Six years ago, you see, Mr Eich donated a thousand dollars of his own savings to a campaign to ban gay marriage in California. The campaign has since failed after the amendment that it spawned was ruled unconstitutional. We are being asked, then, not to use a company’s products because of its chief executive’s private, insignificant endorsement of a lost cause.

There is no actual harm to be avoided. It would make more sense to campaign against Central American drug gangs by boycotting films that feature Charlie Sheen. This campaign, though, is symbolic: seeking to demonstrate that certain political views are unwelcome in the public sphere and that their advocates will be excluded. When the advocacy can be so trivial; that exclusion can entail attempts to provoke one’s dismissal from an unrelated job and the opinion can be one that nobody would have thought controversial as few as ten years ago it is obvious that a strange and passionate wave of feeling is upon us. Joseph Bottum may or may not be correct about the roots of progressive thought in Mainline Protestantism but it is undeniable that it is imbued with a religious ardour – and an intolerance of heretics.

As mentioned yesterday, I find Bottum’s idea interesting and likely to contain at least a seed of truth. But allow me to suggest an alternative way of understanding this passion for professionally boycotting people convicted, or even suspected, of wrongthink — rather than look for religious parallels in their behavior, I’d suggest thinking of these people as mysophobes. This kind of hysterical overreaction to a relatively trivial, harmless symptom bespeaks a fear of contamination. If this man isn’t quarantined, i.e. deprived of his social status and financial power, who knows how many more people he might infect?