Boycotts, Bathrooms, and the Boss

This past Sunday, Bruce Springsteen was scheduled to play a concert in Greensboro, N.C.  He canceled the concert, citing opposition to the recently passed H.B. 2, the "bathroom bill," which he labeled discriminatory against the transgender community.  Three weeks ago, Disney and several other companies, state governments, and individuals threatened to boycott the state of Georgia if Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill with similar legislation.  He folded to the pressure and vetoed that bill.  In 2010, a similar boycott of the state of Arizona was launched in opposition to S.B. 1070, a bill that strengthened immigration laws.

Never mind that the people boycotting these states haven't read or don't understand what's in these bills.  If they did, they might stop hyperventilating and calling everyone they disagree with a bigot.

In any event, boycotts in general are ineffective.  Greenpeace and other groups called for a boycott of Exxon following the Valdez oil spill.  Here in my home state of Washington, Exxon gas stations disappeared fairly quickly – but not for long.  And my guess is, even while Exxon signage was "gone," the company itself was probably still raking in bucks from Washington.  Now ExxonMobil is the largest oil company in the world.

Even sanctions, legally enforced boycotts of entire nations, are not nearly as effective as supporters claim.  Tin-pot dictators are adept at illegally funding their dictatorships, and sanctions typically hurt the masses much more than they hurt the leaders.  (Not that I'm saying we should do away with sanctions; they still have their place, are much more effective than voluntary boycotts, and do help to stifle the flow of funds to said dictators.  Besides, regardless of sanctions, money rarely gets to the masses anyway in third-world states. There's always another Ferrari to buy for Uday or Kusay, after all.)

Yes, for the most part, boycotts are nothing more than feel-good endeavors that help buoy the self-righteousness of the boycotter.  They may, at best, make the company being boycotted look up for half  a second until the next squirrel races by for the masses to follow.  ("Oh, look!  Monsanto!")

And boycotting an entire state, at least voluntarily – i.e. not through sanctions – is the most ineffective boycott of all because  it is near impossible to do in today's interconnected world.  You want to boycott North Carolina, Mr. Springsteen?  Okay.  Better make sure none of your millions find their way through a Bank of America account.  And no sleeping on a Sealy mattress tonight.  That Hanes undershirt you're wearing?  Scrap it.  Same with the Burt's Bees you just put on those talented lips of yours.  All those "evil corporations" are headquartered in North Carolina . And you'd better cancel that upcoming tour stop in Italy as well.  They still don't even recognize gay marriage!

And what about Disney?  Certainly no small potatoes compared to yesterday's rock star.  It's one of the largest media companies in the world and spends millions of dollars on production in the state of Georgia every year.  Disney threatening to boycott Georgia certainly made Governor Deal's decision to veto H.B. 757 a bit easier, but it wasn't the deciding factor, I'm sure.  And if it was, Deal is clearly not adept at making deals.  I would have played chicken with the Mouse.  Again, a squirrel would have run by in a matter of months, and Disney would have been back to filming all sorts of movies and TV shows in the home of the Falcons.  Curiously, Disney didn't seem to have a problem distributing The Force Awakens, which was filmed in the United Arab Emirates, a nation that actually murders people for engaging in homosexual behavior.  (To be fair, I'm not sure where they come down on transgendered bathroom use.)

So, we've established that liberals boycott because they want to feel good about themselves.  They're also notorious hypocrites, so that argument falls on deaf ears.  But what about hurting those you're aiming to help?

Liberals love to point out the evils of sanctions because, as mentioned above, they disproportionally fall on the backs of the downtrodden masses.  And an argument can be made that engaging with one's foe will do more than stonewalling him.  This is even more the case when one's foe is not a bloodthirsty dictator.  I know that liberals love to equate murderous thugs like Kim Jong-un with "evil Christian bigots" like those at Focus on the Family or Chick-fil-A, but if they actually took a moment to listen to Jim Daly or Dan Cathy, they'd realize there's actually quite a bit of difference.

But, okay, okay, let's go even farther and assume they're right, and everyone who voted for North Carolina's H.B. 2 and everyone who voted for those people is really a hate-filled homophobe who wants to send every transgender person in the state to a re-education camp where he'll be thumped by Bibles 24/7.  Are these the same people who would attend a Bruce Springsteen concert?  Actually, yes.  Unlike liberals, who would rather stand in a downpour than take an umbrella from someone with whom they disagree, those of us on the right can appreciate the fact that good music can be made by people with whom we disagree politically, and our entire outlook on life isn't going to be defeated by listening to a little "Born in the USA."  Heck, even Ronald Reagan used it as a campaign theme for a while – until Springsteen threw a fit over that because, again, "tolerant" liberals simply can't tolerate things like that.

I'll go yet one step farther.  Let's say that those supporting H.B. 2 would never be caught dead at a Bruce Springsteen concert, and the whole audience agreed with Bruce.  That only makes the argument stronger.  Refusing to play a concert in a state that has policies you disagree with doesn't hurt the people with whom you disagree; it hurts the people with whom you agree and those you seek to help.

If Bruce Springsteen and his followers want to change the political tide in North Carolina, the best thing he could have done is play his concert in Greensboro and, between songs, give a heartfelt plea to those in attendance to rally for the cause.  Who knows?  Maybe a few folks not in his camp may have been persuaded.

And with Disney and Georgia, assuming that bill hadn't been vetoed, Disney's impact could have been even greater.  I'm assuming that the majority of the people in the entertainment industry were opposed to Georgia's religious freedom bill, so how much better would it have been to put money in those people's pockets by filming in Georgia – money that could have gone on to elect people who are more amenable to Disney's views?

So, liberal boycotters (and conservative boycotters, for that matter), be the change you want to see in the world!  Engage!  You're sure to change more views from inside the state than by screaming at it from the outside, even if you can scream as loud as Bruce Springsteen.