Conservatives have recently scored surprise victories against left-wing corporate culture, with successful pressure campaigns against a trio of blue-chip companies—Disney, Target, and Bud Light—that have revealed the potential of a culture-war tactic once considered the Left’s stock-in-trade: the consumer boycott.
The campaigns are notable because they drew blood, figuratively speaking. Disney, which promised to embed radical gender theory in its children’s programming, watched its stock price plummet and signaled a retreat from the culture war. Target, which featured “breast binders” as part of its seasonal “Pride Collection,” saw a decline in sales and promised to “pause, adapt, and learn.” Bud Light featured a transgender “influencer” in an advertising campaign, sending its reputation and sales into freefall.
What lessons can be drawn from these examples? And how can conservatives use boycotts to fight left-wing cultural capture?
Helen Andrews, in her book Boomers, describing the tactics that brought Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to prominence:
Interestingly, if Breadbasket had tried these tactics only a few decades earlier, courts would have considered them illegal. Boycotts, except in limited circumstances, were considered unfair commercial interference, and victimized owners could sue organizers for damages. In a landmark case in 1934, the Harlem agitator Sufi Abdul Hamid, also known as Black Hitler for his vocal support for the Third Reich, launched a boycott against the A. S. Beck shoe store on 125th Street demanding that it hire more blacks on its sales staff. A New York judge ruled the picket unlawful, not because store patrons had been violently assaulted (though they had been), but because Hamid and his picketers had no connection to the store. If it had been a protest by black Beck’s employees demanding better treatment, that would have been a labor dispute and thus protected by the Norris-LaGuardia Act. But this was a conspiracy against a lawful business by a third party seeking to impose its political preferences. Even a peaceful boycott would have been illegal.
I was not aware of this. I thought tedious consumer boycotts led by political activists had always been with us, like death, taxes and the poor. I had so many futile arguments in my misspent youth against left-wing enthusiasts for boycotting. Oh, man, what I wouldn’t give to see the old lefty blogosphere prosecuted en masse for “conspiracy against a lawful business by a third party seeking to impose its political preferences.” Is this what the edgy kids mean when they say RETVRN?
But alas, as with free speech, I’m resigned to the idea that it will take people like Rufo leading a counter-revolution before we have any chance of finding our way back to the detente of old-fashioned liberal pluralism. I don’t like it, and I’ll never participate in it myself, but if I see my old liberal pals squealing in protest, I’ll be happy to remind them, in the words of Les Claypool, “I’m the one who told you “Told you so.”