with the mayors saying a franchise isn't welcome, but I marked that up to so much political bluster.

I do believe that some people are simply supporting CFA as a knee jerk reaction to protect the percieved underdog.

But then, we legalized gay marriage in 2006. Sky hasn't fallen. I really don't see the fuss, but our politics here isn't quite as solidly yoked to religion as the US. belief isn't quite so much a "THING" as it is in the US. If you have it, its fine, but y'know, don't wave it around in public you'll take someone's eye out.

If CFA wasn't shovelling money in to Anti gay groups, I'd have less issue. Sure its "their money" but their money comes from, in theory, my pocket should I purchase, and I'm not going to do that.

( I don't deal in diamonds in my work because there's still too much ick in the trade of them. I try to live as reasonably ethical as I can purchasing wise. CFA's a fish in a barrell as there's 1-2x a year I ever walk by a franchise when I'm travelling, its a token boycott.)


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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2012-08-03 14:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
There used to be one at Western -- long after I was a student, so I only saw it on a few occasions. I saw vague indications that it was controversial, and assumed it was a PETA kind of controversy, not a religious right kind of controversy. I still didn't eat there. I thought the food looked disgusting and it had a stupid name.
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dionysus1999
User: dionysus1999
Date: 2012-08-03 15:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Your list of establishments you boycott is quite similar to mine. Ava Maria Law school was in my "backyard" (Ann Arbor) before they moved to Florida.

I also boycott Wal-mart and most recently Target. Also try to buy American products whenever I can afford that choice.
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Tim Lieder
User: marlowe1
Date: 2012-08-03 16:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm too Minnesotan to ever boycott Target. Their corporate offices have nap rooms and the money from Target helped to fund Mark Dayton's campaign first for senate and then for governor (his family started the Daytons Corporation as a retail chain before it became corporate and changed its name to Target).

I know they've made stupid decisions at the corporate level but I still wouldn't boycott them. When I go to Riverdale to shop at Target I feel like I'm home.
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dionysus1999
User: dionysus1999
Date: 2012-08-03 17:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Target was the most difficult choice. I seem to be a core demographic for them, reasonable products at reasonable prices. After reading of the long history of Target's philanthropy (wiki), perhaps I need to reconsider my stance.
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Tim Lieder
User: marlowe1
Date: 2012-08-03 16:15 (UTC)
Subject: Amazon
I am going to defend Amazon, not for the Macmillan fiasco but for what they've done since.

Amazon had one very clear goal and that was to provide books on Kindle that are significantly cheaper than the print editions. The fact that most of the major book publishers have been jacking up their prices for years makes their moral stance suspect. Furthermore, a publishing company that charges $25 for a new book by an author that most people have never heard of is not doing the author any favor. Sure, the company is getting better returns, but the author is not going to sell as many books and will not get that important word-of-mouth.

Of course, the major publishers are bad but Prime Books was also notoriously terrible by pricing 120 page books at $19 (I remember this because I wanted to buy Cat Valente's first book when she got it published and as much as I liked the excerpts I read there was no way I was going to pay that much for a book that I would read in a day.)

But I digress.

Anyhow, major publishers don't need to price their books so high (as opposed to POD publishers who need to price their books at $12-$13 to make $3 back a book) because they print out in bulk and they don't pay so much for individual copies. They do price them high because they have forced people to get used to the concept of higher priced books. It's that "well we can charge $35 for the latest Harry Potter or Game of Thrones sequel so we should be able to charge $30 for Dragon Whatever by Mary McSomething" strategy. And of course, Dragon Whatever gets screwed.

With Kindle, the high pricing is even more ridiculous since publishers automatically save almost 70% of their overhead in terms of printing, shipping and warehousing. But they still want to charge the same ridiculous rates instead of recognizing that they can charge so much less and make so much more from curious readers who wouldn't pay $30 for a new book, but might pay $3-$5 just to check it out.

So Amazon wants the books to be priced from $2.99 - $9.99 and they would like the publishing companies to agree to those prices. With Macmillan they tried the stick with disastrous results.

However, since then, they used the carrot in terms of bookstore returns. If you are outside their preferred range, they give you 35% back which sucks but it's only 10% less than standard book store discount. If you are within the price range it's 70%.

Anyhow, point of this long discourse is that Amazon fucked up with Macmillan. Not disputing that. But their intentions were to sell and move books which is very author-friendly and more author-friendly than some of these publishing companies that think that they are still in 1992 and happily gouging the customers because Anne Rice is still popular.

And since they pulled back from that disastrous PR mistake, they have been much smarter about getting what they want and they have made Kindle into a profitable venture for publishers and ultimately writers.

Of course, I'm biased here since Kindle has pushed three of my books into the profitable category while LSI print editions languish and I have to deal with returns. But yeah, I find Amazon to be very author-friendly and much more savvy about the book buying market than the publishers.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-08-03 16:21 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Amazon
Frankly, I'd probably be a lot less livid about Amazon if they'd ever bothered to apologize to the authors over the Macmillan print lines fiasco. Or even simply admit they mishandled it.

Other than that one bizarrely defensive public statement apparently written by the Insane Clown Posse, they never acknowledged the incident once it was over.

Also, re ebooks, while I'm not prepared to defend publisher pricing practices one way or the other, I'll note that the hard costs of manufacturing, warehousing and shipping a print edition are a very small portion of the total price. All the other costs around acquisition, editorial, preproduction and marketing carry through. Persistent (and often willful) misunderstanding of this point fuels a lot of the "ebooks are overpriced" rhetoric.
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russ
User: goulo
Date: 2012-08-03 17:34 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Amazon
Another totally different factor: Amazon treats their low-level workers terribly, which is a reason I avoid buying from them.

Not to mention I have a general aversion to gigantic monopolies. :) And Kindle being closed-source.
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Swan Tower: *writing
User: swan_tower
Date: 2012-08-03 17:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:*writing
Not an attempt to change your mind, just a point I wish to mention: I sold Intergalactic Medicine Show a story with lesbian content depicted in a positive manner. It was a minor side note in the story, not a central focus, but I was curious to see if they would take it, and they did. Which kind of both pleases and amuses me.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2012-08-03 17:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hey! Good for you! And I know OSC doesn't edit IGMS. Nonetheless, his name is on it, which is enough to keep my name off it indefinitely.

(What I have to fight hard against is a tendency to be suspicious of writers who have attended OSC's boot camp program.)
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Swan Tower: *writing
User: swan_tower
Date: 2012-08-03 18:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:*writing
His name being on it is precisely the reason for my amusement: I am undercutting his views in the very zine he sponsors.

It makes me want to write more stories with Teh Gay in them and send them to IGMS. :-)
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shelly_rae
User: shelly_rae
Date: 2012-08-03 17:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
On the other hand Jeff Bezos just gave an enormous amount of money to support the passing of same sex marriage laws here in Washington state.
::shrug::

I'm repulsed by people lining up to support Chick-fil-a who'd never step inside a soup kitchen or offer a homeless family shelter. What does it mean to be a good Christian? Buying cheap chicken sandwiches from a homophobic business? Somehow I don't think Jesus would be in that line. </p>

Anon

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curious Eve
User: curiouseve
Date: 2012-08-03 22:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm decidedly non-political, but have botcotted Exxon and Domino's for years. Exxon for the absurd press releases in the first three days after the spill, and Domino's for the founder's support of forced pregnancy -- even though the money I'd spend there might never find a way to his pocket now.

My aunt boycotted Nestle in the 70's because they went to Africa and told the people there that their formula was better for babies than the mother's breast milk - can you imagine?

Meanwile, General Mills and JCPenney have my full support as often as I can afford it, for pro-equality press releases and ad campaigns.

And: agree. I used this argument just this morning: I wouldn't want the government to interfere in the opening of a CFA on my street *if they operate legally, serving and hiring any LGBT folks who'd want to buy or work there* (I would never eat there), but then again, I'd support them putting a porno shop on my street as well *if they operate legally, not letting anybody underage in* (I would probably not shop there).

Edited at 2012-08-03 11:02 pm (UTC)
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