If I’ve learned anything in fifty-odd years — and who says I have? — it’s that no matter what you do, someone will find a reason to object to it:

I hadn’t had breakfast, and was hungry after dropping off McGillicuddy, so I walked the few blocks to the main commercial thoroughfare in the neighborhood, and went to the only place that was open at 8 AM, which was McDonald’s. Until we moved here, I would go to McDonald’s maybe once every five or six years, but things really change when you move to the greater U.S.A. I remember mentioning this to Really Rosie once, and she scolded me, saying, “Haven’t you read Fast Food Nation?” In fact I have, and so I know that McDonald’s is destroying not only American society but also the entire universe. Nonetheless, I’m not a great believer in the efficacy of ideological boycotts, especially when you’re hungry and it’s the only game in town. We boycotted Nestlé when I was little because of their greedy, unethical formula-pushing in maternity wards in Africa, which led to the deaths of thousands of infants; but it occurs to me now that few people who boycott Nestlé probably believe that abortion should be banned, which raises inevitable questions about the efficacy of such protests. About boycotting, I guess I have a sort of “circumcise your hearts” attitude.

I’m not particularly keen on boycotts, though there are some places and some institutions I would happily see uprooted and dispatched to Moon Base Gingrich. As I grumbled back in ought-five:

“Boycotts,” some girl once said, “are etymologically sexist.”

I wouldn’t know about that, but it’s been a long time since I felt compelled to take part in one: it’s not so much a consistent policy of refusing to take part so much as it is a nagging suspicion that most of them are intended, not to get an organization to alter its plans, but to get publicity for the group engaging in the boycott.

I do, however, have two characteristics valued by would-be boycotters: my memory is fairly long, and my ability to hold a grudge is fairly strong.


  1. fillyjonk »

    3 February 2012 · 12:58 pm

    I will confess to having joked about “girlcotting” something…

    The main problem with boycotts, I think, is that the issues are very rarely as clear black and white as the proponents of the boycott would have you believe.

  2. Nate »

    3 February 2012 · 1:01 pm

    The Montgomery Bus Boycott created a hardship for its participants, who deprived themselves of their best-or only-way of getting to work or elsewhere. This was a self-imposed hardship in the name of social justice.

    What’s hard about not eating at Chick-Fil-A when you still go to Wendy’s or Burger King? What’s hard about not buying Apple products, or not using Facebook, or not shopping at Wal-Mart? It’s great that as Americans we’re free to make-or not make-consumer choices as we see fit and for whatever reasons we like, but let’s not act as if eschewing Wal-Mart for Target is some kind of courageous act that puts us on par with Rosa Parks. Buying local is great, but let’s not pretend it’s difficult.

    There are a lot of companies I don’t patronize for a whole variety of reasons, but I’m under no illusion that somehow these choices matter to the corporate entities themselves, or that I deserve some kind of congratulations for them.

  3. Roger Green »

    3 February 2012 · 3:28 pm

    I’ve done a LOT of boycotts over the years: lettuce, OJ and a bunch I’ve since forgotten. A boycott is often a double-edged sword, but, as the Montgomery boycott showed, sometimes the only tool available.

  4. CGHill »

    3 February 2012 · 3:54 pm

    And that was the thing about Montgomery: the participants were taking this action at considerable inconvenience and/or expense to themselves. Nowadays people just click a Facebook box. It’s not the same thing.

  5. jsallison »

    3 February 2012 · 10:57 pm

    If I’m not doing something, for example, not flying in favor of driving because of the very existence of the TSA, I email AA informing them of the fact that I have chosen not to fly because of their choice to dump the costs and liability of providing a secure flying experience to gummint goons. I have had numerous opportunities to fly since 9/11. I have flown only 3 times out of 15. And I used to enjoy flying. I email AA because they’re the only option, flying out of Lawton. I note that AA has recently declared bankruptcy. Cause? Effect? Coincidence? I leave it to you.

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